FILM NEWS: The Ministry Is Interfering At Hogwarts*

I didn’t vote Conservative. Just, you know, FYI. Like many in Scotland, I’d sooner vote one of those Chinese pandas into Parliament than consider entrusting the Torys with so much as a paddock at Edinburgh zoo, let alone the entire United Kingdom.

As I have watched our rubbery PM – the human equivalent of one of Finding Nemo‘s possessive seagulls – squint his way through government, disenfranchising people to the point where they’d happily saw their way out of his jurisdiction with whatever came to hand, my only solace has been that I can take comfort in my local cinema for a few hours of quiet escapism whenever it all got a bit too much. Or at least it was.

Not satisfied with sparking riots among hugged-out hoodies, or his party’s plans to run a train through hundreds of homes and generally prepare Britain for the coming apocalypse by single-arsedly shitting all over it, David Cameron has now got it into his shiny bonnet that British cinema simply isn’t lucrative enough in its current state, priced as it is at only £4 billion. Pauper money.

Seriously, despite such recent successes as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Morris’ Four Lions and this year’s The King’s Speech (not to mention the unprecedented impact of the Harry Potter franchise), Cameron apparently still feels the need to interfere. Discontent with merely abolishing the UK Film Council, the Prime Minister yesterday made an announcement at Pinewood Studios in advance of Lord Smith’s imminent review.

Our role, and that of the BFI, should be to support the sector in becoming even more dynamic and entrepreneurial, helping UK producers to make commercially successful pictures that rival the quality and impact of the best international productions. Just as the British Film Commission has played a crucial role in attracting the biggest and best international studios to produce their films here, so we must incentivise UK producers to chase new markets both here and overseas.”

Now, let’s skirt past the fact that he is addressing producers as opposed to directors, lest we go mad at the very thought of a British Jerry Bruckheimer, and focus instead on Cameron’s push for “commercially successful pictures that rival the quality and impact of the best international productions”.

Sure his mouth may say quality, but his eyes are clearly marked with bulging pound signs. Of course the British film industry – or whatever’s left of the British industry by the time Cameron’s finished with it (MINE!) – must continue to aim high if it is to sustain itself, but with The Inbetweeners Movie alone making in excess of £45 million at the box office, the British Film Institute is clearly managing fine without interference from the Eton elite.

God, you make a film about a politician and they suddenly think they own the place. I can just see it now: The Inbetw33nersLondon to Birmingham 3DHogwarts Revisited, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here: The Movie and the upcoming Keith Lemon debacle. Morgan Freeman help us.

*I realise that the Harry Potter series was primarily filmed at Leavesden Studios, but there were parts of the final two instalments that were filmed at Pinewood.

If 2011 Were A Movie…

In recent years we have seen Hollywood tap a variety of different resources in its ongoing search for new ideas. Stopping just short of sticking its hand down the side of the sofa and rummaging for loose inspiration, Tinseltown has instead chosen to adapt everything from the usual books, video games and television shows, to websites, theme park rides and – I still can’t quite believe it –  even board games. So, why not an entire year?

If 2011 were a movie, aside from reflecting such recent events as The Royal Wedding, the London riots, the Eurozone crisis and those pandas arriving at Edinburgh zoo, it would also have to reflect the trends and tendencies prevalent in the films it has seen released during its tenure. As such, it would most likely be a remake of a foreign language prequel, a motion-capture throwback and a steamy tale of friends with benefits, with no strings attached.

If 2011 were a movie it would star Michael Fassbender as a man haunted by an unsuppressable Irish accent, Ryan Gosling as someone who can wear clothes really well, and Natalie Portman in the midst of what must amount to the most productive pregnancy ever. Stellan Skarsgård would play a man with a hidden agenda, Felicity Jones’ character would ultimately win your heart and Justin Timberlake would appear as a surprisingly capable actor.

