Tag Archives: awards season

Golden Eagle: Foxcatcher’s American Dream

Foxcatcher might be Bennett Miller’s best film to date, and even if that’s not the case, it certainly seems to be his most thematically accomplished. Much like Capote and Moneyball before it, Foxcatcher appears to be fascinated with outsiders, people that are viewed as second best, never quite living up to the expectations put upon them. However, the thing that seems to set Foxcatcher apart from Miller’s previous efforts is the way that it considers the bigger picture; it treats these characters and their situations as a microcosmic picture of the American Dream, and the toxic reality of the situation, something more akin to an American Nightmare than anything else.

The idea of the American Dream, that anyone can get anything if they aspire to greatness and put in the work, is perfectly embodied in Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). The thing with Mark is, even though he wins gold medals, he still doesn’t feel like a champion, he doesn’t have that independence and self-assuredness you’d expect from a man who, theoretically at least, has the American Dream within his grasp. Well the reason for that is simple; in reality, the “American Dream” doesn’t create those things in people that never really seemed to have them. John du Pont (Steve Carell) says that Mark has spent his “whole life in [his] brother’s shadow,” and to be blunt, he’s right. In fact, du Pont appears to be a gateway for Mark to get that American Dream, the money and the independence and the sense that he, as a human being, is worth the fruits of his labour, especially given du Pont’s fascination on the nation’s need for role models, and making Team Foxcatcher “citizens of America.”

John Du Pont is another man who seems to have everything, but in reality appears to lead a rather hollow existence. He and Mark seem rather like kindred spirits, constantly reaching for something that moves further and further away from their grasp. Much like Mark, he lives in someone else’s shadow; the shadow of his mother, Jean (Vanessa Redgrave), a woman from whom he needs to ask permission on where to put a trophy. John du Pont is a man that seems to embody the very notion of the American Dream, or at least someone that wants to. He pontificates on the role of the coach, considers himself to be a father and a mentor to his athletes, a role model for them, which is something that he thinks America needs. He’s so patriotic he even tries to get Mark to call him “Golden Eagle.”

So, if between them these two men have Olympic gold medals and a countless amount of money, then what’s the big deal? Why can’t these men get the ideal that seemed to be promised to them by their very nation? Because, unfortunately, the American Dream doesn’t work like that, getting these things, the money and the glory, doesn’t mean you have it all. Foxcatcher’s version of the American Dream is one that doesn’t stop, even once these people seem to have everything, and they need to have more. Du Pont has money, and therefore wants glory in the form of Team Foxcatcher; Mark has glory in the form of a gold medal and then gets money by working with du Pont, but at the same time, he needs more, he needs freedom from the shadow of his brother. That’s where the toxic, almost self-destructive reality of Foxcatcher’s version of the American Dream begins to emerge.

When Mark loses a round at the Olympic tryouts, he goes back to his hotel room, and in true Raging Bull fashion – a comparison I will admit I’m far from the first to make – destroys his room, binges on room service and then makes himself vomit. It isn’t easy to watch; first of all because its raw and brutal, and also because it shows what happens when these people can’t have it all: they become angry and destructive, something that leaves an even more bitter taste in the mouth given the futility of their efforts.

The interesting difference between du Pont and Mark (two men who seem remarkably, perhaps even frighteningly similar in their ways) is how they manifest their anger. Mark is self-destructive, but John takes his anger out on the world at large. Upon discovering no members of Team Foxcatcher are training in the gym, he hits Mark and calls him an “ungrateful ape.” So given the futility of their endeavours and the chilling results of those failures, why do John and Mark keep fighting for this American Dream? Well, because they have to; they seem to think that, as Americans this is their right and they fight tooth and nail for it. From the very beginning of the film, Mark seems in instil in his medal a certain a sense of grandeur, he says that “it isn’t just a medal, it’s what the medal represents,” and that’s what it is that these men are after, something greater, something that can’t be given corporeal form the way a medal or money can, and what could perhaps be called the tragedy of Foxcatcher is the lengths that they’ll go to try and get it, as well as what they’ll do to liberate themselves from failing to do so.

