Tag Archives: Richard Linklater

The 2015 BAFTA Nominees Rundown

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!


lefoBest Animated Film

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.


71Outstanding British Film

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 Paddingtonwhich 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.


GHB_9907 20130130.CR2Best Original Screenplay

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.


gone girlBest Adapted Screenplay

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?


Film Review FoxcatcherBest Supporting Actor

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.


imitation gameBest Supporting Actress

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.


TTOE_D17_ 05356.NEFBest Actor

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.


la_ca_1202_still_aliceBest Actress

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.


Whiplash-6606.cr2Best Director

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.


boyhoodBest Film

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 NightcrawlerStarred UpWhiplashFoxcatcher?  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 SkinGone 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!

Callum Petch is gonna kill yr boyfriend.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Callum Petch’s Bottom 10 of 2014: #10 – #6

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Happy New Year, everybody!  Over the last two days, I have shared with you the 10 films that stuck with me the most throughout 2014 for the right reasons.  Plaudits were thrown about, praises were slathered, and good times were had.  If you missed those articles, you can find them located here and here.  Today and tomorrow, though, I share with you the 10 films that stuck with me the most throughout 2014 for the wrong reasons.

I have never actually done a Bottom 10 list before.  As mentioned in the first of my Top 10 pieces, prior to this year I had to carefully select what films I went to see, but this year I could toss quality control out of the window and see everything.  Therefore, in the name of film criticism, I have seen a lot of total sh*t this past year.  However, this is not a list of the absolute worst made films of 2014.  Some of them are on here, but that is not what the list is about.  It’s too easy and not particularly interesting, especially since many of them are akin to shooting fish in a barrel with a blunderbuss machine gun.  I mean, are any of you at all surprised that Pudsey The Dog: The Movie turned out to be horrendous?

No, this list is a Bottom 10 and encompasses the films from 2014 that made me angry.  To get on this list, a film had to have left me with a strong negative reaction that did not go away after a short while.  These are the films that drew my anger, swallowed me in disappointment, offended my being in some way shape or form, or also represent everything that is wrong with filmmaking and the film industry today.  How much do these films deserve to be on this list?  Transcendence, Annie, Blended, and 300: Rise Of An Empire missed out on placements.

So, same rules apply here as they did for the Top 10, and same presentation style applies too – today, we count down #10 to #6.  If we’re all set, don your bile protection gear, don’t look directly into the films that are listed here, and ONWARDS, AOSHIMA!

There may be spoilers.  Proceed with caution.


boyhood10] Boyhood

Dir: Richard Linklater

Star: Ellar Coltraine, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

Again, this is not a list of the worst films of 2014.  I can name you at least 20 or so films that I saw that are worse than Boyhood.  No, Boyhood is on this list because, more so than any other film released in 2014, it annoyed me.  It confounded me, it irritated me, it baffled me, it enraged me, it majorly disappointed me, and these feelings have remained with me ever since I saw the film because people won’t shut the hell up about the goddamn thing and because we might as well FedEx all awards ever to its undeserving doorstep now to save time and money on postage.

Look, my seething distaste for Boyhood is very much equal parts it not being a very good film, and my own personal feelings and baggage.  Boyhood purports to be a look at the coming-of-age of a white, suburban, straight, middle-class male throughout the 2000s but does so in a way and tone that feels like it’s putting down the final word on the matter.  That this is how it was for everybody, that it’s making some giant statement about it all, especially since the film keeps throwing out philosophical sound bites and barely tolerable bullsh*t about how “the moment seizes you” and stuff.  It looks down from upon high and decrees “THIS IS WHAT BOYHOOD WAS LIKE IN THE 2000s” with absolutely no self-awareness or analysis of what it actually means to be that kind of privileged white, straight, middle-class male, which makes its declarative nature all the more insufferable.

