Tag Archives: The Imitation Game

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)!

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

The people were rather unmoved by Exodus: Gods And Kings, Top Five thankfully makes the top five, Inherent Vice has the worst opening of anything ever, Wild runs wild on you, brother, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

For those of you keeping track at home, 2014 has only had one faith-based drama that was worth anybody’s time released in its twelve months, despite this sub-genre being strangely thriving this past year.  I am of course referring to Darren Aronofsky’s sublime and surprisingly moving and beautiful Noah, and most certainly not Ridley Scott’s, by all accounts, insipid Exodus: Gods And Kings.  Fortunately, in this instance, it seems that most of the public agreed and, although Exodus is still our new box office #1 by dint of being the first new wide release in two weeks, it reached that summit with only $24.5 million in ticket sales.  Noah, meanwhile and having to follow surprise hit Divergent, opened to $43 million.  VICTORY!!

In more good news, Chris Rock’s Top Five, which by most accounts I’ve heard is something really special, was an out-of-the-box success!  Playing at 979 theatres, with a full-on nationwide release coming soon, the film broke into the top five with wondrous ease, finishing in fourth with $7.2 million in ticket sales and a $7,000 per-screen average.  That’s $1.6 million more than Chris Rock’s last directing gig, 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife, opened with and that film had the luxury of almost double the number of screens that Top Five did!  So, not only did Top Five manage to send Chris Rock back on the interview circuit – seriously, I want him to keep making movies purely so he can keep going around giving interviews like this one and this one – it’s also apparently a really damn great movie and managed to make a fair bit of money!  DOUBLE VICTORY!!

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news, folks.  Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice was released in those five New York and Los Angeles art-house cinemas that all major awards season wannabes have to start off their life in if they want to taken seriously, apparently.  It managed $330,000, which sounds really great, and a per-screen average of $66,000, which is probably more than anybody working for this site or reading this article makes in a year.  But that’s also less than There Will Be Blood and The Master made opening weekends (per-screen in Blood’s case, overall and per-screen in Master’s case), so therefore Inherent Vice is a colossal failure of epic proportions that has ruined the careers of everyone involved.  Sorry Inherent Vice, thanks for trying!

In further limited release news, the Weinstein-backed The Imitation Game – so look for Benedict Cumberbatch to steal the Best Actor awards of whoever we’ve arbitrarily decided as a collective hive mind deserves it this year – continues to rake in the cash like Scrooge McDuck on a hot streak at the casino Blackjack table.  Expanding to 25 screens, the film took $875,000 this weekend for a per-screen average of $35,000, so look for it to crack the full list some point soon.  And finally, before we get down to business, we have Wild, which added 95 more screens this past weekend, cracked the Top 10 and allowed me to make a dreadful Hulk Hogan reference in the headline.  Yay films!


wpid-wp-1418666873280.jpeg

This Full List used to be a visionary, but has spent the past decade phoning it in with boring sh*tty spectacle pieces instead of anything decent.

Box Office Results: Friday 12th December 2014 – Sunday 14th December 2014

1] Exodus: Gods And Kings

$24,500,000 / NEW

Nope, can’t do it.  I can’t get over the fact that they cast white actors to play the roles of Middle East natives.  Especially since the good leads are lightly tanned, whilst the bad leads are made much darker in skin, and that the slaves are still people of colour.  I mean, sweet lord, how f*cking tone deaf do you have to be to not get that?!  We were raking The Last Airbender over the coals for trying to pull this sh*t back in 2010, and you thought that you were honestly going to get away with it now?!  Ridley Scott’s explanation doesn’t help matters, either, as all it does is remind us all of just how broken the Hollywood system is and… well, it’s not like casting recognisable names has helped much at the box office, has it?

2] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$13,200,000 / $277,398,000

This is going to close around $750 million, I’d say.  It’s already at $611 million, it’ll pass The Hunger Games some point in the next week or two, and it shows no real signs of slowing down.  It’ll wrap up lower than Catching Fire’s $865 million worldwide, but it’s definitely going to be, in be within spitting distance of being, the biggest grossing film domestically of 2014 when all is wrapped up.  Does this mean we’re now done calling this a box office disappointment, even though it never was one to begin with?

3] Penguins Of Madagascar

$7,300,000 / $58,839,000

Well, sh*t.  At least I’ll be at the forefront of the “This movie was criminally overlooked at the box office!” brigade in a few years’ time!  Or more likely, considering how quickly we are to label things as underrated and “cult classics” and the like nowadays, two months’ time.

4] Top Five

$7,210,000 / NEW

March 20th.  March 20th.  What did I do to deserve withholding of this level, American film industry?  Huh?  Got a halfway acceptable answer you’d like to share with me or are you withholding that, too?  Look at you, getting off!

5] Big Hero 6

$6,145,000 / $185,325,000

You should see how quickly I sprint out of whatever screen I’m seeing new release movies in when the trailer for this comes on.  I refuse, I completely refuse, to have even one second of this film spoiled for me.  It’s a new Disney film, I am there.  You don’t need to throw jaw-dropping setpieces, trailer-ready quips, Fall Out Boy songs or anything else at me to get me in.  Just, “YO!  DISNEY PUTTING OUT NEW FILM!  IT’S CALLED [X], IT’S OUT [Y]!” and you have my attention.

6] Interstellar

$5,500,000 / $166,800,000

Next week is The Hobbit, so expect this to sink like a stone as Peter Jackson confiscates all of its IMAX screens.  Still, pretty good run, all things considered.  In fact, I find it strange that people keep insisting that the box office has been in a horrendous state of affairs this past year when, week in week out, I keep typing out Total Grosses that stretch into 9 figures for many films featured in this list…

7] Horrible Bosses 2

$4,630,000 / $43,601,000

I don’t really have anything to put here.  Here’s an It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia clip instead.

8] Dumb And Dumber To

$2,757,000 / $82,117,000

This isn’t tracking particularly well overseas.  Still, I do find it rather comforting that the only people who were crying out for a Dumb And Dumber sequel 20 years later are apparently all contained on one mass of land.  Good to know the crazy is bottled up, kept from being spread, and not in control of anything particularly important.

9] The Theory Of Everything

$2,525,000 / $17,148,000

Adds 394 screens, to cross the 1,000 screen mark, makes less money than the week before.  Maybe this signals the upcoming slide out of my goddamn chart!  It’s all going to be OK, folks!  It’s all going to be OK.

10] Wild

$1,550,000 / $2,423,000

The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson, following on from her piece this past Summer about The Trinity Effect (which I referenced in this week’s DreamWorks Retrospective entry, *plugplug*), wrote an excellent piece last Monday about how the new breed of genuinely strong female characters are those that are relatively weak.  You should go and read it.  Like, right now.  Don’t worry about missing anything, we’re done here for the week.

Dropped Out: Gone Girl, The Pyramid, Birdman

Callum Petch has the microphone but you can sing it as well!  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 5/12/14 – 7/12/14

Self-fulfilling prophecy comes true as nothing really makes money or switches places since nothing came out, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Well.  Hello, there.  Welcome to the Box Office Report, I guess.  How are you doing?  Not too bad?  That’s good to hear.  Call your parents recently?  See any movies this past weekend?  No?  Yeah, well, that’s you and everybody else, don’t fret.  Post-Thanksgiving weekend is a dead zone according to studios, so nobody ever releases anything that weekend.  Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you ask me, but that’s how it is.  Also means that nothing happened in the chart this week, which makes writing up this report rather pointless.  I, however, have nothing better to do, so let’s see what scraps we can work with instead, eh?