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Oscar contenders from the Cannes Film Festival

I’ll be the first to admit I’m late to the party here, especially given my rather frequent posts about the Oscars, but as they say, better late than never (I’ve had other commitments impeding my rate of blogging).

Of course, with the Cannes film festival behind us, a slew of new films have been revealed to us, and it’s often the case that Cannes films can do very well at the Oscars (The Artist went on to win several awards after a warm reception at Cannes). And so here, I’ll simply make a post that briefly mentions each film, and how it was received, and the awards it could be up for (I suppose that’s the issue with writing about films one doesn’t get a chance to see, it’s difficult to give in-depth coverage and analysis on them). As ever, I’ll only be doing ‘major’ awards (picture, acting, directing and writing), since I must say I’m not the most knowledgeable on tech and craft categories, especially given I haven’t seen the movies.

The Past (Asghar Farhadi)

Following up the exceptional A Separation was never going to be an easy task, but if the Cannes responses are anything to go by, Farhadi has admirably succeeded in crafting his follow-up feature. As with the aforementioned film (which was nominated for Original Screenplay and won Foreign Language Film), it appears that The Past is another drama about the secrets and lies of a family, and it’s been praised for it’s intricacy in terms of writing and performance, as well as being one of the best reviewed films of the festival.

Potential nominations

Best Picture
Best Actress – Berenice Bejo
Best Original Screenplay – Asghar Fahradi and Massoumeh Lahidji
Best Foreign Language Film

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen)

The Coen brothers are Oscar darlings (having won four and being nominated for a further nine), so it’s safe to say that this one could be making a splash come awards season, and that’s what people have been saying prior to the film’s first screenings. Perhaps what’s most interesting about it is that now people have seen the film, the buzz for John Goodman and Carey Mulligan to be nominated in Best Supporting Actor/Actress seem to have diminished given the size of their roles (so while neither of them will be on this list, they’ll likely be in the back of people’s minds throughout the season, and campaigning could bring them back to the forefront).
On the other hand, more has been made of Oscar Isaac’s performance (having made himself aware to many, myself included with his excellent work in Drive) and there’s talk of a potential Best Actor nomination stemming from this.

Potential nominations

Best Picture
Best Director – Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Actor – Oscar Isaac
Best Original Screenplay – Joel and Ethan Coen

 

Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Speaking of Oscar Isaac and Drive, now seems as good as time as any to delve into the latest opus by it’s celebrated director Nicolas Winding Refn. Although perhaps in the context of his latest film, Only God Forgives, celebrated isn’t the best word to use, given it’s been much more polarising than Drive and, dare I say it, even a little poorly received (Refn said in an interview he thinks people will “come around” to it like they did with Drive, but from what I read when it was released, people were enamoured with Drive rather quickly, so I’ll need to disagree with him there.).
One aspect of the film that seems to be universally praised its Kristin Scott Thomas’ role as a malicious matriarch (Jacki Weaver was nominated a similar type of woman a few years back for the slightly underwhelming Animal Kingdom), so it could have a chance there.

Potential nominations

Best Supporting Actress – Kristin Scott Thomas

 

Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

Between The Descendants (which I really liked) and Sideways (which I really hated), I think it’s safe to say the Academy are growing fairly fond of Alexander Payne. Critics, on the other hand, seem less fond of his latest opus, Nebraska. It’s been called overly-familiar as a film and inessential within Payne’s body of work, so I don’t see it surviving the long road to a Best Picture nomination.
He has, on the other hand, won two for Adapted screenplay (the two aforementioned films) as well as another nomination in the category for Election. So normally I’d be saying that this’ll definitely get a writing nod, but what’s interesting is that:
– it’s an original screenplay (whereas all his academy recognition has come in the adapted category).
– it wasn’t written by Payne.
I still wouldn’t be surprised if it got in there though, if just because there’s something of an association of Payne films and screenplay nominations. And of course, there’s Bruce Dern, a veteran actor who is said to give a very strong performance here (although some claimed it could be over-praised due to Academy politics and Dern’s lack of a nomination in a long career), so I wouldn’t be surprised if he slipped in.

