Tag Archives: Academy Awards

The Gospel of Gekko, Wall Street and other stories told on film… #film #greedisgood

23 Jan

Greed

To celebrate not only last weeks release but also triumph at the box office, for the new Scorsese flick The Wolf of Wall Street, I thought I’d take a quick look down the road of all things Wall Street, and in essence I came to one big conclusion… Greed is Good!

Well, Gordon Gekko may have not necessarily been right but he was certainly on to something. As made clear by the recently revealed 2014 Academy Awards nominees the concept of greed remains a relevant (and prevalent!) topic in film. The reason being that we can all relate, on some level, to feelings of avarice. It’s not as if we must hold those feelings on any intimate level, but it’s merely the fact that money, more often than not, is seen as the solution to, and the reason for so many problems.

And in just the past seven years alone, there have been a number of notable films that dive headfirst into the topic to expose and investigate each and every part of it. A majority of these have been nominated for Oscars in the past and they’re now still available for you to view on either Blu-ray/DVD or through on-demand video services. One of them, the great American Gangster, is featured on the growing (and rather unique) Picturebox, where a panel of movie buffs handpicks the choices and rotates them every two months or so. This allows for a constantly fresh stream of films, which means other picks on this list should show up on there soon.

Now, here are seven movies about greed from the past seven years.

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There Will Be Blood (2007)– This best film nominee brilliantly portrayed goldminer Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) conversion to the oil business—and the immense lust for greed that came with it. All you have to do is remember the once-popular phrase “I drink your milkshake!”, which Plainview growled to make it clear that he would stop at nothing to take down every other oil man in Southern California.

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American Gangster (2007)– As is the case with any film of this ilk, American Gangster deftly examines greed through the activities of a crime lord and the police. It’s an gripping, true-to-life look at how avarice can lead to corruption (the cops) and inevitable downfalls (Denzel Washington’s Frank Lucas) in 1970s Harlem, New York.

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Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Greed serves as the driving force behind this Oscar winner through the juxtaposed lives of two brothers. One (Salim) sees money as the be-all, end-all solution and constantly chases it, no matter what. The other (Jamal) is fueled more by love. As you may guess, this leads to two very different outcomes for the siblings, with Salim struggling to overcome his feelings of avarice brought on by poverty.

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The Social Network (2010)– Rather than stick to greed in the purely monetary sense, the Social Network explores it through an unwavering desire to be accepted. That right there is the downfall of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), who pushes away and pulls in everyone he can in his endless quest to fit in. It becomes clear that he doesn’t mind the money, either, but it’s not all about the bottom line.

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              Margin Call (2011)– In looking at the financial crisis that slammed the U.S. in 2007 and 2008, this slept-on indie film takes on the greed that spurred said issues. In particular, it presents a long night at the start of the crisis and how one investment banking firm “dealt” with it. The only downside is that Margin Call could have better presented how everyone else (the rest of the world) was impacted.

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American Hustle (2013)– In the context of this film, the subject of avarice deals more with ambition and the desire to capture the “American dream” of success and wealth. But the “hard work” done by the movie’s protagonists (played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams) is conning everyone they can, in particular the also-greedy politicians they are trying to take down with the FBI.

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The Wolf of Wall Street  (2014)– As the trailers have shown you, Martin Scorcese’s latest is all about living in excess after amassing millions through working on Wall Street. That overindulgence leads to more than money, though, as sex and drugs also play a major role. It’s basically a crash course in Greed 101.

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Giving 2014 a film focus @thereeldeal2014 #gonein60secs #film #movie #news #cinema

17 Jan

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Hello everyone,

Well its been a busy start to 2014 for me, I’ve brought together some of my favourite people and my favourite subject to develop a brand new film show for YouTube called The Reel. Its launching in February, but we wanted to start getting some of the content out there, including a very quick round up of the weeks hottest films that will be hitting the cinema every weekend.

So, introducing the pilot episode of Gone in 60 Seconds, our top tips to watch at the cinema this weekend. As it is a pilot episode please forgive the couple of technical hitches that have been happening (mainly the sound) but regardless of this you get the gist, so it would be great to see what you all think.

If you like this please do share it, follow our brand new Twitter handle @thereeldeal2014 and subscribe to the channel on YouTube. We want to create something fun for all you film fans out there, so hoping that this could be the start of something great! Stay tuned, wish us luck and please, do send me your thoughts and suggestions.

