Tag Archives: Whiplash

The Best Picture Winners That Never Were – Part 2 (1991 – 2015)

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“Now are you a rusher? Or are you a dragger?”

Yup, the Oscars are almost here. The annual celebration of people doing their job very well when they’re paid hundreds of thousands of times more than you and me do for our nine-to-fives. Basically, it’s Hollywood’s Employee of the Month award with an almost ironclad guarantee that winners will go on to do something bloody awful afterwards – I’m looking at you, Halle Berry and I’m DEFINITELY not looking at Swordfish.

So what do you say? Shall we continue my list of missed opportunities and wrong decisions? I promise to be a little less controversial than I was in the first part and hopefully, hopefully, you’ll agree with some of my choices. Only one way to find out.


1994 – Pulp Fiction

The first of a 1994 double bill that lost out to the bloody terrible Forrest Gump. Yeah, I know, I’ve probably lost you already, but hear me out. My dislike for Tom Hanks aside, I simply don’t like Gump and his stupid face. The whole film just bugs me, and the fact that it has beaten a bonafide classic like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is just unforgivable.

The intertwined stories of gangsters, everyday criminals and Joe average that blurs the lines between good guys and bad is one of the most amazing films dedicated to celluloid. To spend the two and a half hour running-time with these characters is to spend a tenth of your day with some of the most brilliantly written characters in the history of film.

Between this, and the next film in my list, there’s no way on God’s green earth that anyone, ANYONE, can tell me that they think the escapades of Mr. Gump deserves that Oscar.


1994 – The Shawshank Redemption

Yeah, believe it or not, the Forrest Chump beat this to the Oscar too. Based on a Stephen King short story and current, almost permanent, number one on the IMDB top 250 (Pulp Fiction is 5, while Hanks’ statue thief sits at 13), Shawshank is regarded by many as the greatest film is ever made.

Frank Darabont makes his feature film debut and gets his name known around the world with what is easily the best prison drama put to film. Featuring Tim Robbins and an Oscar nominated performance from Morgan Freeman as a pair of unlikely friends working through years behind bars with each other. With escape constantly on the mind of Robbins’ innocent Andy Dufresne and Freeman’s “Red” living with the desire to just play out his time in peace and quiet; Shawshank is maybe the only film that could beat Tarantino’s Classic to the finishing line if quality of film was actually the standard used for handing out these awards.


1997 – Good Will Hunting

Genuinely, I think this is a no-brainer. Forget the star power of writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting is a truly original film. The story of Damon’s Will Hunting who, with the help and guidance from his court appointed psychologist (Robin Williams) learns to find his identity in a world where he can solve almost any problem, but can’t seem to shift his own personal demons.

Compare that to the film that won the Oscar that year? A film about a giant sinking boat. And while Titanic may be a visually impressive film to watch, the fact that it’s a love story, based on an unsinkable boat that sank, where the happy ever after was one of the lovers freezing to death in the water while the other clung to a lump of wood to survive? No thanks. Utter guff. And again, no staying power. All these years later, Titanic looks like a CGI laden mess, Good Will Hunting can still draw you in with its fantastic drama.


2011 – Moneyball

Definitely more of a personal opinion for this one than a flat out obvious mistake on the Academy’s part. Based on Michael Lewis’ book, The art of winning an unfair game, this Brad Pitt starring drama lost out to The Artist. Now, I enjoyed The Artist; it was a well made film that, considering what it was, kept me riveted the entire time it was on. But in my opinion, it was a flash in the pan and on second viewing isn’t half as good.

Moneyball earned a handful of nomination in 2011, including acting nods for its star and, much to everyone’s surprise, Jonah Hill. The film takes the mundane behind the scenes stuff of pre-season baseball and makes it a thrilling, interesting, drama that has you hooked early on and doesn’t let go. Its author hits his third adaptation to get a nomination for best film this year with The Big Short (the frankly amazing The Blind Side as also nominated in 2009 but lost, quite rightly, to The Hurt Locker) and honestly, this should have been his first win.


2015 – Whiplash

Now, I know I’m gonna get shit for is one, and that’s ok. There was absolutely nothing wrong with last year’s winner, the brilliant Birdman was deserving of its statue. And even when watching it again, it’s just as good; well acted, brilliantly directed and with a very cool improvised jazz score I would gladly have The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance in my collection.

But it didn’t do one thing that Whiplash did. Not only did the film completely blow me away, but the story of the young jazz drummer going up against his abusive band leader and trying to come out on top left me walking out of the cinema in a state that I can only describe as shell shocked. It’s a state I’ve been in several times after watching this amazing spectacle of a film. Every rewatch leaves me exhausted and at the same time begging for more. The only other film to do that recently is 2016 best pic nominee Mad Max: Fury Road. And only time will tell us if whatever beats it has the staying power that both of these films have.


That’s me done. For this year at least. What did you think? Do you agree with my choices? Think I’m a complete imbecile for hating Titanic and Forrest Gump? Do feel free to let me know. There’s nothing I like more than a good argument over great films!

The Best of 2015

You may remember that a few of us here at Failed Critics got together back in July to tell you which five films were topping our list at the midway point through the year. Mad Max: Fury Road appeared to be doing well in the first half of 2015, whereas United Passions had sufficiently pissed off more than one of us to be the most (least?) popular “worst” film of the year.

It occurred to me the other day: How can I keep insisting that you vote in the Failed Critics Awards this year without letting you know how we will be voting?

Therefore, to follow up on July’s article, I caught up with everyone to find out if their top five films have changed at all since then. The short answer is that for most who contributed, not much is different.

Paul's previous top 5 films of 2015
Paul’s top 5 films of 2015 hasn’t changed since July

In fact, Paul Field, not usually one to mince his words, said 2015 had been an “absolute shit house year so far”. Well, quite!

He added: “The Hateful Eight not landing til January, Kill Your Friends disappeared whilst I was on holiday. Fucking shambles.”

