Friday, 26 February 2016

88th Academy Awards: My Predictions and Picks (Ranked)

Cinema is the most commercialised form of art that exists. Nearly the entire film industry is based on the box office, on pitching screenplays and ideas to studios, revitalising and forming franchises, on marketing to an audience. What started as an art form with little to no money in it has become a field of investment and greed. There is no other way to explain why twelve Nicholas Sparks movies have been made, each slightly more terrible than the last and why Michael Bay has 21 directing credits to his name. This is an industry which almost tossed out Marlon Brando for being "unbankable". So you can see why a great film released in 2016 is something of a miracle. Most of these films come about in one of two ways. Firstly, there are directors such as David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino and Woody Allen whose work exists in the tiny sliver of the middle section of the Venn diagram: they produce films of merit with loyal and large followings. Everyone loves Pulp Fiction, Fight Club and Midnight in Paris. The only other way is via film festivals, where hopeful filmmakers fund the entire production on their own dime (or by generous benefactors), then distributors see potential and purchase the rights to it (e.g. Like Crazy, Winter's Bone, Whiplash). All of the nominated films fall into one of these categories. Each year out of the thousands of films which are released, there will be about ten great ones and the prestigious award incentive, the Academy Awards, are usually the closest to distinguishing these.

Below are both my predictions and my personal choices.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

P.S. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, an analogical symphony of artful, vibrant graphics, drilled into a smart and consistent rhythm with the aid of a tight, marching score and crisp, rich dialogue, riddled with epiphanies, clarity, insight and quirks, is a film still inferior to its screen associate The Social Network. It thrives on the same intellectual backbone, owing largely to Aaron Sorkin's love of the slippery, spoken word, and similar to the beauty of David Fincher's discipline, Danny Boyle was careful to harness in any murmur of pretentiousness so that its lettered fashion can be enjoyed guiltless. The hundred-mile-an-hour dialogue and villainy of its protagonist are all delicious attributes of Sorkin's portrayal of two tech giants, Jobs and Zuckerberg. Michael Fassbender affords a more refined representation of a different man than Jesse Eisenberg, with a truly formative performance but Eisenberg's character is better written, just as egotistical and ingenious but more complex, exposed and iconic in its egomania.

The structure of Steve Jobs is really a thing to admire, a mighty spectacle, the entire film neatly arranged  into 3 parts, with all its irresistible catharsis spilling out before product launches, seminal points in the actual life of the actual Steve Jobs. There is an undeniable charm to its unhinged messiness but it falters as it comes together a film with excellent parts which do not necessarily work together. And this is where The Social Network surpasses. For where Fincher's film is a seamless tech package and an all-in masterpiece, at times Boyle's love for visual innovation and Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue only distract and detract. At these moments, the film lingers dangerously close to one that can only be enjoyed purely as a extravaganza from a safe distance where insight can never be grasped. These films are not twins, they are brothers, and like Facebook installs perfectly in app form to every Apple device, the films work together, illustrating events in the world of modern technology in a similarly gratifying, uniformly excellent, enterprising manner. 


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Revenant

The Revenant is a film bathed in brutality, featuring a primal kind of beauty shot through gritty, unforgiving lenses, indulgent in its unrelenting violence. The sweeping grandeur of the picture is formed on the momentum of its visceral imagery, immeasurable precision and nuance lie within every stroke and shot. This is cinema that has your heart sitting in your throat, your fingers clutching your seat as every sight and sound assaults your senses, creating the calamitous and joyous product of a hearty Western thriller, a trying survival tale and a vengeance story all in one. It settles as a film that no less demands your focus and unquestionably deserves it, affirming its value with the raging melancholy, anger, hate, fear, urgency, and pain that is built so unceremoniously into every second of the film. The sprawling story, a cosmic creature which swells and intensifies, is enriched by an array of disturbed sub-plots as the audience is pulled deeper and deeper into the deliciously unhinged experience of breathing alongside a revenant, maddened and driven to every act by grief. 

Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio), his half-native son and his only surviving companions, after escaping a savage surprise attack on their fur trapping bivouac by Arikara Native Americans, begin their journey back to their outpost. While trekking to safety, out of the reaches of the bloodthirsty tribe, Glass is brutally mauled by a female grizzly bear and left in a near fatal condition. A series of events, betrayals, deceptions and murders leads to his hunting team abandoning him. Recovery and pursuit take order, an aching desire for vengeance is not superseded by a need to survive, but acts as its complete motivation.