Tag Archives: Selma

The Best of 2015 Thus Far

As we’re now well and truly past the half-way mark for the year, it seems like as good a time as any for a few of the Failed Critics contributors to bundle together and reveal which films they’ve enjoyed the most so far. Come December, we’ll still be running the annual Failed Critics Awards, giving you the opportunity to cast your vote for your favourite films of 2015.

In the meantime, let’s have a quick run through of what some of our writers and podcasters have chosen as their five favourite films of the year. Will the biggest film of the year so far, Jurassic World, be featured? Will United Passions somehow infect this article too? Will anyone pick anything other than Mad Max?? Find out below…


by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

1] Mad Max: Fury Road

mad maxFighting the urge to fill my word limit with just paragraphs of me repeating the words “Perfect”, “Awesome” and “The most fun I’ve had this year with clothes on”, I’ll try and be a little more cohesive in my description. It had been thirty years since the last film in the iconic Mad Max franchise, to bring a fourth entry to a series after that long is a massive undertaking at the best of times. But when its original star is as iconic as the film’s that made him famous, replacing him as well would be a recipe for disaster in any other filmmakers hands. Thankfully for all of us, the series’ creator made a triumphant return and gave us one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. A breathtaking, visceral two hours (on three occasions) in the cinema left me shellshocked and shaking with excitement and almost unable to write my review when I got home I was so pumped. Oh, and there’s a dude on a truck made of drums and speakers playing heavy metal on a flame throwing guitar! No more needs to be said!

2] Ex Machina

3] Whiplash

4] Still Alice

5] It Follows

WORST: Avengers: Age of Ultron – Years of subtle hype and weeks of actual hype in the buildup to this, the biggest Marvel movie yet. What we got was a more than two hour long wet fart of a film that left me blindingly disappointed with a really bad taste in my mouth.


by Paul Field (@pafster)

1] Wild Tales

wild talesDark, twisted and utterly enthralling anthology from Argentina. All of the stories are great, no fillers here as is often the case with anthology films. I love a revenge film, and to have 6 served up in one sitting is a real treat. Hard to pick my favourite… the parking ticket is brilliant, the plane passengers unsettling and hilarious, the overtaking motorist caper that escalates out of all control…..but I think the Wedding. Pissing off the bride on her wedding day is an absolute no no, and here, she conveys her displeasure in spectacular fashion. As a first feature from Damián Szifron, this is outstanding and will take some toppling come the end of the year.

2] Hyena

3] Creep

4] We Are Still Here

5] Buzzard

WORST: Lost River Ryan Gosling believing his own hype, delivers the most pretentious load of cobblers ever committed to film. Utter, utter toilet.. and yes, I’ve seen United Passions, Accidental Love and the new Danny Dyer film this year too. Its worse than all three of those, on repeat, for eternity.


by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

1] Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

birdmanReleased in the UK on 1 January 2015, I still don’t think I’ve seen a funnier, more entertaining film in the cinema all year. Michael Keaton is absolutely phenomenal as the flailing former superhero movie star attempting to reinvent himself as a stage actor and producer. His manic behaviour, coupled with director Iñárritu’s frenetic, constantly adapting story shot as if the whole production was just one long take; I just loved every minute of it. However, I was hesitant to put it as number one on my list, given a couple people I’ve recommended it to have hated it! But ultimately, despite seeing it only two days into the year, nothing else has managed to better it yet for me.

2] Mad Max: Fury Road

3] Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

4] Cobain: Montage of Heck

5] John Wick

WORST: United Passions – Technically not even released in the UK this year, and unlike Jupiter Ascending (cinema) and The Man With The Iron Fists 2 (VOD), I didn’t even watch this legally. But if there’s a more abhorrent, reprehensible piece of offensive propagandist garbage with as high a budget and released globally within the next decade, I’ll be surprised.


By Matt Lambourne (@LamboMat)

1] Mad Max: Fury Road

mad max 4I’m still thinking about this movie, weeks after seeing it. The action, the character, the dialogue, the music and most importantly, the SCALE. It’s over the top in every sense and works for me on every level. I can’t wait to get hold of the home release and enjoy it without the hindrance of 3D. Absolutely superb movie!

