Category Archives: Awards

Failed Critics Podcast: Awards 2016 – part 2

awards-16-3

Fanfare, please! It’s the final part of our Failed Critics Awards 2016 podcast. We’ve got the full list of all the films to make it onto our top 10 of the year, as voted for by you folks.

Also in part 2, Steve Norman, Owen Hughes, Andrew Brooker and Callum Petch reveal which have been the best performances of 2016 from both male and female actors. Spoiler: Mob Handed star, Yvette Rowland, didn’t make the shortlist – but did Mob Handed make it onto our worst 3 films of the year? Or even our top 10? You’ll just have to listen to find out.

If you missed the podcast yesterday, you can go back and listen to part 1 to find out what our best documentaries, British films, “foreign muck” and soundtracks are.

We’ll be back in the New Year, but until then, we’d just like to express our enormous gratitude to everybody who took the time to vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards. We’re always surprised at just how many of you there are who are willing to give us any amount of your time, either to listen to the podcast, read our reviews or submit votes. Thanks and here’s hoping you’ll stick with us in 2017!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Advertisements

Failed Critics Podcast: Awards 2016 – part 1

awards-16-2

Welcome to the first part of this year’s Failed Critics Awards!

Rather than force you to sit through a two-hour podcast only days after our three-hour compilation “best of” episode came out, we’ve split this year’s awards in half.

In part one, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by Andrew Brooker and Callum Petch to scowl, whoop and whine about the winners in:

  • Best documentary
  • Best British film
  • Best film not in the English language
  • Best soundtrack

As well, of course, as our end of year quiz!

We’ll be back tomorrow (new year’s eve!) with the winners in our best male / female performances, worst films of the year and the big one: Our top 10 movies of 2016 – as voted for by you, our listeners and readers.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Failed Critics Awards Voting 2016

awards-16

Everybody loves lists. Reading them, writing them, or even voting in them – as has happened every December since we began collecting results in 2012 for the annual Failed Critics Awards.

Last year saw us achieve our highest ever number of votes as Mad Max: Fury Road smashed all that came before it to reach top spot on our final 10. Without such a clear runaway leader emerging this year, whatever film you’re voting for has much more of a chance of reaching top spot than in any other year.

To vote, simply complete the form below listing as many (or as few) submissions for each of the following categories:

  • Top 10 films of 2016*
  • Best male performance
  • Best female performance
  • Best documentary
  • Best British film
  • Best film not in the English language
  • Best soundtrack
  • Worst film

*that’s films released in the UK in 2016 only (e.g. Spotlight counts as it was released here in January 2016, but La La Land doesn’t as it isn’t released in the UK until January 2017. If in doubt, add a ‘/releaseinfo’ to the IMDb URL (e.g. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/releaseinfo))

Voting closes at midnight on Tuesday 27th December. The winners will be revealed on our End of Year Awards podcast, released a few days later. A list will also be posted on our Failed Critics Awards page.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can flick through our reviews or listen to some of our podcasts over the past year.

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SUBMIT YOUR NOMINATIONS! RESULTS WILL BE PUBLISHED ON THE AWARDS PAGE

Failed Critics Podcast: End of Year Awards 2015

awards 15

Votes have been counted, booze has been consumed and a resulting two hour long podcast has been produced, examining each of the winners (and some of the losers) in this year’s Failed Critics Awards.

With Steve Norman absent, it’s up to Matt Lambourne to step in and host our final podcast of the year as Owen Hughes runs through who has won what in all eight of the different categories that our listeners have submitted votes in. Accompanying them both are special guests Callum Petch and Phil Sharman, who duke it out in the opening quiz, before laughing/lamenting the choices for:

Best soundtrack of 2015

Best documentary

Best film not in the English language

Best British film

Best male performance

Best female performance

Worst film of 2015

and of course the definitive Top 10 films of the year.

Thank you to everybody who spared 5 minutes to send in your picks for each of the above – and thanks to all of you who have downloaded our podcast over the past 12 months. You’ve made this year the most successful in our relatively short history and without you, it’d just be Steve and I talking over Skype each week to an invisible audience. Which, quite frankly, would be a bit weird. So thanks for sparing us that indignity, at least!

We’ll be back again the first week of January to review Joy, The Danish Girl and no doubt some other stuff too.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE (including bookmarks for each category)

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Vote in the Failed Critics Awards 2015

awards 15

With only four podcasts left until the end of 2015 (that’s how we measure time around here) that can mean only one thing: It’s time for you all to vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards!

Last year we had a record number of voters and with a bit of luck, we hope even more of you will get involved this year too.