Potential nominations

Best Actor – Bruce Dern
Best Original Screenplay – Bob Nelson

 

Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche)

Being the first LGBT-themed film to win the prestigious Palme D’or, it’s safe to say that a lot is being written about Blue Is The Warmest Colour. But given the fact it’s in a foreign language, has a three hour running time and explicit sex, it feels like it could be  out of the wheelhouse for the Academy, who have something of a tendency to be set in their ways (although they do have a fondness for awarding LGBT roles, like Sean Penn in Milk or Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry), it might be a tough sell.
I’ve read some things that say that say Lea Seydoux deserves a nomination, but I feel like if there’s going to be a foreign language performance in an acting category (which the Academy seemed to have started doing – Riva in Amour, Javier Bardem in Biutiful and Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose), I feel like they’ll choose to reward Bejo for The Past, it seems like a safer pick.

Potential nominations

Best Actress – Lea Seydoux
Best Foreign Language Film

 

Some under the radar picks

There were a few movies at Cannes that got good reception, but no major awards buzz about themselves, but there’s something about the way they were received, and the prestige of some of the cast and crew that make me feel like there’s a chance that the following films could get in somewhere (although where they might get in is not something I feel I can predict at this moment in time).
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski)
The Immigrant (James Gray)

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I’ll admit I have a problem: early 2014 Oscar predictions

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of an addict in terms of awards season. I love it for a multitude of reasons, but that’s the subject of a totally different post. So here, I figure I’ll present my earliest list of predictions, assuming 10 nominees for Best Picture. And do keep in mind this post will just be a list, since so many of these performances are unseen, it doesn’t seem like there’s quite enough to say about them yet. I’ll also be predicting a winner in each category, which will be put in bold.

Best Picture

The Monuments Men
Gravity
Nebraska
Inside Llewyn Davis
August: Osage County
Labour Day
Foxcatcher
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Counsellor
Twelve Years a Slave

Best Director

Alexander Payne for Nebraska
Steve McQueen for Twelve Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street
Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
George Clooney for The Monuments Men

Best Actor

Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Benedict Cumberbatch for The Fifth Estate
Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips or Saving Mr. Banks
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Steve Carrel for Foxcatcher

Best Actress

Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks
Naomi Watts for Diana
Nicole Kidman for Grace of Monaco
Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor

Ryan Gosling for The Place Beyond the Pines
Michael Fassbender for Twelve Years a Slave
Josh Brolin for Labour Day
Ewan McGregor for August: Osage County
Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher

Best Supporting Actress

Carey Mulligan for The Great Gatsby or Inside Llewyn Davis
Margo Martindale for August: Osage County
Amy Adams for Untitled David O. Russell Project
Cameron Diaz for The Counsellor
Jennifer Garner for Dallas Buyers Club

Best Original Screenplay

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha
Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron for Gravity
Cormac McCarthy for The Counsellor

Best Adapted Screenplay

Tracy Letts for August: Osage County
Jason Reitman for Labour Day
Josh Singer for The Fifth Estate
George Clooney for The Monuments Men
Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street

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2012-13 Season

My predictions and commentary on the 2012-13 Awards season, leading up to the Oscars.

Final Oscar winner predictions

Reaction to the Oscar Nominees

Oscar Nomination Liveblog

Final Academy Award Predictions

For Your Consideration – Denis Lavant

Updated Predictions – the Season Begins

Post-Cannes Oscar predictions

Pre-Cannes Oscar predictions

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Final Oscar Preidictions

So, today is the day. The final night of awards season, and perhaps the biggest night of the cinematic calendar – The Oscars.

Now, the Oscars aren’t for everyone, but I love them (although I may do a different post on that in itself), so here, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you, my final predictions for the films, writers, filmmakers and performers that I think well win the major Academy Awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Chris Terrio for Argo
Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlen for Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee for Life of Pi
Tony Kushner for Lincoln
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Likely winner: Tony Kushner for Lincoln
Possible winner: 
Chris Terrio for Argo
Should win: Kushner for Lincoln
Should be here: Stephen Chbosky for The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This category isn’t my strongest suit, especially considering that I haven’t seen Argo, which I really should at some point. Although it seems that it won’t be winning picture any more, I do think that Lincoln will take home, among a few other major Oscars, Adapted Screenplay, because, for me at least, Kushner’s writing was probably the best bit of the film.

