Tag Archives: film festival

The Return

It’s been a long time since I posted on this blog. A couple of months ago I put some old work up here because it disappeared from the site that it was originally written for. And before then, I hadn’t touched this blog for a year. I’ve been doing freelance work, both paid and unpaid. But I never feel like I’m writing enough. So, in simple terms, I’m going to try and bring this blog back.

It’ll have a slightly broader remit than before. While film and TV will be the main concerns of the piece, there might also be some pieces on other kinds of art; written, visual, performed, or some combination of them.

I’m hoping to try and write a piece for this blog at least once or twice a week, alongside pitches to other places, and writing for Patreon patrons (more on that in a sec). It’s one thing to keep wanting to write, but another to do it. As the saying goes: don’t be a writer, be writing. I don’t want to be a writer. I want to be writing. So I”ll write.

I’ve also set up a Patreon, because capitalism is a nightmare and freelance work is inconsistent at the best of times. I know it’s a lot to ask of any reader to go into their own pocket to support me when so much good writing is already available online, but any and all support would be wonderful. There’s a link to the Patreon here.
Also, you can follow me on Twitter here to see all the work I do with different places.

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LFF 2017: All Summer Long

Beach Rats literally flashes to life. The flash of a camera phone taking selfies at various angles that are trying to be provocative. Trying to look a certain way, project a certain image. They’re trying. Frankie, the film’s adolescent protagonist, on the cusp of a summer of love and hate, is trying, too. He’s trying to work himself out.

Frankie is torn between two things. What he wants, and what he thinks he should want. What he wants, is to go online and cruise older men. To begin with, this seems to be for nothing more than validation, to look and be looked at, to want and be wanted. He insists he doesn’t meet up with the men from the site he frequents. What he thinks he wants is just what his friends (who he insists are “not his friends”) want: to hang out, do drugs, and sleep with pretty girls. Frankie does all of these things, but they don’t seem to bring him any kind of happiness or fulfilment. If anything, they just serve to highlight the lack that he’s dealing with, the lack that comes from not going after what it is he really wants.

When Frankie meets up with people, it begins the same way as his online interactions do. He looks and is looked at. He wants and his wanted. These meetings all lead to sexual acts of one kind or another; some by the beach, some in hotel rooms, but wherever he goes, he doesn’t go there alone. They’re not shown as being terrifying or titillating, they’re simply shown. They just are what they are. Beach Rats exists at a kind of distance from its subject. Not an unfeeling distance, but a Larry Clark kind of distance; like a voyeur, always worried that if they’re caught too loudly, they’ll be caught in the act. In sex, as with the light of Frankie’s phone camera, bodies are shown in fragments; hands grab and touch, but any kind of wholeness is avoided.

Throughout all of his interactions, with friends, family, or lovers, Frankie is afraid. Afraid of being too much, of not being enough, of being outed, of being inadequate. Beach Rats has fear beating through its heart. Every breath that Frankie takes in the company of the men he sleeps with is imbued with fear. The interaction he has with his girlfriend when she says “when two guys make out, it’s just gay,” is fearful. The simple fact that Frankie doesn’t know what he is, and doesn’t understand what he wants, is full of fear. On a primal level, the unknown is sheer terror, and that’s what Frankie contends with throughout Beach Rats. He flinches away from intimacy after sex; not wanting to be too much, or maybe not wanting to be too “gay.” Sexuality isn’t really brought up much in dialogue, other than Frankie saying he “doesn’t think of himself as gay.” But Beach Rats is about fear, not sexuality or coming. The closet exists, of course, and Frankie is obviously in it, but coming out of it isn’t treated as being all that important. Instead, coming to terms is. Coming to terms with what you want, who you are, with the small degree of safety that can come from knowing, a moment of intimacy on a hotel room bed. Frankie doesn’t live in the closet, he lives in fear. He waits for the truth to set him free, and it doesn’t as his summer ends the way it began, with fireworks on the boardwalk. The truth will set him free, later, just not before its finished with him.

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LFF 2017: Being Alive

There seems to be a visual contradiction running through Call Me By Your Name. It’s a film about intimacy, and sexuality. Yet it keeps some things at a distance. It favours long takes and images of stunning scenery to close-ups of faces in anguish or ecstasy. But that doesn’t make it cold, or unfeeling. If anything, it’s exactly the opposite, and the slight distance that the camera keeps is the only way to stop Call Me By Your Name from being utterly overpowering.

