Tag Archives: Amour

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 For the record, I’ve watched the trailer for their entry No, and whilst the deliberate use of outdated video stock is a bit glaring, it looks like an engrossing and madcap political drama, with the added bonus of a staring role for the ever dashing “Amores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

The Failed Critics Awards – Editor’s Choice

The votes have been cast, and the polls are now closed for the first ever Failed Critics Awards. While you’re going to have to wait until New Year’s Eve for the results, James Diamond (Founder, Editor, and all-round Svengali of the site) presents his personal picks of 2012.

Best Films of 2012

Sightseers10. Sightseers

From the opening bars of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, to the epic climax featuring The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Ben Wheatley’s third feature is gloriously British and reminiscent of a time that many of us have long-forgotten. It’s also very, very funny – like Mike Leigh directing the League of Gentlemen.

9. Holy Motors

The few of you who caught Holy Motors will not have seen anything else like it this year, or possibly ever. Leos Carax’s surreal odyssey stars Denis Lavant as a performer travelling Paris by limousine and performing ‘assignments’ along the way – including kidnapping Eva Mendes and licking her armpits, singing with Kylie Minogue, and leading the finest marching accordion band committed to film.

8. Untouchable

The kind of film you imagine Hollywood screwing up royally (and we’ll know for sure when the inevitable remake appears), Untouchable tells the true story of a millionaire paraplegic and his assistant from the clichéd ‘wrong side of the tracks’. What lifted this film above my low expectations of a saccharine-saturated heart-warmer is its cutting and cynical humour and brilliant central performances (particularly Omar Sy as Driss).

berberian sound studio7. Berberian Sound Studio

This wonderful exploration of the use of sound in cinema reminded me of David Lynch at his creepy best. Toby Jones is sublime as the sound engineer summoned to Italy to work on the sound for the intriguing giallo film-within-a-film The Equestrian Vortex. Funny, and spine-chilling in equal measure.

6. Argo

Who would have guessed back when he was starring in Gigli that Ben Affleck would become one of the most reliable directors in the business. After serving his apprenticeship on low-key films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck nailed the classic Hollywood thriller with Argo – the ‘true story’ of the showbiz-facilitated extraction of US Embassy staff during the Iranian uprising. I’ve backed this as my outside bet for Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, which guarantees it won’t win, sadly.

5. Avengers Assemble

In my humble opinion the best blockbuster of a year that saw the conclusion of the Nolan Batman series, the reboot of Spider-Man, and the return to the Alien franchise of Ridley Scott. Joss Whedon’s supergroup of a comic book adaptation improved on every single Marvel lead-up movie, and more. Featuring a typical Whedon script that managed to be funnier than most ‘comedies’ (I’m looking at you two in particular, The Dictator and Ted), as well as introducing a number of children to the year’s best insult (“you mewling quim”), Avengers Assemble has it all. Except a decent name in the UK. With Whedon already planning a sequel, and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang screenwriter) in charge of Iron Man 3, Marvel looks to have stolen a march on DC Comics who are frantically trying to pull together a Justice League film to retaliate.

4. Safety Not Guaranteed

Finally getting a UK release on Boxing Day, this smart and funny film from first-time director Colin Trevorrow is full of charm, humour, and no little romance. I saw it at Sundance London in May, and wouldn’t shut up about it for the following seven months. I challenge you not to fall in love with Aubrey Plaza as Darius, the magazine intern who is investigating a small ad that simply reads:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

The man who placed the advert is seemingly dangerous loner Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and the resulting film is part-adventure/part-romance in true 1980s Amblin style.

3. The Imposter

This is one of those documentaries that hammers home the cliché that truth really is stranger than fiction. It tells us the story of a young French man who impersonated a missing 13-year-old boy from Texas, ensconcing himself within the family home and their community with tall tales of being trafficked by the military. What makes this film more than a weird Channel 5 documentary is its innovative use of recreated flashbacks and, most importantly, interviews with the people at the centre of this strange situation – including the con-man himself. A true story that plays out like a Coen Brothers thriller, this film really has everything.