There was only one film to break into Paul’s list – and that was a test screening for an incomplete movie (The Comedians Guide to Survival) that isn’t even due out until next year.

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Matt’s top 5 films of the year from back in July

Matt Lambourne concurred with Paul’s comments about 2015 being a “baron year since Mad Max“. Although he did make a few amendments to his previous list (right) when submitting his votes in the end of year awards.

That’s with the proviso, of course, that he can make amendments should Star Wars turn out to be any good.

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Steve stands by his choices – until Star Wars comes out at least

Even podcast host Steve Norman was pretty much in agreement. “Ask me again on Thursday,” he said in reply to my question. Once Star Wars Episode VII finally comes out, it could make a huge different to everyone’s lists.

But Matt seemed confident that our most prolific writer, Andrew Brooker, could “come up with the goods”. Indeed, he is the first to make significant changes to his previous top 5, whilst acknowledging that picking a film from the back half of the year was a tough prospect.

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Brooker’s previous top 5 films

“I’ve seen a lot of old guff the last few months and rarely have I seen anything worth cheering about,” he said, before revealing that Kill Your Friends was a film that ticked all of his boxes.

Describing it as dark, politically incorrect and beautifully acted movie, he emphasised that “it’s really funny and, it’s worth mentioning again, it’s so very dark”. Brooker doesn’t leave us in much doubt about it being one of his films of the year. Take a look at his review below to see why:

The tale of Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), quite literally murdering his way through the mid-90’s British music industry, whose celluloid inspirations of films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels oozes from the screen and makes for an amazing hour and a half.  Ok, so it maybe works a little too hard to be offensive, but its source material does the same and it’s that very point that makes it my top film of the last six months. In a day and age where we work so hard to not offend every beautiful and unique snowflake in the world, the brash and brazen way that Kill Your Friends just screams “Fuck you!” at all those people makes it a wonderfully crafted thing of beauty. 

And man, what an amazing soundtrack.

Brooker isn’t the only one of our contributors to make changes to his summer choices. Our resident self-described “hopeless, old-fashioned romantic at heart”, Callum Petch, also finally found the true romance that has been sorely lacking from the cinema for him for a while.

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Callum’s original top 5 choices

He said: “For some utterly bizarre reason, the idea of falling in love with a literal Nazi doesn’t set my heart all aflutter.

“Much like the part in a romantic comedy where the idealistic female lead is about to give up on ever finding real love, in walked Carol to prove that romance isn’t dead after all.”

Having described Carol as the “perfect movie” recently on our podcast, the least we could do was to get Callum to update us in writing on why it’s made such an impact on him:

A film that actually takes the time to build its romance, that imbues the clichés and hallmarks of the romantic drama with genuine life, passion and sincerity, that places great emphasis on physical contact so that every touch carries genuine weight, where the sexual tension is not just palpable but is practically a main character in its own right, impeccably acted by its two leads (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett), and capable of knifing the viewer in the heart without ever becoming miserable (its ending is one of the most beautiful that I have experienced in a long time). Carol is absolutely the best film of 2015, too perfect to do proper justice to in just 238 words, and I had to take 20 minutes to compose myself in the toilets afterwards to ensure I wouldn’t burst into tears again.

I guess the only person left to share their opinion is.. well.. me.

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Owen’s final vote may look entirely different to his July picks

Whilst I’m fairly certain that when it comes to sending in my own votes for the FC Awards, I’ll omit documentaries and put them into the separate category, I’m still not budging from my top choice. In the upcoming Christmas Special podcast that you can catch next week, I defend choosing Birdman even further. Until then, I’ll have to point out one glaring omission in my original list.

Of those who have already taken the time to tell us what their top 10 films of 2015 are, there are two films consistently placing highly. Predictably, Mad Max is up there, just like it is in our own lists – as is the stunning US drama, Whiplash, which really should have been on my list the first time around.

Whiplash was originally released in the US in 2014, yet didn’t make it to these shores until January. Therefore I feel fully justified in rectifying my list as it is easily one of the best movies of the year. Here’s why:

Back in February, ahead of the Oscars, I put together a short 7 minute preview of Whiplash for Tony Black’s former podcast, Black Hole Cinema [pre-edited audio]. In it, I doubted director Damien Chazelle’s chances of winning too many awards this year, but that it would be a travesty if JK Simmons didn’t pick up a deserving Best Supporting Actor gong. His intense, terrifying and fierce performance as the violently obsessive music maestro, Terence Fletcher, is scarily good. All of his obscene tirades (of which there are plenty) at the ambitious young jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) – and student of the fictional academy, the Shaffer Conservatory – left me quaking in my boots! I don’t think I’ve been quite as close to the edge of my seat as I was during the scenes climactic few moments in any other movie all year. It’s strangely ironic that a film all about performance exceeding art, often ends up being praised a lot for its actors’ performance, but until you see it for yourself, it’s difficult to convey just how impressive they really are.

With our updated selection, picking out the films that we will be voting for before the deadline on Sunday 27th December, hopefully it will give you some inspiration before deciding on your final top 10.

When you’re happy with your choices, just click here to go straight to the submission page and vote in the Failed Critics Awards 2015.

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.

Failed Critics Podcast: Rushers / Draggers

american sniperWelcome to the Failed Critics podcast. Keeping to Steve & Owen’s tempo this week are two more guests!

Returning for his first appearance since the end of year awards episode is James Diamond, ready to demolish you with his reviews of Whiplash and all things Luc Besson. Joining James is horror-fanatic and best mates with ‘Scream Queen’ Jessica Cameron; it’s Mike Shawcross finally making his long overdue debut with American Sniper, Testament of Youth and 80’s b-movie creature feature Alligator in his sights.

