Sunday, 26 February 2012

It's everyone's favourite time of year again, when a group of out-of-touch old white men get together to decide which films are officially the best, and after my inspired prediction last year that The King's Speech would take home the big Best Picture statuette (let's not mention the David Fincher incident*), let me once again offer my advice to the punters hoping to win big from betting on tonight's Academy Awards ceremony:

Best Picture: First of all, I'd like to point out that I'm not at all happy with the nominations list. Since watching it last summer, I was convinced that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a likely contender (and a likely winner, until I saw a particular silent film), but it doesn't even grace the Academy's top nine. Another notable omission from my favourite films of the past year is the stylish and gripping thriller Drive, and, while it's (arguably) far from highbrow, I recently saw The Muppets; a delightfully entertaining and surprisingly touching film that can easily appeal to anyone and is so much more memorable and worthy of being on any Best Pictures list than the likes of the overly long mess that was The Tree of Life. With that out of the way, The Artist is going to win, and deservedly so. It's a loving homage to silent cinema and a beautiful film in its own right, full of romance,  laughter, sadness, spectacle, and the best dog in all of cinema.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman should win. He really, really should. But he won't. His George Smiley, while extraordinary, is too understated to appeal to the Academy, which is why I expected him to win the BAFTA; us Brits like understatement. Yet The Artist's Jean Dujardin took that BAFTA home to France, along with the equivalent SAG award, and so is a fine contender for tonight. My money, however, is still on George Clooney - OK, so I found The Descendants so-so and overly sentimental, but, by George, doesn't Clooney give a fine performance? He's the kind of guy who you'd expect to actually have a Best Actor in the bag by now, so this year could easily be his year.

Best Actress: Another incident of 'good performance in a film I didn't like' is nominated here - in fact, an even stronger incident - while The Iron Lady is awfully lacking in both depth and enjoyability, Meryl Streep's excellent portrayal of Margaret Thatcher both as an ambitious politician and as a fragile old lady makes her a strong favourite to win. Viola Davis could also win though for The Help. I can't decide.

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. Some people are saying it'll be Scorsese, but, as charming as Hugo is, "After making Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese's only Best Director awards were for Hugo and The Departed." is a slightly more depressing sentence than "After making Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese's only Best Director award was for The Departed." That, and Hazanavicius did a really good job.**

Best Documentary: Of course it's going to be Senna. How could it not be? Right? There's no point even looking at the other nominees. Fine, I'll have a quick read at what else is... oh.

Cinematography: Hmmmm... Hugo.

Art direction: Hmmmm... Hugo.

Music: I'm hoping for The Artist and think it will be. You know, the silent film. For music. It's been a strange year.

Song: It has to be The Muppets. "Man or Muppet" is such a feel-good song.

Adapted Screenplay: Maybe Tinker, Tailor has a chance here?

Original Screenplay: May have to let The Artist have this one too. Well, it's definitely not going to be beaten by the inexplicable Bridesmaids nomination.

Any awards I've skipped: That's either because I've not seen enough of the nominated films (or because I don't care).

*It can be swept under the carpet and join the event organisers' surreal James Franco incident.
**It has its detractors, but I do really like The Departed, by the way, though concede that it's not the peak of Scorsese's ouevre.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

On 23.2.12 by KieronMoore in , , , , ,    No comments
Here's a fruity sketch show that my comedy partner Dan "Apple" Marshall and Myself (known as "Grape" in this context) have written and produced for York Student Television.


Please do have a watch, and if you like it, let us know, let your friends know, let your family know, let your cat know; basically, spam as many people as you can find with the link to the show. They'll be grateful. They may express their gratefulness by throwing shoes at you, but you'll see in their eyes how much you've helped them as a human being. 

Ah, thrown shoes. That brings me back. To a time when the world was before yesterday. A time known as 2008. Apple and Grape's first live show. After a troublesome (and very badly organised) audition, we came second in our school's comedy competition. 

But the story of Apple and Grape goes back further than that. To about 2007 (may not be correct), when Dan bought a bag of "Apple and Grape" from the BRGS (our school) vending machine. "Hey, that would make a good name for a comedy double act!" one of us said, standing near to a skip. And the rest, as they say, was history. Except for the bit that's the future. That very vending machine that set things in motion may find a nice surprise waiting for it in the credits (let's hope it's a Bowie fan).

So, from these humble beginnings to our own sketch show. I won't lie, it wasn't an easy task. We had to (sort of) break into a pub, build both the interior and exterior of a spaceship, and find a way to make a banana do a break dance. Yet none of these were as difficult as finding people willing to act out our crazy scheme script. But we got there; we've both worked very hard and are really happy with the result. Follow the further adventures of Apple and Grape; we can only continue to go up in the comedy world!

As a fun bonus extra, there's a short radio documentary about Apple and Grape coming soon on URY, thanks to Tess Humphrey! I'll be posting a link to that once it's online.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

On 18.2.12 by KieronMoore in , , , ,    No comments
A film about baseball, eh? Does it hit the home run, or is it a, erm, own goal? That’s a baseball thing, right?

The premise of Moneyball highlights its major flaw – the true story of the Oakland A’s, the first baseball team to use computers and formulae rather than instinct to choose their players, a plan orchestrated by General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). Firstly, I find it very difficult to take baseball seriously. Secondly, even if I did care about the sport, this would be a hard cause to get behind – surely the use of such a mechanical system dehumanises baseball? A more conventional narrative would have the underdog striking out against the computerised system to do things based on instinct and character, and, well, some conventions exist for a good reason. It may be one of the more interesting stories that could be found in the recent history of the sport, but it certainly doesn't work too well as the cheery cinematic story Moneyball aspires to. There are also problems with the pacing of the film, which drags the team’s losing streaks out for far too long.

Nevertheless, two strong elements turn the film into something watchable and even enjoyable. One is a script co-written by Aaron Sorkin. His trademark fast, overlapping dialogue is present; convincingly realistic yet with a series of laugh-out-loud lines rivalling the funniest The Social Network has to offer.

This intelligently crafted dialogue adds to the realistic style of the piece, which feels very much like a documentary at times; slow editing and handheld camerawork build on this. This is certainly an interesting and unusual approach, which, though marred by problems such as the pacing and predictability – it’s often easy to guess how the upcoming game is going to go from the musical score and the choice of shots – makes it more interesting a watch than many other, more typical, sports movies.

The second major plus point is Brad Pitt’s performance as Beane. Given his, as I’ve mentioned, questionable cause, and my perspective as the least sporty person this side of the Atlantic, it was always unlikely that the character would appeal to me. Yet Pitt’s portrayal of him as a conflicted and complex figure, contrasting his anger at the failures both of the team and of himself, having turned down a Stanford scholarship only to underperform as a baseball player, with his desire to prove himself and his compassion for his team and his daughter (who did seem a little tacked on for the sole purpose of making Beane more sympathetic), is an exceptional and subtly drawn performance, certainly worthy of any award nominations it receives (though I’m still backing Gary Oldman for the Best Actor Oscar (which George Clooney is going to win)).

Though too long and heavily flawed by both the structure and the premise of the narrative, Moneyball’s script and star performance make it an interesting and unusual film.

The answer to my original question: it gets to at least first base. Or is that a reference to sex, not baseball?