“Oh, but Boyhood is a character piece!” I imagine many are trying to counter with right about now.  Problem with that argument is that the film fails at that, too.  Mason, Jr. is a non-entity.  I spent two hours and forty minutes in his company – watched him go through 12 years of life – and the most I learnt about him is that he possibly has a interest in photography, and that his actor grew up to resemble Ethan Hawke so much that I’m honestly not 100% certain that he’s not just a clone of Ethan Hawke.  I don’t know what makes him tick, I don’t know what his aspirations are, I don’t know how he progressed from his six year-old self to his eighteen year-old self.  He feels less like a character and more like a blank slate that either you’re supposed to project your own self onto or who is supposed to stand in for every white privileged guy ever.

“But the whole point of the movie is that your adolescence cannot be boiled down to big standout moments!  That’s why it skips Mason, Jr.’s first kiss, first job, rambunctious teenager phase, etc.!”  OK, so why does the entire first half of the film concern itself with the theme of being too young to truly understand how the world works?  Much of the film’s first half dedicates itself to the lives of Mason and Olivia, Mason, Jr. and Samantha’s parents, and the complicated nature of their various relationships, living arrangements and procession of step-parents as viewed through the eyes of children who will never truly understand why these things are happening.  That’s why there is this ridiculously cartoonishly delivered sequence where Olivia bolts with the kids away from her alcoholic and abusive new husband.  That is a major standout moment of somebody’s life, and its grand theatricality – not helped by Marco Perella swinging for the fences with his playing of that scene – goes against the low-key nature of the rest of the film.

Yet the film drops that theme at about the halfway mark and just ambles about aimlessly for its remaining runtime.  It’s maddening to see a film wilfully waste its potential and possible avenues of storytelling and thematic resonance at damn near every opportunity.  Patricia Arquette has been getting major praise for her role as Olivia and understandably so, she does great work, which makes it all the more infuriating that, despite being Mason, Jr.’s primary parent and guardian, the film repeatedly side-lines her in favour of even more screen time with Mason, Sr. in a bunch of scenes that eventually reduce themselves to just hitting the same beats over and over again.  Olivia gets an outstanding scene near the end where she breaks down as an uncaring Mason, Jr. gets the last of his stuff from her house about the passage of time, and of heavily implied regret for giving her life to him instead of living it for herself.  That scene is outstanding, which only makes it all the more infuriating that the film isn’t about her – the one character in the film with an arc, thematic resonance or f*cking something going on.

That’s ultimately what annoys me most about Boyhood, is the fact that it has nothing going on besides its “shot over 12 years” gimmick.  It is a film with no central character, no consistent thematic arc, and nothing interesting to say because it actively steers itself away from having anything interesting to say.  I get the feeling that Linklater started this project with a real passion and desire, only for that to fade away from him as the years progressed, eventually becoming more of an obligation than anything he was seriously interested in working on – the film gets lazier and lazier, just drifting through its last forty minutes with no drive except for some half-assed pseudo-philosophical rambling (very much like a teenager).  Linklater is better than this, he has consistently proven over the last 12 years that he is a better filmmaker than this, and that’s why Boyhood disappoints me so.  It’s a pointless, muddled, dreary slog of a film that also touches on something real and honest infrequently enough to make its bungling of everything even more irritating.

Also, its last scene is one of the worst and most aggravating that I have seen all year, and the film managed to make me hate Arcade Fire for a good two hours after I left the cinema.


09] Let’s Be Copslet's be cops

Dir: Luke Greenfield

Star: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr.

Let’s Be Cops is not the worst comedy of 2014 – that honour goes to Sex Tape, since that barely qualifies as a film, let alone a comedy.  It is not the most offensive comedy of 2014 – that honour goes to Blended.  It is also not the most disappointing comedy of 2014 – A Million Ways To Die In The West – or the most pointless – Horrible Bosses 2 – or the biggest pile of evidence that we should stop allowing British people to make comedies – Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie.  What Let’s Be Cops is, and why it is on this list instead of the far more deserving Sex Tape, is the most perfect encapsulation of everything that is currently wrong with the American feature-length comedy movie.