2] American Sniper

3] Furious 7

4] Jurassic World

5] Terminator Genisys

WORST: Fifty Shades of Grey Bloated, tacky, overly polished and un-sexy. I didn’t get an erection and I didn’t get a shag that night.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

1] The Theory of Everything

theory of everythingThe Stephen Hawking biopic earned lead man Eddie Redmayne an Oscar and deservedly so. His portrayal of a genius of a man going through various stages of a terrible, life changing illness was extremely believable. The film also put over a side of Hawking you don’t often see, the friend, parent and husband, not the man who invented time. Or something.

2] Ex Machina

3] Kingsman: The Secret Service

4] Selma

5] Furious 7

WORST: United Passions Garbage of the highest order. I found Tim Roth less deplorable playing a racist in Selma than I did playing Sepp Blatter in this tripe. It’s offensive that it was even made.


by Callum Petch (@CallumPetch)

1] Mad Max: Fury Road

mad max fury roadFury Road is the kind of film whose existence is a reminder that this Movies thing might be alright after all, a beacon of hope that we can all look to in dark times and remind ourselves that we can, in fact, have it so much better.  From its uncomplicated story, to its unique world and set design, to its outstanding special effects, to its jaw-dropping practical stunts, to its brilliantly subtle Tom Hardy performance, to its mesmerising Charlize Theron performance, to its openly and furiously feminist and matriarchal heart, every last frame of this utter masterpiece is what I have heard perfection is supposed to be like.  It is everything that modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking isn’t, a purposeful pushback against everything wrong with those films right now that, in a just world, will have everyone following its example in the years to come.  Both times that I saw this movie, my veins pulsed with pure adrenaline from frame one and the feeling did not stop until long after I left the screen in tears of pure joy at that perfect final shot.  I foresee nothing else coming anywhere close to it for the rest of this year, mainly cos I have no idea what’ll happen to me if there is a better film than Fury Road to come.

2] Magic Mike XXL

3] The Voices

4] Shaun The Sheep Movie

5] Spy

WORST: Entourage  I said everything I needed to say about this reprehensible piece of abysmal shite here and here.  I’m not going to repeat myself.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Eclectic Avenue

baftaCallum Petch, Callum Petch, does whatever Callum can – i.e. talking even more than James used to as he swings straight from last week’s episode to this week’s edition of the Failed Critics podcast. He joins your regular podcast host Steve Norman and hanger-on Owen Hughes to discuss the big film news over the past seven days.

Chiefly, Tuesday’s long-expected announcement that the rebooted Spider-Man will definitely be making his first appearance in an upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, on loan from Sony. We mull over potential ramifications for existing Marvel films, casting choices we’d make and if it’s actually that big a deal anyway.

Completely forgoing our regular “what we’ve been watching” segment, as there just wasn’t enough damn time, we instead take a detailed look over the weekend’s BAFTA award winners and losers, as well as the awards ceremony itself.

We also couldn’t have hand picked four different main release reviews if we tried, as the eclectic mix of space opera Jupiter Ascending, Aardman animation Shaun the Sheep: The Movie, controversial comedy The Interview and the Oscar nominated Selma all get discussed.

Join us again next week for a special Academy Award preview episode with more guests, probably more arguments and hopefully a shorter run time!

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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)!

Unfortunately, The Oscars Do Matter

There are those who insist that the Academy Awards don’t matter.  Those people could not be more unfortunately wrong.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

oscars 2What was your big complaint this year’s pool of Oscar nominations?  Gone Girl being near-shut-out along with SelmaAmerican Sniper inexplicably receiving six nominations?  The extreme white maleness of the awards themselves after a 12-month period where the issue of diversity, rightly, just wouldn’t go away?  The Lego Movie not even receiving a nomination for Best Animated Feature?  The fact that they’re happening at all?