Ooh, there were two new releases this past weekend!  First off we have The Pyramid, a dreadful looking and barely marketed horror movie crapped out at the beginning of December because it’s not like there’s any better weekend for it.  Dumped into 589 screens to die a painful death, it did meh-y, raking in $1.3 million for ninth place and a $2,292 per-screen average.  Second off we have Wild, an adaptation of the memoir of the same name about a woman who did a solo 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail in order to better herself as a human being and deal with her traumatic life beforehand.  Notice how I didn’t make any jokes, there?  I am capable of compassion!  Anyways, opening on 21 screens, the Reese Witherspoon-starring, Nick Hornby-adapted, Jean-Marc Vallee-directed awards season contender managed a very great $630,000 and a per-screen average of $30,000.

In expanding news, The Imitation Game doubled its screens to 8 and managed another $402,000 for a per-screen average of $50,250.  The Homesman jumped up a good 104 screens to 154 total and banked a good $501,000 for the weekend, although its per-screen average was a decidedly not-good $3,253.  The Babadook, meanwhile, terrified 19 new screens, bringing its total up to 22 and a weekend haul of $66,600.  I will refrain from making the obvious hack joke to instead sadly inform you that the thing’s per-screen average is still only $3,027, which at least is slightly more than The Pyramid’s if nothing else.

And… yeah, that’s about it.  Everything else that’s worth mentioning is located in the Top 10 and I don’t much fancy blowing my material all early.  Also, Penguins Of Madagascar collapsed 56% between weekends and is now pretty much guaranteed not to cross $100 million.  That is really bad news for both DreamWorks as a whole – Christ, even Mr. Peabody & Sherman crossed $100 mil domestic and that was their lowest non-Antz CG earner ever – and for the movie – which is one of the absolute best animated films released this year.  For f*ckssake, America, can’t you at least try making decent animated movies successful!?  If this ends up finishing lower than The Nut Job domestically, then I am going to take out a vendetta on the lot of you.  First The Boxtrolls, then The Book Of Life, now this!  When will the bad public film-skipping choices end?!


the pyramid

This Full List…  Nope, I got no particularly great puns for this week.  Such is the state of the chart.  Let’s just get on with it.

Box Office Results: Friday 5th December 2014 – Sunday 7th December 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$21,600,000 / $257,700,000

I have actually had a desire to go and see this again recently.  A real full-on, “I should find time to go and see this again” desire.  Consider me completely amazed at this development.  Of course, I’m not sure how much of that is just down to that “Hanging Tree” song randomly worming its way into my brain at every opportunity, but it’s there none the less.  I’m referring to both the desire and the song.  “Are you, are you…”

2] Penguins Of Madagascar

$11,100,000 / $49,591,000

Saw it first thing on Friday, finished the review the same day, was posted on Saturday, obviously.  I loved this movie and need to find the time to go and see it again.  Seriously, I haven’t had this much pure fun in a cinema since Lucy, which doesn’t sound like that long but one needs to remember that fun has been in rather short supply this past year in film, so a film that is pure fun is going to get a very high grade from yours truly.  Also, my heart went all fuzzy and warm whenever something nice happened to Private and I liked that feeling.

3] Horrible Bosses 2

$8,600,000 / $36,075,000

A pretty strong hold – only a 44% drop – which doesn’t sound too bad until one remembers that the film opened to $15 million and that this thing will be very lucky if it crosses $60 million.  Ah, well, least everybody realised they could just stay home and watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on Netflix instead!  I call that a win!

4] Big Hero 6

$8,130,000 / $177,548,000

My local Cineworld now has a big inflatable Baymax stood up in some out-of-reach corner of the lobby to advertise this film and it is so freakin’ adorable!  I just want to take it home with me, install it in the corner of my uni apartment and give it hugs whenever I feel close to down!

5] Interstellar

$8,000,000 / $158,657,000

It’s within spitting distance of $600 mil overall, with China and South Korea going wild for the thing, so I think it’s safe to say that Christopher Nolan’s box office rep isn’t going to take that big of a hit after this is all said and done.  Weirdly, in real life, most everybody I’ve talked to loves the heck out of this movie and my “Eeeehhhh” keeps getting misconstrued as pure outright hate for the thing.  It’s weird, what did I not get when I saw the film?

