Tag Archives: Flight

New films: Sly, Denzel, Bill, and l’il Lynch & Cronenberg

3 Feb
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Denzel Washington in Flight: the thinking man’s drinker

Note: this is the first in a weekly fix of new-release round-ups, saving you time and money. In future, I will post it on Fridays (as well as other blogs here and there).

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. When people used to smile wistfully and say, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore”, they meant screwball comedies, or heart-warming romances for the whole family. But now, fortysomething film fans might be thinking that about Bullet to the Head.

Stallone is on a mission to bring back the ‘80s, thankfully minus the haircuts. After two Execrables (sorry, Expendables), this is another testosterone-fuelled, muscle-packed, tattoo-laden fightfest, with a Ronseal slogan for a title.

The good news is that Bullet to the Head is directed by Walter Hill. He has always taken violence to mythic extremes: The Warriors (1979) was stuffed with classical allusions from Xenophon. If action’s what you want, Hill delivers it a little more satisfyingly than most.

With Arnie back in The Last Stand, and Terminator 5, Triplets and The Legend of Conan in the pipeline, it’s as though the last quarter-century never happened.

Another week, another Oscar contender. Flight features a subtle, career-best performance from Denzel Washington as a brilliant pilot who rescues his plane from a fireball, but is subsequently found to be alcoholic. Is he a national hero, or a menace?

There’s a classic piece of acting advice, which most ignore. It’s not to play drunk. Drunk people pretend to be sober – most actors are sober people pretending to be drunk, and it shows. [Actresses also take note: people given terrible news usually try to contain their grief, not let it out.] Anyway, Denzel nails his character. The opening flight scenes are as thrilling as you would expect from director Robert Zemeckis, too.

It’s always a pleasure to watch Bill Murray, in those rare moments he isn’t turning up unannounced at student parties or rescuing random people in unexpected ways (see the cult of www.billmurraystory.com). But his charming performance as President ‘FDR’ Roosevelt, being courted for the war effort by King George VI, isn’t enough to lift Hyde Park on Hudson. Plus… no werewolves! What’s that all about? FDR: American Badass gave us Nazi werewolves, so we’re definitely short-changed here.

Finally, welcome please the Next Generation in cult film-making:

Chained is directed by Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David. Astonishing they let her near a movie camera again after Boxing Helena (1993), the heart-warming story of a man who loves a woman too much – so much he cuts off her arms and legs and keeps her in a box. Chained is about a serial-killing New York cabbie called, yes Twin Peaks fans, Bob. Ah well. What kind of films do you expect from someone who grew up knowing Eraserhead was inspired by her birth?

Antiviral is the low-budget but beautifully shot debut of 32-year-old Brandon Cronenberg, son of David. The premise is intriguing: a clinic harvests viruses from sick celebrities to sell to rabid fans, so they can catch the same illness. Far-fetched? Maybe not. Is it really that far from the Britney Spears fans who were encouraged by internet pranksters to Go Bald for Britney after spreading rumours that she had cancer, or the Beliebers who were made to Cut4Bieber when he was pictured smoking a joint?

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And the Oscar winners are…

10 Jan
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Daniel Day-Lewis, riding to Oscar glory. Again.

The Oscar noms are out! I love the Oscars. Even as a child, since I grew up in Canada, I would stay up late to watch the whole unedited splurge of ballgowns and orchestras and boom-tish jokes, hardly knowing who half the people were but fascinated by the ritual. It’s the closest thing America has in pomp and pageantry to a Royal wedding.

So believe me when I say I know already who’s going to win:

Best Picture: The nice surprises here are the lovely Beasts of the Southern Wild, and the extraordinary Amour – rare to have a foreign picture get the nod. Les Miserables will have a bucket-load of good will, Pi looks ravishing and there’s even an outside chance for Silver Linings Playbook, but really there’s just one possible winner: Lincoln. America feels bad about itself. Spielberg keeps reminding it of its racist past, through The Color Purple, Amistad and, if you will, E.T. Now he is eulogising the end of slavery.

Best Actor: A heavyweight line-up here. Hugh Jackman is well loved in the industry, and Hollywood loves a musical. Joaquin Phoenix was mesmerising in The Master, but does himself no favours with the Oscar committee (Anthony Hopkins has been pointedly snubbed for dissing the Awards a month ago). Denzel Washington also has a chance for a subtle, career-best performance in Flight. But who can stop Daniel Day-Lewis in full flow, accent and all?

Best Actress: Conversely, no heavyweights at all here. Jennifer Lawrence won’t win again, so soon.  It’s cute to nominate nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, but good acting at that age is more down to director than performer. Emmanuelle Riva, at 85 the oldest ever nominee, has a very good chance at getting Amour deserved recognition, but then so does Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, which received fewer noms than expected. It’s a close call, but I think sentiment will triumph over jingoism (plus the Academy voters have a median age of 62, so like an older actress).  The name in the envelope will be Riva’s.

Best Director: Can Spielberg win a fourth Oscar? Does the Pope say Hail Marys? Do bears eschew sanitary facilities in favour of the woods? It would be nice for Michael Haneke to win, and voters might just mistake technical accomplishment for direction and honour Ang Lee again, but Hollywood loves nothing more than an epic with a heart: Spielberg it is.

Best Screenplay: The voters in this category, ie fellow screenwriters, are a more discerning bunch. So best original screenplay will confound American expectations by going to Amour rather than to Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty. Best adapted screenplay could just go to the wonderful David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, since it’s so rare to find a genuinely great rom-com, with a brain as well as a heart. But Tony Kushner’s Angels in America was one of the great works of the 20th century, and if Lincoln‘s winning the other big awards, he’ll have to win this one too.

See you back here on Feb 24 so I can say “told you so”… or else to see photographic evidence of me eating my hat.

Now read this… When I stood on stage at the Oscars: http://bit.ly/WjCnhI