Unfortunately there are no instructional videos presented by Captain America to teach us how to write a good wholesome film review of the latest attempt at repackaging Spider-Man. Alas, you’ll just have to make do with Owen Hughes’s thoughts on this Sony / Marvel concoction.
Firstly, apologies for the admittedly rubbish hatchet job on the editing this week. Long story short, after spending ages editing out the ums, pauses, yeahs, anyways, clicks, clacks, mic noises, talking over each other and insufferably bad jokes (maybe not so many of the latter), the project crashed. So much for recovery files. That just leaves a very (very) rushed edit – on the plus side, you get to hear for the first time in years just how an unedited Failed Critics podcast sounds!
Secondly, at least all the content that was worth listening to survived!
Hooray? Hooray! That means this episode contains our full preview of this weekend’s Academy Awards… of which you can also pick the films you think will win an Oscar in the 11 categories below to win super-cool prizes* by leaving a comment in the box below.
*not necessarily super-cool.
There are also reviews of a bunch of new releases in this week’s episode. The action-thriller John Wick: Chapter 2 has Owen and Brooker wondering if it really is the best film of the year. Steve most definitely did not wonder for very long whether he found the best film of the year with The Great Wall. Paul also thinks he may have found the most boring film of the year with The Founder.
Join us again next week as we round-up the winners and losers from the Oscars 2017.
1) Best Picture
Arrival – Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder, and David Linde
Fences – Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, and Todd Black
Hacksaw Ridge – Bill Mechanic and David Permut
Hell or High Water – Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn
Hidden Figures – Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, and Theodore Melfi
La La Land – Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, and Marc Platt
Lion – Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Angie Fielder
Manchester by the Sea – Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, and Kevin J. Walsh
Moonlight – Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner
2) Best Director
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
3) Best Actor
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea as Lee Chandler
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss
Ryan Gosling – La La Land as Sebastian Wilder
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic as Ben Cash
Denzel Washington – Fences as Troy Maxson
4) Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert – Elle as Michèle Leblanc
Ruth Negga – Loving as Mildred Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie as Jackie Kennedy
Emma Stone – La La Land as Mia Dolan
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins
5) Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight as Juan
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water as Marcus Hamilton
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea as Patrick Chandler
Dev Patel – Lion as Saroo Brierley
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals as Detective Bobby Andes
6) Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences as Rose Maxson
Naomie Harris – Moonlight as Paula
Nicole Kidman – Lion as Sue Brierley
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures as Dorothy Vaughan
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea as Randi
7) Best Original Screenplay
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
8) Best Adapted Screenplay
Arrival – Eric Heisserer from “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
Fences – August Wilson from Fences by August Wilson
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi from Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Lion – Luke Davies from A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney
9) Best Animated Feature Film
Kubo and the Two Strings – Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
Moana – John Musker, Ron Clements, and Osnat Shurer
My Life as a Zucchini – Claude Barras and Max Karli
The Red Turtle – Michaël Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
Zootopia – Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Clark Spencer
10) Best Foreign Language Film
Land of Mine (Denmark) in Danish – Martin Zandvliet
A Man Called Ove (Sweden) in Swedish – Hannes Holm
The Salesman (Iran) in Persian – Asghar Farhadi
Tanna (Australia) in Nauvhal – Martin Butler and Bentley Dean
Toni Erdmann (Germany) in German – Maren Ade
11) Best Documentary – Feature
Fire at Sea – Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
I Am Not Your Negro – Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety, and Hébert Peck
Life, Animated – Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman
O.J.: Made in America – Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
13th – Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick, and Howard Barish
Inspired by the imminent release of Hitman: Agent 47, Andrew Brooker takes a look at five of the most infamous movie adaptations of a variety of video games.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
In a couple of weeks, 20th Century Fox will release Hitman: Agent 47 to a world pretty much fed up of video games being turned into awful films and force fed to us. Most that have read some of my stuff, or listened to me on one of the many times Mr. Hughes lost his mind and invited me onto the podcast, know that I love my video games. Behind movies it’s my second biggest hobby (and arguably the most expensive) and every time my two favourite ways to waste time crossover, it should be a reason to celebrate. Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. More often than not, the films we are handed as we are told “it’s brilliantly close to the games, fans will adore it” turn out to be badly written, badly directed dusty clouds of dry spunk. This is where we find ourselves today.
So in a very scientific process, namely me and a buddy bouncing ideas at each other in the office, here are my five worst films based on video games.
5] Doom (2005)
Budget: $60 million
Gross: $55.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dMA8NmdyW4]
So yeah, Doom. The mother of all games. The game that defined forever how we’d play games more than 20 years ago, was shat out as a movie a decade ago starring Dwayne Johnson back when we were just calling him “The Rock” and Karl Urban before he was Dredd.