Yes, as traditional as the Oscar nominations and complaining about the Oscar nominations, it’s that time of the year for certain people to come out of the woodwork and openly announce their disdain for the entire process.  Not that I completely disagree with the general principle, mind.  We human beings are our own individual persons who each have our own tastes and personal favourite films, so the process of getting together a giant committee of diverse people, getting them to pick their favourite films and such of the past year, and then using those to come up with, essentially, a compromised set of choices is rather redundant and unindicative of the personal experiences that cinema can impart on its viewers – the “why” is more important than the “what” and that’s a thing that gets lost in general group sampling.

However, the phrase in this complaining that irks me – in equal parts because of the high horse snobbery it is typically used like by those who invoke it, and because it reminds me of the worst parts of this current industry – is that “The Oscars don’t matter.”  Again, I get where they are coming from when they use this phrase, their reasoning is that entire prior paragraph plus the fact that the voting body for the Academy is overwhelmingly white, overwhelming male, and overwhelmingly old which typically leads to safe conservative nominations and races that reflect just how out of touch the people who get to decide it are from the public and modern culture – obligatory reminder that The f*cking Artist is a Best Picture winner.  So, in a way, The Oscars don’t matter.  Unfortunately, that’s really only true on a smaller, more micro level – for us, the moviegoers, the ones who care about the art.

The sad truth is that the movies are also an industry, have been for a very, very long time, and the process of moviemaking is driven just as much by the business side as it is the creative side.  When a studio makes and releases a film, they’re looking to make money from its business because, you know, that’s how Capitalism works – losing money on a venture looks real bad.  That’s why you don’t see 20th Century Fox turning around tomorrow and releasing an experimental avant-garde sci-fi drama about the nature of humanity that cost them $110 million to make; it’s financial suicide.  You stick with safer bets, try and please everybody, in the hopes that you’ll make your money back; hence why nearly every goddamn blockbuster nowadays is a sequel, remake, adaptation, or budding franchise because apparently nobody is going to the cinema otherwise.

The Oscars have a reputation for snubbing mainstream successful films in favour of more specialist “Prestige Picture” fare, but that doesn’t mean the studios are making and releasing these films purely for specialist audiences.  “The Oscar Bump” – where the films that are nominated for Best Picture receive a box office or home media boost as people go out of their way to see them – is a thing that exists and near-guarantees future income for the studio.  A film like Birdman was never going to do particularly well on its first run, but its studio, Fox Searchlight, were likely banking on the Academy coming a-calling and giving less specialist people a sense of obligation to see it.  (Note: if Birdman doesn’t do so well this weekend, then mentally replace its name with whatever film does do well.  Point stands.)

Because, again, Hollywood is a business and awards season is one of the biggest business sessions for the film industry.  The prestige, the allure, the weight, the worth that even a nomination carries is too much to pass up.  Admit it, how many times have you gone to see a film you wouldn’t normally have gone for if it weren’t up for some kind of award?  Plus, the buzz.  Awards season itself is confined to the last three months of the year – due to the, seemingly often right, stigma that Academy voters have short memories – but the buzz is damn-near year-long.  We press, especially we Internet press, are more than guilty of talking way too much way too early about this stuff and, eventually, we end up doing the influencing.  Boyhood – although I called it from frame one – would never normally be a Best Picture frontrunner, but now it’s all but guaranteed the prize because we haven’t stopped yammering on about how it will win for the last seven months.

Now, normally, all of this wouldn’t be so much of a major problem because film as a whole would be nice and diverse.  Sure, you’d have your big blockbusters and your awards bait, but you’d also have low-to-mid budget curiosities and experiments.  Some would be trifles, some would be crowdpleasers, others would give David Cronenberg $15 million to go and make eXistenZ, but we’d get something different.  We’d get unlikely stars, women like Penelope Spheeris would actually be given studio backing to make their films, and studios would personally fund films like Boyz n The Hood.  Now was this period perfect, or anywhere near as diverse and layered as it sounds like I’m making it out to be?  F*ck no, I’m not deluded, these are just examples and not indicative of an industry I wasn’t around to experience as a whole.  But there was something, some risk, some difference.

