Friday, February 20, 2015

What to Expect From The 87th Academy Awards


What can we expect from the 87th Academy Awards this coming Sunday?

Although first time host Neil Patrick Harris has this week been confessing to media outlets that he is unprepared and full of nerves, there is no doubt that he will deliver plenty of laughs and entertainment on the night. Harris, who has hosted the Tony Awards four times and the Emmys twice, is no stranger to this type of gig and as a triple threat with his acting, dancing and vocal talents he is sure to delight and have plenty of surprises up his sleeve.

If Harris does feel the nerves, he has plenty of company that will be joining him on stage to share the duties. Among the presenters of this years awards will be Terence Howard, Felicity Jones, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort, Liam Neeson, Jessica Chastain, Kevin Hart, Shirley Maclaine, Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong'o, Jared Leto, Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston and more.

One thing we will be expecting is a song and dance number early in the piece by Harris. The question remains, will this be an individual, joint or group effort? Past Oscar winner, Jennifer Hudson has been named as a performer, as has Anna Kendrick, Jack Black and Lady Gaga. The five songs nominated for Best Original Song will also be performed live on the night by John Legend and Common, Maroon 5, Tim McGraw and Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island.

The red carpet fashion is always a talking point, but promises to be incredible this year with some of the most fashionable actresses gracing the carpet. The ones to watch as they arrive are Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones and Emma Stone, and although Keira Knightey's style at the Golden Globes has been scrutinized, she has since been forgiven and is sure to dazzle on Sunday night.

Now for the actual Oscars predictions. What to expect in regards to the best performance Oscars are no surprises. Attempting to predict the recipients of the acting awards this year is particularly easy as all four of the predicted have scooped up every award on the way that would point to a golden man victory. However, it is the Academy Awards for Best Film and Best Director which are the talking point this year and the awards which people are most interested in due to the unpredictability involved.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
American Sniper
The Imitation Game
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything

Our prediction- Boyhood
It seems to be a race to the finish for Best Picture with the frontrunners being Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman and Richard Linklater's Boyhood. Things have been made interesting with Boyhood winning the highest award at the Golden Globes and Birdman winning big at the Screen Actors and Directors Guild Awards. However, Boyhood is still the frontrunner in our eyes for the fact that it has a greater universal appeal. It is true that the members of the academy are all involved in show business and many may relate to Birdman greatly, but the wonderful thing about Boyhood was that everybody could relate to growing up as seen through the eyes of a child. The film which is revolutionary in it's style and mode of storytelling is a loving tribute to the life itself.
Our Runner Up- Birdman
Best Director
Richard Linklater- Boyhood
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- Birdman
Bennett Miller- Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum- The Imitation Game
Our prediction-Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu- Birdman
The Best Director battle reads much the same as that of Best Picture as it is between Richard Linklater for Boyhood and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman. Yet this time we can see Inarritu taking the Oscar for his direction. Again it is very close as Linklater won at the Golden Globes and Inarritu won at the Directors Guilds, but considering it was him who won at the Guilds and many of the same people will be voting in this category at the Oscars a victory for him seems likely. However, Linklater really is not very far behind. This is certainly going to be an interesting moment of the night.
Our Runner Up- Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Steve Carell- Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton- Birdman
Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything
Our prediction- Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
Eddie Redmayne has won every major award leading up to this which is as good an indication as any that he will be the winner of this most coveted acting award, but one has only to watch the five performances nominated to realise that he is miles ahead of his competition. This is no light statement, as this category is perhaps the strongest of all the acting fields for the night. All five performances are terrific and had Michael Keaton or Benedict Cumberbatch been nominated in another year, either of them could well have been certainties. However, Redmayne's performance as Stephen Hawking is one of the best in years and wonderful on so many levels that he is about to turn his first Oscar nomination into his first Oscar win.
Our Runner Up- Michael Keaton- Birdman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore- Still Alice
Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon- Wild


Our Prediction- Julianne Moore for Still Alice
With her fifth Oscar nomination, it seems as though Julianne Moore will finally make the conversion from nominee to winner. Nobody else's name has even been mentioned as a true contender in this category and Moore has won every award leading up to the Oscars so there is really no doubt that this is her year. Moore's performance spoke to those touched by a disease that is often ignored in popular culture and is receiving a hero's reception as a result of her superb performance.
Our Runner Up- Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Robert Duvall- The Judge
Ethan Hawke- Boyhood
Edward Norton- Birdman
Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons- Whiplash

