Feb 26, 2017

Oscar predictions 2017

Here are my predictions for all 24 categories for the Oscar this weekend.  Drinking game suggestion: a shot of ice-cold Stolichnaya for every time Donald Trump is addressed either directly or indirectly. Na zdorovie
Best Motion Picture: La La Land 
Best Director: Damien Chazelle 
Best Actor: Denzel Washington 
Best Actress: Emma Stone 
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis 
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali 
Best Cinematography: La La Land 
Best Editing: Arrival 
Best Original Script: Manchester By The Sea 
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight 
Best Production Design: La La Land 
Best Costume: Jackie 
Best Score: La La Land  
Best Song: La La Land  
Best Make Up & Hair: Star Trek 
Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge 
Best Sound Mixing: La La Land 
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book 
Best Animated Feature: Zootopia 
Best Documentary: O. J. Made In America 
Best Foreign Language film: The Salesman 
Best Animated Short: Piper 
Best Short Documentary: Extremis 
Best Live-action Short: Ennemis Interieurs

Jan 25, 2017

REVIEW: SPIELBERG: A LIFE IN FILM


'Few great film directors are as picked on as Steven Spielberg.For a large segment of the cineaste population, a liking for Spielberg over say, Scorsese, is like saying you prefer McCartney to Lennon, David Hockney to Damien Hirst, pop to rock, sun shine to storm clouds  —  sign of an aesthetic sweet tooth, an addiction to flimsy childlike fantasy over grit and darkness and ambiguity and fibre and all the other things we are taught are good for us in film crit class. I once suggested to a scowling Sight & Sound reader that while a director like Kubrick might be the epitome of the aesthetic will-to-power — bending the medium to do the master’s bidding  — Spielberg’s work was the place you looked to see the medium of cinema left to its own devices — what it gets up to in its free time.  The look of disgust on his face was immediate. Conversation over. I might as well have told him I still sucked my thumb. Partly the is down to his outsized success: he's an unignorable target. That success discomfits our notion of the artist, an ill-notion when applied the movies at the best of times, but particularly someone like Spielberg, athletically slam-dunking one box office record after another in the first half of his career, before omnivorously morphing  in the second half, greedily bent on acquiring the credibility that is naturally accorded someone like Scorsese, the auteur agonistes, tearing his films from his breast like chunks of flesh while wandering in the Hollywood wilderness. Never mind that Scorsese’s reputation for speaking to the Human Condition rests on his strip mining of a narrow strip of gangland and the male psyche. Spielberg is a people-pleaser and nothing attracts bullies more.' — from my review of Molly Haskell's Steven Spielberg: a Life in Film

Jan 11, 2017

MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES of 2017


  • FEBRUARY 
  • Kong: Skull Island (March 10th) The Circle (April 28) Emma Watson,  Tom Hanks 

  • MAY
  • Snatched (May 12) Amy Schumer w Goldie Hawn 
  • Alien: Covenant (May 19) — Scott, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce 
  • The Dinner — Oren Moverman,  Cate Blanchett , Richard Gere and Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall and Chloë Sevigny 
  • JUNE 
  • Wonder Woman (June 2) starring Gal Gadot.
  • The Beguiled (June 30) Sofia Coppola remakes Clint Eastwood’s 1971 western w Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

  • JULY 
  • Dunkirk (July 21) Christopher Nolan w Tom Hardy and Harry Styles 
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14) — Matt Reeves, Andy Serkis, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer

  • AUGUST 
  • Baby Driver (TriStar, 8.11)  Edgar Wright,  Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey 
  • SEPTEMBER
  • American Made (Universal, September 29th) — Doug Liman, Tom Cruise  
  • OCTOBER
  • Blade Runner 2049 —   w/ Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James and Jared Leto.

