Tag Archives: Alfonso Cuaron

Academy Awards 2014: the winners and blingers of an Oscar night with no grouches

3 Mar

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That was actually a pretty great Oscar ceremony. Jennifer “J-Law” Lawrence took a little tumble before it even began this time, back on the red carpet. Any more trips and she’ll get sponsored by Expedia.com. As for the compere, Ellen Degeneres was never going to sail too close to the edge – a blessing, after the Seth McFarlane “boobies” embarrassment of last year – but she did bring a breath of fresh air.

She broke Twitter, briefly, by organising the most celebtastic selfie of all time (above), and, surreally, ordered in pizza. Chiwetel Ejiofor took the first slice; Harrison Ford looked at his dubiously, as though inspecting an archaeological relic. Ellen’s Oscars seemed to break down the barriers between celebrity and public, toppling the screen icons from a pedestal that most of them never wanted to be on in the first place. Though of course J-Law toppled from hers first.

Most of all, though, it helped that this was the strongest year for film in ages: there was never a moment where you thought, “the Oscar went to whaaaat?” And so, without further ado, the winners are…

Best Film: 12 Years A Slave. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! So happy to see justice done. It is an extraordinary film. Chief producer Brad Pitt nobly and sensibly turned the speech over straight away to co-producer/director Steve McQueen, who was a sweet mess of nerves. He read out a long list of thanks, saying “I’m sorry about this” in a very British way for taking so long about it, and when he had finished, bounced up and down across the stage like a cuddly pogo stick. Brilliant.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón. I loved loved loved Gravity, but I wish Steve McQueen had won for 12 Years A Slave. Still, a worthy winner. Great to have two foreign art-movie directors vying for Hollywood’s most glittering prize.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey. Gutted that Chiwetel Ejiofor didn’t win this, but he’s unlucky to have come up against one of the strongest fields in ages. McConaughey is one of Hollywood’s own, and he was extraordinary in Dallas Buyers Club: a complete transformation. And he did say “all right all right all right” in his speech.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett. Well of course. Always the bookies’ favourite, and it really couldn’t be otherwise. She absolutely carries Blue Jasmine, and what’s more, she’s about the only person ever in a Woody Allen film not to sound exactly like Woody Allen. “Julia hashtag suck it,” Blanchett said to Julia Roberts in her speech, continuing “The world is round, people!” Love her.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto. He didn’t win me over. He was maybe as good as he could be in a part that was just a rainbow coalition of clichés, but I would rather have seen Jonah Hill win for his gutsy, literally balls-out performance in Wolf Of Wall Street.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o. Yay!!! J-Law was fantastic in American Hustle, but we already know she’s that good. Lupita, however, is a new, fresh, raw talent, and so elegant and dignified off screen and in her speech: “When I look down at this little statue, may it remind me and every child that no matter where you are from your dreams are valid.” Somehow she makes this utterly heartfelt and charming, not hokey as you would expect.

Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze. Oooh, good for him! Her was a fresh, quirky, thought-provoking script, but I’m still surprised that the American Hustle bandwagon petered out quite so comprehensively as not to win this.

Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley for 12 Years A Slave. Fantastic to win this, I’m all for 12 Years winning as many as possible, though as Ridley himself said in the speech, the main credit goes to Solomon Northup. Scary speech by presenter Robert De Niro, incidentally: “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing,” he said. “Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.” Thanks, Bob! Mostly, it’s scary because it’s true.

Gravity: just out of this world

21 Nov

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Seeing Gravity, late, now comes with crushing expectations: it’s got more stars than the Hubble telescope, an IMDB ranking at 59th of all time.

To me, it exceeded them all. If you go – and you should – do see it in IMAX. Expensive? They could have charged me £100 and I’d have thought it worth the ticket.

CGI seldom impresses any more: we expect the impossible. But damn – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are actually floating. Those space stations are actually exploding. It feels as real as that first train did to terrified early audiences.

The camera-work is vertiginously virtuoso: long, long takes (the first is 17 minutes; take that, Orson!), drifting and revolving as we follow the space-walkers in their suits, spinning round until we’re inside the helmet looking out with them. (As Ender’s Game observes, there is no “up” in space.) This is what happens when you take a great art-movie director  like Alfonso Cuarón and give him a Hollywood blockbuster’s tool-box to play with.

David Hare is not a fan. In a talk I attended at the London Screenwriters’ Festival, he blasted: “Gravity is a film in which, from beginning to end, nobody says a single interesting thing. You think, ‘hang on, this film is at the cutting edge, you’ve spent $80 million for digital effects; it might be worth spending a quarter of that on someone who could write dialogue, not just spaghetti Bolognese coming out of their mouths.’”

I can’t agree. It’s simple, and it’s affecting. A little too patly “Hollywood” in its character arc perhaps – without spoiling anything for those who haven’t yet seen it, the emotional key-line is “you have to learn to let go” – but I was still literally on the edge of my seat throughout, I still cried at the end. Even if my tears didn’t drift away in shiny silver globules like Sandra Bullock’s.

Cuarón, incidentally, deserves major credit for sticking to his guns: the studio wanted Bullock’s character to be a man.  Well, we’re up to $527,756,931 and still counting. With Bridesmaids having re-written the rules for female comedy (it’s the highest grossing of all Judd Apatow movies), this may be the defining moment when Hollywood finally catches up with the music industry, and realises that women can take the lead.

Though hopefully not naked and perched on top of a wrecking ball.