If 2011 were a movie it would be set in Rio de Janeiro, where endangered birds come to mate, the fast are as fun as they are furious, and vampires routinely honeymoon.  At least, that is, until Michael Bay crashes a Transformer into it, forcing our heroes to set sale, on stranger tides, in search of the secret of the unicorn. On a Zeppelin. It would see McLovin slay some vampires, James Bond team up with Indiana Jones, and Queen Amidala wooed by a bunch of carrots and a period mix.

If 2011 were a movie it would be called 2011: The Movie – Part II Of The Rise Of The Planet of The Apes Of The Moon 3D (in 4romascope). It would have more punctuation than characters, more dimensions than punctuation, and in all likelihood be prefixed with Green. It would be a kid’s film by Martin Scorsese, a superhero movie by Michael Gondry, a live action movie by Brad Bird and an animated movie by Steven Spielberg.

If 2011 were a movie it wouldn’t be as good as the book, the original or the trailer for Sucker Punch made it out to be. It would miscast Liam Neeson, boast too much Nicolas Cage, and at some point feature a fat character shaving his head and shitting into her dress. Worst of all, however, New Year’s Eve would kill the finale. And it would be inexplicably steampunk.

More importantly, however, if 2011 were a movie I would pay to see it. I would marvel at its melancholy, gasp at its production values and laugh unabashedly at its failure to kill Bono. It would be surprisingly heartfelt for a summer blockbuster, unexpectedly jaw-dropping for a low budget Norwegian flick, as funny as the TV show, and a fitting conclusion to a much loved franchise.

If 2011 were a movie, 2012 would have a lot to live up to.

Films of the Year – 2011

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but one year ago, in a fit of madness, I started a blog. In deciding to name that blog popcornaddiction, I hoped to convey not only a truth about my unrecommendable diet, but also aspects of my palette that were decidedly more cinematic.

I like my movies big, brash and full of the kind of high-octane emotion that leaves women crying incoherently on the floor and men spitting loudly into telephones. Although I like so savour masterpieces and worship at the feet of the auteur as much as the next person, my tastes are predominantly more mainstream. Having worked in a seven screened multiplex for most of my university career, I love nothing more than to have my blocks busted and popcon flicked by the latest tent-pole release.

I realise that this probably makes me less of a critic, and more of a drooling fanboy, but this is my blog and while I do pride myself on relatively broad horizons I have no intention of pandering to some ideal that dismisses 3D and thinks children’s movies are just for kids. As such, my favourite films of the year are unlikely to be representative of other bloggers, critics and journos, and for that I do not apologise. Other opinions are available, but in my own personal opinion they are wrong; X-Men: First Class was fine, Drive was perfectly alright and True Grit was, well, a bit rubbish actually For me it was a year notable for the welcome return of Scream, a surprisingly decent Footloose remake and – don’t judge me too harshly – the ludicrously entertaining Fast Five. In that vein, my pick of the year’s best are as follows:

10. The King’s Speech

I know The King’s Speech has undergone a bit of a kicking since its January release, but still, it won an Oscar didn’t it?  Tom Hooper’s film, which starred a stutteringly brilliant Colin Firth and a surprisingly sane Helena Bonham Carter, proved as profoundly moving as it did achingly funny. Aided ably by Geoffrey Rush’s elocutionist, the filmmakers managed to tell a grand story against a grandiose backdrop while maintaining a humour and humanity which managed to charm even the Fuck Police. A compelling script, subtle direction and triad of exceptional performances conspire to create one truly unforgettable movie with magisterial presence and timeless elegance.

9. Life in a Day

Life in a Day – the cinematic experiment executive produced by both Ridley and Tony Scott – is an extraordinary and ambitious insight into a day in the life of the human race. Compiling and consolidating over 4,500 hours of amateur footage, from 80,000 submissions and 140 nations, director Kevin MacDonald has created a coherent, compelling and delightfully accomplished snapshot in time, an invaluable time-capsule to chronicle the YouTube generation. Babies are born, deaths are mourned, teeth are brushed, animals are slaughtered, rituals are practised and crimes are committed. Thrilling, you might easily scoff. But it is.