Best Original Screenplay

Michael Haneke for Amour
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
John Gatnis for Flight
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

Likely winner: Tarantino for Django Unchained
Possible winner: Boal for Zero Dark Thirty
Should win: Haneke for Amour
Should be here: Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon for The Cabin in the Woods

I’ve seen the majority of the films here (apart from Flight which I haven’t seen since it’s UK release date), so I can comment that this is a pretty strong category. I suppose it’s more than possible for Haneke to get a surprise win, especially considering how ZD30 lost a lot of it’s Oscar buzz in the final stretch.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams for The Master
Sally Field for Lincoln 
Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

Likely winner: Hathaway for Les Miserables
Possible winner: Field for Lincoln
Should win: Hathaway
Should be here: Samantha Barks for Les Miserables

I’ll be honest here, how Weaver got in is nothing short of a mystery (but then I’m a little shocked by the major love SLP got on nomination day), which isn’t to say that she’s bad in the film, because she isn’t, but she has very little to do, and just isn’t that memory. And while we’re being honest, I’ve only put a possible winner here out of custom, because Hathaway is a lock, and she sure as hell deserves it.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin for Argo
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Likely winner: Waltz for Django Unchained
Possible winner: Jones for Lincoln
Should win: Hoffman for The Master
Should be here: Dwight Henry for Beasts of the Southern Wild

This is an incredibly strong category, and I’ve actually seen all of the nominated films. It seems that Waltz and Jones have had a fairly even split of the precursor awards, and this is probably one of the closest races. It’ll be interesting to see which of them wins, although I suppose if the whole night becomes peppered with love for SLP (which I kind of hope it doesn’t), then De Niro could take the Oscar, but I’m still hoping for a totally unexpected Hoffman win.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Emanuelle Riva for Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Likely winner: Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Possible winner: Riva for Amour
Should win: Riva
Should be here: Rachel Weisz for Deep Blue Sea

Oh, Silver Linings Playbook, what are we gonna do with you? Again, I liked the movie quite a bit, but a lot of it, the performances in particular, seem a tad overrated. Now, Lawrence is good and covers a lot of range, but compared to Riva, this should even be a race. Riva’s performance is subtle, nuanced, and utterly heartbreaking. She needs this Oscar, and she really deserves it too.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
Denzel Washington for Flight

Likely winner: Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Possible winner: Phoenix for The Master
Should win: Day-Lewis
Should be here: Denis Lavant for Holy Motors

This is a very strong field, and there’s plenty of award worthy acting in there. Day-Lewis is perhaps the runaway winner for his mesmerising work as Abraham Lincoln, although if I had to pick a ‘second place’ then it’d be Phoenix, for his raw, powerful work as Freddie Quell.

Best Director

Michael Haneke for Amour
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Likely winner: Spielberg for Lincoln
Possible winner: Lee for Life of Pi
Should win: Haneke for Amour
Should be here: Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master

This is an interesting category, if just for those who aren’t there as much as those who are (No Bigelow and no Afflcek), which of course, to me at least, kind of seals Spielberg’s win, especially considering his film won’t be winning picture. However, lots of people had been saying for a long time (back when Lincoln was the pick for Picture, so that’d be pre-PGA) that director was a two horse race between Spielberg and Lee, so an upset win could still happen.

Best Picture

Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Likely winner: Argo
Possible winner: Lincoln
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty
Should be here: The Master

Again, this is a very strong category, although I suppose it’s a bit of a lock by now. I’m still hoping ZD30 pulls a surprise win because, as much as I loved Amour, and as pleasantly surprised as I was by Lincoln, ZD30 is currently still my top film of the year.

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Final Academy Award Predictions

So, with the BAFTA nominees having been announced this morning, and the Oscar nominations being revealed early tomorrow morning in America (8:30 EST), the climax of the awards season is just around the corner.