To vote, simply complete the form below listing as many (or as few) submissions for each of the following categories:

  1. Top 10 films of 2015*
  2. Best male performance
  3. Best female performance
  4. Best documentary
  5. Best British film
  6. Best film not in the English language
  7. Best soundtrack
  8. Worst film

*that’s films released in the UK in 2015 only (e.g. Whiplash counts, Creed doesn’t)

Voting closes on Sunday 27th December. The winners will be revealed on our End of Year Awards podcast, released a few days later. A list will also be posted on our Failed Critics Awards page.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can flick through our reviews or listen to some of our podcasts over the past year.

[VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED]

Of cows, war and tumours: Best Foreign Language Oscar 2016

df6ec999-0633-413e-9317-53de961e2b33-620x372

Booker Prize awarded, Mercury Prize on its way, the time of year is upon us when industries line-up the envelopes and hand-out the free champagne (….and often vice-versa).  The film industry loves dishing out the trophies more than most, and next year’s Chris Rock presented Academy Awards will trump all before it by most measurements, even if the current betting odds suggest a wider field than usual. There will soon happen the coalescence of opinion behind names, titles, figureheads, so prepare yourself for the post-award “missed opportunities” chat fans of “Inside Out”, we all know what you want, and it’s not happening.

What is happening, for the third year in a row, so I must be doing something right, is the swift eyeing-up of submitted entries for that ever maligned Academy Award staple: the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Fans of blue moons might like to know that, yes, the United Kingdom has an offering this year in the shape of Welsh-language Under Milk Wood, a thoroughly bonkers take of a famously unhinged text (remaining as a set-text across Welsh schools). In my hazy foggy memory, I recall taking one attempt at enjoying the tale of “Llarreggub” without much success, although that was before the days when Cerys Matthews would breathe softly into her 6Music microphone with a particularly saucy rendition, so maybe there’s room for me to be impressed yet. Whether the UK will get anywhere in Oscar-land with this version is doubtful, though I would hope that this submission means we’re still able to provide funding for minority language arts in this country. More, please.

Documentaries are eligible for this category with two takes on a similar, sadly depressing, theme taking my eye from this year’s longlist. Iraqi-Swiss filmmaker “Samir” (he avoids using his religious-based surname) helms Iraqi Odyssey, a deeply personal documentary casting a net from Baghdad to the numerous global cities where his family now calls home. Through the numerous, and seemingly never-ending conflicts in Iraq, the once proud population soon spread themselves across the globe; this ‘odyssey’ is covered by interviews and archive footage contrasting the past, the future, and the sense of a future denied.

By way of a tonal contrast of sorts, The Wanted 18 submitted by Palestine explores that region’s own conflicts in a much more esoteric fashion. Partly animated and re-enacted, this true story of how eighteen diary cows were hidden from Israeli security forces magnifies the surreal heart of the tragic reality of the Middle East conflict. The core element of the story may be one of constant battles, but its overall story has such humour that it appears impossible not to be charmed by Canadian Paul Cowan and Palestinian Amer Shomali’s work.

Conflict of a similar kind – drawing on historic borders, historic language, historic resentment – probably stopped Spain from ever submitting an entry in the Basque language. Indeed it took some time to find a YouTube trailer of Loreak not dubbed into Spanish, something of a reminder of the cultural friction between the country of Spain and the unsettled region of the Basque peoples. To this writer’s eyes, Flowers as it’s translated, hardly hides its analogy of discomfort and directionless behind the story of a woman receiving bouquets from an anonymous source, and the conflict which draws from her need to find her true destiny. It’s somewhat bleak and shadowy in its trailer, though there’s enough strong women to bring Pedro Almodóvar to mind, and that’s hardly a bad thing, now, is it?

There are some countries on which you can often rely for suggestions when running your fingers along the World Cinema section at HMV/on Netflix. This year, they have submitted something of a pic-n-mix. Japan does not impress this writer much with 100 Yen Love, which appears to be a darkly comic tale on a young woman slacking at home wasting her life when suddenly it becomes a version of every ‘turn your life around the easy way’ rags to riches tale you’ve ever ho-hummed over.

Goodbye Mr Tumor is not the kind of title I’d expect from a film outside High School biology class (and even then not outside an episode from Series 6 of The Simpsons). The full 2-hours of China’s submission is on-line if you fancy giving your Mandarin a good airing, I stuck with the trailer and cannot make head-nor-tail of any of it. Warning, the first two-minutes of that link is a trailer, the remaining two-minutes appears to be spoiler-tastic spoiler-ness of the most spoiler-ific kind. If you’re in need of that sort of heads up.

France used to be a safe-bet for shortlisting; they’ve gone for Turkish coming-of-age drama and it’s not doing anything for me. The Italians seem to have gone for a full-colour La Haine which has a certain charm, whilst from India comes a beguiling and deeply peculiar looking court-room drama with unusually slow and languid editing.

