Tag Archives: American Hustle

2014 in Review: A Soundtrack

Aside from very generously offering to collate the votes in our Failed Critics Awards 2014, James has also found time to return to the site to run through his favourite soundtracks of the past 12 months. The big question is, of course, did he manage to find something to get even more excited about than when Kristen Wiig sand a David Bowie song last year? Let’s find out…

by James Diamond (@CarlVaggio)

Apart from the awards themselves, this is always the most fun article I get to write for the site. And these days it’s pretty much the only article I get around to writing. I’m at the age now where I don’t really feel like I need any more music, and I’ve certainly stopped listening to the radio or watching MTV. Or even VH1. Almost all of the new music on my mp3 player these days comes from film soundtracks, and this article is a small celebration of the brilliant songs I’ve heard used in films this year. Some of them are old friends seen in a brand new light, while some are original compositions that won me over. All of them have been earworms at 6am at one point or another over the year. So, in no particular order…

Frank’s Most Likeable Song Ever (Frank)

Lenny Abrahamson’s film (loosely inspired by author/screenwriter Jon Ronson’s time as a keyboard player with Frank Sidebottom) has a number of great musical moments that deserve a place on this list, as befitting a great musical road movie that takes elements from films like Spinal Tap and the Leningrad Cowboys films. Jon’s (Domnhall Gleeson) opening scenes walking around his suburban town and failing miserably to gain inspiration from his surroundings are delightful, while the performances of Frank’s band The Soronprfbs are all very watchable. However, this thirty second ditty sums up the inner turmoil of the outsider artist who deep down just wants to be loved.

Hooked on a Feeling (Guardians of the Galaxy)

The soundtrack for James Gunn’s Marvel space opera was a wonderful concept, taking the form of the cassette that was Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) only remaining possession from his childhood on earth, and as such was packed with some cracking songs from the 1970s. I’m cheating a little bit though, as although this song was used well within the film itself, I’m choosing it here purely for its appearance in the film’s first trailer. I had mixed expectations of the film when it was announced, but hearing the familiar OOGA-CHAKA chant and refrain of the chorus towards the end, coupled with the original (and superior in my opinion) tagline “You’re Welcome” completely put my mind at ease. This film was never going to be anything but great fun.

Interrogation Song (Muppets Most Wanted)

A little like the second series of Flight of the Conchords, Brett McKenzie’s songs for this film initially suffered in comparison to the accessibility of his first efforts, and much like that underrated second season, the songs in Muppets Most Wanted prove to have a depth and charm that easily matches those from the 2012 ‘original’. ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’ would have been the obvious choice, opening the film in a self-referential and tongue-in-cheek fashion (“we can’t do any worse than The Godfather 3”), but it’s this classic musical song starring Sam the Eagle and Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) that stole the show for me. Surely a Brett McKenzie-penned Broadway musical is on the cards?

Live and Let Die (American Hustle)

Last year’s article featured a hilarious performance from a great actor lip-syncing to a cheesy but enjoyable chart classic, and this year is no different. American Hustle’s soundtrack is probably my favourite collection of songs released this year, and everyone one of them is used with clinical precision in David O. Russell’s heavily nominated, but not hugely liked (except by me it seems) true-crime thriller. Jennifer Lawrence did two things in this film that I will forever love her for. The first is introducing the phrase ‘science oven’ into my lexicon, and the second is this; miming to Wings’ Live and Let Die while doing the housework in front of her stunned son.

Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie)

This is another one of those moments when very early into a film everything just clicked and I settled in to enjoy the ride. If you follow me on Twitter, listened to me on the podcast, or were simply unfortunate enough to bump into me in the street, then you probably know how much love and respect I have for The Lego Movie. I’ll be going into more depth on the Failed Critics Awards podcast, and in my review of the year piece next week, so I’ll just leave you to enjoy a clip from the funniest and most heart-warming advert ever made.

Higgs Boson Blues (20,000 Days on Earth)

I almost feel like I’m cheating here, as this clip is essentially a performance by one of the most electric and interesting frontmen in rock. Of course this documentary/concert film/therapy session about Nick Cave was going to grab a spot on my list, and I don’t care how unfair anyone says it is. The clip I’ve chosen is the recording session for one of the tacks from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds most recent album, Push the Sky Away. Concert films are pretty common, but we don’t very often get a chance to glimpse into the creative process, something which this film is brilliant at showing us.

Please Mr Kennedy (Inside Llewyn Davis)

From a very real recording session to a completely fictional one, but one that is no less entertaining. One of the great things about Inside Llewyn Davis (if you enjoyed the music and the film, pretty painful if not) is that every song and performance is played in full, giving it a chance to breathe and relax into the wonderful 1960s New York universe that the Coen Brothers created. This is the most upbeat and fun song of the lot, and interestingly features Star Wars Episode 7 stars Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver, alongside Justin Timberlake. Here’s hoping JJ Abrams can persuade JT to cameo in the film and we might get a reunion of sorts in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

If James has convinced you that there were some great soundtracks this year, now’s your time to tell him by voting in our end of year awards! Voting closes Monday 22nd December 2014 at 5pm.