8. Midnight in Paris

Having come to terms with the fact that I might never ‘get’ Owen Wilson, it certainly came as a surprise when a collaboration with Woody Allen had me drawn swiftly to my senses. Leaving the cinema at midnight, in Nice, I was utterly enchanted by this tale of nostalgia for some ever-changing Golden Age. Midnight in Paris tells its story with a verve and emotionality that handles the rampant nostalgia with expert precision, boasting enough wit, charm and cameos to keep even the stubbornest Francophile entertained, quickly atoning for the bloated pictorial prologue that precedes it.

7. Thor

The first of two fledgeling Avengers to receive the big screen treatment this year, Thor was always a much more intriguing prospect than July’s Captain America movie. Trapped in development Hell for years, it was always going to be a difficult endeavour breathing cinematic life into one of Marvel’s most outlandish properties, made ever more unfashionable with Christopher Nolan’s recent reign of darkness. With director Kenneth Branagh (an inspired decision on Marvel’s behalf) refusing to shy away from the goofier aspects of the character’s mythology, Thor is a very different – a very necessarily different – superhero movie. And it is all the better for it.

6. The Troll Hunter

Following a slight case of found-footage fatigue – hot off the tails as we are of REC and Cloverfield – you could be forgiven for thinking the genre overcrowded and the format flagging. Rather than feeling tired or derivative, however, The Troll Hunter is an engaging and innovative return to form for a technique caught up in an endless cycle of American remakes and Paranormal Activity sequels. Thrilling, funny and absolutely breathtaking, The Troll Hunter is an unmissable piece of stand-out cinema from director André Øvredal’s. Even if I’m still not entirely sure what it’s called (The Troll Hunter? TrollHunter?).

5. Melancholia

How many times has the world ended now? Ball-point figure? While we have seen it attacked by aliens, riddled with comets, conquered by apes, ravaged by virus and infested with zombies, I for one can’t say I have ever seen the end of the world through recognisably human eyes. Or through the eyes of anyone eighteen or over. While it is undoubtedly not for everyone, Melancholia is a masterpiece in mood and menace, building to a sense of completely hopeless acceptance as Dunst, Gainsbourg and Sutherland’s characters deal with the inevitable apocalypse in different and yet wholly realistic ways.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

To say I cried at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II would be an understatement of Grawp-like proportions. The biggest compliment I can bestow on this final chapter is that it hit me like a bat-bogey hex. It is testament to not only the work of Yates and his team of filmmakers – Alexandre Desplat, I love you – but the underestimated talents of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint that a story so high on Pumpkin Juice should ever deliver an emotional punch of such ruthless affect. As we leave Hogwarts for the last time – awash with rubble and barely recognisable – it is with the utmost closure on what really has been the motion picture event of a generation. I’m welling up again just thinking about it.

3. The Guard

I don’t really like comedies. I tend to find studio offerings like Tower Heist and Just Go With It too broad to make anything approaching an impact, while this year’s Bridesmaids embodied everything that isn’t funny about genre maestro Judd Apatow’s sense of humour (except the bit where they all shat themselves, LOL). John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, as with his brother’s sister movie In Bruges, however, managed to deliver solid, hearty laughs without ever resorting to the ruinously try-hard schtick that plagues most contemporary comedy. Lampooning cop shows, subverting comedy conventions and gently poking fun of Irish culture, The Guard was unarguably the most fun you were likely to have in the cinema this year.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin

Something has happened. Something bad. Lynne Ramsay’s Kevin is – almost from birth – a truly terrifying creation. Ezra Miller’s performance is cold, calculating and counter-intuitively compelling; he is perfectly horrifying without once raising his voice, jumping out of the shadows or making that petrifying clicking noise attributed to cursed Japanese children. From its matter-of-fact title to Ramsay’s bi-linear adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s epistolary novel, this is no-frills masterpiece-making at its most devastating. There is no period dress, no operatic over-emotionality and no delusions of grandeur, just an exquisitely unrelenting build-up of tension that deserves – heck, demands – your recognition. All of it.