I cannot leave this article without mentioning Thailand, even if it does come across as a forced in-joke. It’s my article, I’m going to keep pushing this. Two years ago their entry slapped me around the face with a long-haired drug dealing Jesus inflicting torture on teenagers in a bath. Last year they went safe with a goofy romcom about a teacher. For this time around How To Win at Checkers (Every Time) firmly sets its stall as much as any mainstream Hollywood film possibly could for Academy attention: two brothers in sibling rivalry torn apart by an army draft, full of family tensions and road-trip soul searching. It’s bound to do well, isn’t it? Here’s my one hope for shortlisting above all others, with so many boxes ticked it surely can’t go unnoticed.

Failed Critics Awards 2014

interstellar 2This time of year always comes around so quickly. No sooner have you sat down to finally get around to loading up Netflix and catching up on some of those films you’ve missed over the last 12 months than we’re asking you to vote in our end of year awards.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can flick through our reviews or listen to some of our podcasts over the past year.

To vote for your top 10 films of 2014, top 5 performances, worst 3 films and a few other categories that we’re sure you’re just dying to tell us all about, simply visit our awards page and complete the submission form: https://failedcritics.com/failed-critics-awards/

Voting closes on Monday 22nd December 2014 at 5pm.

Speaking in Tongues – the Foreign Language Oscar longlist

The GrandmasterThe Internet is often accused of shining too much light upon magic. No longer do blokes down the pub chat about the match without somebody flinging out their black mirror to quote every OPTA stat like an autistic vidiprinter. Stumbling over a potential classic read in a bookstore has become something of a minority interest sport, not just because bookstores are closing at a rate comparable to Working Men’s Clubs, but one quick scan of Goodreads gives you enough crib notes to appear as the most well-read member of your book club. With amateur YouTube accounts and news aggregator sites such as BuzzFeed and Cracked reducing everything from current affairs to album released into bite-sized cue cards, it’s little wonder that the pervasive opinion is that of the facilitation of diluted information somewhat reduces the anticipation, excitement and general thrill of how things used to be.

Partial credit for that view, as the drawing back of the curtain made possible by the Internet does have its positives points. What used to seem mysterious or oblique, such as the drawing up of nominated people in various award ceremonies, has become broadly open and available for comment. The ‘longlist’, so rarely mentioned before the expectation of transparency brought about by the Internet, is now part and parcel of the bauble giving process. No more is such openness exciting and, just perhaps, symbolic of the ‘window of the world’ ideal of on-line life, than the longlist for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (more correctly labelled by the august gentlefolk at BAFTA as ‘Film not in the English Langugae’, but who am I to suggest that our American cousins have an unfortunately skewed opinion of ‘foreign’.)

This year nine films from over seventy submissions have been put on the initial longlist, and I have endeavoured to find at least a trailer somewhere for a select few to chin-stroke for your delectation. In the spirit of the New Year, I will hand over to other Failed Critics to consider  those I have missed from both the longlist and unsuccessful others, out of a duty to be fair, and because I hope somebody else can stomach watching the entry from Thailand. No, I’m not doing it, watching it for research purposes was quite enough. Ask James. [I just watched it. Bloody hell. Do not click HERE – James]

From Bosnia-Herzegovina comes ‘An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker’ (‘Epizoda u životu berača željeza’). Low on laughs, this one. Director Danis Tanović explores what he considers to be the ‘omnipresent’ injustice in a country many years removed from the devastating civil war of the 1990s. A woman, Senad, falls ill during pregnancy, but has no means of paying for treatment when the child she is carrying dies. The trailer is unremittingly bleak. I recall watching Bosnia’s winning submission ‘No Man’s Land’ some years ago (it beat ‘Amélie’), so I know that their cinema has a somewhat downbeat side, and who could blame them? Stark and courageous as this clearly is, I think it’s not one for me to settle down of an evening to watch.

Similarly serious is the entry perhaps best known in the UK thanks to much broader distribution rights, Denmark‘s ‘The Hunt’ (‘Jagten’). This claustrophobic tale of mass hysteria in a small village beats particularly relevant drums in this country due to the ongoing concerns about paedophilia in the media and the well-known mob justice attacks on innocent people (including a disabled Iranian man earlier this year, and the infamous attack of a paediatrician.) As many fans of Nordic Noir will attest, ‘The Hunt’ speaks of shadow and light as close partners. It’s been a good time to be a Danish screenwriter, with ‘A Royal Affair’ making similar waves last year. The trailer for ‘The Hunt’ in its native language does look so much like ‘The Killing’, I’m just saddened by the lack of chunky knit jumpers.

I was taken aback by just how unexpectedly lovely ‘The Missing Picture’ looks. Already awarded the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes, the third ever submission from Cambodia could well be the kind of film the Academy award themselves. Looking at the atrocities from the country’s dark past through a mix of animation and filmed segments, ‘The Missing Picture’  looks to be as much docu-drama as film, and is none the less compelling for that. The entire film can be found, without subtitles, on YouTube. From what I saw, this brave and moving piece would be a humbling and informative film and perhaps a companion piece to ‘The Art of Killing’, although not perhaps on the same night, or if you’re prone to emotional outbursts.