  • Personal Shopper (IFC Films, 3.10.17) — Assayas, Stewart

  • NOVEMBER
  • Darkest Hour  Joe Wright (Focus, 11.24), about Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman)  John Hurt  Kristin Scott Thomas  
  • DECEMBER
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII —  Rian Johnson Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o 

  • Downsizing — Payne,  Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis.
  • Suspiria — Luca Guadagnino, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz.
  • Untitled Dick Cheney Drama — (Paramount) Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and Kevin Messick.
  • Untitled 1967 Detroit Riots Docudrama — Kathryn Bigelow, Mark BoalJohn Boyega 
  • The Current War (Weinstein Co.) — Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller
  • Lean on Pete (A24) — Andrew Haigh, Charlie Plummer, Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Steve Zahn
  • Ismael’s Ghosts (Magnolia) — Arnaud Desplechin, Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Louis Garrel
  • Call Me By Your Name — Luca Guadagnino,  Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg  
  • Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Project — Daniel D Lewis
  • The Lost City of Z — James Gray
  • Okja — Bong Joon-ho, Jon Ronson
  • Wonderstruck — Todd Haynes, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams
  • A Quiet Passion — Terence Davies, Cynthia Nixon
  • Happy End —Michael Haneke,  Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant 
  • A Ghost Story (A24) — Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuaron,  Emmanuel Lubezki  
  • The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara — Spielberg, Tony Kushner, Oscar Isaac, Mark Rylance 
  • Mother — Darren Aronofsky, Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Harris
  • Logan Lucky —  Steven Soderbergh,  Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, Seth MacFarlane, Daniel Craig, Katherine Heigl, Hilary Swank 
  • Chappaquiddick — John Curran, Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms 
  • Last Flag Flying — Richard Linklater w Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and J. Quinton Johnson
  • Stronger (Summit) — David Gordon Green, Jake Gyllenhaal 
  • War Machine (Netflix) —  David Michod,  Brad Pitt,  Ben Kingsley
  • Suburbicon (Paramount) — George Clooney, Joel and Ethan Coen, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac
  • The Shape of Water — Guillermo Del Toro, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer
  • Inner City — Dan Gilroy, Denzel Washington  
  • The Sisters Brothers — Jacques Audiard 
  • Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight) Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming
  • Tully — Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody w Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston
  • The Mountain Between Us (20th Century Fox, 10.20.17) —  Chris Weitz, Idris ElbaKate Winslet 
  • Based On A True Story —  Roman Polanski,  Emmanuelle SeignerEva Green.
  • Untitled — Woody Allen, Vittorio Storaro, Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi
  • Annihilation  Alex Garland, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh  
  • Lady Bird — dir. Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan 
  • Vox Lux — Brady CorbetRooney Mara 
  •  

Dec 22, 2016

BEST TV SHOWS of 2016


1. The Girlfriend Experience
2. Sillicon Valley
3. The Night Of
4. Top Chef
5. Westworld

Dec 19, 2016

BEST SONGS of 2016


1. 29 #Strafford APTS— Bon Iver
2. The Numbers — Radiohead
3. Sunday Love — Bats For Lashes
4. Everything I Am Is Yours — Villagers
5. Too Much is Never Enough — Florence + The Machine
6. Born Again Teen — Lucius
7. Tiny Human — Imogen Heap
8. Hey, Stellar — Honeyblood
9. Alive — Sia
10. Doria — Olafur Arnulds

Dec 17, 2016

REVIEW: SILENCE (dir. Scorsese)


'These early scenes, fraught with peril, are as tight with distrust and paranoia as anything in The Departed,and yet they are also unexpectedly moving. Shot often by guttering candle-light, shrouded in mist and shadow, we examine muddy but hopeful faces faces rendered beautiful by the simple quality of devotion, see hands clasping hands, exchanging crosses — the images as simple and transfixing as those of Albrect Durer. “Christ did not die for the good and beautiful, he died for the miserable and corrupt,” says Rodrigues, an article of Jesuit faith that could also encompass Scorsese’s own rogue’s gallery of sinners over the years... For all of Hollywood’s flimsy bromides to the “triumph of the human spirit,” the genuine article is a much more elusive creature. Yet here it is — stubborn, wily, unbeautiful — running right through this film like piano wire. Scorsese owes the world only one thing: his sincerity. With some of his recent work Scorsese has seemed a great filmmaker in search of the grand obsession that pushed his earlier films into existence. Silence is the first film of his in a long time that feels born of that pressure — like it needs to exist. The result feels like something close to a state of grace.'— From my review for Newsweek