2014 has been a pretty miserable year for out-and-out comedies.  Of the many, many, many comedies released these past 12 months, only two were actually any good – Bad Neighbours (which came this close to cracking my Top 20) and 22 Jump Street (which had a very good chance of actually cracking the Top 10 if I had managed to watch it again before list-making time) – the rest were either diverting but pointless, or just plain torture to sit through.  I realise that every year has maybe two great straight comedies – a number that’s bumped up to four if you include comedy-dramas or black comedies – and a whole load of tripe surrounding them, but you’ll have to forgive me for being disappointed that an increased number of releases this year led to the same number of hits compared to misses.

The American comedy is currently stale, and Let’s Be Cops is such a grab-bag text of all of its worst impulses that I’m honestly still not sure that it wasn’t intentional – a desire to make a comedy I can point to for all aspiring comedy filmmakers and go “You see that?  Don’t do that.”  A loose rambling structure that sacrifices these things we call “set-ups” and “punchlines” in favour of dropping talented comedians with decent chemistry into scenarios and praying that they can improv up enough gold to fill out the runtime, direction and scene set-ups that are dull and interchangeable, editing that doesn’t know when to stop a scene, a needlessly stretched out runtime that gets way too close to two hours, genuinely funny material being beaten into the ground or stretched so thin that the entire enterprise feels endless, a casually tossed off sexist attitude towards women, a final third where the jokes are dropped completely because apparently only Phil Lord & Chris Miller know how to make plot funny anymore…

Let’s Be Cops also has the extra dead albatross of being released in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri which have sparked off an additional nationwide conversation about police brutality, racism and militarisation of the police force, adding an extra layer of awkward tastelessness to jokes like our two leads playfully brandishing their loaded guns at each other in a public restaurant.  But, honestly, that’s the least of its problems.  Let’s Be Cops could have used its premise to explore and ask tough questions about the current state of the police force in 21st century America, but it didn’t have to and it’s not automatically lesser for not doing so – there’s nothing wrong with a silly comedy and at no point did either of the Jump Street movies use their cop-comedy premises for social satire.  What is inexcusable, though, is the sheer laziness and half-assery of the film’s entire construction.  This is soulless, paint-by-numbers filmmaking where the only people trying are its two stars, which only serves to make them look desperate.

Again, Let’s Be Cops is not the worst comedy of the year – holy hell, is Sex Tape ever an appalling train wreck – but it is a perfect distillation of everything that is currently wrong with the comedy genre.  This trend of foisting near-laugh-free scripts on talented actors with lightning chemistry and expecting them to do all the heavy lifting with endless improv needs to stop.  I don’t care that the majority of today’s movie star comedians and comediennes come with an improv background; there is a never a better substitute for tight editing and a raucous script stuffed to the brim with proper jokes from start to finish.  Bad Neighbours got that, 22 Jump Street got that, why can’t anything else get that?


new york winters tale08] A New York Winter’s Tale

Dir: Akiva Goldsman

Star: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown-Findlay

That’s right, folks.  A film that I declared back in February to have been “one of the worst films that I have ever seen” is only #8 on my Bottom 10 of 2014.  And, honestly, it’s really only here out of some sort of obligation.  Oh, sure, A New York Winter’s Tale is pure garbage of the highest order, but it’s a film that I have warmed to since then, probably because it, unlike a lot of the tripe populating this list, at least is completely sincere in its attempts to be good.  Therefore, although I hated it at the time, I don’t hate it with the same ferocity that I once did.  Not anymore, I feel like I have moved on from it.

Again, though, that doesn’t stop A New York Winter’s Tale from being a complete and total failure on every single conceivable level of filmmaking.  The dialogue is atrocious, the plot is nonsense, it looks dreadful in both the practical sense – of set design, shot composition, costumes, hairpieces and such – and the computer-generated sense, it boasts atrocious performances from everybody involved, it is paced like a marathon populated by narcoleptics, its attempts at thematic resonance and foreshadowing are quite literally laughable…  I’m honestly not sure what’s more inadvertently hilarious, the movie or the fact that a former Oscar winner convinced Village Roadshow Pictures to give him $60 million and several talented high profile actors to give several weeks of their lives to filming this piece of guff.