Among a hefty discussion on the Academy Awards and Razzie nominations, Owen explains why not even Steven Soderbergh puts giant space baby in the corner* with his cut of 2001: A Space Odyssey, whilst Steve struggles to get his head around the popularity of Disney’s mammoth hit, Frozen. Let it go, Steve! Let it goooo…

Join us next week for reviews of Mortdecai, Ex Machina and Kingsman!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

*credit to @naanbab for the (quite frankly amazing) pun

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)!

Whiplash

Loud, intense and extremely bold – and that’s just J.K. Simmons! Whiplash is as good as (if not better than) you have no doubt already heard it is.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

whiplash 2Yesterday, the 55 films up for multiple and/or individual Oscar’s at the 87th Academy Awards were announced. There were plenty of notable absentees:  there was no sign of Nightcrawler, Gone Girl or Mr Turner for best picture;  Failed Critics Award winner Jake Gyllenhaal was snubbed for a best actor award;  everything wasn’t awesome for The Lego Movie as it was missing from the animated movies category;  remarkably there was no best editing nomination for Birdman;  and there were no nominations for Under The Skin for, well, any category at all.

As happens each and every year these days – and will no doubt happen again when the winners are finally announced in February – the actual candidates selected caused a proverbial shitstorm on Twitter. However, of all those to miss out in some way, if writer and director Damien Chazelle’s first feature film for five years (and only his second overall) were to have missed out on a best picture nomination, we may well have had a full blown cyber-riot on our hands. Whatever a cyber-riot may be.

In fact, Whiplash has, in total, received five nominations this year. It’s competing for:  Best Motion Picture of the Year;  Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (JK Simmons);  Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Damien Chazelle);  Best Achievement in Editing (Tom Cross);  and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley)). Each and every one 100% deserved.

Adapted from Chazelle’s own Sundance Film Festival 2013 award winning short film of the same name, Whiplash actually received its first full screening exactly one year ago today at the 2014 incarnation of the same festival. It won both the Audience Award and the coveted Grand Jury Prize for being a “film of uncommon skill that showcases two compelling characters and pulses to a dazzling and irresistible beat.” A line that I’m finding incredibly difficult to disagree with. It has since gone on to be nominated for or an uncountable* number of other awards.

*as in, I couldn’t be bothered to count them, but you can see them all listed on Wikipedia.

Loosely based on Chazelle’s own personal experiences, it stars rising actor Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, a talented aspiring jazz drummer studying at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory. Not content with simply being great, he dreams of becoming one of the greats and is prepared to sweat, cry and bleed all over his snare and cymbals in order to achieve this. J.K. Simmons, reprising his role as Terence Fletcher, the fictional New York music academy’s most revered conductor, recognises the raw talent in Neiman and invites him to be his new drum alternate. Abused (both verbally and physically) in front of the class by his new mentor, Neiman learns at his own expense that nothing less than exceptional will be accepted by Fletcher.

And so begins approximately 90 minutes of some of the most intense acting you’ll see all year. Simmons absolutely batters you with his performance, much like Fletcher’s approach to training his students. A barrage of expletives and belittlements are spat out of the screen with such ferocity and twisted humour that you can almost smell the beads of sweat trickling out of poor old Neiman as he is intimidated by the tight black shirted and imposing maestro.

It’s also a character steeped in controversy. The insults are not limited to obscure jazz musical references that fly over the head of the uneducated audience. An abject smattering of homophobic slurs bruise the keen protégé’s ego as much as the chair flung at him during his first proper band session would have had it connected. It’s been argued that the use of such derogatory language was unnecessary; that the point could still have been made without the repetition of particular phrases. Especially as a number of professional musicians have been in the news recently dismissing the film’s portrayal of music teachers as inaccurate. Drummer Billy Brown states in The Guardian this week:

“There are purists who think there’s only one way to play jazz. None of them are as militant as Whiplash’s tyrannical band leader, Terence Fletcher, though.”

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2015/jan/16/drummer-billy-brown-whiplash-review

And this is the thing. It’s less about the precise language that Fletcher uses. It’s not even about the tempo that the perfectionist bangs on about. It’s about forcing Neiman to be even better than the absolute best that he physically can be, pushing beyond his limitations of what’s achievable to meet what is wanted. Much the same way an army drill sergeant would break down a soldier to his core before building him back up, step by step, or drum beat by drum beat. Whatever the character of Fletcher is literally saying during the practice sessions most of the film takes place during is less important than the observable method he’s using.

But the film is not just about one man and his violently obsessive teaching methods. It’s about art and exceeding mere performance. It’s about the pitfalls and glory that can all come with committing your life to a passion in the hope of achieving a recognised greatness. Above all else, the film is about music – and the inspiration, joy and the pain it can bring with it. The open and rhetorical question is asked; to what cost do you value your ambition?

I’ll just put this out here right now. I hate jazz. It’s a musician’s music and though I can play a few instruments (badly), I just don’t get it. To this philistine’s ear, it sounds like a bunch of individually impressive musician’s each playing their own tune all out of sync with each other, resulting in a mess of noise. I appreciate just how much skill, dedication, practice and immense talent it takes to be a good jazz musician, and that it’s more about achieving a high art than perhaps any other form of music. The transcendence from air flowing through a metal tube to an unquantifiable uniqueness above playing a toe-tappingly good song. But please, don’t play it around me. The fact that I could not only stand it during Whiplash, but outright loved listening to this incredible music and have gone on to spend most of the morning listening to clips of drumming on YouTube, it highlights just how much of an achievement Whiplash is. At least, to me. On a personal level.