6] Dumb And Dumber To

$4,169,000 / $78,081,000

Only one more weekend left to go until I get to join in with everyone’s strangely high disappointment to this thing!  I mean, it’s a 20 years’ late sequel to a comedy film, The Farrelly Brothers haven’t made anything worthwhile in over a decade, Peter Farrelly helped mastermind Movie 43… and you actually thought this was going to be good?  That’s just wilful ignorance, is what that is.

7] The Theory Of Everything

$2,688,000 / $13,613,000

…  …  …  …  …  That’s how little I care about this thing.

8] Gone Girl

$1,500,000 / $162,861,000

If you had told me back in September that Gone Girl would be one of the year’s most successful films financially and would even make it to double digits on the “Weeks In The Top 10” counter, I genuinely would not have believed you.  Yet, that is the world we live in because sometimes, just sometimes, good and just things occur.  If it makes it to 11 weeks, I will be utterly astounded but I don’t think it will.  Thanks for everything, Gone Girl!  Sorry about Life Itself stealing the “My Favourite Film Of The Year” title from you!

9] The Pyramid

$1,350,000 / NEW

Well, that looks like yet another indistinguishable crappy horror movie crapped out for a quick buck!  Guess we’ll just mov…  wait…  is that James Buckley?!  Is that…  no!  No!  Jay from The Inbetweeners is not in this thing!  He can’t be!  He jus…  WHAT?!

10] Birdman

$1,150,000 / $18,919,000

It’s going to be between this and Boyhood for all Best Picture awards this season, isn’t it?  Brilliant.  I look forward to seeing Birdman, disliking it immensely and therefore just not giving a shit about all award bodies this coming January and February!  I kid, of course; I really want Birdman to be good and I’ve got a good feeling about it!  I just really, really, really, really dislike Boyhood and the fact that it’s guaranteed all of the awards forever irritates the living hell out of me.  I really want to be proven wrong on this, but we all know what award bodies are like.

Dropped Out: St. Vincent (which was fantastic, by the by)

Callum Petch (*crushing guitar riff*).  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: 28/11/14 – 30/11/14

Mockingjay insults the rest of the chart, Penguins Of Madagascar smile and wave goodbye to a lot of money, nobody particularly like Horrible Bosses now, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This past weekend, Americans were witness to a dystopian future.  One with barely restrained tensions, majorly unfair financial differences, and a complete lack of fairness and generosity.  These disparate groups would congregate under one roof to try and make it through proceedings in a civilised fashion, until one side insulted Peeta at which point all bets were off.  Proceedings were violent, conflicts escalated, both sides exited wondering who had really won that round, filled with feelings of unsatisfaction, like the resolution had been postponed for another year or something.  But enough about Thanksgiving with your family.  At the box office, much like my joke construction, The Hunger Games repeated its Thanksgiving first place status to diminishing returns with Mockingjay, Part 1 taking home $56 million this year.  Expect history to repeat itself next year and for me to basically copy-paste this dreadfully unfunny paragraph again in the hopes that you won’t notice.

It’s not like Mockingjay, Part 1 had much in the way of competition, though.  Continuing an absolutely dismal year for DreamWorks Animation, Penguins Of Madagascar decidedly underwhelmed in its opening weekend.  Even with the 5-Day Thanksgiving bump, it could only manage $36 million.  Without it, that’s $25 million over the weekend which, for a spin-off of one of the few remaining cash-cows that DreamWorks has and as promoted to hell and back as this film has been, is dismal.  The one saving grace for the film is that Annie and Night At The Museum 3 aren’t out for another 3 weeks, so there’s still a chance that it can make up some of that cash before it gets dogpiled.  I’m sorry, you were expecting snark?  Nope, no snark here, this news genuinely bums me out and has me majorly worried considering the position DreamWorks is in right now.

