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 – The Damned United (2009)

20 October 2009
Brian Clough (Michael Sheen)

Brian Clough (Michael Sheen)

Brian Clough was a larger than life English football personality whose successes have resulted in him being considered one of the greatest ever football managers. Loosely adapted from the novel The Damned Utd by David Pearce (who also wrote the novels that the Red Riding trilogy were based on), this biographic film focuses on Clough’s first major success managing Derby County from 1967 to 1973 and then his ill-fated stint managing Leeds United in 1974. Adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon), The Damned United depicts Clough’s long running rivalry with Don Revie, the man who successfully managed Leeds United from 1961 to 1974, to be a leading motivation behind why he managed both teams in the extraverted way that he did.

You don’t have to be a football fan or even a big sports fan to enjoy The Damned United. The grand narrative that is Clough’s rise and fall is compelling regardless of the context and his story even takes on elements of classical Greek tragedy, especially considering it is his incredible hubris that brings about his own undoing. There is also a very sweet friendship at the heart of The Damned United and the relationship between Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor is classic bromance material.

DUNITED_Intl_TDU_00009_scaledClough is played by Michael Sheen and after his incredible work in The Queen and Frost/Nixon, Sheen has yet again distinguished himself as an actor who is highly talented in portraying real life personalities. Much of the pleasure to be had in The Damned United is watching Sheen channel Clough’s extraordinary charm, confidence and arrogance. Timothy Spall provides a wonderful contrast to Clough’s exuberance as Peter Taylor and the overall excellent cast includes Colm Meaney as Don Revie and Jim Broadbent as Derby Chairman Sam Longson, whom Clough had several run-ins with.

The Damned United is directed by Tom Hooper who aside from directing Red Dust (2004) has worked in television, which is not a huge surprise given that there is nothing particularly cinematic about The Damned United. However, The Damned United is acted extremely well and contains a compelling story that will keep you interested right up to the end. This is a good drama about a man whose strange mix of good intentions, petty rivalry and obnoxious behaviour makes for fascinating viewing.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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