Another achievement of course is the fact that Miles Teller is actually playing those drums. Yes, believe it or not, that isn’t a CGI’d Teller or a 40-year old stand-in wearing a badly fitting toupée. Who’d have thunk it? There is, however, a reliance on some clever editing to make it appear as though Teller is playing most of these tracks in one go. As talented as he may be – and as dedicated to his role as he was to spend so long in a drumming-boot-camp – he isn’t. Or, rather, the thundering drum solo for which the film will most definitely become famous was not all done in one take. In fact, just that single sequence took two days to shoot and one immeasurably gifted editor (Tom Cross) to stitch together. Nevertheless… WOW! Whilst Neiman might have been a dick, shrugging off girlfriends and family in order to pursue his goal more narrowly and impress the unimpressable Fletcher, Miles does a fantastic job at trying to keep time with the Oscar-worthy J.K. Simmons’ tempo.

Can I see Whiplash picking up the best picture Oscar in a month’s time? If there’s any justice in the world, yes. Honestly, it seems difficult to look past the buzz for Richard Linklater’s Golden Globe winning Boyhood. Not that the film chosen by the Academy is always the best, of course. Nonetheless, I would be surprised if this exhilarating and thrilling drama didn’t turn at least a few of those nominations into fully deserved wins.

Whiplash is out in UK cinemas today and you can listen to Owen review the film on the next episode of the Failed Critics Podcast.

US Box Office Report: 14/11/14 – 16/11/14

Dumb and Dumber audiences turn up in droves for Dumb And Dumber To, Beyond The Lights exists an imaginary pile of cash, Christmas is doomed, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Surprisingly, it turns out that the audience size for a sequel to Dumb & Dumber is about equal to that of the audience for a second week Disney film, which I genuinely did not see coming.  Dumb And Dumber To ended up taking the top spot this weekend with about $38 million in ticket sales, just $2 million more than what Big Hero 6 managed.  For those wondering, my surprise keeps alternating between “that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?” and “only that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?”  I dunno.  I’m in shock, I just don’t know what I’m in shock at.

In any case, unlike next week, there was more than one new release this weekend.  With regards to the wide releases, bottom of the pack was Beyond The Lights – a film whose trailer just caused me to vomit profusely in sickening anger – which could only manage a very mediocre $6.5 million from 1,800 screen for a distant fourth place.  Birdman continued its slow expansion nationwide and managed to crack the Top 10, albeit with about the same haul as last week but in more theatres.  Whiplash, meanwhile, continues to be punished for NOT BEING IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW DAMMIT by struggling to find a non-arthouse audience – its expansion to 441 theatres could only manage $801,000.

In limited release land, we have a pair of successes, an OK performer, and a hilarious failure in more ways than one.  Most successful of the lot was the speculative fiction drama Foxcatcher which rode a near-literal wave of buzz and good press to a weekend total of $288,000 from six theatres – a ridiculous per-screen average of $48,000.  Performing much less great than that – but still great, it must be said – is the Tommy Lee Jones-directed western drama The Homesman which managed a very respectable $48,000 from 4 screens for a $12,000 per-screen average.  Whilst in expanding news, The Theory Of Everything infected another 36 theatres and raked in an average of $18,000 from each of them.  Yes, I do think that film looks insufferable, don’t act surprised.

Elsewhere, John Stewart of The Daily Show (as every mention of his name must be suffixed with by royal decree) released his directorial debut this past weekend and Rosewater did… OK.  It managed $1.2 million from 371 theatres for a per-screen average of $3,325, which is OK.  Not great, not poor, OK.  It’s fine, could’ve been better but still enough to crack the Top 15.  Much less OK, and more closer to straight up “bomb” territory, was Saving Christmas which could only manage $1,012,000 from 410 screens for a dismal $2,468 per-screen average.  This means that either Americans don’t give a sh*t about the threat that faces Christmas, or that stoners who want to laugh at inept entertainment with no redeemable value except MST3K sessions were too busy staying at home watching Adult Swim.  In either case, America is doomed.

Oh, and The Book Of Life collapsed out of the Top 10 because you people hate good movies.


dumb and dumber to

This Full List is Dumberer than the other box office reports you could be reading elsewhere.  Also, it just reminded you that Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd existed and now you hate life.

Box Office Results: Friday 14th November 2014 – Sunday 16th November 2014

1] Dumb And Dumber To

$38,053,000 / NEW

So the film that my Secondary School Physics teacher would throw on almost quite literally whenever he couldn’t be bothered to teach us finally got a sequel, eh?  Well, if it leads to a late-career resurgence for Jim Carrey then I won’t complain.  I still really like Jim Carrey and that streak he had in the mid-to-late 90s still predominately holds up!  I’d like to see him get one last run at the spotlight.

2] Big Hero 6

$36,010,000 / $111,653,000

There are people on this world that do not like The Emperor’s New Groove.  I do not know who these people are or why they are incapable of experiencing joy, but they exist and I want nothing to do with them.  I defy you to watch scenes like this, or this, or this without cracking a smile at least once – I think science has deemed doing so to be physically impossible.

3] Interstellar

$29,190,000 / $97,810,000

Not too bad a drop, quite frankly, especially considering the near-non-stop toxic word-of-mouth on this thing.  Look, folks, I am not Interstellar’s biggest fan either – I barely think it’s good, even if I did enjoy it – but maybe calm the vitriol somewhat, eh?  It’s not the worst film ever, it’s nowhere near the worst film this year!  It’s just a rather disappointing mess that tried to do too much and failed in its lofty ambitions.  Perspective, people!

Now, if you wanna talk Worst Film Of The Year candidates, let me talk to you about Nativity! 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!

4] Beyond The Lights

$6,500,000 / NEW

Will this be the next Ride Along or the next Obsessed?  Well, which do you think it’s going to be?  Come on.

5] Gone Girl

$4,625,000 / $152,699,000

Rosamund Pike is not going to get a Best Actress nomination, is she?  Let’s get real, we all know that the Academy are not going to go for Gone Girl, despite the fact that I still haven’t seen anything that comes even slightly close to its level so far this year.  Since we all know that Scarlett Johannson getting a Best Actress nomination – let alone deservedly running away with the statue before the nominees have even been announced – for Under The Skin isn’t happening, Pike would have been my backup “I approve” choice.  But, again, getting realistic, that probably isn’t going to happen.  Siiiigh…

6] St. Vincent

$4,025,000 / $33,258,000

You should really listen to St. Vincent’s self-titled album if you haven’t already.  It’s one of the best albums of the year.