With this in mind, here are my final predictions for who will be nominated in the major Oscar categories:

Best Picture

If there are five: 
– Lincoln
– Zero Dark Thirty
– Argo
– Les Miserables
– Silver Linings Playbook

If there are 6-10, any of the following could also be included:
– Life of Pi
– Django Unchained
– Moonrise Kingdom
– Beasts of the Southern Wild
– Amour

Potential spoilers:
– Skyfall
– The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Long shot:
– The Master

Best Director
– Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
– Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
– Ben Affleck (Argo)
– Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
– Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)

Potential spoilers:
– Michael Haneke (Amour)
– David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Long shots:
– Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
– Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)

Best Actor
– Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
– John Hawes (The Sessions)
– Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
– Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

Potential spoiler:
– Denzel Washington (Flight)

Long shots:
– Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained)
– Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock)
– Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour)

Best Actress
– Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
– Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
– Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
– Emanuelle Riva (Amour)

Potential spoilers:
– Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
– Rachel Weisz (Deep Blue Sea)

Long shot:
Helen Miren (Hitchcock)

Best Supporting Actor
– Alan Arkin (Argo)
– Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
– Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
– Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Potential spoilers:
– Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
– Javier Bardem (Skyfall)

Long shots:
– Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
– Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables)

Best Supporting Actress
– Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
– Sally Field (Lincoln)
– Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
– Amy Adams (The Master)
– Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy)

Potential spoilers
– Judi Dench (Skyfall)
– Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Long shot:
– Samantha Barks (Les Miserables)

Best Original Screenplay:
– Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
– Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
– Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
– Michael Haneke (Amour)
– Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

Potential spoiler:
– Rian Johnson (Looper)

Long shot:
– John Gatnis (Flight)

Best Adapted Screenplay
– Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
– Chris Terrio (Argo)
– David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
– David Magee (Life of Pi)

Potential spoiler:
– Lucy Alibar & Ben Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Long shots:
– Ben Lewin (The Sessions)
– William Nicholson (Les Miserables)

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For Your Consideration – Denis Lavant

Recently, I wrote a short, but glowing review of the Leos Carax film, Holy Motors, the highlight of which is the staggeringly good performance from Denis Lavant.

I know it isn’t common for film blogs, especially ones as small and under-read as mine, to write For Your Consideration pieces, and it’s also quite early in the season, but this performance was just so good, so unique and masterfully done, that I simply have to write about it. Of course, the award he should be considered for is Best Leading Actor.

Lavant plays just under a dozen roles in the film, at the core of which is the enigmatic Monsieur Oscar, who is driven around and assumes different identities for various bizarre purposes. Other roles include a bizarre, leprechaun like monster, a man in a motion capture suit, and an assassin, among others.

The first thing one notices about the performance is the way he so easily changes his physicality to fit each of the roles, from his leprechaun monster, that brings to mind Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, to his motion capture suit, a performance centered around so many slow, meticulous movements, all of them executed exceptionally. Lavant could have no lines in the film and his performance would still be phenomenal in it, he is a chameleon, and adopts each of these roles without any difficulty. 

Perhaps the best thing about this brilliant performance, even better than his myriad physical styles and the way he uses his voice in so many different ways for all of these people, is the way that all of the different roles each come back to the core of his character – Monseuir Oscar. Each time he resumes his life Oscar, he becomes more strained and on edge, as the line between the roles he takes on, and Oscar himself begin to blur. It is handled wonderfully by Lavant who changes Monsieur Oscar in nuanced and minor ways as the film goes on.

Yes, the film in itself is far outside of the Academy wheelhouse, it’s easily the strangest film of the last few years, probably the strangest since David Lynch’s  Inland Empire in 2006. It would, however, be a crime for Lavant’s performance to go unrecognized, and while it may seem like shameless self promotion of myself, I implore everyone to try and share this piece, do one of your own if you’ve seen the film and agree with the calibre of his performance. It may not make much of an impact, but it’s a fantastic performance, easily the best I’ve seen so far this year, and word of it simply needs to get out there.

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