The plot powering this guff – based on a novel I haven’t read but is apparently, by all accounts, nowhere near as rubbish as this – centres around Colin Farrell as a potential miracle maker who was raised and then hunted by a demon, played by Russell Crowe, legitimately named Pearly Soames (real name, not the gender-flipped version of Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants), who works for Lucifer, played by Will Smith (an incredibly sleepy and checked out Will Smith, before you get excited and, yes, it is problematic that the one major black guy in the film is playing Satan).  It turns out that Colin Farrell’s miracle is to apparently cure a young woman’s terminal tuberculosis through the power of love, whilst Pearly (real name) hunts the pair down with murderous intentions cos Lucifer don’t like any sunshine or kittens getting out into the world, thank you kindly.

See, this all sounds like the most enjoyable nonsense, a “So Bad, It’s Good” of epic proportions.  Yet, whilst I was watching the thing, I didn’t find it funny because it is so po-facedly earnestly serious about its stupid endeavour that any fun to be had at its ridiculous awfulness was lost.  This was a film with a Pegasus, a ridiculous pace-killing near-century time-skip, and a sequence in which somebody is quite literally f*cked to death, and all I could do was check my watch, yawn and question whether walking out would be preferable to continuing to submit myself to the thing – although I did laugh at the reveal of the Pegasus, mostly because it looks like what you’d get if you asked a 5 year-old to recreate the Tri-Star logo in MS Paint in the next 30 minutes.

But I no longer hate A New York Winter’s Tale.  I did, once upon a time, enough to write a long-winded and pretty funny review (if you’ll allow me one of my five annual tootings of my own horn) tearing the thing to shreds, but no more.  I have made my peace with this film’s existence.  If I were to ever see it again – preferably in the company of friends, drunk on soda of various kinds, during a Bad Movie Night – I’d probably be able to crack wise at the thing effortlessly and have myself a gay old time.  It is still one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my 20 years of existence, but as previously mentioned this is not a Worst Movies of 2014 list.  Therefore, A New York Winter’s Tale stalls out at #8.  The bile saved from this can instead be deployed on other, more deserving films, such as…


07] Transformers: Age Of Extinctiontransformers 4

Dir: Michael Bay

Star: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci

This one is just as much my own goddamn stupid fault as it is the film in question.  I stupidly – and it is stupidly, there is no other word or reasoning to make this alright – let a part of me become somewhat hopeful that this time things would be different.  The Transformers series, under the creative direction and influence of these people, gave me absolutely no reason to believe that it could produce anything great or even worth my time.  Yet, a part of me was allowed to be quietly optimistic.  After bottoming out with Revenge Of The Fallen, Dark Of The Moon took the series’ first tentative steps towards being a good movie – it wasn’t one, but it was on the path to at least being entertaining – and 2013’s underrated Pain & Gain proved to me that Michael Bay hadn’t forgotten how to make movies.  So a part of me got a little hopeful; this time, things were going to be different.

They weren’t.  They weren’t at all.  Age Of Extinction is a regression back to all of the same toxic sh*t that Transformers, Revenge Of The Fallen and to a lesser extent Dark Of The Moon had peddled beforehand, only now even more bloated and expanded and epic-ised (which isn’t even a real word but was likely a direction used for scene prep at some point during this thing’s production) to levels that make the resulting product an endurance test instead of anything that anybody could find entertaining.  Casual racism, creepy paedophilic undertones, an actively hateful bordering on misogynist view of women, product placement – including product placement for The People’s Republic of China despite current world events making that one of the most tone-deaf things one could do – abysmally directed and incomprehensible action, active wasting of interesting themes, and an utterly awful Imagine Dragons song – which is a step down from Linkin Park.

And in other news, the sun rose today, the sky is blue, and George Clooney is an incredibly sexy man.  Look, I get that we have all collectively realised that the Transformers movies are abhorrent pieces of trash and that their continued financial success will be one of life’s big mysteries.  Age Of Extinction’s appearance on this list is that barrel full of fish that I mentioned earlier, but sometimes really obvious fish need shooting for a reason and this metaphor has broken down.  Point is, Age Of Extinction is a reminder that there are people out there who have nothing but contempt for the movie going audience.  Who believe that they can push out thoughtless, stupid, toxic crap and that people will show up to buy it because the explosions are big and shiny and purdy.  There is always room for big dumb action films – the Fast & Furious franchise is beloved for a reason, after all – but those are films that do so with glee, joy and smartness, as crafting a good big dumb action film takes actual effort.