7] Fury

$3,810,000 / $75,941,000

I… err… don’t really have anything to put here.  What can I say?  Not every film has an endless bountiful stream of material to mine on a week-by-week basis.  And so it goes.

8] Nightcrawler

$3,038,000 / $25,000,000

Going back to the cinema to see this again on Tuesday.  I’ve wanted to go and see it again for a good while now, but I have just been way too busy and way too swamped.  Bright side: cinema screen should basically be empty!  Woo!  In the meanwhile, and on a related note, Matt Lambourne has a short piece on why we are all to blame for his crappy movie choices up on the site if you have a spare five minutes.

9] Ouija

$3,025,000 / $48,105,000

Oh, just fuck off.

10] Birdman

$2,450,000 / $11,575,000

As I mentioned last week, this doesn’t hit the UK until January.  You know what else I found out doesn’t hit the UK until next year?  Chris Rock’s Top Five which looks brilliant and doesn’t get here until MarchMARCH.  I’ll tell you right now, Penguins Of Madagascar better be next-level amazing because it’s the sole thing making up for this incredibly dull-looking Rest Of 2014 Schedule for me.

Dropped Out: John Wick, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Book Of Life

Callum Petch is the only one in the only world.  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: 24/10/14 – 26/10/14

Ouija makes contact with idiot spirits who have money to burn, St. Vincent is the kind of clown that’s crying on the inside, Laggies doesn’t lag behind, John Wick underwhelms goddammit, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

The world is a cruel, horrible, and uncaring place where anything good will fail miserably whilst anything bad rakes in the cash hand-over-fist.  That’s my theory, in any case, as to why Ouija triumphed over John Wick at the box office this weekend.  The former, a strongly-marketed PG-13 horror film with dreadful reviews released near-Halloween to capitalise on a seasonal desire to be spooked in some way, took first place with $20 million in ticket sales.  The latter, a lightly-marketed R-rated action film with excellent reviews slotted into a free weekend of a ridiculously cramped release schedule, took second place with $14 million in ticket sales.  Sure, you could point to other factors that would cause a film like John Wick to underwhelm, but I’m sticking with my initial conclusion: people suck.

Ah, well.  At least John Wick wasn’t 23 Blast, the faith-based sports biopic about Larry Freeman, a man who lost his eyesight but still managed to go on and play in the NFL anyway.  That film got its start in 617 theatres, maybe even had big aspirations as to overall total gross and its standing in life, only to have them snatched away from it by a cruel, uncaring public.  It only managed to make $402,000, making its opening weekend the 11th worst for any wide release film ever, and with a dismal $652 per-screen average to boot.  This would be the point where I make cruel tasteless jokes at the film’s expense, but I find this just too sad to crack wise at.  On the bright side, it still opened better than last week’s Men, Women & Children.  So at least it has that going for it.

In limited release news, Laggies, the new film from Lynne Shelton which has been renamed to Say When in the UK for some reason, got its start in 5 theatres and banked a respectable $78,500 – for a per-screen average of $15,700.  Citizenfour, a documentary about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal, did much better, managing to confiscate itself $125,000 from 5 screens worth of people who fancied a change of pace; one has their limits when it comes to buzzed-about Indie Dramedies, after all.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya expanded to 20 theatres and raked in a far less impressive $63,500, for a per-screen average of $3,175, as a sad reminder that most people don’t seem to give a sh*t about Ghibli if the film isn’t made by Miyazaki.  Dammit.

Finally, we have multiple expanders, the most successful of which was the Bill Murray-led St. Vincent.  Admittedly, it’s the only one that went nationwide and boats the advantage of having Bill Murray in the lead role, but it still managed to crack the Top 10 with $8 million in ticket sales.  Whiplash, which I want in my life now DAMMIT, added 25 more theatres to its slow conquest of America and managed a decent $266,000 from all 46 of them.  The provocative Dear White People, which still looks amazing and still doesn’t have a UK release date for NO GODDAMN REASON, jumped up to 384 screens and finished with a much more down-to-earth and expected total of $1,384,000.   Birdman, meanwhile, expanded to 50 screens and did exactly as well as a film like Birdman is expected to do – $1,436,000 and a per-screen average of $28,720.


ouija 2

This Full List was a final gift from John Wick’s dying wife.

Box Office Results: Friday 24th October 2014 – Sunday 26th October 2014

1] Ouija

$20,006,000 / NEW

This seems like as good a time as any to tell Owen that I will not be coming into “work” for a week commencing on January 23rd.  That’s when Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell comes out and I sequester myself away from the world for a straight week to do nothing but play it.  I live for the simple things, like a new Saints Row with an increased focus on Kinzie Kensington, the greatest character in anything ever.  So, yeah, sorry Owen.  Can’t say you weren’t notified, though!

2] John Wick

$14,150,000 / NEW

This is no longer coming out in the UK this year.  I have to wait until January 2nd to watch John Wick.  This was NOT THE GODDAMN DEAL, LIONSGATE!!  I was supposed to get John Wick at Christmas!  It was all-but-guaranteed a spot on my Top 10 of 2014!  To withhold it until next year is evil, ya hear?!  Pure evil!  HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!  (*goes on like this for another 5 or 6 pages*)

3] Fury

$13,000,000 / $46,050,000

OK, that’s not a good hold at all.  Considering the star attached to it, the level of advertising that it’s received, and the fact that pretty much nothing came out this week, this should have held better than a 45% drop.  Owen’s review went live last Tuesday if you want to know if there’s a reason as to why few came back for repeat showings.