Channel 5 News – My Oscar Predictions re-visited

1 Mar

Award season might be over, but I managed to receive a burst of award buzz back through my door as the lovely people at Channel 5 News sent me a copy of my Oscar predictions appearance last Friday. I managed to score a hat trick (not the previously thought 2/3!) which made watching it even better, so if you missed it last week, then here I am (at about 2:21mins) chatting all things Oscars with the fabulous James King. Enjoy!

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Django Unchained – The D is Silent…

23 Jan

 

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Up for five Academy Awards this year, and already a Golden Globe in the bag for supporting actor Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained really is playing the underdog game well and becoming a strong force to be reckoned with.  With its bold slavery storyline, homage to Spaghetti Westerns and signature Tarantino style, this film see’s its director assemble a stellar cast and return to his Pulp Fiction best.

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.39.48The film is essentially split into two stories. The first, being the uniting and unlikely friendship between a German Bounty Hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), and slave turned bounty hunter Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx).  The second, being the quest to find Django’s slave wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who is being held by a brutal plantation owner in Mississippi.

From the outset, Tarantino puts his personal spin on this big issue of slavery and plants it in the Deep South in an exciting modern Western format. Having heard some time ago about Tarantino’s plans to make this movie, I felt it was an interesting and exciting move, but with unpredictability from audiences, Django Unchained was never going to sit in the middle of people’s opinions. But I am pleased to report that in my book, it is being hailed more as a triumph with controversy rather than a failed attempt.

The many great things about this film begin with the performances. Christoph Waltz shone so brilliantly in Inglorious Bastards and he continues his Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.38.33‘Best Supporting‘ competition campaign in this film. From start to finish he embodies the unassuming Dr. King Schultz with a jolly European elegance that you can’t help but find endearing, even when at his most violent and unforgiving. Jamie Foxx is perfect casting as the titular character, and I doubt there has ever been a remorseless revenge hero quite so straight faced as he is throughout this film – when he finally cracks a satisfied smile in the end scene the relief is welcomed with open arms. Letting Schultz do the majority of the talking on his behalf so he can play the sultry side-kick, allows this duo to work together in harmony as both a ruthless partnership in the first half and with genuine comradery in the second.

In addition to these drivers of the narrative, Leonardo Di Caprio plays so against type in this film it’s genius. Girls who grew up falling in love with him in Baz Luhrmanns’ Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t, after watching this film, entertain being in the same plantation let alone the same room with his repugnant, baby-faced, spoilt and menacing Calvin J. Candie. This role shows DiCaprio switch from upper classed Southern-drawl charmer to manipulating and loathed sadist – a role every actor would have desired but few would have been able to accomplish quite in this way. Just as Django and Schultz have an unlikely partnership, so does Calvin Candie and Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), the cheeky Head of the Household at Candyland who demonstrates that not all slaves are fighting for the same cause necessarily, and that this is a world where even the slightest bit of privilege may skew the utilitarian factor from his mindset.  Throughout the upcoming awards season, one can only wish that there would have been room for more nominations for supporting cast members as they were all so brilliantly portrayed.

In terms of directing duties, what Tarantino does brilliantly here, is provide not only a great epic American Western with fantastically well thought out Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.37.34characters and intriguing plotlines, but he also shows both the best and very worst of the human spirit – Christoph Waltz’s democratic Dr Schultz, who cared not for the colour of the skin but only the good of the job, and Calvin Candie’s degrading abuse of his slaves show the two extremes here very cleverly. Tarantino also manages to balance the humour, making us laugh at the most absurd scenes and allowing audiences to question and second-guess themselves after viewing the film – the Klu Klux Klan scenario is a good example of this type of humour, and is one of the best scenes of the whole film.

So what is bad about this film? Well, firstly it’s long, just how long is one of the many jaw-dropping moments presented when you check your watch as you peel yourself out of your seat once the lights go up. But actually, upon reflection, you’ll find it hard to discover many wasted minutes. Every part of the dialogue is carefully constructed and thought out, and although there are slower parts, they are necessary to provide a pathway towards the more climactic moments.