Unfortunately, people have stopped going to the movies.  There are statistics to prove it.  So that mid-range fare is mostly gone.  Now it’s All, Awards, or Nothing – blockbusters, awards bait, next-to-nothing.  The studios have reacted to our gradual disappearance from cinemas by getting more insular, sticking more to formula, and trying to give the people what they think they want.  The blockbuster crowd seemingly want heroic white men, preferably in spandex, saving the world from unknown horrors, preferably as part of some kind of franchise so that there’s brand awareness, so that’s what we’re getting, and it’s why they just won’t stop pushing Jai Courtney on us instead of making somebody like Chiwetel Ejiofer a proper goddamn movie star by now.  Meanwhile, the Academy is comprised of old white conservative men, so the awards bait will be about troubled yet gifted white men overcoming some sort of adversity, because that’s what gets their attention.

That’s why people are so angry about the diversity problem in this year’s nominations pool.  Because the fact of the matter is this: The Oscars have power.  They have a large influence over what films get greenlit, who stars in them, who directs them, writes them, scores them, photographs, produces, supports.   Before, they could be balanced out because the industry was doing well enough that they could take risks.  Now, though, The Academy power is scarily and, from a business side of things, justifiably large.  If they say that the best films of last year were predominately about and made by white men, that’s what the studios are going to make, because that’s what many of us are going to feel obligated to see.

Now more than ever, the film industry has become a closed, self-perpetuating circle, terrified of trying to deviate from what it deems to be The Formula for fear that we, the audience, won’t turn up.  So it sticks closer to that formula, limits our options, makes the default stories about white men because it believes that’s what we want to see, writes off films with black leads or female leads as anomalies and uses any failure as an excuse to put the kibosh on future projects with those things.  It hires white and male because it thinks that we, the movie-going audience, are scared of non-white and non-male.

And it knows that the Academy don’t go for non-white and non-male so it rarely makes any awards bait films with those in mind.  Well, unless the film is about something exclusively linked to race or gender, has a surrogate for them to latch onto, or is made by a white man – incidentally, I haven’t seen Selma yet, but when Morten Tyldum is nominated for Best Director for The f*cking Imitation Game over Ava DuVernay you’re gonna have to forgive me for assuming that racism of some kind is at play here.  So what we end up getting is this constant cycle of negative re-enforcement because Hollywood has now doubled down on All, Awards, or Nothing and, although it can do something about the blockbuster part if it damn well wanted to, it can’t do anything about the Academy who will remain old, white, male, and conservative, and that means that we can’t do anything about it, because this damn industry won’t let us.

This all seems very nihilistic for what is on the surface an extended period of time where the industry pats itself on the back for a job well done, but that’s sadly how it is.  The Academy is diversifying to an extent, but it’s not happening fast enough and it’s going to continue to look out-of-touch until the day it finally does so.  Until then, the current guard wields a disappointing amount of power in the modern American film landscape, and nothing short of every human being on Earth waking up one day and simultaneously deciding to stop giving a shit about The Oscars – which is a pipe dream and we all know it – is going to change this fact:

Unfortunately, The Oscars do matter.

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

US Box Office Report: 26/12/14 – 28/12/14

Unbroken takes home a silver medal, Into The Woods busts out The Gambler, Big Eyes sees little money, The Interview did alright, [Insert Tasteless Joke About American Sniper Beating Selma Here], and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Ah, yes!  That great American tradition of spending Christmas and its surrounding weekend at the cinema in order to try and force the family to shut up for 2 hours!  As a Brit, I don’t get to experience this joy as all of our cinemas inconsiderately shut down on Christmas Day, like the people who work there have families they’d rather go home to or something.  In any case, the majority of Americans chose to spend their Christmas returning to the cinema to re-watch that film they all saw last week.  The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies easily beat off all comers to retain the #1 spot with $41 million in ticket sales and only a 24% drop between weekends, the softest for any instalment of The Hobbit trilogy (sort of, considering the fact that last weekend came after a Wednesday opening that burnt off some demand).