Hong Kong has made the longlist with ‘The Grandmaster’ (‘一代宗師’), a retelling of the story of Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Man. It is the first submission from the former British colony to make the January cut-off since 1993, and I can see why it’s been picked up for wider release. Slick, dark and beautiful in ways only East Asian martial arts films can pull off properly, ‘The Grandmaster’ is also notable for including scenes unique to whichever of the three edits you happen to find (original, European release and world-wide version). It could well follow in the ‘Crouching Tiger…’ tradition by crossing over into cult status if the mood is right, and I see no reasons why this isn’t possible.

These four take only but a sliver from the full seventy-odd entries from countries as diverse as Nepal, Italy and even The United Kingdom. I’ll await the results of the Academy’s considerations with interest. It’s worth the light being shone upon the world sometimes.

Failed Critics Awards 2013: The Winners

We’ve been making a list, checking it twice, trying to find out who the Failed Critics podcasters, writers, and our beloved readers/listeners think was naughty, nice and downright talented in 2013. If you want some pomp and circumstance (and can handle two hours of us drunkenly announcing the winners) then you can download the Review of 2013 Podcast otherwise, strap in tight because here we go.

Top 10 Films of 2013

BlueIsTheWarmestColour10. Blue is the Warmest Colour / Rush / The World’s End

A complicated three-way tie for tenth place in our poll, and it’s difficult to imagine three more different films to kick off with. Abdellatif Kerchiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour not only won the Palm d’Or in 2013, but for the first time in its history the prize was shared between the director and the stars of the film (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos). A brilliant, yet simple film about first love, identity, and well, lesbian sex. Rush was Ron Howard’s return to form after the needless Angels & Demons and the inexplicable The Dilemma. Howard works best as a chronicler of recent history (see Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon) and the story and setting of James Hunt and Nikki Lauda’s tragic and inspiring rivalry was perfect fodder for the man most famous these days for his brilliant turn as the narrator of Arrested Development. Rounding off this trio is the last film in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. The World’s End combines Shaun of the Dead’s invasion themes and b-movie sensibility with Hot Fuzz’s exploration of small town life and authoritarian control of the populace, but at its heart is a story about friendship, growing up, and growing apart. With some brilliant fight scenes.

The Place Beyond the Pines9. The Place Beyond the Pines

Possibly the sexiest film of the year, starring Failed Critics Podcast man-crush Ryan Gosling, dreamy Bradley Cooper, and the gorgeous Eva Mendes, but this film is so much more. Director Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious modern-day Greek tragedy is not only wonderful to look at (and we’re not just talking about the acting talent now), but a brilliant exercise in tone and storytelling. While the third act may have grated with many, not many films would have been brave enough to even try it in the first place.

iron-man-downey-jr8. Iron Man 3

The highest-grossing film of the year, and while Marvel Studios must realise they’ve essentially got a licence to print money it is great to see that they are still taking risks on directors with with plenty of baggage, but utterly unique takes on cinema. After resurrecting Joss Whedon’s career, Marvel handed their biggest single-character franchise to a man who had only directed one film before. Luckily that man was also the writer of some o the best action films of the 1980s and 1990s – Shane Black. Iron Man 3 suffered from a comic fan backlash over a number of decisions, but cinema audiences lapped up the self-referential humour.

Anne Hathaway Les Miserables7. Les Miserables

Years in the making, and not to be confused with the completely non-singing version starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman, Tom Hooper’s film was always going to bring in the crowds. What surprised many people though was how technically brilliant the film was, taking the almost unheard of step of recording the cast’s vocals onset, which in turn allowed for far more naturalistic performances, especially from Oscar winner Anne Hathaway.The only drawback was that Russel Crowe’s singing was so lifeless you wish he’s given it 30 odd foot of grunts.

The Way Way Back Sam Rockwell6. The Way, Way Back

Probably the biggest surprise entry on this year’s top ten, The Way, Way Back was an American indie gem of a comedy written and direct by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Oscar-winning co-writers of Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. One of the finest ensemble casts of the year, with great performances from the likes of Steve Carrell, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, Amenda Peet, and Liam James. Most impressive of all is Sam Rockwell, as the Peter Pan-esque manager of a scruffy water park where a shy 14-year-old boy spends his summer and discovers himself. Heart-warming, and very funny stuff.

Pacific Rim5. Pacific Rim

This film didn’t have the easiest ride from the critics (including one or two members of our own podcast), but its high showing in our awards just proves that there is still a huge audience out there for decent monster movies. So the script sucked and some performances were a little wooden? When giant ass robots fighting giant as alien sea creatures looks as good as this, who cares?