Dec 3, 2016

BEST FILM SCORES of 2016


1.  La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
2. Arrival, Johann Johannsson
3. Jackie, Mica Levi
4. Before The Flood, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
5. Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Dec 2, 2016

BEST PERFOMANCES of 2016


1.  Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
2. Ruth Negga, Loving
3. Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
4. Emma Stone, La La Land
5. Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
6. Michelle Williams, Manchester By Sea
7. Ryan Gosling, La La Land
8. Rebecca Hall, Christine
9. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
10. Tom Hanks, Sully

BEST MOVIES OF 2016


1.  La La Land
2. Manchester By The Sea
3. Silence
4. Loving
5. Arrival
6. O. J. Simpson: Made In America
7. Moonlight
8. Love & Friendship
9. Zootopia
10. 20th Century Women

Aug 9, 2016

INTERVIEW: ELLEN BURSTYN


"Ellen Burstyn is  the kind of actress who in England who would have been made a dame long ago: elegant of bearing,  regal of poise, but possessed of the the scrappy spirit of a prize-fighter.  When she first made it in Hollywood in the 1970s she was already in her forties, her   jaunty survivor’s humor  sparkling like a diamond in movies like Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show  (1971), Rob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973),   and Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore  (1974), for which she won an Oscar. These days, she is enjoying a terrific second wind, portraying women who seem to have lived several lifetimes for directors who have barely had a chance to live half of one themselves — Darren Aronofsky, James Gray, and now Solondz, whose Weiner Dog is a pitch-black comedy about a female dachshund stoically enduring a series of ever more decrepit owners. Burstyn plays the oldest of these, a blind, crochety biddy who names the dog Cancer — a touch typical of the film’s kitschy deadpan humor, which is somewhere between John Waters and Robert Bresson. Wearing wraparound shades and speaking in Delphic monosyllables, Burstyn provides the film with a beating heart. Haunted, Scroogelike, by  the ghosts of Nanas past—identical young girls with copper tresses who  chide her in Anime-like monotone for missing out on forgiveness and love.  She awakes, her face a mask of tears.  “He's absolutely an individual voice," says the 78-year old actress of Solondz, whose Welcome to the Dollhouse first caught her attention while working  the film festival track in 1995. “As I read the script, I went ‘Oh, this guy is just so weird, so adorably weird.’ There's something very kind about the way he views us silly people. That’s what I have always loved — any filmmaker who has his own voice and is making his or her own kind of movies, because they have something that they want to say.” — from my interview for The Daily Telegraph