Our Prediction-J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
Much like the rest of the categories, there has only been one name uttered for Best Supporting Actor. J.K. Simmons is in a field with some fine performances, but his performance as the formidable music teacher, Fletcher in Whiplash had everyone talking. His character was the man that haunts you in your nightmares because of his unpredictability and damaging style of motivation. Simmons has, like our other predicted winners, won all the awards leading up to the Oscars and it will be a huge surprise to hear someone else's name besides his called out on Sunday night.
Our Runner Up- Edward Norton for Birdman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette- Boyhood
Laura Dern- Wild
Keira Knightley- The Imitation Game
Emma Stone- Birdman
Meryl Streep- Into The Woods

Our Prediction- Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
Patricia Arquette has become the crowning glory performance-wise of Richard Linklater's Boyhood. Arquette played Olivia, the woman so many mothers could relate to and so many children could see their mothers in. It was a fine performance and that along with the twelve year commitment factor look to have secured her her first Oscar.
Our Runner Up- Emma Stone for Birdman

An interesting point is that if our predictions are correct, we will have a pool of first time winners and more than half of the winners will be winning with their first nomination.

Join us in the days following the Oscars for our recap of Oscars week in Los Angeles and of the night itself and it's winners!

Happy Oscars everyone!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Theory of Everything (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: James Marsh
Writers: Jane Hawking (book "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen"), Anthony McCarten (screenplay)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Harry Lloyd, Christian McKay

The Theory of Everything is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Universal Pictures.

The Theory of Everything is a fine, nostalgic piece of cinema which artistically incorporates in the most stylish and intriguing of ways the most important aspects of the life of it's subject, Stephen Hawking. Yet it is Eddie Redmayne's outstanding performance that remains at the forefront of all that is commendable about the film. Based on the memoir "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen" by Jane Hawking, the film pays tribute to Hawking's (Redmayne) extraordinary achievements in the fields of physics and cosmology while also focusing largely on his marriage to Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). When Stephen was diagnosed with a rare motor neurone disease and told he had only two years left to live, he and Jane embarked on a type of domestic life which neither had foreseen.

James Marsh's film is a rare form of biopic that reaches a point of equilibrium in it's storytelling, as it balances the story of Stephen Hawking's trials and achievements with that of he and Jane perfectly. Although the screenplay plays out a little slow on screen, it is gripping and moving as it is cleverly crafted and well written.

The film's biopic status can take away from the acknowledgement of an underlying theme which will resonate with many audience members and that is of a marriage progressing into a patient-carer relationship. Despite Stephen's public persona, the Hawking's marriage will no doubt be relatable for those who have experienced the hardships of a relationship like theirs and will prove an extremely emotional experience for them and also for those willing to open their minds as to what it would be like. One can only imagine how difficult it must be to be part of a relationship where one is not physically able to care for themselves and relies on the other to do so for them, and how emotionally, physically and psychologically draining it must be for the latter. This is perfectly represented in the film as one is prompted to understand this dynamic and feels great sympathy for both Stephen and Jane.

Visually, the film continues to pay tribute symbolically to Hawking through it's editing and cinematography. In many of the scenes, there is a visual emphasis on his feet and hands to emphasise his early motor skills and the progression into his ailment. There's also the focus on and close up shots of wheels at the beginning of the film (including the first scene in which Hawking is riding his bicycle) as they became a major part of his life, as well as the wondrous firework scene which can be interpreted to symbolise Hawking's academic theories. The film as a whole is rather nostalgic with wonderful costume and production design perfectly suited to the time period. The musical score by Johann Johannsson is also incredibly beautiful and moving which adds further emotion to Stephen and Jane's relationship.

There are some extraordinary performances in the world of film where it only takes a few minutes to know that this is a performance one will remember for a very long time and Eddie Redmayne's performance is one of those. From the very beginning of The Theory of Everything, Redmayne encompasses everything that Hawking is and has a great deal of character and character development. In what is a role that is extremely physical, he demonstrates tremendous skill by showing intense emotion while his facial expressions and other physical movements are restrained. Even with these restrictions, the chemistry he has throughout the film and the way it develops with Felicity Jones is superb. Jones is also wonderful and plays an extremely strong female character in her role as the wife who adopts a carer's role, but also tries to keep something of herself from before. She gives an extremely well rounded, inspiring and moving performance.

While it can be slightly slow in it's execution, The Theory of Everything is a film which is incredibly strong on reflection. It's main performances are without a doubt two of the strongest of the past year and is a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary human being.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

In Their Shoes: Oscar Winning Performances of Historical Figures

As part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled and Paula of Paula's Cinema Club, we are looking at the interpretations of real life historical figures in film that have seen the actor win an Academy Award for their performance.