Still, could be worse.  You could be Horrible Bosses 2.  Yes, the widely-trashed comedy sequel that quite literally nobody was ever asking for didn’t do so hot.  Over the five-day weekend, it barely reached $23 million and over three days it could only make $15.7 million for fifth place.  Yeah, safe to say we are all being spared from Horrible Bosses 3: The Final Chapter, Part 1.  What we are unfortunately not being spared from, however, is The Theory Of Everything which went nationwide this past weekend and managed to bank $5 million from 800-odd screens.  If Eddie Redmayne takes the Best Actor Oscar from Dan Stevens in The Guest (or Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler), then tables will be flipped.  Just warning you Academy; you don’t want no part of this shit.

In more limited release news, The Imitation Game finally reached American shores this weekend and the typical Weinstein push ensured a very solid opening.  $482,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $120,500, putting it only behind The Grand Budapest Hotel in Best Limited Release Openings of 2014, is most definitely more than “very solid”.  One can only imagine how the latter film would have done if it had a legion of Benedict Cumberbatch fangirls and fanboys filling the back rows with their…  Yeah, OK, I’m just going to move on.  Foxcatcher added another 48 theatres to its run and broke past $1 million, meaning we should see it in the Top 10 soon enough.  The Babadook, meanwhile, finally got a release in America and it did OK: $27,000 from 3 theatres for a per-screen average of You Do The Math.  In other words, it’s The Guest all over again.  Goddammit.


hunger games

This Full List is gonna take ya riiii-ght in-to the DANGER ZONE!!

Box Office Results: Friday 28th November 2014 – Sunday 30th November 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$56,875,000 / $225,693,000

Have you heard the CHVRCHES track from the Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack, yet?  If not, go do so immediately!  It is SO GOOD!  Like, “this could’ve gone on their debut album” good, and The Bones Of What You Believe is a bloody damn good album!  In fact, from what I’ve experienced of the soundtracks to all three films so far, everybody brings their A-game when they’re called upon for a track.  Nobody coasts.  I love that about them.  Think it’s time I took the plunge and bought the lot.

2] Penguins Of Madagascar

$25,800,000 / $36,000,000 / NEW

Friday.  It’s out here Friday, I am seeing it first thing Friday, I will not go to bed that day until there is a review ready to run on Saturday.  I’m genuinely really excited for this.  In the meanwhile, the DreamWorks! A Retrospective archive is here.  Go amuse yourself and make me feel like I haven’t wasted 5 months of my life.

3] Big Hero 6

$18,770,000 / $167,209,000

Only a 7% drop between weekends, which is pretty darn astou-WHY IS THIS MOVIE NOT IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW?!!  IT’S NOT FAIR!!  (*proceeds to have a mini-breakdown*)

4] Interstellar

$15,800,000 / $147,090,000

I would really like to go and see this again on the big screen for a second try, especially since I’m still not 100% solid on my opinions on it.  However, six films are coming out this week in the UK and I have way too much work to do to find time to see it again.  Plus, I have to give up a good 15 hours of my life to The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit in the next 11 days.  I genuinely don’t have the time.

5] Horrible Bosses 2

$15,700,000 / $23,010,000 / NEW

Saw it on Friday and I’ll see if I can find time to get a review out – I’m currently working on one for Paddington in between essay work, DreamWorks work, other articles, and social commitments so this will more than likely fall by the wayside – but the skinny is this: I laughed a good consistent amount, but it is still an utterly pointless sequel and it drops the ball and crosses the line on the Julia stuff spectacularly.  Think of it as the American equivalent of The Inbetweeners 2 and you’re about there.  If you have nothing better to do or just want to get some easy laughs for 100-odd minutes, this is fine but it’s still ultimately pointless.

6] Dumb And Dumber To

$8,295,000 / $72,205,000

So… Jim Carrey’s not making a full-on box office comeback, is he?  (*dejected sigh*)

7] The Theory Of Everything

$5,082,000 / $9,604,000

Still refuse to believe that this is anything other than dreadfully mediocre slop.  Still can’t be proven right or wrong until New Year’s Day.  Still going to bitch and moan about its existence until then.