Jul 16, 2016

PROFILE: STEVEN SPIELBERG


'When Steven Spielberg is enthused, which is often, his sentences pick up speed and momentum, the words seemingly unable to leave his mouth fast enough, coming in a long unpunctuated sentences that have you worried he’s going to forget to breath.  We are sitting in the conference room of his production offices at Amblin Partners, a two-story baked adobe building that looks a little like a cross between Fred Flintstones cave and a Mexican resort chalet, situated in a quiet corner of the Universal lot surrounded by lawns, palm tress and slightly fake-looking boulders. On one wall of the conference room sits three Norman Rockwell originals and the famous Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane, mounted inside a protective glass case.  Downstairs are an editing suite, a screening room, complete with candy and refreshments, a daycare centre, and a restaurant-sized kitchen. Spielberg arrives tailed by a small team of assistants and assorted PR personnel waiting on his every word, like President Bartlett surrounded by his staffers in the West Wing. He is dressed in a rather natty suede jacket, his grey hair combed neatly, one of those men who never quite escaping the impression of having the finishing touches to any outfit provided by his wife. He sits down opposite me and clasps his hands together, a smile on his face, thumbs towards the ceiling with an attitude that says: what’s next. You get the sense of a formidable, fast-processing, if friendly, intelligence, courteously shutting down the 20 other things he has on the go in order to pivot his attention to you. “Because I’m so compartmentalized in my thinking,  I can think ahead a lot,” he tells me. “I can think very deeply forward and that’s my problem. It’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” When he was a child, his mother would tell him that his grandparents were coming to visit from Ohio, saying “its something to look forward to, they’re coming in two weeks…” He would count down with her. “Its something to look forward to, they’ll be here in a week.” Arguably, the countdown never stopped. Looking forward turned into the Spielberg occupation par excellence; from it derives his signature genre (sci-fi), his signature tone (optimistic), his signature narrative mode (Hitchcockian suspense), even his signature shot (an expectant face in close-up). While completing post-production on his Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG, and getting ready to shoot the virtual reality sci-fi thriller Ready Player One, while also in talks with Tony Kushner on another script, screenwriter David Koepp recently exchanged emails with him about ideas for a fifth Indiana Jones sequel. “I said I know you’re mixing and prepping and doing big interviews,” recalls Koepp. “Do you have the head space for it? You may be trying to do air traffic control in your head right now.’ He wrote back and said, ‘Let me worry about the air traffic control, you circle and chatter.’ Okay, here you go. I dumped all my ideas on him. Yeah, there’s a remarkable amount of head space.” It goes beyond multi-tasking — it actually calms him down, keeps him from the monomania of falling too in love with whatever it is he’s doing, or thinking it the best he’s ever filmed.  It can also trip him up — literally. On the set of The BFG, a film about the friendship of a kindly giant and a little girl that mixes live action and motion-capture animation and frequently requiring directing on three different scales at once, the floor was festooned with snaking camera cables.  “He was always tripping,” says star Mark Rylance, who plays the BFG, when I ask him which aspect of the director’s behavior he would zero in on if he were ever asked to play him. “It’s a hazardous place with the cables and stuff anyway but he has a tendency to trip. We would laugh and him and he would laugh too. His mind is so full of ideas, full of thoughts in his head. I asked him once what your element — earth, water, air, or fire — would you believe he said air?  If you did the exercise where you try and locate a person’s centre of gravity, it would not be down here, it would be up in his heart and in his head, you know.” ' — from my Spielberg profile for The Guardian

Jul 3, 2016

On my iPod: July 2nd 2016


1. Sunday Love — Bats for Lashes
2. Best to You — Blood Orange
3. Juno — Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
4. Sledgehammer — Rihanna
5. Runaway — Nice as Fuck
6. Rgb — Olafur Arnalds
7. Peggy-O — The National
8. Quite Like You — Andy Shauf
9. Time of the Blue — The Tallest Man on Earth
10. Get Out — Frightened Rabbit

Jun 30, 2016

PROFILE: MELISSA MATHISON


'Such intimacy of collaboration between a writer and director is rare. The days of Howard Hawks playing backgammon on set with Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, or John Ford’s marathon poker sessions with Dudley Nichols, or Hitchcock’s long gourmand lunches with John Michael Hayes have passed into legend, but the franchise farm that is modern Hollywood tends to work against such recurring collaborations. The Harry Potter films were all written by Steve Kloves but farmed out to different directors—similarly the “Bourne” and “Captain America” movies. Martin Scorsese teamed up with writer Paul Schrader three times, for “Taxi Driver” in 1976, “Raging Bull” in 1980, during the making of which they fell out, before reteaming for “Bringing out the Dead,” in 1999, from Joe Connelly’s novel about fried ambulance drivers, itself an homage to Scorsese’s New York, and thus introducing the danger of a kind of creative feedback loop. “The heroine’s called Mary,” Schrader warned the director over dinner. “Watch out for the Catholic symbols. You’ve already done that in ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Raging Bull.’” If self-consciousness is the danger of such reunions, Mathison and Spielberg put it to work for them. Audiences have good reason to fear whenever filmmakers armed with digital paint boxes address the unlimited potential of the imagination as their subject—as Disney’s recent “Alice Through the Looking Glass” showed, C.G.I. imaginariums have a tendency towards gaudy over-crowdedness—but the images of Dahl’s dram country, briefly described in the book, have a classical, organic simplicity: a stream running uphill, a large oak tree reflected in a pool against a starry night sky, its inverted reflection a portal to the dream world. That tree could easily have been tended by Spielberg and Mathison's botanist extraterrestrial from 1982.  Like "E.T." the BFG is a two-hander, a record of a friendship, as well as a rekindled conversation between Mathison and Spielberg, the dream-catcher-turned-corporate-entertainment giant, about the nature of cinematic dreams.' — From my piece for The New Yorker