In fact, Americans chose to spend a lot of their moneys re-seeing films from prior weekends over the holidays, even the ones that don’t deserve it.  Night At The Museum 3 leapt up 20% between weekends because being sad about the passing of Robin Williams really does bring families closer together (not sarcasm, I’m speaking from experience), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 jumped up 27% in its sixth week to prove that, yes, this series is still a juggernaut that will make all of the money despite what the haters will say, and Annie increased by 5% presumably because a whole bunch of confused families didn’t realise Into The Woods came out this week.  Elsewhere, The Imitation Game went nationwide in 747 theatres and smashed its way into the Top 10 because everybody is in love with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I don’t quite get why, but it’s a thing nonetheless.

The holiday weekend was also the last opportunity for studios to get their films out in time to be considered for awards season, hence the flood of new releases.  Leading the charge was Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken which surprisingly smashed its way to the Christmas Day number 1 slot and then rode that momentum to a strong number 2 finish.  That, however, only happened because Into The Woods opened on 600 less screens; it ended up losing the battle for second by only $700,000 even though it had a higher per-screen average, so these two may switch places when the actuals come in.  Much less successful was the Mark Wahlberg-fronted The Gambler which only managed $9 million over the three-day weekend, sinking after a strong $5 million Christmas Day performance.

In limited release news, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper ran rampant on the competition, making $610,000 from 4 theatres over the weekend ($850,000 including Christmas Day) for a per-screen average of $152,000, the third highest opening per-screen average of any live-action film ever.  Slightly less successfully but still a major success nonetheless was the opening of Selma, which took $590,000 from 19 screens ($912,000 incl. Christmas Day) for a per-screen average of $31,053.  The inexplicably-not-nominated-for-Best-Foreign-Film Two Days, One Night finally received a US release and took $30,600 ($48,200 incl. Christmas Day) from two screens, whilst Leviathan managed $15,200 ($23,000 incl. Christmas Day) from two screens.  FILMS!!!

And lastly – good lord, this was a busy weekend – The Interview, after a whole bunch of utterly ridiculously insane and awful events, finally got a last minute go-ahead to be screened in select cinemas.  So, after all of that hoopla, the film managed to take $1,811,000 ($2,851,000 including Christmas Day) from 331 screens for an average of $5,471 per-screen.  Decidedly average, but that doesn’t count the fact that many of these were hastily-arranged at the last minute with few showings and the fact that the film has apparently made an extra $15 million over the weekend with its simultaneous VOD release.  Depending on how that holds, we could be looking at the start of something new in film distribution, here.  Time will tell, but for now I’m pretty sure Sony will be calling this somewhat of a success.

Oh, and lastly lastly, Big Eyes, the new Tim Burton film and the best thing he’s made in at least 7 years (if you like Sweeney Todd) as well as a pretty bloody good movie in its own right, collapsed on 1,307 theatres with just under $3 million for 15th place.  Dammit.


hobbit

Will the circle be Unbroken by this Full List?  Let’s go Into The Woods for the last time this year to find out!

Box Office Results: Friday 26th December 2014 – Sunday 28th December 2014

1] The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

$41,420,000 / $168,522,000

The more I think back on The Hobbit trilogy, the less and less I like it.  I find more faults, the stuff I like rescinds further into the background, and the stuff I dislike becomes more pronounced in my mind.  The Lord Of The Rings, meanwhile and which I saw for the first time in the same two week period in which I saw The Hobbit, rises more and more and more in my estimations the more I think back on it, and I really, really liked The Lord Of The Rings when I saw it.  I still don’t hate The Hobbit, but man I wish Peter Jackson had just moved on from LOTR instead of making a lower-quality facsimile of it.