8] Gone Girl

$2,470,000 / $160,557,000

I was going to say that we must bid adieu to Gone Girl, but then I looked at the release schedule for next week and saw that nothing at all is coming out.  Wild is only in 5 theatres, and The Pyramid is being sent to die on 550 screens, like Fox have been reading the signs with regards to Horror films at the box office this past year or something.  So, we’ve got one more week before this inexplicably long-lasting flick finally drops out.  Seriously, I love this film to death and I have absolutely no idea how it has managed to make over $330 million worldwide.

9] Birdman

$1,880,000 / $17,237,400

“Dayman, AAAHHHHH!!  Fighter of the Nightman!  AAAHHHH!!  Champion of the sun!  AAAHHHH!!  You’re a master of karate and friendship for everyone, Dayman!”

10] St. Vincent

$1,773,000 / $39,327,000

So maybe it won’t have the courtesy to stick around for its UK release after all.  That sounds very much like Bill Murray.  Always leaving the parties that he crashes before I have the chance to book the plane ticket to take me there!  That prankster!  Of course, this joke only works if I actually went to parties and nobody ever invites me to theirs because I’m… I’m… (*breaks down sobbing*)

Dropped Out: Beyond The Lights, Fury

Callum Petch will hold up to an idea.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Lorraine in the Membrane

imitation gameThis week the Failed Critics join the Scottish BAFTA’s in paying homage to Lorraine Kelly, review new releases The Imitation Game and The Drop as well as having a look at the latest series of The Walking Dead and expose David Attenborough.

There was even time for Carole to review Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine; for Owen to review the documentary An Honest Liar; and for Steve to give us a run down of which bears are better than Paddington.

Join us next week for the new release, the first part of the last part of The Hunger Games films.

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The Imitation Game

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_9yxhgb0px7kgc8cc40ogcowkg_1280Benedict Cumberbatch plays an eccentric, lonely, possibly autistic genius who uses his gifts to help people who he looks down upon, save only for a companion who serves as his foil and link to the outside world.  Remarkably though, it’s not Sherlock, but a real-life hero, whose contribution to the Allies winning World War II and his subsequent life are a rich enough vein of drama without the need for embellishment.

As I’m sure you all know, Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who succeeds in academia but is severely lacking in social skills.  His Manchester dwelling has been ransacked, and he’s sitting in a police station talking to an officer (Rory Kinnear) who is wondering why nothing was taken during the burglary.  Turing starts to talk – he was recruited by Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) to help break Enigma, the machine which encoded all German messages sent over the air during the second World War.  It’s seemingly unbreakable, Turing says during their first meeting.  “Let me try, and we’ll know for sure”, he proffers.  The film jumps back and forth between wartime and 1952, as the police gradually become more interested in this eccentric figure, and the secrets he holds.

Although there is obviously a heavy focus on the actual codebreaking, it’s done in such a way that even the most techno-illiterate will be able to keep up.  Even more impressively, it is always rooted in what’s at stake – the human cost of the Bletchley Park team’s failure to crack Enigma is constantly driven home, even to the seemingly unfeeling Turing, who develops a human side once a recruitment drive sees Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) arrive.  She is of a similar intellect, but with added social skills, and she helps him falteringly take his first steps into becoming part of a team that she is excluded from by default because of her gender.  Even though he has made progress, Turing is excluded from society as a whole; he was later, of course, one of the most famous gay men to be prosecuted for gross indecency at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK.  This secret threatens his livelihood, and Cumberbatch plays the part well as a man living inside a disguise which is barely passable.

The supporting cast is also excellent – Charles Dance is a suitably venerable war commander, while Mark Strong shows a rare lightness of touch as MI6 contact Stewart Menzies.  The Bletchley Park team are excellent – the scene where they crack Enigma, only to realise they can’t do anything with the information they now possess, is engrossing and well-acted.