4] Gone Girl

$11,100,000 / $124,093,000

Battle lines have been drawn in my Film Studies course over Gone Girl.  You either love it, like I and several students do, or you hate it, like most of our lecturers seem to.  If this doesn’t end with a full-on all-out war, then I am going to be sorely disappointed.  At least I know that I will be on the right side of history if everything does kick off!

5] The Book Of Life

$9,800,000 / $29,913,000

Of course I saw it this weekend, who do you think I am?  The only reason as to why I haven’t reviewed it yet is quite simply because I haven’t had the time.  It’ll be up by Wednesday at the latest.  Short version: really good, best looking animated film I have seen all year, last 30 minutes are incredibly rushed.  It absolutely needs to be seen, definitely way more than it currently is.  If you’re still on the fence though, quite rightly believing that my opinion means sh*t, then know that the film is Lauren Faust and Craig McCracken approved!

6] St. Vincent

$8,058,000 / $9,189,000

There’s a part of me that wants to just talk about the music of Annie Clark instead, but I get the feeling that this one is going to hang around next week, so I’ll hold off on bombarding you with links until then.  You should listen to St. Vincent anyway, though.

7] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$7,023,000 / $45,544,000

So I was all set to see this Saturday but, before I’d even set off for the cinema, the screening I was planning on going to had sold out.  That came as a surprise, but rest assured that I will be seeing this at my next free occurrence, which is Wednesday!  I may accidentally miss awards bait dramas, I may miss horror flicks, and I may even accidentally miss awful-looking action flicks, but I shall never miss an insufferable looking live-action family film!  That’s just not my style!

8] The Best Of Me

$4,736,000 / $17,663,000

…THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST…

9] The Judge

$4,345,000 / $34,377,000

Yeah, I ended up missing this one.  I was too busy in its opening week and all showings were pulled this week at my Cineworld, so that was the end of that.  I could have gone to a different cinema and paid money, but my remaining cash went to My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks (review here) and bis gig tickets and like f*ck am I willingly spending money on this cure for insomnia!  So, goodbye, The Judge!  At least be glad that I didn’t make any Arrested Development references during your stay!  That takes restraint!

10] Dracula Untold

$4,302,000 / $48,328,000

… … … …nope.  Can’t do it.  Can’t let The Judge escape without an Arrested Development reference.  Hit it, William Hung & His Hung Jury!

Dropped Out: Annabelle, The Equalizer, The Maze Runner

Callum Petch don’t care if we never come back from the night.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Fury in a Half Shell

fury 4Apologies for the lack of podcast last week. Due to technical errors that we won’t bore you with, we couldn’t fix some audio issues. But never mind! We’re back this week with a review of the BFI London Film Festival 2014, which Carole kindly dragged herself back from New York for.  Steve and Owen also get a chance to go over old ground as they review ‘71 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

We also had a new release review of the latest David Ayer war film Fury, starring Brad Pitt, and a near unanimous opinion on Shia LaBeouf. Probably not the one you’re expecting, either!

Join us next week for a spooky Halloween special. Until then.. Cowabunga. Sorry.

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London Film Festival 2014 – Westerns, Whiplash, Wrestling, Weird Austrians

A full week in and my London Film Festival starts here.  Huzzah!  Actually it started on Tuesday, when I dragged my very jet-lagged self to the UK premiere of The Salvation.  This film was going to have to be something special to prevent me from dozing off in my seat, and it didn’t disappoint.

salvationMads Mikkelsen plays Jon, a Danish settler in 1870s America.  Tragedy strikes shortly after a long-awaited reunion, and the locals he has surrounded himself with for the past seven years betray him, leaving him to his own devices against a notorious outlaw.  You may not have heard of Danish director Kristian Levring, but you’ll recognise many of the cast – along with Mikkelsen there are fellow Bond alumni Eva Green and Jonathan Pryce, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Douglas Henshall, and a small but striking performance by no less than Eric Cantona.  It’s a lean, tense film with great performances throughout the cast – special mentions to Mikkelsen who is excellent as ever, but also to Green, who handles a difficult role exceptionally well.  The usual Western tropes – revenge, horses, the climatic shootout – are no less effective in a Danish film made in South Africa than they would be in a Hollywood production.  Reviews appear to be mixed with many correspondents bemoaning the films clichés, but surely their existence in a film made by someone outside the inner circle is a promising sign.

Wednesday saw the screening of Wild, which I wasn’t sure about seeing initially, but decided to go for based on Oscar buzz around Reese Witherspoon’s performance.  She plays Cheryl Strayed, a divorced drug addict who decides to hike 1000 miles solo on the Pacific Crest Trail, and we learn about her life so far in flashbacks along the way.  As you’d expect, most of the film is hung on Witherspoon’s performance, and she doesn’t disappoint, channelling the obvious talent which has already seen her win a Best Actress Oscar to produce a portrayal of a woman damaged by circumstance and her own decisions, both in the hiking sequences and in flashbacks which go back many years.  Obviously the film is a little thin on plot but worth seeing for its redemptive nature and for Witherspoon’s excellent performance – I would not be surprised to see her name on many Best Actress shortlists between now and February.

After that uplifting tale came In The Basement, bringing me back down to (below) Earth with a bump.  Simply put, this is a documentary about what Austrian people do in their basements, presumably to convince the world that not all of them are like Josef Fritzl.  The participants range from the fairly normal (model train set, drums, teenage hangout, tiny swimming pool) to the truly odd and disturbing.  There’s the middle-aged woman who has an endless line of unsettling, lifelike dolls of babies, and coos over them as if they were real, in scenes reminiscent of Dawn French’s character in Psychoville.  There’s the couple who are in an S&M relationship for whom, it is ominously explained, the basement is where the really nasty stuff (graphically shown) happens.  And there’s the nice-seeming elderly man who plays in a brass band, but likes to relax in his basement surrounded by his fellow players and his large collection of Nazi memorabilia.  The film is presented without narration, and in some sequences without any interaction at all from the participants, which means you sometimes don’t have enough information about them (one couple stand still surrounded by various scenes, including their bar) while the film lingers too long on others – the aforementioned Nazi and S&M couple being prime examples.  I wanted to hear more from certain people who only got a few minutes of screen time, but what we got instead were gratuitous long takes of people being tortured for their own pleasure, which leads me to wonder whether the point of this documentary was really to give a wide-ranging perspective or just to go for cheap thrills.  It was a noble experiment, but it very much came off as the latter.