1. Super 8

Super 8 has it all: production values, solid stakes and performances that more often than not leave you utterly speechless. The film – both within the film and the feature itself – is as fun to watch as it looked to make, the nostalgia and unreserved love that has gone into each frame making it onto the big screen. In a sea of superheroes and sex-comedies, Super 8 is a breath of old air; compelling, heart-stopping and packing some seriously impressive performances, J. J. Abrams’ latest is the best Spielberg movie Spielberg never made. And then some.

February 2011 – Do you know the “f” word?

Two BondalongaBlogs in, and with January now relegated to the history books, February has similarly passed us by, caught up in the throng of awards season.

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I did, all four excruciating hours of it. While not all of my predictions came true, it was still a thoroughly mixed affair, caught somewhere between an enthusiastic nod and an outraged shake of the head. The King’s Speech reigned supreme, but with awards season now behind us, it is time for the blockbusters to rear their exploding heads.

February began with See Film Differently’s much anticipated screening of Trainspotting in Edinburgh’s Royal Scottish Academy. Representing HeyUGuys, I was finally able to unpack my schmoozing face and act like a bona fide film journalist. I was greeted with a free dinner (haggis), a free drink (wine) and a complimentary box of popcorn (cardboard).  The film was followed by a trip down Princes St. to the Ingleby Gallery to peruse the film’s promotional material and drink more free wine. It was great, living proof that Edinburgh can be exciting too.

Back at The Cinema That Must Not Be Named, I sat through Gulliver’s Travels, was put off by Barney’s Version, moved by Never Let Me Go, excited by Sanctum 3D, entertained by Paul, bored by True Grit, disappointed by I am Number Four, charmed by Gnomeo and Juliet and unimpressed with The Fighter. I also took the time to review Justin Bieber: Never Say Never for BestforFilm, Alpha and Omega for HeyUGuys and finally found the time to review Priceless for myself. It has been a busy month, but one which has rather failed to make much of a good impression.

News-wise things have been better. The first trailer for X-Men: First Class put an army of fans at ease, while Captain America and Thor continued to hold the spotlight. Pixar celebrated their 25th anniversary, giving me the opportunity to argue my favourite of their many incredible releases: the incomparable Finding Nemo. More importantly, How to Train Your Dragon 2 continued to entice with news that it is to be even more epic than the original – 2013 really cannot come quickly enough!

Most importantly, however, February saw this blog open up to Alongcameaginge‘s contributions. At odds with my unenthusiastic review of True Grit, she endeavoured to present The True Nitty Gritty in all its apparent glory. It might not be Friday, but follow her anyway.

To end this month, I journeyed to Glasgow (I was in Buckie a few weeks ago as well, country-hopping or what!) for a day at their burgeoning Film Festival. Watching Route Irish with Oliver Wood from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – review pending – I summed up my experiences in an article for HeyUGuys which aimed to celebrate this increasingly prestigious film event.

Film of the month: Sanctum 3D

The 83rd Academy Awards

Last night saw the annual 83rd Academy Awards crash into a room-full of endangered animals and explode all over a visiting class of schoolchildren. As James Franco and Anne Hathaway took to the stage to punish humanity for Eve’s taste in fruit, the scene was set for a slew of nonsense awards that made the Razzies look hugely original. Thankfully, however, not all of my predictions came true: while Toy Story 3 won best animation, Christian Bale scooped Best Supporting Actor and How To Train Your Dragon was unforgivably overlooked, the Best Director and Best Film awards went to a film that actually deserved them. Here, then, lies a full list of the nominees and respective winnners – or at least as full a list as I could manage at 5 o’clock in the morning. Yes sir, I am a mental person.

