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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DVD review – The Lost Thing (2010), Region 4, Madman

10 December 2010

The Lost ThingAustralian author and illustrator Shaun Tan makes his directorial debut (along with co-director Andrew Ruhemann) with this animated short adapted from Tan’s acclaimed picture book. Narrated by musician/comedian Tim Minchin, The Lost Thing is about a boy who discovers a creature on the beach that nobody else seems to notice. Encased in a giant mechanical dome with tentacles sprouting from the various hatches, the creature is like a steam-punk version of a benevolent sea monster.

The Lost Thing has a beautiful melancholic charm that evokes the work of writer Neil Gaiman and filmmaker Tim Burton. Tan has previously worked as a conceptual artist on computer animated films Horton Hears a Who! and WALL·E, and his experience creating unique and immersive landscapes is evident in The Lost Thing. It is a sad and bureaucratic world, not too distant from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, where a population lost in their daily routine don’t notice the presence of an extraordinary creature that needs looking after.

The DVD includes deleted scenes, a documentary on Tan and production information making it essential viewing for animation fans.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 368, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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MIFF 2010 Diary: Part 7

3 August 2010
The Lost Thing

The Lost Thing

As I’ve mentioned previously I was on the jury this year for the Melbourne International Film Festival Shorts Awards with fellow jury members Alan Finney and Wendy Haslem. During a fun ceremony on Sunday night, hosted by Colin Lane, the following winning films were announced:

Jury Special Mention: Out Of Love
Melbourne Airport Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker: The Kiss
MIFF Award for Best Experimental Short Film: Long Live The New Flesh
MIFF Award for Best Documentary Short Film: The Mystery Of Flying Kicks
MIFF Award for Best Animation Short Film: Angry Man
Cinema Nova Award for Best Fiction Short Film: Autumn Man
Film Victoria Erwin Rado Award for Best Australian Short Film: Franswa Sharl
City of Melbourne Grand Prix for Best MIFF Short Film: The Lost Thing

With the exception of Out Of Love all the above films will screen at the Best MIFF Shorts Screening this Sunday and I can’t recommend that session enough.

Yesterday I got back into seeing feature films, starting with two OK films and ending on a very strong one.

Based on a true story, The Robber is about an Austrian man obsessed with two things – running and robbing banks. There is something slightly cold and detached about this film and the rather subdued acting keeps you at an arms length for the entire film. There are some exhilarating bursts of action and in particular some of the on foot chase sequences echo the effective use of first person cinematography that Kathryn Bigelow is so skilled at delivering. However, overall The Robber never fully connects in the way that you feel it should.

While watching the hitman farce Wild Target I was surprised at how much I remembered from the original 1993 French film Cible émouvante. In this new English remake Bill Nighy plays the lead role of the professional hitman that  Jean Rochefort played originally and he is an excellent choice with his wonderful comedic timing. The rest of the cast aren’t as well suited but they are likeable enough to make this remake work reasonable well. Weirdly, the fact that the very black humour – where somebody getting murdered is often the punchline – seems so suited to the English sensibility, makes it actually less funny than it was when done by the French where it felt so outrageous by comparison.

Poetry

Poetry

I went to see the South Korean film Poetry at the last minute mainly because I’d heard it compared to last year’s Mother. Stylistically far more naturalistic that Mother it does contain some thematic similarities. Discovering that she is displaying the earlier signs of Alzheimer’s and finding out that her grandson, whom she cares for, was involved in a horrible crime, a woman in her 60s turns to poetry to find some kind of beauty in life. Apparently inspired by a real event, Poetry reminded me of River’s Edge and the Australian play Blackrock with its social critique. The gently paced film is a blend of poetic observations about the natural world and very sad observations about social culpability. The central performance by Yoon Jeong-hee, a star of 1960s and 1970s Korean cinema, is what grounds this film and gives it such a moving emotional core.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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