This is a funny, sad, smart, gripping film which will leave you thinking well after you exit the cinema, if only about how far back we as a civilisation were set back by our own prejudices and ignorance.  In a season full of stand-out films so far, The Imitation Game definitely deserves to be in the mix come awards time.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 Preview

It’s that time of year again – the bathroom light has to go on in the morning, loads of good American TV shows start again, and Christmas tat is starting to appear in the shops. Yes, autumn is on the way, and with it comes the 58th London Film Festival.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

lff14My initial reaction to this year’s line-up – once I had grumbled about the member’s launch being a day later than the press launch, rendering it invalid for the most part – was how many big names are missing. No room for The Theory of Everything, St Vincent (the film, not the singer), or The Equalizer; all making their Toronto debuts this week. But scratching beneath the surface yields some treasure.

First up, let’s deal with the obvious contenders. I am looking forward to Foxcatcher very much – directed by Bennett Miller of Capote and Moneyball, the film stars Steve Carrell in a rare serious role alongside Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Loosely based on a true story, the film follows the struggle between two wrestling champion brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) which takes a sinister turn with the arrival of a mysterious benefactor (Carrell). Foxcatcher received stellar notices when it premiered in Cannes earlier this year and has also been prominently mentioned in early Oscar buzz. Other big hitters include The Imitation Game, the long-awaited Alan Turing biopic which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the tortured mathematical genius, and Fury, a World War 2 film from David Ayer (End of Watch) starring Brad Pitt. These open and close the festival respectively, and will be shown at cinemas across the country in tandem with their gala screenings. Mr Turner features an already award-winning performance by Timothy Spall as the titular JMW Turner, and LFF also hosts the directorial debut of Jon Stewart – Rosewater is the story of an Iranian journalist covering the country’s political unrest in 2009 who gets on the wrong side of the establishment.

Gala screenings I am looking forward to include The Salvation, a Danish western (!) starring Mads Mikkelsen and, bizarrely, Eric Cantona; Whiplash, a story about the relationship between a musical prodigy and his virtuoso teacher which is audaciously structured like a thriller; and The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, a wuxia starring Fan Bingbing as a witch fighting to free people from tyranny during the end of the Ming Dynasty.

the immitation game

In the official competition, the film that stands out is Dearest – the story of a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son goes missing. One of the most eagerly anticipated films in the first feature competition is ’71, set in the streets of Belfast during the titular year and starring Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) as a wet behind the ears squaddie dispatched to keep the peace.

The documentary strand has yielded some interesting prospects. There are familiar subjects in Hockey: A Life in Pictures, National Gallery, and The Possibilities Are Endless (the story of Edwyn Collins after his stroke), and a step into the unknown with In The Basement – a film about what Austrians do – yes! – in their basements. The love strand has one particular film of interest to me – Love is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple forced to leave their apartment separately. This film has gathered some notoriety in the States for being rated R for no apparent reason, apart from its central relationship being a homosexual one.night bus

1001 Grams is an intriguing-looking slice of dark humour, and Night Bus explores the sometimes intimate, sometimes scary, but always intriguing world of the London night bus (shout out to route N1). A Hard Day is described as a neo-noir slice of Korean cinema, following a policeman who is having a really bad day. The follow-up to Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent, had more creatures in the trailer than in the whole of the previous film put together, so that bodes well. There are also restored classic films scattered throughout the programme, from Orwell’s Animal Farm to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Guys and Dolls. And of course, the legendary shorts programmes are back, spanning all strands and giving you plenty of bang for your buck.

So although at first glance the line-up looks a bit light, a proper dissection of the schedule reveals that there is something for everyone here. The beauty of LFF has always lain in taking a chance and seeing something you would never normally buy a ticket for. I think this year will see a return to that essence for many people.

We will of course be bringing you reviews and diary entries during the festival itself, so don’t forget to check back between 8-19 October 2014 for more articles! You can find a full line up of what’s showing at the LFF 2014 on the BFI website.