Best Picture

The Social Network – Winter’s Bone – The King’s Speech – Black Swan – True Grit – The Fighter – The Kids Are All Right – Toy Story 3 – Inception – 127 Hours

The Oscar which last year went to The Hurt Locker (blah!), this year was awarded to The King’s Speech, an unassuming but deeply incredible movie about overcoming obstacles in the face of one’s duties. While I would have happily seen Black Swan or 127 Hours take home this award – to Nina Sayer’s mirror world or Aron Ralston’s hole respectively – I, unlike most people, can live with The King’s Speech. At least, for example, it didn’t go to The Fighter, True Grit or Inception, becoming in the process a celebration of utter averageness.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky – Tom Hooper – David Fincher – Joel & Ethan Coen – David O. Russell

Rather than breaking another taboo, and – say – being awarded to a hermaphrodite (equal opportunities!), this years Best Director once again went hand in hand with Best Film. Tom Hooper may have directed a TV movie, but it was the best, most engaging and outstandingly cinematic TV movie of the year.

Best Actor

James Franco – Colin Firth – Jesse Eisenberg – Javier Bardem – Jeff Bridges

Yes, James Franco can look dehydrated; sure, Jesse Eisenberg can invoke the God of awkwardness; and sure Jeff Bridges can move his chin but only Colin Firth gave a performance worth walking onstage about. Conveying a believable stutter, both technically and emotionally, and following up A Single Man with arguably his most inspiring performance yet, Firth had this one coming. In case you needed more proof, however, he is also the only actor to have not starred in Cursed, Tron: Legacy or Eat Pray Love.

Best Actress

Natalie Portman – Annette Benning – Jennifer Lawrence – Michelle Williams – Nicole Kidman

Natalie Portman trained for almost a year to ensure she convinced as ballet protégée Nina Sayers in Black Swan. She also made V for Vendette which, in my book, means has been a dead cert for years. Sure, each of the other actresses gave mightily depressing performances in their respective vehicles, but Portman was the only one who managed psychotic, turning into a black swan in front of our very eyes. With Julianne Moore sadly snubbed, there was no other choice.

Best Supporting Actor

John Hawkes – Christian Bale – Mark Ruffalo – Geoffrey Rush – Jeremy Renner

Oh Jeeze, with the big four firmly out of the way, it really is all down hill from here. Earned entirely by Geoffrey Rush, Best Supporting Actor was sadly mis-awarded to Batman’s teeth. Thanking everyone he had ever met with the worst in mockney accents, Bale appears to have won for mimicking the mannerisms of another human being – some parrots can do that – while giving one of the least likeable performances of the year.

Best Supporting Actress

Hailee Steinfeld – Melissa Leo – Jacki Weaver – Amy Adams – Helena Bonham Carter

Grabbing two out of five nominations, The Fighter was unfortunately a shoe in for Best Supporting Actress. Going to the entirely convincing mega-bitch Melissa Leo, Helena Bonham Carter was robbed of recognition for what might have been her first sane performance in years. It is telling that Leo’s accomplishment is already outshone by one ill-advised Bible-belt-baiting F-bomb.

Best Original Screenplay

AnotherYear – The Kids Are Alright – The King’s Speech – Inception – The Fighter

Thi is, perhaps, the first ever time I have begrudged The King’s Speech one of its awards. Best Original Screenplay? A film which Tom Hooper, in his acceptance speech for Best Director, attributes to his mother’s attendance of a play and which is based on historical fact? Much more deserving was the beautifully devastating  Another Year or the light, yet utterly compelling The Kids Are Alright.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Social Network – 127 Hours – Toy Story 3 – True Grit – Winter’s Bone

The Social Network was good in an alright kind of way. Yes the opening scene stung with its razor-sharp dialogue, but after that it was all a bit ass-numbing really. 127 Hours, however, took a challenging and confined story and edited the shit out of it until it shone of greatness. Danny Boyle is a genius.