Django Unchained Waltz Foxx4. Django Unchained

Another film that divided critics and audience alike, Quentin Tarantino was at his most breathtaking, hillarious, and frustrating in this epic western starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz. Featuring a trademark QT soundtrack and visual flourishes loving recycled from the Speghetti Westerns of the 1960s, Django Unchained was a brutal and guiltily enjoyable romp through the old west and the height of slavery. Nobody does it quite like Quentin.

Alpha Papa Small3. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

The highest-placed British film of 2013, and a real rarity: a movie adaptation of a sitcom that delivered on the humour, while not sacrificing the feel of the original. Steve Coogan donned the string-back driving gloves once more to play one of the greatest comic creations since Basil Fawlty, and was in imperious form. From the opening credits featuring Partridge lip-syncing to Roachford’s Cuddly Toy to the pinpoint skewering of local radio, Alpha Paper was unashamedly British, and almost embarrassingly funny.

Gravity Sandra Bullock2. Gravity

The common link between our illustrious top ten of the year, and a similar list published by those hacks at Sight & Sound, is that this film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón finished in second place on both. Everyone who saw it agreed that it is a stunning technical and visual acheivement, with many (including us) going so far as to state that it’s one of the few positive uses of 3D they’ve seen in the cinema. However, without Sandra Bullock’s central performance grounding the film in some kind of recognisable humanity the film would have been a flashy, but ultimately soulless experience.

Cloud Atlas Weaving Old George1. Cloud Atlas

Ignored by the Academy, the cinema chains, and the ‘man in the street’ (barely making back its $100m+ budget), the Wachowski siblings and Tom Twyker’s co-directed historical drama/conspiracy thriller/escape caper/sci-fi blockbuster/fucking bonkers post-apocalyptic nightmare is exactly the kind of film that film bloggers love to write about, and they voted for it in their droves. Adapted from David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel. Cloud Atlas is an incredible experience, jumping between six very different, but intertwined stories, each featuring the same cast of actors. It swings from the sublime (Ben Whishaw as an aspiring composer, Tom Hanks as a manipulative doctor, Donna Bae as a replicant service worker) to the ridiculous (Hugh Grant as an angry Korean restaurant owner, Halle Berry as a white Jewish emigre, Hugo Weaving as The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh) at regular intervals, and is certainly not the kind of film you can watch with one eye on your Twitter timeline.

For its sheer ambition, imagination, and chutzpah, we are very proud to call this our film of the year.

The best of the rest:

13. Side Effects
14. Stoker
15. Before Midnight
15. Wreck-it Ralph
17. Spring Breakers
18. Zero Dark Thirty
19. Captain Phillips
20. Despicable Me 2

Here are the rest of our awards, and you can hear a full discussion about these awards on the Failed Critics Podcast:

Best Performance by an Actor

1. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips

2. Sam Rockwell for The Way, Way Back

=3. Daniel Bruhl for Rush, and James McAvoy for Filth

Best Performance by an Actress

1. Adèle Exarchopoulos

2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

3. Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

Best Documentary

1. Blackfish

2. The Act of Killing

3. The Great Hip-Hip Hoax

Best Film not in the English Language

1. Blue is the Warmest Colour (France)

2. The Thieves (South Korea)

3. The Act of Killing (Denmark/Indonesia)

Best Soundtrack

1. Cloud Atlas

2. Gravity

3. Les Miserables

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 22/02/13

gfflogoIt’s been a long, but brilliant week at the Glasgow Film Festival, and it was with great sadness that I embarked on my last day here. It started with the world première  of Staande! Debout!, a Belgian/Finish film about the after-effects of an autoworkers strike that paralysed Belgium in 1997. It’s a fictional account (but based on the very real experiences of the striking workers) of Felix, an old man who never got over the closure of the car plant where he worked. When his best friend dies, Felix decides to gather his surviving comrades to honour him. It’s an emotionally stark and desolate film, complimented by shots of a decaying industrial town in provincial Belgium. But also a powerful exploration of the human cost of capitalism, and a reminder that figures on a balance sheet are individual people, with their own hopes, fears, and varying levels of resilience.