Age Of Extinction is not that film.  It is a cynical, joyless, mindless exercise whose sole reason for its existence is to line Paramount Pictures executives’ pockets with more money.  And I went into it stupidly thinking that it wouldn’t be.  People went to see this and not Edge Of Tomorrow, and, thanks specifically to China, we will be suffering through two more of these sh*tfests.  Well done, everyone.  Sterling job.


906429 - The Amazing Spider-Man 206] The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Dir: Marc Webb

Star: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx

We are in the middle of a full-on comic book boom at the cinema.  Now, admittedly, we’ve been in one since the early 2000s when Spider-Man, X-Men and Blade were ruling the box office, but we’re really in the midst of one.  Every studio has, or is attempting to cultivate, their own comic book empire out of the materials that Marvel Studios hasn’t already swallowed up, everybody is trying to serialise everything, and Marvel this year dictated the exact days in which I need to sit my ass down in a cinema for the next five years.  This boom will bust out eventually, but things are looking good for now.

They won’t look so good for very long, however, if studios keep pumping out films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  This one was a time-bomb, folks.  As you may have gathered from my original review, I strongly disliked the film but I didn’t hate it at the time – I thought I’d found a couple of redeeming factors and let the potential of the series dilute some of my venom for it.  But then it sat in head.  And sat.  And sat.  And, for at least three months afterwards, it wouldn’t leave because myself and my friends kept finding more and more wrong with it the more we let it settle.  We found new problems – like the incredibly poor pacing and structural mess that robs anything of any resonance – whilst old problems – the incredibly creepy and borderline sexist crap with Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey, Peter’s problem of him being a giant dick – were found to be even more systemic and problematic.

In the end, though, it all comes back to this simple fact: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not a film.  It is a commercial for the next film, and also a Sinister Six film that literally nobody was ever asking for.  This is not a film that was made by a cast and crew with a vision, a story to tell, and the drive and passion to pull it off.  This was a film ham-fistedly dictated by a studio for the sole purpose of forcing a franchise and making a lot of money because, “Yo!  Those kids loves them some Spider-Man!  I spies dollar signs, boys!”  There is no narrative reason for this film to exist, there is no thematic reason for this film to exist; this is a film that exists because Sony saw that Marvel Studios have made Scrooge McDuck-money with their franchises and shared universe continuity and wanted that green without actually having to do the work necessary to earn it.

Do you know why Marvel can unveil concrete dates for a five-year plan of films and the only negative thing it does to us is make us contemplate our own fragile mortality?  It’s because they, first and foremost, tell stories.  Each film so far, despite this shared-universe thing and their franchising and sequelising and such, works as a film on its own.  They tell complete stories, have effort and craft put into them, and each of them exist because, or give a good enough illusion, somebody wanted to tell a story, first and foremost.  Are they often still safe, less groundbreaking and risky than they appear, and mandated by the producers at the studio?  Well, yes, undoubtedly, but the films are great and satisfying and fun and have real effort put in that I really don’t care.

Marvel Studios, essentially, have earned my trust, and near everyone else’s trust, in this grand experiment because they have proven first and foremost that their movies are worth the commercial avenues that they will be taken down.  Sony don’t want to wait for that trust and have forced the Spider-Man license through the most cynical, money-driven, bereft-of-ideas ringer they could get their hands on, and practically every problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can be traced back to a studio wanting their money now and not thinking through, or putting any effort whatsoever into, a single one of the film’s creative decisions.  When people disparage comic book movies and serialisation of movies, this is what they are referring to and I shiver at the possibility that I will be seeing more Amazing Spider-Man 2s in the coming future.

Sony, just torch the franchise and negotiate with Marvel.  Please?  It’s clearly been more trouble for you than it’s worth.  Just wash your hands of this game and move on.  For all of us.