2. Amour

Michael Haneke’s second Palm d’Or-winning film is a brutal study of the inevitability of death, ever-so-slightly tempered by a wonderful portrayal of octogenarian love. With his trademark long-takes allowing space for the incredible performances of Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant to breathe, Heneke has created a near-perfect film that immerses the viewer into a world more than the technical wizardy of 3D and 48fps could ever hope to. As patrons left the screening I attended no-one wanted to speak to each other. The silence was a sign of the sheer power of this film.

rust-and-bone1. Rust and Bone

Beaten by Amour at Cannes, and unlikely to renew battle at the Oscars after France nominated Untouchable for the Foreign Language award, at least Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard can take consolation in grabbing the number one spot on this list. I fell in love with this film back in November, and I have struggled to communicate exactly why since. I mean, it’s the story of a killer-whale trainer who loses her legs in a tragic accident, and her heart to a drifter and single parent who finds his niche in bare-knuckle boxing. It sounds ridiculous, but it is an incredible study of romance, and the importance of finding ‘the one’. Marion Cotillard is incredible, but Matthias Schoenaerts holds his own as her extremely flawed lover. Yet another brilliant Alexandre Desplat score (surely the best composer working in cinema right now) is backed by an eclectic soundtrack, with an unbelievably moving use of Katy Perry’s Firework. Honestly.

I’ve seen 75 films so far this year, so some great films were always going to miss out, and the following were very close to making my top ten.

The Muppets – A wonderful mix of the anarchic Muppet humour, the charm of Jason Segal and Amy Adams, and the brilliant songs of Brett ‘Flight of the Conchords’ McKenzie. The most fun I’ve had in a cinema for years.

Shame – The second Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender collaboration, I enjoyed this even more than Hunger. A fascinating study of addiction, with plenty of The Fass and Carey Mulligan on show for those who are interested in that kind of thing.

The Raid – Quite literally the best pure-action film I’ve seen since Hard Boiled. The action world has a new star in Iko Uwais.

Skyfall – After the mess that was Quantum of Solace, this was a welcome return to form for 007. Equally influenced by the TV series Spooks and Home Alone, it featured the best Bond villain in years.

Holy Motors Denis LavantBest Performance

Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) and Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)

Best Soundtrack

I can’t choose between three very different soundtracks. Rust and Bone for its fantastic score and eclectic track selection; The Muppets for the best original songs in the cinema this year; and Searching for Sugar Man for introducing me to the wonderful story and music of Sixto Rodriguez.

Biggest Surprise

I have spoken about Matthew McConaughey’s rebirth as a credible actor at length, so I’ll have to give this jointly to 21 Jump Street and Goon for being far funnier (and more sweet and charming) than Ted or The Dictator.

Worst Film

This Means War was an abomination with even Tom Hardy looking confused. Dark Shadows though, was the film that made me loudly and involuntarily exclaim “oh, for fuck’s sake!” in a reasonably busy cinema.

The Failed Critics Awards will be presented during the Failed Critics End-of-Year Podcast Special.

Failed Critics Podcast: Seven Psychopaths

WC9V6228.CR2This week’s podcast returns to the bread and butter work of reviewing the latest releases, and the spotlight is on Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to the brilliant In Bruges – Seven Psychopaths. Boasting a brilliant cast including Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken half of the podcast team (yes, I know…) give their verdicts.

Also in this episode James tries to cement his hipster art-house credentials while sporting the worst French accent since ‘Allo ‘Allo with his glowing reviews of Amour and Intouchables; Gerry finally gets around to watching Prometheus; Owen gets confused and somehow watches Predators instead of Predator; and Steve goes to great lengths to test the podcast theory that we can watch any film which stars The Rock by reviewing Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

We’re back next week with a Tolkien-inspired special episode with our first thoughts on The Hobbit.

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