My biggest gripe with Doom isn’t that it was bad, and it was pretty bad, it was how it took the game’s slight hint at a story and flat out ignored it. According to the game’s instruction manual, you are a lone space marine fighting to survive as Hell’s demons invade Mars and slaughter everyone. This was replaced with a group of space marines fighting to survive as a Mars base’s occupants are infected with a Martian virus and mutated. I mean, neither story is good, but is there really any need to switch out one bland story for another? Where’s the loyalty to the branding for Christ’s sake?
Adding to the terrible decision to make this film, we were treated to a spectacularly rubbish “first person shooter” scene that has us watching the film down the barrel of a gun that, as a fan, is beyond patronising and absolutely ridiculous. No other type of film insists on making us watch them like that. Fancy watching soccer film from the point of view of a stadium visit? With some fat unwashed screamy twat in front of you? No.
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the man that also brought us:
4] Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
Budget: $50 Million
Gross: $12.8 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 6%[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zDsaCalcNE]
Urgh! So yeah, there was definitely going to be a Street Fighter movie on this list. And a film would have to work pretty damn hard to be worse than a film that included Kylie Minogue and a ginger Jean-Claude Van Damme, but The Legend of Chun-Li blows it out of the water.
Intended as the origin story of one of the most iconic Street Fighter characters, The Legend of Chun-Li plays less like a story of how the young fighter found her way in life and instead treats us to a powerpoint slideshow on alienating film fans and gamers alike as more than a few tired old clichés are dragged out from the dusty cupboard they should have been left in. The mention of another key character at the end, hinting that a film based around Ryu was in the works shows just how much they thought they had a franchise starter on their hands and just how out of touch everyone involved in this film actually was.
3] Need For Speed (2014)
Budget: $66 Million
Gross: $203.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 22%[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYyvKqKwRco]
The one and only film that, at least according to Wikipedia, actually made money, tricking more than its fair share of gullible fools into thinking that it might actually be a good film. Sadly, we live in a post The Fast and The Furious world and a shit movie about a bunch of guys racing nice cars isn’t anything close to engaging anymore. Fast and Furious had to evolve to survive its flagging appeal and somehow Need for Speed still made a killing at the box office doing what Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were doing a decade and a half ago. And that would be ok, if it wasn’t so bloody dull!
Every one of us gamers saw just how bad an idea it was to try adding a story to the Need for Speed franchise with 2011’s disgrace of a game, The Run. So instead of trying something new, they simply put that same story to film, added a less than mediocre revenge story, stunt casted the pretty crap Aaron Paul and made a film that included Michael Keaton as a pirate radio running race organiser channelling Beetlejuice behind a mic.
The fact that this made a killing at the box office is only encouraging more of the same! In the next few years there are plans for a second Need for Speed film, as well as a film based on Sony’s Gran Turismo. And I blame everyone that added to that $203 million for that. It’s your fault!
2] DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
Budget: $21 Million
Gross: $7.5 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luSqcSVGknU]
Dead or Alive, oh how I loathe you. If ever there was a video game franchise that needed to die, it’s Dead or Alive. The franchise so out of touch with modern game playing that it focuses more on jiggling boobs than it does fighting mechanics; and considering the amount of vitriol thrown at game developers at even the hint of a bit of sexism in their game nowadays, how Dead or Alive constantly gets away with it, I’ll never know. Between sex pest levels of gross purchasable school-girl costumes and its volleyball tie-in game, it’s the channel five porno of fighting games and it’s fucking awful.
You would think that this would made perfect fodder for a rubbish straight-to-tv, or nowadays, straight-to-itunes, movie and in that respect, this would be a barely passable film. But to put this awfulness up on that hallowed silver screen is beyond sacrilegious. This film that sold its audiences on appearances from Holly Vallance (remember her?), Jaime Pressley and Devon Aoki. You know, those women absolutely known for their fighting skills and their attention to perfectly choreographed combat and NOT for just being gorgeous. Yeah? Them.
I feel a little guilty for having this film on the list, because the game is just as bad. But Jesus Christ, I’ve never felt so gross playing a game or so skeevy watching a film.
Leaving us with:
1] Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Budget: $48 million
Gross: $20.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAqoB17yQqY]
No one can try and write one of these lists without mentioning Super Mario Bros; not only the worst film based on a video game ever made, but generally one of the worst things ever put to film. An absolute abortion of a film that its star, the late great Bob Hoskins, distanced himself from. Calling the film a “complete nightmare” and admitting that if he had a chance, he’d erase it from his past, Hoskins was never shy about sharing his opinion on this terrible flick. With similar stories from co-stars John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, the film has left a legacy of terrible stories of a troubled production and should forever be used as an example of how never to make a film based on a beloved property.