Finally on Wednesday I attended the UK première of Whiplash.  I’m happy to admit I knew nothing about this film until I got the programme.  Upon attending the festival preview, where we got a brief clip, I immediately decided I wanted to see this film, and I’m so glad I did as it’s been my highlight so far. It’s the story of a young jazz drumming protégé, Neyman (Miles Teller), his brutal teacher Fletcher (JK Simmons) and the lengths people will go to in order to be, discover and mould truly brilliant artists from raw talent.  The film is structured much like a thriller and is steeped in a clear love of jazz and music – it’s based on director Damien Chazelle’s own experiences – but is never inaccessible, the musical jargon employed is explained and demonstrated perfectly.  We’ve seen Simmons as the tyrannical boss in Spider-Man, but this performance is on another level – blistering and searing, Fletcher looms over the whole film even when he’s not on screen, driving Neyman to practise until his fingers bleed.  Even up against Simmons’ Oscar-worthy performance, Miles Teller more than holds his own as the talented young drummer who is obsessed with perfecting his craft.  It all builds to an exhilarating climax which is filmed so wonderfully that it is more heart-pumping than any film about jazz has the right to be.  No wonder it took the Audience Award at Sundance this year – I would be very surprised if that’s the only accolade it ends up with.

foxcatcherThursday saw just one film – the UK première of Foxcatcher, another true story about brothers and Olympic gold medallist wrestlers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum – yes, that one) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).  Mark is the younger brother and feels overshadowed by Dave, until he is offered a chance by John du Pont (Steve Carrell) to train at the Foxcatcher facility in du Pont’s enormous, inherited estate.  Du Pont is not a self made man, and the shadow of his elderly mother looms large in his life; he desperately wants to impress her by training a wrestling team for the World Championships and Olympics, led by Mark.  He wants Dave on the team as well, but Dave initially resists, puzzling du Pont as he is unable to buy something for once.  I don’t want to give away too much; although this is a true story, try not to read about it before you see this film.  Instead, let’s focus on the three performances from Carrell, Ruffalo and Tatum (Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller make brief appearances, but this is primarily a film about sporting relationships).  Ruffalo is excellent as the warm, steady older brother Dave, but you knew that anyway.  Tatum is a great surprise as the overshadowed younger brother who is in many ways his own worst enemy.  But the real revelation is Carrell, an actor known primarily for his comedy roles.  If you’ve seen The Way, Way Back, you already know he is a convincing jerk.  But this is a performance on another level – barely recognisable under a raft of prosthetics and reptilian false teeth, he excels as the other man who can’t escape the shadow of an older family member.  He’s unpredictable, celebrating a win with his team one moment and them firing a gun in the gym the next.  He’s a truly terrifying creation – a man who has never known what it’s like to not have what he wants, and you wait nervously to find out how he reacts.  Again, all three performances here could be Oscar worthy, even Channing Tatum (yes, that one).

That’s all for today.  Join me in a few days as I conclude this year’s LFF with reviews including Love is Strange, Kill Me Three Times and Fury.

US Box Office Report: 10/10/14 – 12/10/14

The Judge has a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad weekend, Dracula does makes Untold millions, Kill The Messenger is DOA, the full list will give you Whiplash, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This weekend, a terrifying curse was placed upon a certain set of people.  One that rendered them scared, confused, worried about the changes and its effects, and unable to go out during the daytime (primarily because they don’t go out during the day, anyway).  I am of course referring to the 48 hours in which the website known as Box Office Mojo ceased to exist.  We film writers were thrown into a panic.  “How on earth can we do our jobs now?  What other monstrous websites will we have to patronize instead?  Why hast thou forsaken us?!” we cried skyward to the heavens.  But then, right on cue, the site returned this morning with no explanation for its absence!  And so our great national nightmare was over!

You could say, then, that it was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad weekend, in an incredibly lame segway towards referring to the box office stats.  It was most certainly one for the “Robert Downey, Jr. has a space on his fireplace that he’s just freed up for some awards statues” flick known more commonly as The Judge.  Not only did critics collectively shrug it away from any possible awards buzz, the film underwhelmed severely at the box office, despite featuring Robert Downey, Jr. doing that Robert Downey, Jr. thing that the people like, only debuting in fifth place with $13 million in ticket sales.  Alexander, then, much like its titular character, ended up passing off that yadda yadda weekend to somebody else, opening with a surprisingly strong $19.1 million for third place.

That left it comfortably sat behind the number two film, Dracula Untold which debuted to a very surprisingly strong $23 million.  Couple that with its currently-really-rather-successful overseas performance, and you have one genuinely surprised writer.  In any case, that still puts it very much behind the weekend’s number 1 film, Gone Girl, which shed only 28% between weekends to hold onto the top spot.  Couple that with its currently-very-successful overseas performance, and you get one very, very happy writer.  Also sneaking into the Top 10 was the moderate release drama-thriller Addicted, which managed to overcome the handicap of apparently being complete garbage to score a seventh place debut and a near-$9000 per screen average.