Call Me By Your Name is, simply put, full of things. This is true on a lot of the levels the film operates on. It’s full of longing glances and stolen moments, full of sculpture and literature and art, full of nature and food and music. But nothing feels like it’s there just to be there. Everything there feels alive. Call Me By Your Name isn’t just full of things, its full of life, it shows a world that’s lived in. Even discussions about etymology manage to relate to the world of the film. It might be a bit on the nose, with reference to things being “precocious” just as the camera presents us with a shot of Elio, who even gets described as precocious in a plot summary on IMDB. But the film never tries to be subtle, not really. It zooms in on the first moment of intimate contact between Elio and Oliver, a shot that, by now, seems all too familiar.

It makes sense for Call Me By Your Name to be unsubtle though. After all, there’s something about it that threatens to overpower. We see the way these characters live and feel through the things and people that they surround themselves with. Art of all kinds, from pop music to classical piano, is treated with paramount importance. As a way of seeing someone, a way of understanding them. There’s a scene where Elio plays the piano for Oliver, a version of something he played minutes earlier on an acoustic guitar. He plays variations on it, and one of them is tinged with rock and roll. As Elio plays it, we see him swept up in the feeling of the music, face contorting like Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison. There’s a similar moment, much later in the film, when Oliver is looking at slides of sculptures with Elio’s father. Oliver is being told about the way the sculptures curve, their ambiguity, and the way they “almost dare you to desire them.” Then Elio walks in, desiring Oliver as he desires the sculptures, which are really a way of desiring Elio.

The life of Call Me By Your Name isn’t all academic and artistic though. It exists on a physical level as well as an intellectual one. Elio watches Oliver dancing to a pop song, watches the way his body moves, the way he kisses the girl opposite him. The music is imbued with desire, like the sculptures or the piano music. Desire is at the heart of Call Me By Your Name, it pulses through the films veins. Everything in the film is felt by someone, every piece of art, every thump of a volleyball; every kiss, all of it is felt. There is a whole world of things in Call Me By Your Name, things that bring us closer to the characters than a camera ever could, closer than the longest close-up of Elio staring at Oliver ever could. The rapture we see Elio feel when he plays piano is more than enough, like the uninhibited way that Oliver dances. In spite of the physical distance the camera keeps us at, the lived-in quality of Call Me By Your Name gives us something much richer, something much more than physical closeness: intimacy.

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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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Updated Oscar Predictions – The season begins

So, after asking around, I was enlightened by Sasha from Awards Daily and Scott from THR that the Oscar season is officially considered underway after the recent Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Taking this into consideration, I’ve deicded to update my predictions, although there only small changes to my predicted final five, I’m going to start including a few other contenders in the categories too.

Best Picture

  • Les Miserables
  • Anna Kerenina
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Django Unchained
  • Lincoln
  • The Master
  • Life of Pi
  • Argo
  • The Silver Linings Playbook

Contenders

  • Amour
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Zero Dark Thirty

Changes: The Dark Knight Rises and To the Wonder out. Life of Pi and The Silver Linings Playbook in.

Best Director

  • Tom Hooper for Les Miserables
  • Joe Wright for Anna Karenina
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master
  • Stephen Spielberg for Lincoln
  • Ang Lee for The Life of Pi

Contenders

  • Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
  • Michael Haneke for Amour

Best Actor

  • Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
  • Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
  • Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson
  • John Hawkes for The Sessions
  • Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables

Contenders

  • Bradley Cooper for The Silver Linings Playbook
  • Jamie Foxx for Django Unchained
  • Logan Lerman for The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Actress

  • Keria Knightley for Anna Karenina
  • Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone
  • Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Viola Davis for Won’t Back Down
  • Jennifer Lawrence for The Silver Linings Playbook

Contenders

  • Naomi Watts for The Impossible
  • Julianne Moore for What Maisie Knew

Changes: Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson) out and Jennifer Lawrence (The Silver Linings Playbook) in.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Alan Arkin for Argo
  • Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
  • William H. Macy for The Sessions
  • Jude Law for Anna Karenina
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Contenders

  • Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained
  • Bryan Cranston for Argo
  • Ezra Miller for The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Supporting Actress

  • Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
  • Amy Adams for The Master
  • Sally Field for Lincoln
  • Helen Hunt for The Sessions
  • Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Contenders

  • Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Samantha Barks for Les Miserables

Best Original Screenplay

  • Amour
  • Django Unchained
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Master

Contenders

  • To Rome With Love

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Silver Linings Playbook
  • Lincoln
  • Life of Pi
  • Anna Karenina
  • Argo

Contenders

  • On the Road
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

 

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