Setting one of the most colourful video games in history in what looks like the underground society from Demolition Man, trying for an adult theme and attempting to make it grounded and realistic is absolutely not the way to do the Super Mario Brothers, or its legions of fans, proud.
Extra special hate gets directed at this lumpy skid mark of a film since Bob Hoskins’ death a little over a year ago. In an attempt to up their click count, video game websites started running stories that the man known for playing Mario Mario had died, shitting all over a stellar career by shining a light on the man’s worst moment in film and not educating an entire generation of players who’ve never seen The Long Good Friday on an amazing actor who deserved much, much better than that.
Dishonourable Mention – Uwe Boll[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT1J65KHX8E]
I couldn’t decide which of his films to add to the list, so instead I’ll simply mention the man, the myth, the douchebag that is Uwe Boll. A man whose legacy to film includes ruining more than a few outstanding games as he does the filmmaker equivalent of shitting into his own hand and smearing it on our walls. The man’s filmography includes monstrosities like Far Cry, two Alone in the Dark films, three BloodRayne movies and Postal.
Recently, the gaming community breathed a sigh of relief as “Raging Boll” took to YouTube to announce he wasn’t making films anymore.
Good. Because I believe I speak for every game playing film lover when I say “Fuck that guy!”
You can hear the team talk briefly about their favourite and least favourite video game adaptations on our podcast released back in 2013. If you’d like to hear us do a new podcast on the topic, leave a comment below or get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
With the 2015 BAFTAs coming up, Callum Petch guides you through the likely winners and losers of all of the major categories.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
We have one final stop on the awards train before we reach The 2015 Oscars in almost exactly one month’s time, and that’s The 2015 British Academy Film Awards. The BAFTAs, for those who don’t know, celebrate the best in the past year of film with an added British tinge due their being a British awards body and all. Although their main purpose for people like us is to get one last indicator as to how The Academy will be voting come February 22nd, since all of their nominations and eventual awards typically line up with one another.
So, that’s what we’re here to do. With the awards themselves in just over two weeks, and my having seen just about every single one of the major nominees, I am here to guide you through the major categories, tell you who I feel deserves to win, who you should probably put your money on if you’re a betting kinda person, and any snubs, rule-flaking inclusions or just plain weird things that caught my fancy. We’re not covering all of them, because we’ll be here all day – although other members of the site may fill in those blanks later if they wish – but we’re doing most of them. So, without further delay, GRAPPLING HOOK!
Nominees: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, The Lego Movie
Who Should Win: Soooo… I know that I’m supposed to say The Lego Movie, and I do really, really like The Lego Movie, but… Big Hero 6 is currently playing to my heart way more. I’m sorry, but it is! I was actually sat writing about Kung Fu Panda 2 the other day when this quietly devastating yet heart-warming scene from Big Hero 6 popped up into my head and now I just want to go and spend more time with that cast again. I’m sure whenever I eventually get around to watching The Lego Movie again, I’ll put that back on top but, yeah, I guess I’m switching teams and rooting for Disney. Sorry, folks.
Who Will Win: Time was that I would say that this was The Lego Movie’s to lose, but with How To Train Your Dragon 2 upsetting it at the Golden Globes and not even being considered in the Oscar category – although I still find that a mostly strong list, so I’m not going to complain much – I really don’t think this is a safe bet anymore. Big Hero 6 is Disney, so that will always be in the running, and awards bodies are really loving The Boxtrolls – it just racked up 13 nominations at this year’s Annie Awards (which, incidentally, is a very lazy set of nominees this year, but this is not the place to talk about that) – so that has a good shot. My money’s still on The Lego Movie leaving with the award, but don’t be surprised if either of the other two take it instead.
Other Notes: The BAFTAs have always only had three nominees for this category, so that makes snubs more obvious but also, sometimes, more understandable. Although I was lukewarm on it, I am glad to see Laika rack up another nomination with The Boxtrolls and it deserves that spot more than How To Train Your Dragon 2. That being said, colour me disappointed that there’s no room for The Book Of Life, which sadly seems destined for cult status rather than mainstream acceptance. Also, even though there was clearly no chance in hell of it ever happening, I would like to have seen the genuinely excellent My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks get a look-in.
Nominees: ’71, Paddington, Pride, The Imitation Game, The Theory Of Everything, Under The Skin
Who Should Win: Under The Skin is a film that deserved far more love and attention from awards bodies than it has gotten, although the fact that it’s slipped away with barely any recognition outside of the BAFTAs – Mica Levi’s excellently unsettling score is also up for an award – is kinda fitting really. It is really not a film for everyone, but its quiet study of gender, sexuality, and gender performance – as well as its quietly furious screed about how casually, and occasionally outwardly hateful, sexist society views and treats women – is utterly gripping and compelling viewing for those willing to work for their films, and Scarlett Johannson puts in the single best performance of all of last year in it, too. It’s my no. 5 film of 2014, and it deserves this award.