Well, we’ve made it halfway through the list.  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I was being too harsh/not harsh enough on some of these?  Let me know in the comments below!  Tomorrow, we wrap up this week with the absolute bottom of the barrel.  Brace yourselves…

Callum Petch only dreams in black and white.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Guarding the Galaxy from Sharknadoes

sharknadoNothing goes over the head of these podcasters. Not even humongous man-eating fish being hurled at them by a terrible sharkrnado. Our reflexes are too fast, plus we have chainsaws for hands.

James is absent, but not yet retired. Just lazy. Steve warns against watching the latest b-movie from The Asylum, Sharknado 2: The Second One. Meanwhile, Carole tries to hold it together after the announcement that Studio Ghibli may be closing to give us the low-down on a slightly more up-market Boyhood and Chef, whilst Owen reviews a hundred year old documentary, The Great White Silence, in light of the Sight & Sound’s recent awards.

Oh, and there’s some film about people saving the galaxy that’s out that you may have heard of? Guardians of the Galaxy? Oooh. Yeeeaaaah. It’s a doozy.

Join us next week for what will likely be a sentimental farewell as James makes his final regular appearance on the podcast.

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And like that *poof* he’s gone!

jmsJust over two-and-a-half years ago I started yet another blog that, like the previous ones, would inevitably hold my interest for a month or so until I got distracted by some new shiny things. I started it with the lofty ambition of watching all of the IMDB Top 250 films, and generally trying to fill the gaps in my cinematic tastes and knowledge.

On one hand it was a categorical failure, as I’m still well over 70 films away from completing the set. However, if the underlying aim was to get me watching and writing more about film, and to put me in touch with an online community of some of the loveliest film fans in existence, then colour me a winner (as well as a sentimental old fool). Besides, any top 250 film list that doesn’t contain a single Powell/Pressburger picture isn’t worth the pixels it’s displaying on.

And that’s why I’m really quite sad about moving on. While Failed Critics has been online I’ve doubled the number of kids at home, moved house to accommodate said kids, and found myself in the rare and privileged position of developing a career that I not only enjoy, but am actually quite good at. Something eventually had to give, and although I’m going to miss this place I know I’m leaving it in the very capable hands of our podcast’s own Owen Hughes, Steve Norman, and Carole Petts; as well as a loose collection of brilliant writers – all of whom have been brilliant to read and elevated the site far beyond what I ever hoped to achieve on my own.

I’ve had some fantastic experiences while running the site, attending the Prometheus premiere (and becoming life-long mates with Jason Flemyng and Benny Wong); watching a weekend of David Bowie films at the ICA; and a couple of great years at the Glasgow Film Festival where I got to feel like a ‘proper’ critic for two weeks. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever spoken to about film on Twitter, and everyone who has ever read an article on the site or downloaded the podcast. Every single one of those page views or downloads has made this mid-thirties man inordinately happy.

I’ll still be watching films, talking about them on Twitter, and keeping my Letterboxd ratings up-to-date. And maybe in time I’ll even get around to popping back on the podcast, or helping run the annual awards. For now though, please continue to visit the site and support the brilliant work Owen has already been doing while I’ve been otherwise engaged. I can’t wait to see what he does with the place.

Until then, let me leave you with my ten (sort of) favourite films that I saw for the first time while running the site. I think they sum up the era pretty well.

The Raid/The Raid 2

One of the earliest films we reviewed for the podcast back in 2012, and the opening still fills me with nostalgic glee. I only need to see that blue Sony Pictures Classics title card to be transported back to the John Woo/Chow Yun Fat Hong Kong action films of the late 80s/early 90s, but The Raid follows up on this promise and was the most fun I had in a cinema that year. The sequel (out on DVD next week) is a completely different, but just as impressive beast. Not many films had such a unanimous affect on the podcast team.

The Lego Movie

Currently sat at the top of my 2014 ‘Best of’ list, and it’s going to take something pretty special to budge it. I can’t imagine that I would have made a beeline to see it on the preview weekend if I hadn’t been running a film site, let alone paying to see it again the following week. But Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s anarchic, brave, and playful animation is so funny that I don’t care how much of an advert it is.