Jun 29, 2016

Best things I've seen in 2016 so far


1. Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash2.  The night time car rides in Midnight Special 3. Riley Keogh in The Girlfriend Experience 4. The trailer for Hail, Caesar 5. The final shot of The Witch 6. The oak tree in The BFG 7. Kate Beckinsale in Love and Friendship 8. The cliffhangers in Silicon Valley 9. Weiner 10. Winona Ryder in Show Me a Hero

Jun 28, 2016

GABLER'S BARBARA STREISAND


'Like the novels of Henry James, the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and the Times crossword puzzle, the modern diva thrives on difficulty. Creatures of grit and will­power, sinews and sequins, they are symbols of triumphant selfhood and obstacles overcome. These days, the paradox is played out in the termitic caverns of the internet. Protected by her social media fan posse, the “Beyhive”, Beyoncé recently kicked off her Lemonade tour by selling “Boycott Beyoncé” T-shirts and iPhone cases – a sly appropriation of the calls for a boycott of her shows after her Black Panther-inspired Super Bowl appearance raised the hackles of right-wing attack dogs. Let ’em loose. What doesn’t kill Bey only makes her stronger. Modern-day divahood is self-aware, self-deconstructing and backlash-embracing, but this dynamic is as old as the Hegelian dialectic. “She became popular by demonstrating how someone like her, someone with her seeming disadvantages, could become popular,” writes Neal Gabler in his smart new book, Barbra Streisand, a biography-cum-critical essay on the Brooklyn-born diva. It may be the best book about Streisand you will ever read, an acute and sympathetic rendering of a career forged from yearning and steel – “in one person, Punch and Judy”, in the words of the New Republic’s Stanley Kauffmann. Long before Beyoncé, Streisand’s fame contained its own backlash. “Barbra is the girl guys never look at twice,” said her manager Marty Erlichman. “And when she sings about that – about being an invisible woman – people break their neck trying to protect her.' — from my review of Neal Gabler's Barbara StreisandRedefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power

Jun 8, 2016

Quentin Tarantino Top Ten

As is my tradition when starting a new book on a filmmaker, my list of Tarantino movies, ranked (to see if there are any changes once I've rewatched everything/finished the book).
1. Pulp Fiction
2. Reservoir Dogs
3. Jackie Brown
4. Kill Bill 
5. Deathproof
6. Django Unchained
7. Inglorious Basterds
8. The Hateful Eight

Jun 6, 2016

INTERVIEW : ANNE TYLER


'Nearly all of her books are set in Baltimore, concern large families, marking time with the usual watersheds of family life — courtship, weddings, children, college, deaths. Observing her characters befuddled comings and goings with sympathy and dry humor, Tyler applies a little nudge here, a prompt there, letting out the occasional sigh of disappointment, as someone’s good intentions don’t quite pan out as planned.  I have read her wise, warm-hearted work — including Dinner at the Homseick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist and the Pulitzer-prize winning Breathing Lessons — religiously for over 20 years but I never thought we would meet.   She isn’t a recluse in the  Salinger mould, exactly — her novels bustle with too much gossip and life to give any impression other than one of supreme embededness — but she hasn’t given an interview in over 40 years. Then in 2012, she gave an interview to NPR to promote her novel The Beginner’s Goodbye. Others followed. Something seemed to have shifted in Tylerland. Some personal perestroika? A deep tectonic shift in the psychic-creative forces that govern literary careers? A kind of settling-up as she enters her eighth decade? Nothing of the sort, she says. Her editors just asked her and this time she thought: why not?  “I often wonder what would happen if I had Tolstoy around for tea,” she says gaily, while preparing coffee for me in her kitchen. “I’d probably have nothing to say to him.”  It’s like hearing that Gorbachev launched glasnost because he woke up one day and fancied a coke.  But then that is very Tyleresque, the long groove of routine disrupted by a sudden burst of to-hell-with-it impetuosity. A small dose of whimsy is detectable in late-period Tyler. ' — from my Sunday Times interview