Who Will Win: It won’t, though. Not by a long shot. Nor will Paddington – which I did like but don’t get the intense passionate love that critics and audiences are throwing its way – nor will ’71, and most certainly nor will Pride. See, The Imitation Game and The Theory Of Everything are up for Best Film and it looks real bad if the films that are up for Best Film don’t win Outstanding British Film. The Weinsteins have been campaigning hard for Imitation Game, but this is the home turf of Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, which may sway voters towards The Theory Of Everything. I’m leaning more towards the former, though, so those of you looking for a definite bet should put money on The Imitation Game.
Other Notes: Starred Up should really be in contention. One of the best British dramas in years and it’s kept out by two slops of porridge? Ugh. Ditto for Richard Ayoade’s The Double, which everybody seems to have let undeservedly slide into the background since last April. I can’t really complain too much, though, 2014 was a very good year for British film and I’m just glad we’ve gotten actual British films filling up the list this year. You know, unlike last year.
Nominees: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Nicholás Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo for Birdman, Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Who Should Win: Nice strong list here. As much as I like Whiplash and Birdman, though, I feel that they are great scripts that are elevated to excellent scripts by everything else from the movie – performances, direction, editing, etc. – so I’m not particularly rooting for them. The script for The Grand Budapest Hotel is excellent, managing to balance whimsy and light-hearted farcical caper antics with this constant undercurrent of sadness and melancholy, a tale of men born out of time and a nostalgic longing that is admirable but foolhardy. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler’s script has a tonne of things to say about capitalism, the media, classism, business, and the kind of sociopathic monster that one can be yet still win in our broken society. I’m good with either of those taking it, leaning more towards Nightcrawler.
Who Will Win: This will be The Grand Budapest Hotel’s consolation prize. Sure, it received 13 nominations overall, but most of those were in the technical categories that, although deserved, most people, and especially headline writers, don’t care about. This is where it gets its due in the major categories, to apologise for it having no chance in anything else. Whiplash has garnered enormous traction as of late, but I still don’t see it going over Grand Budapest here; this one’s basically set in stone.
Other Notes: You will notice that I left out Boyhood whilst I was going through complimenting the nominees. We’ll come back to that.
Nominees: Jason Hall for American Sniper, Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl, Paul King & Hamish McCall for Paddington, Anthony McCarten for The Theory Of Everything, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game
Who Should Win: Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl. Duh. I really don’t have to say any more than that, do I? Considering the rest of this field, I really don’t think I do.
Who Will Win: This field is suspiciously weak, full of films that have nothing to say or actively steer themselves away from having anything to say about their subjects or themes (although I do find that a plus in surprise nominee Paddington’s case), almost like it’s been designed with the express purpose of making sure that Gillian Flynn will win. Hmm, funny that.
Other Notes: Something that became immediately clear to me when this season’s awards films were lined up like this: this was very much a year of films, and especially biopics, about men that spectacularly failed to have anything to say about the men that they’re about. I mean, this is often a problem with awards bait films – failing to have any thematic arc or insight into their subjects but superficially arranging the beats of a feel-good story to create the illusion that something is being said – but it’s especially true this year. Maybe that’s a sign that we should diversify who we tell our stories about?
Nominees: Steve Carell as Jon du Pont (Foxcatcher), Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans, Sr. (Boyhood), Edward Norton as Mark Shiner (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz (Foxcatcher), J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher (Whiplash)
Who Should Win: J. K. Simmons, hands down, no contest. If you disagree then, quite frankly, you just haven’t seen Whiplash. Simmons takes the two registers that he typically operates on – hammy shouting fury, and warm paternal comfort – and weaponises them to stunning effect, adding nuance to the character of Fletcher whilst still frequently keeping him at the level of a complete monster. He is utterly sensational as this utterly inhuman force of nature and rage and he deserves this award far more than anyone else.
Who Will Win: Good thing that he’s guaranteed the win, then. He’s basically been on a well-deserved awards tour which, on February 22nd, will culminate with the 60 year-old taking the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to collect his first ever Oscar. For one of our best and most consistent character actors for the last 20 years, in a career-defining role, it will be incredibly satisfying to see. We’ll get a taste of that feeling at the BAFTAs and it will be wonderful.