Best Animated Film

The Illusionist – How to Train Your Dragon – Toy Story 3

DreamWorks did some sterling work last year, rejuvenating their flagging Shrek franchise, outshining the much-hyped Despicable Me with the far superior Magamind and blowing every other pixel out of the water with How to Train Your Dragon. Their efforts, as predicted, went unrewarded at this year’s Academy Awards, however, as Pixar’s third Toy Story movie stumbled into the limelight for an award that should have gone to one of its far superior predecessors many moons ago. This was the year of the Dragon!

Best Art Direction

Inception – Alice in Wonderland – The King’s Speech – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – True Grit

You know what, say what you like about Alice in Wonderland but it was a wonder to behold. While The King’s Speech may have been all period, True Grit may have had a decent costume or two and Inception had a few beats Escher would have been proud of, Alice in Wonderland boasted example after example of glorious design. While I would have liked Harry Potter to win something, you could have done a lot worse than the splendour of Wonderland.

Best Cinematography

Black Swan – The Social Network – Inception – True Grit – The King’s Speech

Inception? Really? While it may be the best pick of this sorry bunch, this year’s best cinematography – in my opinion – was showcased in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Gorgeously shot, and breathing life into endless hillside, old tenements and Daniel Radcliffe’s face, Deathly Hallows: Part I was absolutely gorgeous to behold.

Best Visual Effects

Hereafter – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – Iron Man 2 – Alice in Wonderland – Inception

I’ll give Inception this one, that scene in which the city folds in half is still absolutely breath-taking. Had it fully utilised its dream setting, however, its deservedness would have been far more striking. Iron Man 2 might have been pretty meh, but the opening tsunami in Hereafter, the opening escape from Privet Drive and Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole were all similarly awe-inspiring. For stand out moment, however, I’d have to give it to Black Swan for that transformation!

Best Original Score

How to Train Your Dragon – Inception – The King’s Speech – 127 Hours – The Social Network

The Social Network? Really? How the Hell did it go? At least Inception‘s bombastic foghorn made it all the way to Top Gear, cropping up in just about every movie trailer since. The real winner, however, was undoubtedly John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon score, a beautifully elegant, eloquent and uplifting piece of music which fits the action entirely. A mainstay on my playlist ever since, “Forgotten Friendship”, in particularly, is one of the all encompassing, heartfelt and utterly moving scores you will hear all year. Robbed I say!

Best Makeup

The Wolfman – Barney’s Version – The Way Back

While I can just about forgive Alice in Wonderland: Oscar winner, there is no way I can accept a now acclaimed The Wolfman, possibly the year’s worst feature film (Airbender was not that bad!). Barney’s Version and The Way Back may not have featured an entirely unconvincing wereworlf, but at least they weren’t completely irredeemable.

So, there you have it: the Academy was wrong…again! Not worth the sleep hangover, there was at least brief evidence of talent onscreen. For a fleeting moment, Billy Crystal took to the stage with personality and the evening’s first and only trio of jokes. May I take this opportunity to congratulate The King’s Speech, and voice my wish that Spielberg next year wins Best Director for Tintin. Tune in next year, and watch as I am wrong again.

Five Oscar predictions and why I hope they are wrong.

Every film journalist worth their salt has spent today making a checklist of their Oscar predictions, a near unanimous set of winners that once again fills me with dread, and leaves me longing for less predictable times.

Rather than dealing with each award in turn (there are, like, loads!) and duplicating said list once more, I have instead opted to make five simple predictions along with the reasons that I will throw things when they inevitably come to pass.

You see, the academy and I rarely see eye to eye; last year, for example, a considerable number of the chosen winners sent me into a rabbid frenzy (The Hurt Locker for best film? Up for best animation? Are you friggin’ kidding me?). This, then, is my last chance to voice my disagreement and lull myself into a fraudulant belief that I have done all I can to change Hollywood’s mind.

1) Inception will win everything.

