Sunday, 15 February 2015

Growing Pains


A young Ellar Coltrane in "Boyhood"

Released a year after the last film in his “Before” series, and beginning production a year before the previous film was started, Boyhood’s remarkable trait is one familiar to fans of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Following a boy from the beginning of First Grade until his high school graduation, the film was shot over twelve years, using the same actor in each part throughout the venture. Its working title was 12 Years, until last year when Linklater worried it’d be confused with 12 Years a Slave upon release. But I can’t think of the title that can convey the quiet, unassailable profundity achieved here by Linklater and his team. It entailed casting a seven-year-old in a central role, and various adults and pre-teens around him, hoping they’d be able to carry off each segment with their performance, that they’d be available the same time each year to film together, and that they’d all survive long enough to finish the project. Linklater reportedly asked Ethan Hawke to complete the film if he died. The death of an actor, though, however tragic, would have been written in, as apparently other things were. Again in the tradition of the “Before” series, the script was written over the shooting period, with all the major actors playing a part in the writing; sometimes a scene was finished the night before it was filmed. And it was adapted and developed to everything the slowly maturing Ellar Coltrane was experiencing in his life.

Oscar Predictions

This year's Oscar host, Neil Patrick Harris

In one week, the winners of the Academy Awards will be announced and their statuettes distributed. 2014’s theatrical releases will be honoured (and poked fun at, usually in the lightest of sardonic touches), stars will be gazed at and adored, and host Neil Patrick Harris will oversee the single most important event in Hollywood’s calendar. The releases of Avatar and Harry Potter, the Cannes and Venice film festivals, and Clooney’s wedding, though frenziedly anticipated and observed, cannot match Oscar’s remarkable clout and stamina as a cultural phenomenon, nor its influence on both an entire industry and art form. Bar its Peace Prize, the Nobel committee’s activities have long passed from mass consciousness, and the events of the People’s Choice Awards are annually forgotten and dismissed the morning after, when the ringing of high-pitched squeals and shrieks has dispersed.

Granted, when considering Oscar night afterwards, it’s difficult to find any proportion between the hype and the pay-off – particularly in the proceedings themselves. Most presenters – usually a cluster of just-emerging, impossibly gorgeous, (sometimes questionably) talented adolescents – slip or stumble a little in their preamble to the presentation, with their halting interactions with the teleprompter marking for us the inexperienced, the flustered, the short-sighted, and the under-rehearsed. And the winners can hardly salvage it, with their often insubstantial effusions of gratitude and praise. Very few of them ever say very much. In decades past, Oscar winners could be depended upon for letting slip remarks on the state of the nation, or at least the state of cinema, with controversies to muse on for a short while afterward; not the staid, sodden and sometimes very bland show we need to sit through nowadays to understand any of the comments we’ll find the next day on various social sites, usually to do with fashion.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Ode on Romance and the Romantic

DVD Notes: "Bright Star"

Abbie Cornish reads a poem from her beloved in "Bright Star"

The Romantic poets emphasised instinct and intuition over reason and rationale, and cultivated an interest in mysticism and the supernatural, parallel, and often connected, to a reverence for the natural world. Jane Campion's 2009 film, "Bright Star", in telling the story of the romance between John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), embodies these features enchantingly, with its adoring shots of the two lovers, of the flowers and trees constantly surrounding them, and the graceful unfolding of its love story. It preoccupies itself with the spontaneous expression of emotion, though restrained, making it a charming work worthy of the attention of any audience member, poetry scholar or otherwise.

Brawne is 18 years old at the opening, self-possessed, middle class, a prodigious flirt and devoted student of fashion, and Keats a 23-year-old writer, somewhat melancholy and seemingly idle, though he has moments of spirit and humour. She attracts his attention, and, after some minor misunderstanding over whether or not each likes the other, their fondness and attraction burgeons into a delicate love affair.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Impressions on the Oscar Nominations

The nominees for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards

We’re in the throes of award season once again – the Golden Globes were handed out a few weeks ago, followed shortly by the Critics Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Producers Guild of America Awards – and any self-respecting film blogger has something to say, vehemently, about the way things are turning out. The most important thing to Hollywood is, as we all know, turnover: the bigger, the better. But next in importance to the businessmen of cinema is prestige. The film releases in coming years are determined, for most of the year, by the box office grosses of the studio’s product and, right at the end and beginning of the calendar year, by the acclaim and accolades a production can rake in. We would like the Oscars to award our favourite movies, because then studios and independent producers will endeavour to make something similar in the upcoming years.