The afternoon presented me with A Late Quartet, the fictional feature debut of Yaron Zilberman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener, it tells the story of a string quartet’s struggles to stay together in the face of Parkinson’s disease, infidelity, and competitiveness. Sadly, it’s a rather boring and navel-gazing glimpse into the world of ‘rich white people’s problems’. Eastenders for the upper-middle-classes. Imogen Poots impresses as the daughter of Robert and Julliet Gelbart (Hoffman and Keener), and Christopher Walken is surprisingly not playing Christopher Walken for once. Overall though, the pace is flat, the characters are self-obsessed and uninteresting, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Before I head home to work on a film of my own (and who knows, maybe I’ll be back here next year in a slightly different capacity), I’m going to sign off with a few awards. I’m thinking of calling them the Glasgees…

Best Performance

There have been a number of great performances this week; Imogen Poots in The Look of Love; Ann Dowd in the otherwise pretty nasty Compliance, Soren Malling in A Hijacking; and Jack Black’s career-best turn in Bernie. A special mention should go to the cast of Cloud Atlas, who do an incredible job charging through multiple eras, races, and even genders. For me though, I have to give the award to Theo Green in Breakfast with Curtis. A non-professional actor, who puts in the kind of performance you might see in a Ken Loach film, but a happy one.

Best Documentary

Although Indie Game: The Movie and The Day that Lasted 21 Years were both excellent films, The Final Member is the one documentary that really caught my imagination. A incredibly story, told by fantastic characters, with a wonderful soundtrack. This will be a firm festival favourite in the coming months.

Best Foreign-Language Film

The Thieves came mighty close to winning this, but it just felt a little too Hollywood. A Highjacking however, is the type of film Hollywood would never make, and that’s a real shame. It’s an incredibly tense film about the hijacking of a Danish freighter by Somali pirates, and the increasingly fraught negotiations between Peter (CEO of the shipping company) and the hijacker’s translater and negotiator. A battle of wills and wits commences, and caught in the middle is the ship’s cook Mikkel. Brilliant.

Best Film

It has to be Cloud Atlas, with its bold, brave, and breathtaking take on David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel. You have to admire the film’s incredible ambition, and if you’re in the mood to forgive its sense of self-importance, and some ridiculous make-up jobs, you will be knocked over by a juggernaut of a movie. An absolute must-see.

And that’s it. I would like to thank everyone at Glasgow Film Festival (particularly Kirstin Innes, Laura Doherty, and Hannah Cosgrove), and of course our coverage sponsors Brewdog Glasgow. See you back here in 2014!

BD_Logo_White

The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival was sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars. Cheers for all the beer & burgers.

GFF13: Stoker

stokerSo, Stoker. Hmmm. I’m just going to have to start writing this review, and hope I have something to say by the end of it. I know that doesn’t seem very professional, or even sensible, but it’s incredibly difficult to find things to say about a film that has so little to say itself.

Park Chan-wook‘s first foray into English-language film-making was one of my most anticipated films of Glasgow Film Festival, and indeed the whole of 2013. I couldn’t wait to see what the director of a masterpiece like Oldboy could do with what appeared to be a Hitchcockian psychological thriller, with a dash of American Gothic, and possibly even a hint of something more supernatural. The film tells the story of India Stoker (Mia Waskikowska); a girl who loses her father and best-friend (Dermot Mulroney) on her eighteenth birthday. Her father’s brother, Charlie Stoker (Matthew Goode) appears at the funeral, and moves in with India and her increasingly fragile mother (Nicole Kidman). Uncle Charlie clearly has dark secrets and hidden motives, and while India is suspicious of the man she never knew existed, she finds herself increasingly infatuated with him.

I am desperately looking for positives here. The direction is very stylish at times, and the use of sound is brilliant (India has a skill that allows her to hear things other people cannot, and the viewer is drawn into this aural soundscape in a very satisfying fashion). We are also ‘treated’ to some shocking set-piece scenes, with some images as indelibly burned into our retinas as the octopus scene from Oldboy. The problem is that the film amounts to little more than a few excellent scenes and disturbing images.

The story is threadbare, with not much in the way of action to propel the narrative. What little does happen feels forced and convenient, rather than believable. Characters just don’t do what they’re supposed to do. In some films this could be seen as a brave attempt at ‘anti-storytelling’, but in a film which clearly cites Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt as a major influence, this is unforgivable.

The central performances aren’t bad, it’s just that they don’t get the opportunity to show any great development. Matthew Goode does a reasonable ‘creepy uncle’, but the lack of depth to his character means there is no real twist; nothing to really catch us by surprise. The shocks are all telegraphed, and anyone who has seen one of the slew of ‘sensual psychological thrillers’ from the early 1990s (think The Hand the Rocks the Cradle or Malice) will have a pretty good idea how this plays out in the opening few minutes. The way in which the film plays with vampire mythology (from the title, to India’s attack on a student with a sharpened pencil/wooden stake), and then forgets about these set-ups is frustrating, and symptomatic of a script that feels like a first draft.

It’s not a bad film, it just isn’t good. And from a director who has delivered so much in the past, that is hugely disappointing.

Stoker is released in March

BD_Logo_White

The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

And the Oscar doesn’t go to…

oscarsYesterday saw the delightful Emma Stone and the diametrically opposite Seth MacFarlane announce the contenders for this year’s Academy Awards. By the time you read this, countless actors, directors, producers, and especially agents and assorted hangers-on will be knee deep in champagne, cocaine, and hookers in celebration. But let’s spare a thought for those who will have seen the nominations and gone home to kick their cat and/or personal assistant.