Failed Critics Podcast: Bad Neighbours and bad volcano films

Pompeii_movieWelcome one and all to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, and we’re back to a foursome this week as Steve and Owen are Joined by Matt Lambourne and Carole Petts to discuss new releases Pompeii and Bad Neighbours.

The team also pay tribute to Bob Hoskins, who sadly passed away last week, while the films they’ve seen this week range from the 1964 Danish film Gertrude, to the fantastic documentary Queen of Versailles, via the opinion-splitting American Hustle.

Join us next week for reviews of (hopefully) The Wind Rises, Frank, and Sabotage.

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Around the World in 80 Films: The journey begins

American Hustle: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper walking in streetAnother year, another set of good intentions. It’s the same every January, as well as my vague declarations to “start jogging again” and “cut out crap food”, I always head into movie awards season with a new set of film resolutions. Even the creation of this website was the result of a festive spirit fuelled desire to better myself through the education of film.

Although I mentioned on the Failed Critic Podcast Review of 2013 that my resolution was to watch more silent films (and that is something I need to do), it was while browsing my Letterboxd review of the year I realised how  little ‘world cinema’ I had seen in those 12 months. Although two of my top five of the year were foreign language films (including my film of the year The Act of Killing), only 30 out of the 231 films I watched weren’t in English.

So this year’s challenge is to emulate my great childhood hero Willy Fog (I’ve seen the cartoon series, but never read Jules Verne’s novel) and travel around the world in eighty films. My only rule is that I can’t include films I’ve already seen, and although the first twenty or so look easy enough, I’m definitely going to need some help and recommendations from people reading the site and listening to the podcast.

So starting as I hope to go on, here’s a double bill.

No.1 American Hustle (USA)

I know this looks like I’m cheating, but the United States of America is a country after all, and I’m not inclined to make things more difficult than they already are. Plus, how could I not start this challenge with a film that perfectly encapsulates its country of origin; it even says the name in the title!

American Hustle is a film based on the true story of an FBI investigation into corruption that snared some senior US politicians at the tail end of the 1970s. What makes the story worthy of cinematic adaptation is that the FBI recruited a small-time couple of con artists to orchestrate the deceit. It’s a film about the American Dream, post-Nixon politics, and the glitz and glamour of a decade that has been dusted off and put on a pedestal by a number of film-makers recently, most notably Ben Affleck’s Argo, and Ron Howard’s Rush.

The talent on show is the current cream of the American acting community, including Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., and a small cameo from Robert De Niro. Token Brit Christian Bale might as well be American by now, having portrayed one of America’s most popular cultural icons (Batman) and one of its most iconoclastic literary creations (American Psycho). In fact, I’m struggling to remember the last time I heard him with a British accent.

Director David O. Russell is one of the most feted of recent US directors, and with good reason. His latest film features his trademark focus on characters over plot, and he is obviously someone who gets the best out of his performers. What’s different from previous films is that he is wearing his influences on his sleeve, specifically Martin Scorsese and Goodfellas.

While some have complained that the story is slightly too long, or predictable, I have now seen this film twice and can’t agree with either criticism. For a film that was improvised at some key points, the main narrative holds together pretty well under close scrutiny. What makes this a great film for me is the performances, especially in the funnier scenes featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. While it may not be quite the timeless classic that it is pilfering from, it is still one of the best films I’m likely to see in 2014.

No.2 Leningrad Cowboys Go America (Finland)

The second film in my odyssey has been sat on my shelf as part of a box set for over two years. One of the earlier films from Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki, it tells the story of the fictional (but subsequently very real) Siberian punk band Leningrad Cowbows and their attempts to crack America after a local mogul tells them that Americans will “buy anything”. The resulting film is a road movie following the band (all kitted out with two foot long winklepinkers and quiffs of a similar length) as they make their way across America in an old Cadillac (sold to them by Jim Jarmusch in a fun cameo).

It’s an odd film, but very funny. The band’s manager Vlad is a wonderfully deadpan presence, and the band grow increasingly tired of his orders and the fact that he has a constant supply of cold beers that he has stashed in the cabinet holding their frozen bass player. As I said, it’s very odd.

The only Kaurismäki film I’d seen before this was 2012’s Le Havre, which has a similar feel to its central performances that, while not entirely cold, are far from the realist cinema we’re used to in mainstream Western Cinema. I could draw a definite line between the films of Stanley Kubrick, with their emotional coldness and static camera shots, and the films of Wes Anderson, particularly the quirky characters and bizarre onscreen behaviour that we see in this film. I’m now very much looking forward to the sequel Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, and the concert film Total Balalaika Show.

Right, on with the journey. Why couldn’t Jules Verne have gone with 50 days?

Failed Critics Podcast: American Hustle…David O. Russell. You gotta have a system.

American Hustle: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper walking in streetHappy New Year to you all, and in an effort to stick to some hastily made resolutions about getting rid of the fat, the first Failed Critics podcast of the year is lean, mean, and looking forward to McQueen (next week’s big review is 12 Years a Slave).

This week’s chat sees the gents discuss the finer elements of the Oscar Foreign Language shortlist, as well as review new releases American Hustle and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. James also gets around to reviewing Anchorman 2, Owen takes us on a journey through South Korean cinema, and Steve is aiming to beat the bookies with his Oscar race tips/blind guesses (delete as appropriate).

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