With this year marking the 87th year of the Academy Awards, the much sought after golden man has now been presented to over 330 actors for their outstanding performance in a motion picture. In the film year leading up to the awards, there are always roles which people like to dub "Oscar bait" and more often than not these are in films based on real life events. However, from the incredible number of awards which have been handed out over the years, only 54 of them were awarded to actors playing characters based on historical/ real life figures. A great deal more have been nominated for Oscars, but an actor's ability to perfectly channel a real life figure in a film is worthy of the ultimate prize.

Of the 54 performances of this type, 29 winners were males and 25 were female. 36 were for a lead role, while 18 were for supporting. It may not come as a surprise to many that the type of character most represented in this group was one involved in show business, with royalty and nobility not far behind. Both Daniel Day-Lewis and Jason Robards have won two Academy Awards each for roles in which they were playing historical/ real life figures.

With the next Academy Awards coming up on February 22, there is a high probability that one of the winners will be rewarded for portraying someone who is a noted member of society. Here we will take a look at the past winners and most admired performances in this category since Oscar was first awarded on May 16 1928.

Charles Laughton as Henry VIII in The Private Lives of Henry VIII (1933)
One of the most notorious and formidable monarchical figures in history, King Henry VIII has been the subject of dozens of portrayals in both film and television, yet it was Charles Laughton's performance in The Private Lives of Henry VIII that set the benchmark and won him the Academy Award. A fun fact about this film is that Laughton's wife of four years at the time, Elsa Lanchester ( who is widely remembered for her role in The Bride of Frankenstein) played Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Unlike the marriage between their characters which lasted only six months, Laughton and Lanchester were married until his death in 1962.

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Luise Rainier won the Academy Award for playing the Polish/French stage performer wife of Florenz Ziegfeld, Anna Held in The Great Ziegfeld. Rainer showed her incredible versatility in this role with her extremely impressive acting performance and musical talent. Until very recently, Rainer was the oldest living Academy Award winner (she passed away on December 30 2014 at the age of 104) and was the first actor to win back-to-back Oscars when she won her second Oscar for The Good Earth the year after The Great Ziegfeld.

Gary Cooper as Alvin C. York in Sergeant York (1941)
As World War II raged on, the Academy awarded Gary Cooper for his role as the war hero Alvin C. York in Sergeant York. It was a role that was acclaimed for Cooper's emotional performance, but also one that many people could relate to at the time. York was a pacifist that became a hero in the first World War and there were thousands around the world that believed that war was not the answer, but had to take part in some way.

James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
James Cagney is mostly remembered for his tough guy roles in films such as The Public Enemy and White Heat, but it was Yankee Doodle Dandy that won him his first and only Academy Award and proved that he was a true triple threat with his singing and dancing talent. Cagney portrayed George M. Cohan, the American entertainer, composer and producer, in the entertaining, enjoyable and loving way that caught the Academy's attention and made cinema goers fall in love with both the character and the actor.

Jennifer Jones as Bernadette in The Song of Bernadette (1943)
No matter what faith you believe in, your heart would have to be one of stone if you were not moved by Jennifer Jones' Academy Award winning performance in The Song of Bernadette. Jones played Bernadette Soubirous, the young peasant girl who witnessed visions of the Blessed Mary in a cave in Lourdes with such beautiful innocence and incredible purity. Jones was awarded her Oscar on the evening of her 25th birthday.

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke as Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962)
1962's The Miracle Worker was a powerful film that explored the relationship between Helen Keller and her companion/helper, Anne Sullivan and earned both Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke Academy Awards. Bancroft and Duke were outstanding in performances that were intense emotionally and physically and had tremendous on screen chemistry. When Duke won the Oscar, she was only 16 years old which made her the youngest recipient of a competitive Oscar at that point in time.

Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968)
Playing the 12th century monarch Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, Katharine Hepburn earned her third Academy Award. Hepburn became the domineering mother and formidable, hot-headed queen in every way.Hepburn currently holds the record for winning the most acting Academy Awards (she was awarded four Oscars, all for leading roles), but was not present at any of the ceremonies to accept them.

George C. Scott as General George S. Patton Jr. in Patton (1970)
General Patton had a larger than life personality in life and on film George C. Scott brought this personality back to life in spectacular style in Patton. Although Scott was indeed awarded the Best Actor in A Leading Role Oscar and Patton's producer, Frank McCarthy accepted the award on the night on Scott's behalf, he refused the award as he did not want it to feel as if he was in competition with the another nominees. The studio returned the award the day after to keep with Scott's wish.

Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro's brilliant transformation into former boxing champion, Jake LaMotta was truly remarkable and earned him his second Academy Award. He portrayed LaMotta on screen in such a way that was incredibly entertaining and intriguing, a fine tribute to a fascinating life. Raging Bull is one of nine films which De Niro has completed with director Martin Scorsese and he was nominated for three of these nine films. De Niro has currently been nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two.

Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
The Academy Awards of 1980 saw both the male and female leading role Oscars taken home for performances of real life characters. Sissy Spacek gave an absolute powerhouse performance as country singer, Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter. Spacek's character of Lynn develops a great deal throughout the film and the way in which she portrays these changes was wonderful, as was her musical ability.

Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi (1982)
Richard Attenborough's Gandhi could not have worked without a phenomenal performance by the actor in the title role. Ben Kingsley was absolutely superb as Mahatma Gandhi. His performance was incredibly inspiring and perfect in every way, as it should have always been out of respect for the great man. The film itself was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture. 

Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994)
The public always prefers to remember the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age in their prime, as their lives were not as spectacular as they aged (for the majority). However, Martin Landau's portrayal of Bela Lugosi in his later years in Tim Burton's Ed Wood is as respectful as it is heartbreaking. Landau gives a brilliant and incredibly realistic, loving and sympathetic portrait of the original Dracula actor and was awarded Best Supporting Actor by the Academy.

Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003)
Charlize Theron made the incredible physical transformation into serial killer, Aileen Wuornos for Monster, but it wasn't just her change in appearance that won her the Academy Award. Theron's performance was absolutely superb as it was haunting, unsettling and intimidating in the same way that Wuornos was in life.

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray (2004)
Jamie Foxx gave a brilliant portrayal of arguably the greatest rhythm and blues musician of all time, Ray Charles and showed that his talent stretched from the dramatic to the musical in Ray. Foxx won the Academy Award for Best Performance in a Leading Role, but the same year was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Collateral.

Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004)
In The Aviator, Cate Blanchett completely channelled an actress who also had an Oscar winning role as a real life character in her lifetime, Katharine Hepburn. Blanchett conquered every mannerism and the pronunciation of Hepburn to take home her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Blanchett has now been nominated for six Academy Awards and has won two.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote (2005)
The role of the eccentric writer, Truman Capote has been played many times over the years and has proved difficult to perfect. However, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman channelled him to perfection in Capote and was awarded his only Academy Award for his wonderful ability to play an eccentric character in a subtle, but powerful way.

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006)
Helen Mirren's portrayal of our current monarch in The Queen was incredibly mesmerising and earned her her first Academy Award. Mirren eerily physically resembled Queen Elizabeth II, but her performance brought a greater understanding of the emotions that are displayed only in private in the royal family and evoked sympathy for the monarchy in harsh times.

Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (2007)
Marion Cotillard shot to international acclaim with her incredible portrayal of French singer, Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose and was acknowledged by many as the surprise winner of that year's Oscars. The role of Piaf was extremely dramatic as her life was marred by tragedy and Cotillard gave an incredibly powerful performance. Cotillard is also nominated for an Academy Award this year for her performance in Two Days, One Night.

Colin Firth as King George VI in The King's Speech (2010)
Colin Firth gave the performance of a lifetime as King George VI in Tom Hooper's The King's Speech and received the highest honour from the Academy in receiving his first Oscar. Firth's performance showed the private life of the king and the battles he fought within himself and was not only widely acclaimed, but also praised by the Queen and the royal family.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln (2012)
There have been over 300 portrayals of Abraham Lincoln in film and television over the years, but Daniel Day-Lewis as the much loved president in Lincoln has set a new benchmark for performances. Day-Lewis became Lincoln in every way and the Academy awarded this incredibly realistic and loved performance by presenting him with his third Academy Award. Day-Lewis has been nominated for five Academy Awards and won three from those five.
The remaining performances not already mentioned are:-
George Arliss as Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in Disraeli (1929)
Paul Muni as Louis Pasteur in The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)
Joseph Schildkraut as Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Anthony Quinn as Eufemio Zapata in Viva Zapata (1952) and as Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life (1956)
Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham in I Want To Live! (1958)
Shelley Winters as Petronalla Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Peter Ustinov as Batiatus in Spartacus (1960)
Paul Schofield as Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons (1966)
Estelle Parsons as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee in All The President's Men (1976) and Dashiell Hammett in Julia (1977)
Maureen Stapleton as Emma Goldman in Reds (1981)
F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984)
Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989)
Brenda Fricker as Mrs Brown in My Left Foot (1989)
Jeremy Irons as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune (1990)
Geoffrey Rush as David Helfgott in Shine (1996)
Hilary Swank as Tina Brandon/ Bradon Teena in Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich as Erin Brockovich (2000)
Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner in Pollock (2000)
Jennifer Connolly as Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf in The Hours (2002)
Reese Witherspoon as June Carter in Walk The Line (2005)
Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in Milk (2008)
Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (2009)
Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter (2010)
Melissa Leo as Alice Ward in The Fighter (2010)
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011)
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyer' Club (2013)