There was universal outrage earlier this year when the nominees were announced. “Where’s Inception?” cried a legion of Nolanite’s in unison as Inception was only nominated for a handful of awards (it got best picture, what more do you want?), their blind assurance that it was, like, the best film ever falling on decidedly deaf ears. It was an alright blockbuster that didn’t treat its audience like lesser primates, not the most intelligent movie ever made.

It was humourless, pretentious and hugely unambitious. As a movie set in the realm of the imagination it was notably unimaginative – wow, a train…is that really all you’ve got? A Nightmare on Elm Street made better use of its dream setting and it was shit!

2) Toy Story 3 will win best animation.

Are you kidding me? Sure Toy Story 3 was an undoubtedly worthy addition to the Toy Story franchise but was that ever really in doubt? Not to sound ungrateful, but isn’t the whole point of awarding best animation to single out the single greatest animated movie of the year, regardless of whether or not it was directed by Pixar? It was bad enough when Up won the category last year, but to grant another ‘good’ Pixar movie with this accolade is to do their better offerings a huge disservice. Toy Story 3 was fine but it was as much the greatest Pixar movie ever made as it was the best animated movie of 2010. Last year, as you well know, had its very own Wall-E.

I don’t care what the judges say, How to Train Your Dragon was the best animated movie of the year. As big a surprise to me as it no doubt was to you, How to Train Your Dragon blew me away with its utter perfection. Escaping DreamWorks’ penchant for inferior animation, it is all the more worthy of attention for its expectations-blowing majesty.

3) Christopher Bale is going to win Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter.

So Christian Bale can imitate mannerisms, whoop-de-doo. Is it not bad enough that the man recieved undeserved praise for growling on cue for The Dark Knight? Must he really rob John Hawkes, Geoffrey Rush and Mark Ruffalo of the actor in a supporting role award (I’d include Jeremy Renner if The Town had been any good at all)?

The Fighter was an incredibly average movie, complete awards-bait which only serves to illustrate how unimaginative and predictable the Academy Awards have become. Should the award have been for the least sympathetic supporting character since Jar Jar Binks, then I’d be as behind Bale as the rest of you are now. I have honestly never wanted a character to shut up more, Mark Wahlberg is trying to speak!

4) The Coen brothers will win best director.

First of all, there’s two of them. How exactly is that fair. Second of all, isn’t it bad enough that True Grit took up room in the cinematography category that is better deserved by David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I? Third of all, what the Hell was so great about True Grit in the first place?

Sure they may have persuaded Jeff Bridges to “growl even less coherently”, but True Grit was as slow and uneventful as the very worst exercises in entertainment. Yes the kid acted bluntly, yes I believed that Matt Damon has bit his tongue, but is that really all that is required for a best director nomination? Where the Hell’s Danny Boyle!?

5) How to Train Your Dragon will not win best score.

Competing against serious movies such as Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours and The Social Network, there is no way the academy award is going to go to a cartoon about dragons and a little viking named Hiccup. This is, of course, regardless of the fact that I have been humming How to Train Your Dragon‘s score since the first time I saw it on the big screen. The first time of five, that is.

In fact, the only other score I can actually call is that of Inceptions, a series of ominous fog horns that could have belonged to any Christopher Nolan movie to date. John Powell’s endlessly uplifting How to Train Your Dragon score, on the other hand, breathed so much life and originality into the movie that, in my opinion, it is easily on a par with the instantly recognisable Indiana Jones, James Bond, or Harry Potter themes.

So, reader, think of my hoarse exasperation as Inception cleans up everything but best director (HA!), Toy Story scoops best animation, Christian Bale picks up more undeserved recognition, the Coen brothers do their thing and How To Train Your Dragon falls victim to its own brilliance. Why am I watching the Oscars tonight? Masochism, apparently.

January 2011 – It’s on like Donkey Kong

Since bringing in this new year with shots of Danish Aquavit and a sizeable slab of brie, I have tried to kick-start my year into shape and set my numerous resolutions into motion with a new blog and a new mindset. Thoroughly failing to reboot my life with a new job and daily productivity so far, I have nevertheless sustained a half-decent blog through the first month of 2011. Go team me.

Beginning the new year with the obligatory list of my 10 favourite movies of 2010 and a review of my highlights working for HeyUGuys, I also posed a series of actresses who might be able to save the inevitable Buffy reboot from total travesty. Wasting no time in rounding up my most anticipated and dreaded releases of this coming year, I was finally free to set about reviewing the films already taken by other writers for HeyUGuys and BestforFilm.

So far this year I have watched: The Kings Speech (magisterial), Bridge to Terabithia (surprisingly poignant), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (disarming), Casino Royale (21 months early), Tangled (for which I have the monopoly with reviews at HUG, BFF and on this here blog), Tron: Legacy (snore), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (ponderous), 127 Hours (arresting), Cloverfield (engaging)  Blue Valentine (devastating), The Emperor’s New Groove (perfection), Step Up 3D (entertaining), Season of the Witch (crap), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (enchanting), The Green Hornet 3D (insulting), The Next Three Days (acceptable), Morning Glory (wonderful), Black Swan (infectious), Conviction (passable) and Hereafter (underestimated).

January was the month in which How to Train Your Dragon 2 was thoroughly demystified, Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy were cast in The Dark Knight Rises and we caught our first glimpse of Andrew Garfield as Spider-man. January was also – as is often the case – home to Burns Night, spurring a list of the eight most random Scots cameos in film.

With 22 months remaining until the release of Bond 23, January also proved the perfect opportunity for a franchise retrospective. Joining The Invisible Suit and a whole host of other bloggers, I have endeavoured to watch a Bond movie a month for the BlogalongaBond challenge.  Starting 2011 with Dr. No, I have only 21 months left until I am free of this beautifully pointless exercise.

So, January has been a busy month. While I have yet to escape to greener (journalism-centric) pastures, I have founded a place to vent my frustration at idiotic customer questions and commit my overwhelming popcornaddiction to web.

Film of the month: Morning Glory.

The King’s Speech (2010)

Tom Hooper’s follow-up to 2009’s The Damned United, The King’s Speech carries audiences off to another period altogether. Set in the years leading up to World War II, the film centres on King George VI’s (Colin Firth) ongoing battle to overcome a crippling stammer. Mocked by his father and required to speak publicly as King when his brother unexpectedly abdicates, the former Duke of York must put aside his deferences with unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in order to give a nine page radio speech when war on Germany is finally announced.

Not one to frequent period dramas with anything resembling excitement, I all too often find myself disengaged and struggling to relate to the archaic priorities or dated pomp and circumstance. The King’s Speech, however, crafts such a compelling narrative that the historic trivialities soon cease to matter. Boiled down to a childhood stutter, the trials and tribulations of B..B..Bertie hit home with timeless power and naked reverence.

Somehow managing to trump his esteemed turn in Tom Ford’s A Single Man, Colin Firth utterly convinces as a man unaware of his innate greatness. A disbelieving King who mistakes reluctance for fear, Firth not only nails the technicalities of a convincing stutter but the crippling insecurities of a hugely courageous King. Despite his hard, duteous exterior, King George VI is a deeply sympathetic character – all thanks to the brilliant Firth.

That said, this is no one man show with a series of winning performances breathing life into David Seidler’s superb script. Without Geoffrey Rush’s Lionel Logue, the movie – and history for that matter – would be but a shadow of its true self. Bringing some much needed humour to the otherwise morose proceedings, Logue bring’s out the King’s hidden humanity. With the help of a refreshingly sane Helena Bonham-Carter, the two keep the tone graciously light to offset the darkness slowly enveloping Britain as war approaches.

Deeply moving yet achingly funny, The King’s Speech tells a great story against a grandiose backdrop to achieve a very personal drama with engaging purpose and occasion. A compelling script, subtle direction and triad of exceptional performances conspire to create one truly unforgettable movie with magisterial presence and timeless elegance.