As for those limited release films outside of the top 10, there’s a lot to parse through.  First off, Meet The Mormons, which resides in 11th place on our countdown with a weekend gross of $2.7 million, from 317 screens, that are presumably from people who thought it was an expose on the making of The Book Of Mormon.  It is, though, the second biggest opening for a documentary all year, at any rate (behind Bears).  Next up, we have the Jeremy Renner-starring and Mary Elizabeth Winstead-featuring Kill The Messenger, which tanked with only $939,000 from 374 screens.  You know, because Mary Elizabeth Winstead is cursed at the box office.  St. Vincent, a film starring Bill Murray and I know that’s all it needs to do to earn your ticket because that’s all it took to earn mine, managed to take $121,000 from 4 screens worth of people who had the exact same thought processes as us.  Meanwhile, the critically lauded Whiplash kick-started its assault on the public with $144,000 worth of people in 6 screens wanting to see J.K. Simmons mentally and physically abuse the f*ck out of Miles Teller.  The real abuse, as should be obvious, though, is withholding this film from us Brits until January the goddamn 16th of 2015!!

Oh, and One Chance, that biopic about the opera singer from Britain’s Got Talent, finally got released in America this past weekend.  $32,800 from 43 screens.  Absolutely worth the constant release date circle-jerking.


dracula untold 2

This Full List is being held in contempt of court!  Everything that guy just said is bullsh*t!  The Bible is a good book, but it’s not the only book!  I believe there is justice in our hearts!  You can’t handle the truth!

Box Office Results: Friday 10th October 2014 – Sunday 12th October 2014

1] Gone Girl

$26,800,000 / $78,281,000

Saw it again this weekend and again loved every second of it.  It’s just such a brilliant film, and trying to articulate the reasons as to why I love it so in less than an A4 page when it inevitably ends up in the highest possible echelons of my Top 10 of 2014 list is going to be a monumental task.  Look forward to that inevitable train-wreck of a series (yes, series, I’m planning in advance here, got a feeling the overall article would be in excess of 10 goddamn pages otherwise) in the future!  For now, go see Gone Girl!  Yes, even if you have already seen it.  Go again.

2] Dracula Untold

$23,457,000 / NEW

So, yeah.  Gonna be frank, I fully expected this one to out and out bomb.  Like, straight flop as soon as it left the starting gates.  It still could, next week has plenty of releases ready to steal its thunder and rumours are going around that the $70 mil price tag the film is sporting is significantly lower than its true budget, but it’s not an immediate and total failure, which I will likely never stop being surprised by.  You people did see the awful trailer, right?

3] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$19,100,000 / NEW

Oh, Christ, this one.  Look, I refuse to believe that it is anything less than a total steaming, nigh-on insufferable dud until I inevitably see it with my own eyes in the near-future.  I’m also guessing that his work as Childish Gambino is not paying anywhere near enough to keep Donald Glover away from dreck like this.  That’s a bit of a shame; because the internet isn’t too bad of an album.

4] Annabelle

$16,365,000 / $62,156,000

A 56% drop between weekends, which is a little steeper than The Conjuring’s but is still not too bad overall.  Again, it’s got no direct competition for the whole of October, which is weirdly empty with regards to horror films this year, and Ouija, which drops at the very end of the month, will bomb to some degree (I have never been so sure of anything in my entire last 15 minutes of life).  Annabelle will keep making money.  Whether that’s a good thing or not is for you folks to judge.

5] The Judge

$13,300,000 / NEW

Robert Downey, Jr. really does just play the Robert Downey, Jr. role now, doesn’t he?  That’s kind of a shame.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I really like Robert Downey, Jr., but he is capable of more and I’d rather he stretch himself and try to mitigate the risk of just coasting by on Iron Man.  On a related heathen note, all three Iron Man films are my least favourite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the exception of The Incredible Hulk.  Yes, even Iron Man 3.  Expect my firing to be made public in a few hours.

6] The Equalizer

$9,725,000 / $79,885,000

Skipped it last Tuesday, before you ask.  I fulfilled the “seeing Dolphin Tale 2” part of that plan and then was too “eeeeeeeeeehhhhhh”’d out to bother seeing The Equalizer on top of it.  Guess I’ll never see it now.  Oh, boo hoo.  How I weep for such a missed opportunity.

7] Addicted

$7,600,000 / NEW

It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I realised why this film came out of nowhere to make big, big bucks: it predominately stars, and is targeted at, black people.  Let me be clear, that’s not meant to be an insult – for the love of God, it really is not.  It’s instead an observation that there is a large segment of America that very much enjoy watching films aimed at them regardless of quality, and which are not white.  In fact, it’s an observation that keeps being made every single time a film like that becomes successful, almost like it’s a fact about a mostly untapped market instead of an observation about trend that will die out soon…

8] The Maze Runner

$7,500,000 / $83,840,000

Penning my review as soon as I’ve finished with this.  Short version: surprisingly, genuinely great until the abysmal ending cocks everything up.  You should have seen me in the cinema; I visibly went from “Hell yes, bring on the sequel!” to “(exasperated groan), I guess I’ll see the sequel because I have to,” in the space of about 10 minutes.  Again, review will be set for tomorrow, so sit tight for in-depth thoughts, but man I was so disappointed by this one.

9] The Boxtrolls

$6,676,000 / $41,032,000

Oh.  Oh.  OK, remember last week when I said Laika were going to be OK?  I want you to disregard that and instead hit all of your panic buttons.  The budget is $60 mil, which it has only barely cleared thanks to foreign grosses, it’s currently sitting at less domestically than notorious under-performer ParaNorman, and The Book Of Life (side note: PLEASE DO NOT SUCK) is coming along next week to hijack its audience.  It may end up a hit on home video, which it deserves to be because Laika deserve all the success even with films that aren’t up to their usual standards, but I’m going to panic the f*ck out until somebody at Laika tells me I don’t need to.

10] Left Behind

$2,909,000 / $10,920,000

Still not going to make any obvious jokes at the expense of its title.  I am above that.  I have limits, y’know.

Dropped Out: This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, Guardians Of The Galaxy, No Good Deed

Callum Petch couldn’t see he was the car you crashed.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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.