2] Unbroken

$31,748,000 / $47,341,000 / NEW

Saw this on Friday and ultimately left rather cold.  Its intentions are pure and Jack O’Connell gives another commanding lead performance – now making him 3 for 3 this year – but its structure is a complete mess, any influence The Coen Brothers may have had on the screenplay has been near-totally scrubbed away by endless rewrites that make it more awards-baity and Jolie just doesn’t know when to stop overcooking certain scenes.  Nothing about the film gives me any indication that Jolie was purely aiming for awards with this one, but the finished product seems perennially missing a “For Your Consideration” watermark over 75% of its reels and so nothing truly landed for me.  Shame.

3] Into The Woods

$31,021,000 / $46,105,000 / NEW

Drops here in two weeks, which is a surprisingly quick turn-around for a Disney film, I gotta say.  Still, really looking forward to this; there’s a lot of actors and actresses that I really like in it and I am dying for a musical that’s damn proud of its musical foundations and nature right about now.  Yes, I am still angry about Annie.

4] Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb

$20,600,000 / $55,307,000

Still not an outstanding performance since the film inexplicably cost $127 million to make – and if you’ve actually seen the film, you’ll get why I refuse to believe that figure – but any film that increases its weekend takings by 20% from opening weekend at least deserves a modicum of respect tipped in its direction.

5] Annie

$16,600,000 / $45,835,000

Speaking of Into The Woods, The 2014 Failed Critics Awards results were revealed last week (*plug plug*) and Emily Blunt in Edge Of Tomorrow didn’t even make the shortlist for Best Actress in yet another example of why democracy doesn’t work.  (*flips table in disgust and storms out*)

6] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

$10,000,000 / $306,656,000

Just $26 million away from taking the #1 Domestic Movie of 2014 spot away from Guardians Of The Galaxy.  It’s got a good chance at making it, too, since Tak3n isn’t due out for another two weeks and the general dead zone of January (although it actually doesn’t look that bad this year) means that there’s a large opportunity for it to slowly earn small increments each week in the cinemas that keep it around.  I think this is actually going to be rather close, folks!

7] The Gambler

$9,300,000 / $14,300,000 / NEW

Transformers: Age Of Extinction is still the highest grossing film of the year worldwide by a good margin.  Just thought I’d bring the mood down a little bit.  Thanks for nothing, Mark Wahlberg!

8] The Imitation Game

$7,930,000 / $14,631,000

The wrong Benedict Cumberbatch movie is getting all of the money.  Yes, you damn well perfectly know which film I am talking about.

9] Exodus: Gods And Kings

$6,750,000 / $52,517,000

So, this came out in the UK this past weekend and I was circle-jerked to hell and back.  The Cineworld website said that there were only 3D screenings, but when I got there on Friday they insisted that there were actually 2D screenings, but those ended up overlapping with Unbroken so I pushed Exodus to Saturday instead.  By the time I had finished Unbroken, however, I felt more than a little burnt out when it came to watching movies.  It’s been The Great List Blitz 2014, you see, where I watch a whole bunch of films I missed and re-watch some films that fell out of my memory somewhat over the course of a very cramped couple of weeks to prepare for list-making season, and it had taken its toll on me somewhat.  So I got to thinking, “Do I really want to give over 3 hours of my life to a film I am 95% certain is going to be horrendous tripe?  Big Eyes at least has the potential to be good.”

And, in the end, on that Saturday, I decided that no, I didn’t much fancy giving over 3 hours of my life to Exodus: Gods And Kings.  So I saw Big Eyes and then went home.  And you know what?  I feel great about that!  Now let’s all point and laugh at Exodus one last time before moving on with our lives.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

10] Wild

$5,415,000 / $16,364,000

I suspect that this will experience a resurgence of major proportions when the Academy comes a-calling for Reese Witherspoon, much like what happened when Dallas Buyers Club kept revolving door-ing its way in and out of the list this time last year.  So this is not a farewell, this is a see you tomorrow.  Christ, I just sounded so f*cking pretentious…

Dropped Out: Big Hero 6, Top Five (goddammit, America), P.K., Penguins Of Madagascar (GODDAMMIT, AMERICA!)

Callum Petch got time to kill, got folks to kill, on overkill.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!