Join us on the Failed Critics Podcast later this week as we discuss the list in full, as well as offering our thoughts on Les Miserables which garnered eight nominations for the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, which takes place on Sunday 24th February.

The following contains a The Dark Knight Rises spoiler.

Paul Thomas Anderson

The mercurial director who has been nominated five times in the past was ignored in the Director category, and the Academy even went as far as nominating nine films for Best Picture and leaving out The Master. After being marked out as the early rival to Spielberg’s Lincoln it seems that while the emperor isn’t naked, he’s certainly getting a few odd looks on his attire.

Marion Cottilard

The Oscar-winning actress redeemed her appalling death scene in The Dark Knight Rises with a stunning turn in my favourite film of 2012, Rust and Bone. Although Rust and Bone lost out on France’s nomination for the Foreign Language category (to the admittedly excellent The Intouchables, which sadly also failed to make the final short-list), there were rumours Cottilard could receive a nomination in the Best Actress category. That’s my £1 bet at 25/1 down the drain.

Kathryn Bigelow

Another Oscar-winner to miss out on a nomination this year. Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty may have made it onto the Best Picture list, but her absence from the Director category was a surprise. Her achievement in becoming the first woman to win the Oscar  for Direction with the Hurt Locker has often been overshadowed by accusations that she won it precisely because she is a woman. Despite the fact that she beat James Cameron’s pretty mediocre Avatar, and Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (far from his finest film). This year was her chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke, with arguably a better picture. It appears America isn’t willing to condone torture in its prison camps, or its cinemas, any longer.

The Imposter

The best documentary of the year doesn’t get a nomination. Hopefully director Bart Layton is already working on his next incredible story; how the Academy managed to fuck this up so badly.

Matthew McConaughey

Okay, so he would have been a left-field choice, but what more has the man got to do to get a nomination? He’s already won over his harshest critic with fantastic roles in Magic Mike and Killer Joe, and he’s even given up leaning against women on the posters of trashy rom-coms. After seeing him sleaze it up in Magic Mike, a lot of people laughed at me for suggesting an outside chance of an Oscar nomination. Well who’s laughing now? Oh.

Ben Affleck

Makes twice the film that Good Will Hunting is, and gets none of the personal nominations. Maybe he should have directed it with Matt Damon? If we’re not careful we’ll push him right back into the arms of Daredevil!

Failed Critics will be live-blogging the Oscars Ceremony on February 24, and discussing the undeserving winners and unlucky losers in our podcast the next day.

Euro Stars

oscarsI’m watching a film trailer for a 2012 release longlisted for an Academy Award, and from what I can gather this is the kind of film which would ordinarily do well with those who hand out the statuettes every spring. Unusually for a film which could be sharing the stage amongst the biggest superstars in Hollywood, there’s very little coverage out there in English, although twelve people have provided ratings for it on IMDB. The trailer suggests this is classic Hollywood territory: girl goes off the rails, is knocked up, kicked about, falls pregnant and then is laughed at by a woman with large glasses and wide gums. Oh, and she speaks in Kyrgyz and the film only has Russian subtitles.  That aside, it’s your typical mainstream storyline transferred to very atypical surroundings.

Whether the good folk of Kyrgyzstan had their hopes of Oscar glory with Пустой дом” (“Pustoy Dom” or “The Empty House”) is anyone’s guess, but even if they did have their collective fingers crossed, the Academy shortlist released this week dashed those hopes in one whoosh of a fax machine. A record seventy-one submissions for “Best Film in A Foreign Langauge” were received this year of which just nine were chosen as potential winners. These nine, including some of the most well regarded critics’ favourites of the year such as the devastatingly beautiful “Amour” and lavish “A Royal Affair, will be whittled down to five next month, a final figure which has been the only constant in the ‘Foreign Films’ category since the very first was handed out in the 1950s.

What strikes me about the class of 2013 is another common theme they have with their predecessors over the years. They are predominately European, and West European at that, and even those which don’t come from our continental neighbours fail to provide much of an exploration of world cinema. Canada’s submission this year, for example, is the sixth to make at least the shortlist in the last seven years.  Whilst France, perennial nominees with this being their sixth in the last decade, is a country you’d expect to see in the mix or thereabouts, this year sees the first ever shortlist inclusion for Chile. Now I’m no expert in Chilean cinema,  so maybe everything thus far submitted has been awful, but the law of averages suggests that to be unlikely. For the record, I’ve watched the trailer for their entry No, and whilst the deliberate use of outdated video stock is a bit glaring, it looks like an engrossing and madcap political drama, with the added bonus of a staring role for the ever dashing “Amores Perros” star Gael García Bernal.