Other Notes: Two well-earned nominations for Foxcatcher, although Steve Carell’s appearance here reeks of canny studio awards gaming. I mean, Best Actor has been a tight lock for months and the chance of anybody unexpected breaking in is slim, so why not position one of the leads of the film as a Supporting Actor in the hopes of at least scoring a nomination? Of course, there is a case to be made for Ruffalo also being the main character in Foxcatcher, too, but I think this all says more about the clever protagonist shuffling nature of Foxcatcher than anything else.
Nominees: Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans (Boyhood), Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke (The Imitation Game), Rene Russo as Nina Romina (Nightcrawler), Imelda Staunton as Hefina Headon (Pride), Emma Stone as Sam Thomson (Birdman)
Who Should Win: It takes a damn strong actress willing to put in the extra work to not have the film completely whisked away from them by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, but Rene Russo was more than up to the task. She excellently embodies a woman who has to fight every day for the power she wields, who hates having to rely on Lou Bloom but recognises his value, and seizes on every possible advantage and opportunity in a desire to raise her stature and influence. She’s a more socially acceptable version of Lou Bloom, basically, only with some inherent sympathy ingrained in her due to the institutionalised sexism of her line of work, and Russo nails it all totally. So, yeah, I’m on the Russo train.
Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette has been the front-runner since the second Boyhood had its festival premieres, she has been sweeping practically every awards body that nominates her, and if she doesn’t win the Oscar I will be utterly floored. She’s going over here. I am fine with that, she is quite literally the only thing I actually liked about Boyhood, but I’m still going to be a little bitter regardless.
Other Notes: Nice to see Pride get a non-Britain-specific nod! Really annoyed that it’s not for any of the cast members who played a homosexual – who were the actual goddamn protagonists for that film which, lest we forget, is the reason why Pride works – but at least it’s being recognised for something; that film was a very nice surprise for me. In terms of snubs, four words, to be repeated for Best Actress: where is Emily Blunt? Seriously, between Edge Of Tomorrow, Into The Woods, and even her voice work in the dub of The Wind Rises, she’s spent the last year reminding us all that she’s one of the best actresses in film today, but we’ll snub her totally come awards time? I don’t get that.
Nominees: Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing (The Imitation Game), Ralph Fiennes as Gustav H. (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom (Nightcrawler), Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything)
Who Should Win: My heart wants Keaton to win, because it’s Michael Keaton, he is great in Birdman, and I want nice things to happen to the guy. However, my head has to admit that Gyllenhaal put in the better performance this year – the much better performance – and so I’m backing him to take home the statue. Plus, based on how The 2014 Failed Critics Awards went, you all would probably tear me shreds if I didn’t.
Who Will Win: All signs point to Eddie Redmayne taking this one with very little effort. This category has been a constant fight between Redmayne and Keaton since awards season started up in earnest, but the splitting of their performances into separate “Drama/Comedy” categories has made it harder to gauge which is taking the biggest prize home with them. Keaton has the comeback and long-overdue narrative ingrained in a victory that awards bodies love, but Redmayne has the exact kind of showy, yet empty and trying-way-too-hard performance that awards bodies love. I think Redmayne is going to take it here, also because he’s on home turf, and then he’ll also pick it up at the Oscars. Dammit. Maybe he’ll at least be good in Jupiter Ascending.
Other Notes: Very nice to see Ralph Fiennes get a nomination for Grand Budapest. This does make me wonder why, mind, Tony Revolori has been totally skipped over for any Best Supporting Actor nominations. He is very much the heart of the film, arguably more so than Gustave, and Revolori puts in a quietly strong and personal performance that has curiously gone uncelebrated. Also, we’ll nominate Benedict Cumberbatch but not Ben Affleck for Gone Girl? Fine, sure, whatever.
Nominees: Amy Adams as Margaret Keane (Big Eyes), Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed (Wild)
Who Should Win: We all saw Gone Girl, yeah? We all saw Rosamund Pike with her captivating note-perfect Lauren Bacall-referencing performance? Good, then I don’t have to explain myself further.
Who Will Win: Julianne Moore has been due for decades, she’s finally going over here. The problem is that she shouldn’t. I don’t mean this in a subjective opinion way, either, I mean that the BAFTA Eligibility Rules should disqualify her from contention. As you can check on their own website, only films released in UK cinemas to the general public between January 1st and December 31st of any given year are eligible. However, if you are a film released in UK cinemas for the general public between January 1st and February 14th of the year in which the awards take place, then you are still eligible for awards contention as long as you screen the film to BAFTA members by December 19th.
Yes, this does all sound more than a little shady and cop-out-y. It gets worse. See, even with that very generous window, Still Alice still doesn’t qualify – it doesn’t receive a UK cinema release until March 6th, well past the closing eligibility date – and, therefore, shouldn’t be here! Selma meanwhile, which does qualify – UK cinema release: February 6th – and which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard is great, is shut out completely. So, yeah, I am against all of this. Julianne Moore could put in the single most outstanding performance I have ever seen, and I will still be against her winning. I’m sorry, but it’s against the rules and am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?
Other Notes: Scarlett Johannson. Emily Blunt. That is all.
Nominees: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything)
Who Should Win: Look, I really dislike Boyhood, but I cannot deny the commitment, the energy, the time, and the skill that Richard Linklater put into making the thing. To shoot one film over 12 years, the logistical and financial nightmare of organising and lining up everyone’s schedules to get this thing to happen, the hard work put in to keeping everyone’s character consistent, and to keep the film looking and remaining visually consistent despite progressing as a director significantly in the space of a decade… Yeah, I have to respect that and admit that this is an award he should walk away with.
Who Will Win: Like hell is this not going to Linklater. Maker, from the second this film was in the can, every Best Director gong going today was pre-packaged and all set to be FedExed to his front doorstep. If he doesn’t win, then I quite frankly have no idea what to believe any more.
Other Notes: No Ava DuVarney for Selma, which is the sole thing that I am saying on the subject until I finally get to see the thing. More egregiously, no David Fincher – the man who BAFTA quite rightly acknowledged as a superior filmmaker to Tom Hooper 4 years ago, and who put out quite possibly his best work ever, or at least his best directing work ever, this year, is apparently just no match for James Marsh’s directing for The Theory of Everything, a film that I fell asleep during for about five minutes. Sure, of course he isn’t.
Nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything
Who Should Win: Despite this sudden backlash that has collectively greeted the thing – because apparently we don’t even wait two months now before we try and backpedal on our opinions – I still think Birdman is brilliant and maybe even quietly genius in the way that it’s able to walk so many tightropes without ever properly falling over into un-self-aware “Artist Rants About Mainstream Film, Critics, The Internet and Clouds”. However, I find The Grand Budapest Hotel to be the best of all of these nominees by a country mile, so I am flying that flag all the way.
Who Will Win: I know that the current narrative is that this is a straight fight between Birdman and Boyhood, with The Imitation Game sneaking its way into contention thanks to the usual Weinstein efforts, but those people are just trying to spice up a narrative to which the ending has been pre-ordained since June. Boyhood will win with no contest and Richard Linklater will finally pick up a Best Film award, along with finally getting the Oscar equivalent a few weeks’ later. Shame the film in question sucks. I broke down here why I strongly dislike Boyhood and why it is objectively a bad film beyond its central gimmick, so I won’t waste time repeating myself. Just know that I am against this disappointingly inevitable outcome.
Other Notes: 2014 Awards Season. Otherwise known as “Yay, White Men: Hooray for White Men”. In fairness, it’s been a pretty poor awards season and Grand Budapest absolutely deserves its spot up there – and I don’t object to Birdman showing up, either. But it’s also such a safe and blindingly obvious list with little of interest and few of the genuinely interesting or exciting films from this past year. Where’s Nightcrawler? Starred Up? Whiplash? Foxcatcher? If you’re gonna choose films about men, why snub the ones that actually have something to say about masculinity and men and challenge current societal notions? How about Under The Skin? Gone Girl? Films that look at the female gender, gender performance, and how society views them? What happened to Pride, which had things to say about sexuality – far more so than The f*cking Imitation Game – or Belle and Selma, which said cogent things about race (and which I haven’t seen yet but heard excellent things about)?
Look, I and everybody else wouldn’t be getting so angry and worked up and vocal about this if you awards bodies didn’t keep shutting films like those out in favour of paint-by-numbers surface-level slop like The Imitation Game or The Theorzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. When you shut out genuinely original and diverse films in favour of interchangeable porridge like those, it’s a slap in the face to those films that try, that offer up a different perspective, and to those of us who demand and wish for diversity and greater representation in film. You awards bodies carry way more power than you think you do in this day and age, so what you nominate and reward matters. So when the awards end up as white and male as this, with many of them genuinely not being the best films released in the past 12 months, you’ll have to excuse us for getting upset and calling you out on it.
That’s the rundown. The BAFTAs themselves occur on February 8th. Feel free to throw your insights and predictions for the ceremony into the comments below!
Bonkers, brilliantly acted, funny, completely absorbing plus other labels.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
For most of the latter part of last year, I had to put up with only being able to hear about and read other reviews of Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). You see, in the UK, sometimes we get films much later than in the US, excluding press/festival screenings and so on. Most of the time, that doesn’t bother me so much. But when a film like Birdman comes around, and every other review is declaring it one of the best of 2014, with as interesting a premise as it has, then that kind of sucks.
Come the 1st of January 2015, a little worse for wear with an aching hangover, I began my plans to find a cinema near me showing this existential comedy. And I did, on Friday 2nd. Since which time I have been processing, re-thinking and trying my damned hardest to work out exactly what I think of Birdman beyond simply “that was bloody brilliant.” I will endeavor to describe it – and my feelings towards it – as best I can.
It’s directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, a critically acclaimed Mexican filmmaker who is arguably best known for his first feature film, the award winning, compelling, intelligent Amores Perros. Although, virtually all of his films are just as highly regarded by the majority of people. Biutiful (starring Javier Bardem), 21 Grams and Babel too were all very well received upon release and have each been nominated for and won many different prestigious awards. It’s fair to say then than Iñárritu had a fair bit of pressure on his shoulders to produce yet another groundbreaking drama of as equally high quality.
In which case, surprising as it is, his response to this weight of expectation was to produce what is his effectively first foray into the comedy genre. In saying that, it’s not what you might describe as a typical, gag-a-minute, Airplane!-esque joke-reel. Straying away from conventions, as he did so stunningly with Amores Perros, it’s… a bit odd. Bloody brilliant. But odd.
Unlike the title probably suggests to anybody unfamiliar with exactly what Birdman is, it’s actually not a superhero film at all. It’s about an aging actor, played by Michael Keaton in a career-best performance, who used to be in a trilogy of blockbuster superhero films 20 years ago, playing the character Birdman. Obviously considering Keaton’s rise to fame playing the caped crusader Batman in Tim Burton’s series of films, it’s probably the most apt piece of casting you’re likely to see for, oh, I don’t know.. all of 10 minutes? Right up until Ed Norton appears as the most arrogant actor known to man, clearly playing on his exaggerated reputation.
Much as Keaton is now a lot older, so is his character Riggan Thomson. For the sake of Michael Keaton’s mental well-being, hopefully unlike the real actor playing Riggan, the sleep-deprived movie-star constantly hears the sarcastic voice of Birdman in his head, patronising him and making snide remarks at every turn in his desperate attempts to get his career back on track. Ploughing his own money into the production, Riggan claws at his last moments of sanity and languishes on his reputation as he pushes himself to adapt the Raymond Carver story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love as a stage play on Broadway. Gradually the toll it takes on him being writer, director, producer and starring in the lead role begins to wear him down. He notices how his own relationships to his ex-wife and rebellious daughter, as well as his co-stars and longing for adoration/attention from fans and critics alike, mimic those of the character in his play.
From the way I’ve described it above, it doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of film to make you laugh out loud as frequently as it does. In fact, I’m well aware that by putting it in black and white like that, I’ve made it sound kind of boring. The genius in the film lies with the way the story has been told and the way it has been made. It’s almost two hours long in total, however, it’s all filmed as if the whole movie is just one continuous single shot. This isn’t a completely unique concept for a film to attempt; indeed the Director of Photography on the film, Emmanuel Lubezki, was praised for very similar shots during Gravity. The twist is that the plot takes place over the course of about three days. From the early scene re-casting of one of the characters in the play at the last minute, to the disastrous preview show and Keaton’s breakdown, all the way through to the morning after the opening night; it appears as if all you’ve witnessed is one camera on record for two hours solid. The pace of the film, the way it’s been stitched together, even just little things like keeping the lighting right, it’s seamless. A remarkable achievement by all involved. I’ve read a few reviews and articles and I still cannot fathom how some of the scenes were even created.
Honestly, it is absolutely bloody brilliant from start to finish. Even something so simple as the soundtrack is, well, not so simple. Just one bloke who improvised some drum beats, banging away on his kit in a rather jazz percussion sort of way (who occasionally pops up on screen himself) fits the organised-chaotic tone.
I’ve already mentioned Keaton and Norton, but I’m still struggling to decide who was better. I genuinely, hand on heart believe this tops any performance of theirs in any other movie. And yes, even better than American History X, by the way. It’s just a joy to watch two actors simply be that good. If someone put a gun to my head (you’ll get why that’s a funny reference after you see the film), then I’d lean slightly more towards Keaton who really is sensational. He’s extremely funny, manic, completely absorbed in his role and it’s like finally seeing that guy who showed such promise in Beetlejuice just completely fulfilling his potential. And that makes me happy. It isn’t just those two, though. The entire ensemble cast, including the likes of Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis; they’re all fantastic too.
To be a bit of a dick for a minute and put a label on something (or rather take it off), I suppose it isn’t ‘perfect’. The dialogue is not always its best asset. Although I did really like Emma Stone’s performance as Keaton’s recently out of rehab daughter-turned-Personal Assistant, it’s just that some of the role her character plays seems a tad out of place. A scene on a rooftop shared with Norton starts out really well, as a chemistry between them begins to fizzle, but ends up with a rather cringing game of truth or dare. A scene later on in the dressing room between Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough was.. well.. meaningless beyond simply giving in to what the audience supposedly want.
It doesn’t detract really, it’s still overall an absolutely amazing movie. It’s so deliberately and anarchically hypocritical. One minute it’s slagging off blockbuster movies and the kinds of people who throw money at the likes of Michael Bay to make shitty Transformers movies, and studios who churn out superhero flick after superhero flick. And then in the next moment, it’s subtly mocking the pretentious, holier than thou snobs who sneer and turn their nose up at things they’re ignorant of in order to appear superior. There’s rants, there’s tirades, there’s beautifully delivered put downs and some more emotional aspects that almost catch you unawares. Yet Birdman is totally self aware, fully prepared to poke fun at itself all whilst maintaining something spectacular.
The more I’ve thought about it since leaving the cinema earlier this month, the more I’ve wanted to go and watch it again. It was the first new release film that I watched in 2015 and already it’s going to have to be a hell of a film to top it at some point during the rest of this year. I urge you to see it before it leaves cinemas!
You can hear Owen talk about Birdman plus other new releases Unbroken, The Theory of Everything and more with Steve, Gerry and Matt on the upcoming Failed Critics Podcast.
If there’s one thing that gets Steve more excited than football related news, it’s football related film news. And we’re not referring to the revelation this week that Michael Owen hates all movies.
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
One of my favourite, and most under-rated comedies, Mike Bassett: England Manager, has a sequel. Personally I’m worried it will not live up to the original although a title of Mike Bassett: Interim Manager hints that it may still take a witty, satirical look at the beautiful game.
For £5k I could have a speaking part. So come on, put your money where your mouth is and get me on the big screen.
The Viewing Dead
Zombie series The Walking Dead broke all US cable records this weekend with the premier of its fifth season. 17.3 million tuned in to see Rick, Daryl and their group of survivors fight back against their captors at Terminus.
This beat the previous record of 16.1 million set by the shows fourth season premier. The show’s popularity was further enhanced due to the fact that over 12 million illegal downloads were made worldwide within the 24 hours after it aired.
The action packed opener will hopefully set the tone for a good series. Most previous seasons have featured strong beginnings and ends but have sagged in the middle. With the story taking slight deviations from the comic book we may see some fresh and interesting ideas and characters.
Where’s the News?
A lot of the time when researching this weekly article websites pass off new trailers or posters as news.
Is that actually news? Not in my book. It’s advertising.
Why Are Pirates Called Pirates? Because They Javi-ARRGHHH
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tells No Tales looks set to be the fifth POTC movie and is due for a 2017 release. Former Bond villain Javier Bardem has been linked with playing the protagonist to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.
Big news coming out of Marvel this week with the announcement that Robert Downey Jr. will play Iron Man in Captain America 3.
No plot details have been revealed as of yet but the poster/artwork released may suggests, and will no doubt fuel the Twitter rumours that Steve Rodger’s third solo movie will take the Civil War storyline from the comic books to the big screen.
In Civil War Iron Man and Cap go head to head along with many other superheroes, good and bad, and has far reaching implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even more so than Cap 2.
Of course this could all be bluff and double bluff and the film is comprised of completely original material.
Outside of Marvel Michael Keaton has revealed that he would be up for playing Batman again. Hardly a huge revelation, I’m sure Adam West would be as well if you asked him.
DC have also said that Wonder Woman’s origins will be revealed in Batman vs Superman but rather than an Amazonian she will be the daughter of Zeus, according to producer Charles Roven anyway.
Quite why the origin of a popular and well established character needs to be changed is beyond me, and most people and it just gives another reason for people to doubt the movie.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.
Holy half-baked opinions Batman! This week our very own Rogues Gallery of Villains (Gerry – The Joker, Owen – The Riddler, James – The Penguin, Steve – Catwoman) not only review The Dark Knight Rises, but also tackle all things Batman in a bumper 2 hour Batman Special.
In the opening section we discuss our randomly-allocated Batman films of the past – including Gerry’s near-breakdown over the 1966 movie and Owen looking for the positives in Batman and Robin. Plus Steve puts us all to shame with his tales of heroism. Well, sort of.
This week’s Triple Bill sees the critics giving us their favourite performances from the actors that have played the Caped Crusader in the last 25 years.
Then finally (at 1hour and 19 minutes if you want to skip) we review the most anticipated film of the year. Does it live up to expectations? Was it a worthy conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy? Could we understand a word Bane was saying?
We’re away next week, but will return on 7th August with a review of Ted and our favourite sporting movies.