The Before films

In an early podcast, I remember Gerry McAuley almost blowing a gasket over how much he hated Before Sunrise, the Richard Linklater film starring a young and gloriously pretentious Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. At roughly the same time we had an argument over (500) Days of Summer, which he enjoyed and I felt was trite, overwhelmingly kooky, and horribly shallow. I then went and watched Before Sunrise, and very quickly followed it up with Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Much like Mia Wallace suggests everyone is either a Beatles or a Stones fan in Pulp Fiction, I have a theory that you’re either a (500) Days of Summer or a Before… fan. Pick a side.

Barry Lyndon

In the weeks running up to our Stanley Kubrick podcast special I was l living and breathing Kubrick. Already my favourite director, I relished the chance to revisit some of my favourites (A Clockwork Orange, Dr Strangelove, 2001) as well as delve into a few that I had missed (Paths of Glory, The Killing, Lolita). It was this recommendation from Owen though that completely blew me away that week. Barry Lyndon’s episodic nature and purposely static action may not be to everyone’s taste, but I was utterly bewitched by this gorgeous and entertaining masterpiece.

My Neighbour Totoro/Grave of the Fireflies

Before I started Failed Critics I had never seen a Studio Ghibli film. Let that sink in. Then in our second podcast we had a Triple Bill of Films with Child Protagonists, and Gerry chose (I think) both My Neighbour Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, released as a double bill in 1988. During their recent theatrical rerelease I took my daughter to see My Neighbour Totoro as the first film that she really watched at the cinema (great hipster credentials for the future!), but chose to watch Grave of the Fireflies on my own. Which was lucky as I basically sobbed non-stop through most of it. Simply the finest anti-war film I’ve seen, and up there with Life is Beautiful in terms of raw emotional reactions I’ve had to films.

Christiane F

Another brutal punch-to-the-stomach of a film. I saw this as part of Bowiefest and, while the Thin White Duke makes an appearance in concert and his music forms the soundtrack, the star is Natja Brunckhorst, who plays the titular character. Based on the real life memoirs of a 14-year-old drug addict and sexually exploited child, it is an incredibly stark and realistic portrayal of 1980s Berlin. As hard-hitting as it gets.

Avengers Assemble

This was our first ever ‘Best Film of the Year’ winner, and is still the touchstone for the podcast team in terms of how to do a comic book film. If we have a catchphrase on the podcast, it’s probably “this is one of the best comic book/action films since Avengers”, and it’s easy to see why it gets so much love. A brilliantly warm and funny script from director Joss Whedon, pitch-perfect performances from all (particularly Robert Downey Jnr and Tom Hiddlestone), and the sense that Marvel are risking everything and succeeding on such an ambitious project. I’ll never tire of watching this film.

The Intouchables

This French comedy really shouldn’t work. ‘Immigrant and petty thief somehow ends up with a job looking after a millionaire paraplegic, and hilarity ensues’ sounds like an Adam Sandler movie pitch that Awesome-O would come up with in the seminal South Park episode. But this film above all others is the only one still undefeated in terms of my recommending it to people and their enjoying it. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love it?

Rust and Bone

I’m a big fan of naturalistic French sex/relationship dramas, so when this film combined that genre with an incredible performance from Marion Cottilard and a brilliant soundtrack it seemed destined to be my favourite film of 2012. A story of violence, redemption, and killer whales dancing to Katy Perry’s Firework, and if that doesn’t make you want to watch it then I give up. Oh wait, I already am.

The Act of Killing

In my view not only the best film of last year, but simply one of the most important films ever made. This Indonesian documentary looked into a brutal and horrifying era of that country’s history, but rather than presenting the facts of the genocide that occurred in the 1960s the film gives the perpetrators of mass murder the opportunity to discuss and recreate their crimes in their favourite cinematic styles. What could have been a horribly crass piece of filmmaking ends up making the viewer look directly into the abyss of the darkest aspects of human behaviour. Essential viewing.