Here’s the number crunching science part. This year seven of the 71 shortlisted entries are from Western Europe, last year it was six from 63, the year before four from 66, whilst for 2010 it was six out of 67. If I go back to the year of my birth, four of the five final nominees were Western European, with Japan making up the fifth, and there’s a country which is not a stranger to being amongst the possible winners. However you look at it, the most basic conclusion is either the basic fact that European cinema is intrinsically better than anywhere else, or the Academy has a blindspot-cum-love affair with the industry as an institution. Have they been in a spell since the days of Fellini or is there something more sinister going on? I don’t often fling around the accusation of imperialism, though when there’s an award specifically designed to celebrate non-American cinema it does strike an odd note that so much of it originates from developed, Western countries.

Another fact which strikes me as incongruous is the lack of recognition for perhaps the most prolific film producing country in the world; India. There’s been no shortlisted entry from India for twelve years, and before that it was 1988, a year when I was just about to start revising for my GCSEs. As with the Kyrgyzstan entry I checked out earlier, I’ve no doubt that the film was well regarded within its home market, so unless Bollywood is deliberately barring submissions from established directors I’ve no idea why there’s such an obvious snub. That said, I have to point this year’s Indian submission, “Barfi!, is one of the highest-grossing Bollywood movies of all time, even though its synopsis doesn’t sound like my kind of thing – deaf and dumb man has relationship with two women, one of whom is autistic, and if you want to know if there’s a happy ending don’t scroll down too quickly on Wikipedia….

Economic power house China has yet to win an Oscar and has once again failed to be nominated this year. I found a trailer with English subtitles for 搜索 (or “Sōusuǒ“, released with the English name “Caught in the Web”) and to be honest it seems to be part-pot boiling nonsense and part Chinese propaganda against the Internet, but that doesn’t mean every other entry they’ve tried is without greater merit. It was through Taiwan/Republic of China that the exceptional “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” was submitted in the year 2000, and of course it won, though it’s worth pointing out that even then the majority of nominees were European – and one of those was from Belgium. Belgium!

Maybe I’m being naive and a little idealistic. Looking at this from the other side, could it just be that European cinema is better, broader, more mature and accessible to the jury? Could it be that the ideal of the award is to celebrate a good film rather than opening doors to the world of developing cinema? After all this is the Academy Awards and not a Sight & Sound Festival, and since the year 2000 the winners have included Iran’s “A Separation” and South Africa’s “Tsotsi“. If there’s a undeniable bias it’s towards drama and particularly morality tale drama, rich in the kind of lessons which could be lip service to liberal critics. What it could have been is an opportunity to taste cinema from different palates and with over 70% of Oscar winners coming from Europe, I’m not getting out my best plate and cutlery yet.

 

Liam Pennington is at the action side of 30 years old and is the On-Line Editor for High Voltage. When not making good use of PR companies’ guff, he can be found groundhopping, writing for whoever else wants him, singing along to Eurovision records and sitting through arthouse films at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

@doktorb
www.liampennington.blogspot.com

And the winner is…

avengers-assembleThe votes have been counted and verified, and we can now announce the first ever Failed Critics Awards winners!

On a chilly night at the end of December, the team from the Failed Critics Podcast recorded a virtual ceremony, complete with tuxedos, alcohol, and debauched behaviour. In other words, James treated it like every other podcast recording.

So for anyone who was too hungover to turn on their computer, still too drunk to operate it, or simply too sensible to listen to our inane ramblings; here are the results.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Top 10 Films of the Year

1. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

2. Skyfall
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Amour
5. The Raid
6. Looper
7. The Intouchables
8. Argo
9=. Rust & Bone
9=. Safety Not Guaranteed
9=. 21 Jump Street

Best Performances
Omar Sy (The Intouchables)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Best Foreign Language Film
The Raid

Best Soundtrack
The Dark Knight Rises – Hans Zimmer

Best Documentary
Dreams of a Life

Worst Film
Dark Shadows

Failed Critics Podcast: 2012 in Review/Failed Critics Awards

2012 in FilmWelcome to our first ever End-of-Year Review and the inaugural Failed Critics Awards! Get your tuxedo on, raid the free bar, and join Steve, James, Gerry, and Owen as they discuss their highlights from 2012, and their thoughts on the winners as chosen by contributors to Failed Critics. As well as the prestigious Top Ten Films of the Year, we also award the best performances, foreign-language film, documentary, and soundtrack of great year for film.

Not only that, but we also review our last batch of films for the year – including our thoughts on Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, Ang Lee’s sumptuous Life of Pi, and Ben Wheatley’s caravanning ‘comedy’ Sightseers.

We’ll be back on the 14th January with our review of Les Miserables – and we would like to wish all of our listeners a very happy New Year!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK