Cinema Autopsy on the 83rd Academy Awards winners

1 March 2011
The King's Speech

The King's Speech

Wow. Did I do a terrible job this year with my Academy Award predictions. I got a total of seven categories right and none of them were exactly radically or surprising results that demonstrate any sense of insight on my behalf. A full list of all the winners is on the official Oscars nominees and winners page and here are the ones that I picked:

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)
Actress in a Leading Role: Black Swan (Natalie Portman)
Actor in a Supporting Role: The Fighter (Christian Bale)
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
Music (Original Score): The Social Network (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
Sound Editing: Inception (Richard King)
Visual Effects: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)

How did I not predict The King’s Speech as the film that would clean up in several major awards including Best Motion Picture, Directing, Actor in a Leading Role, and Writing (Original Screenplay)? I even acknowledged that it is exactly the sort of  film that is destined for Academy Award glory as did the people who left comments on my predictions post. Regardless, The King’s Speech is still an excellent piece of cinema that was crafted by several talented people who deserve their acclaim.

Colin Firth in The King's Speech

Colin Firth in The King's Speech

Writer David Seidler, who based a lot of the film on his own experiences getting treatment for his stutter, gave a wonderful acceptance speech as did director Tom Hooper, whom I was lucky enough to interview a couple of months ago. However, it was best male actor winner Colin Firth who was the highlight of the night for me. He somehow managed to be funny, sincere, grateful and humble all at the same time, reenforcing how much I’ve come to like and admire him over the past few years. Firth has always been a wonderful screen presence but he’s really come into his own with The King’s Speech and what I like to call his grief trilogy: And When Did You Last See Your Father?, Genova and A Single Man.

Overall I was actually really pleased with the outcome of many of the awards despite being so off the mark with my predictions. It was terrific seeing Inception getting several of the key technical awards including Cinematography. While I was hoping Inception was also going to get Music (Original Score) I was still very pleased The Social Network won, not just because I had predicted it but because it is a great score and seeing Trent Reznor accepting the award was a tremendous rush for 16-year-old me.

Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in The Fighter

Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in The Fighter

Alice in Wonderland winning Art direction and Costume design was completely unexpected but I was thrilled that the Academy were finally recognising films in these categories that display innovation and imagination over films that simply reproduce the past. It was also very pleasing to see the under appreciated Melissa Leo win Actress in a Supporting Role for The Fighter. I was especially thrilled that the excellent films Inside Job and In a Better World (review to come) respectively won Documentary Feature and Foreign Language Film despite my predictions that they would not.

However, one of the biggest unexpected treats was seeing the marvellous Australian film The Lost Thing win the Animated Short award. Not only is it a magnificent film but on a personal note I am just so proud to have been on the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival short film jury that gave it the Grand Prix for Best Short Film award, which first made it eligible for an Academy Award. Of course The Lost Thing would have succeeded regardless of my presence on that jury, but still, it’s nice to have that tiny bit of early contact with an Academy Award winning film!

© Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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An interview with Tom Hooper, the director of The King’s Speech

20 December 2010
The King's Speech director Tom Hooper

The King's Speech director Tom Hooper

In The King’s Speech, Colin Firth plays King George VI who unexpectedly became the king of England after his father’s death and his brother’s abdication. With a cripplingly debilitating speech impediment he worked extensively with an Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), to prepare him for a life of public speaking.

This interview was recorded on Wednesday 15 December 2010 and then played on Film Buff’s Forecast (Triple R, 3RRR 102.7FM) on Saturday 18 December 2010.

Download link (interview running time = 10:01)

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Film review – Genova (2008)

3 November 2009
genova - stills 338297

Joe (Colin Firth)

Prior to playing the role of a grieving husband in Genova, Colin Firth gave what had been his strongest performance to date in Anand Tucker’s And When Did You Last See Your Father? playing the role of a grieving son. Perhaps the challenge of expressing such complex and painful emotions brings out the best in an actor as in Firth’s case it has certainly now demonstrated again just how fine a performer he is. In Genova he plays Joe, a man whose wife Marianne (Hope Davis) tragically dies in a car accident. Joe is left to look after his two daughters, 16-year-old Kelly (Willa Holland) and his younger daughter Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) who is feeling an oppressive degree of guilt about the accident that caused her mother’s death. Joe relocates his family from the USA to the northern Italian seaport city Genova, after receiving an invitation from an old university friend, Barbara (Catherine Keener) to teach at the local university. While learning to adjust to an entirely new way of life Kelly’s emerging rebelliousness and sexuality places her in increasingly vulnerable situations while Mary begins to have visions of her mother wandering through the labyrinthine streets.

Genova is a beautifully measured film about family, loss and moving on with life. With a skilled director like Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland, The Claim, 24 Hour Party People, A Cock and Bull Story, A Mighty Heart) at the helm you can be assured that it will never delve into cheap sentiment. Winterbottom is a director of such integrity that he restrains all potential indulgences that would have been tempting to give into, considering the subject matter, to instead focus on small moments of great resonance: the awkwardness of hugging somebody at a wake while holding a plate of food, the momentary sigh of frustration a parent gives when woken by a crying child before they leap out of bed to provide comfort. Winterbottom is not a cold or detached director but he is an incredibly thoughtful one who makes sure that moments that do provoke an intense emotional response are deserved and genuine.

genova - stills 098329

Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) and Kelly (Willa Holland)

Surrounding the beautiful character dynamics at play in Genova is the titular city. Winterbottom’s now trademark use of handheld digital cinematography, along with the ambient sound, perfectly captures the light and atmosphere. The dense city streets, buildings covered in scaffolding, grief theme and gradual introduction of Marianne as a ‘ghost’ in the story somewhat evokes Nicolas Roeg’s Venice set thriller Don’t Look Now. However, the comparison is only superficial and audiences expecting a supernatural horror from Genova are going to be disappointed. In fact, the true nature of what exactly it is the Mary sees is left deliberately ambiguous and while Genova may not conclude with a traditional narrative climax, it emotionally delivers all the way to the end. Genova is an incredible film that you won’t want to let go of. Winterbottom is one of the greatest living directors and Genova demonstrates this. Again.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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Film review – Easy Virtue (2008)

11 March 2009
Larita (Jessica Biel) and Mr Whittaker (Colin Firth)

Larita (Jessica Biel) and Mr Whittaker (Colin Firth)

Australian director Stephan Elliott hasn’t had much luck since writing and directing the 1994 hit The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He has since made two poorly received films and skied off a cliff in the French Alps, breaking his back. While bedridden Elliott began his comeback by starting work on the stage adaptation of Priscilla The Musical, which has since been a massive success. Elliot also began working on an adaptation of the early Noël Coward play Easy Virtue, which had only ever been adapted for film once before by Alfred Hitchcock as a silent film in 1928. It is odd to think of Easy Virtue as a silent film and Elliott’s terrific new adaptation takes full advantage of the wit and nuances of Coward’s dialogue.

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Film review – And When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007)

12 August 2008

The English are reputedly pretty bad at expressing their feelings, which is why this gentle yet heartfelt English drama, based on the memoirs of poet Blake Morrison, is so impressive. Not only does it convincingly convey the relationship between two emotionally restrained men but it is also a profoundly moving film that never resorts to sentiment.

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Film review – Mamma Mia! (2008)

29 July 2008

The massively successful stage musical Mamma Mia! uses the much-loved songs by 70s mega pop group ABBA to underpin a breezy comedy of manners about a young bride who, unbeknownst to her mother, invites the three men who could be her father to her wedding. As the wedding ceremony approaches misunderstandings, confusions and general wackiness ensue.

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