Secondly, it’s violent, but what did you expect? It is Tarantino after all, and if you learned anything from Kill Bill, it’s that Tarantino likes adding in the gore element – but in Django Unchained, you wont see any group slaughter scenes in black and white to shade the violence. However, like in some of Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 09.39.06his earlier films, the end shoot out is almost so grotesque that you don’t wince when watching it, as it doesn’t evoke that kind of reaction because it is so expected of Tarantino. Equally, the more brutal parts are implied rather than shown in full i.e.: the slave and the dogs, so you are shocked by the horror of it happening but not by seeing it on screen. But what we must remember is that this isn’t just Tarantino going for a shock factor joy ride with his film making, in fact, Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s indulged in extreme violence, and to pay proper homage to that era Tarantino is bringing some of that cinematic history to the modern stage.

Finally, the extended use of the ‘N-word’ has been steeped in controversy, however when you’re not seeing slaves pulled apart by each other in a death match or set on by dogs it’s a necessary reminder of the horrors of slavery and not a tip toeing premise to hide behind. As with the rest of Tarantino’s portfolio of work, if he’s going to tackle a topic be it Nazi Germany or the Deep South, he does it full throttle.

So should you go watch this film? For Tarantino fans this is a must, when questions started to arise about this director through his Grindhouse homage phase that didn’t quite hit the mark, rest assured that he has steadily been building up to this crescendo, lets hope his future projects maintain this level of courage and craft.

 

 

 

Les Miserable – Film Review

18 Dec

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“Can you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men?” no? Well neither did I at this screening… as it was indeed more about jubilation as Les Miserables took from stage to screen in Tom Hoopers bold production.

The all singing story follows prisoner 24601 aka Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) ,imprisoned for stealing some bread for his sister, as he breaks parole and becomes a better man thanks to the compassion of a priest and a promise to young mother Fantine (Anne Hathaway) as she lays on her deathbed. The only problem being that persistent and law obsessive Javert is on a manhunt and nothing will stop him bringing this convict to justice.

Les Miserables is the longest running musical in history and its success is a testament to the story and the incredible musical numbers that expertly guide the audience through this complex tale. Tom Hooper has embraced this and done a valiant job in making it more widely available through the Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.26.17silver screen. To this I’m grateful, but as a Les Miserable fan, I can’t help but be a little nit-picking. After all, some of the wonders of the theatre production can never really have the same impact on screen, but it was interesting to see where the balance shifted and what surprised me the most.

First, lets look at the casting. By far the standout performance is from Anne Hathaway, in fact her portrayal as Fantine is Oscar worthy. She managed to reduce me to a quivering wreck throughout I Dreamed a Dream. The raw desperation in her performance will move even the biggest sceptic. I have seen the stage show six times and I have never seen a performance quite like this and I challenge anyone to not shed a tear throughout this song. The power that Hathaway possesses in this is also balanced with the simplicity of the shot which remains in a medium close up following her intimately.

Hugh Jackman is incredibly competent as Jean Valjean, he guides the audience with ease, and delivers some impressive vocals, however you can’t help but think that Alfie Boe would have delivered a far more commanding version and be able to hit the correct register as intended (and is the challenge) for numbers such as Bring Him Home. Never the less, out of Hollywood’s hot pickings, there is none more suitable than Jackson who, we must not forget has his roots firmly planted in Musical Theatre.

Pleasant surprises come also from baby faced Eddie Redmayne, who, bar an occasionally distracting “jiggly jaw” as I like to call it, demonstrates that his choir boy days at Eton have served him well, and he embodies Marius with ease and sends an exemplary chill down the spines of the audience throughout Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Samantha Barks also shines as Eponine, however does not manage to provoke quite as much emotion from the audience throughout On My Own. However this may be down to the uncomfortable shot position given by Hooper throughout this song. Regardless, who would have thought that a spot on BBC’s I’d Do Anything, would have seen her just a few short years later be part of a major Hollywood film.

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen delight as Monsieur and Madame Thenadier, and provide the light relief necessary throughout the Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.23.59film. Cohen is particularly standout with his ad-hoc one liners and surprisingly good singing voice. For Carter, although good, you can’t help but think you’ve seen her character multiple times before, as she dons a Tim Burton esq portrayal which is delivered like clockwork. Their biggest number Master of the House, is played for laughs as it should be, but is slightly drowned by the background noise and ambience that some of the particularly funny one liners are somewhat lost on occasions as it could have been one of the most memorable numbers.

The biggest surprise has to be Russell Crowe. Huge skepticism surrounded his casting as Javert, however, although clunky at times, he delivers an impressive performance.

Overall this film rests, as it should, on the ability of its cast members, but Director Tom Hooper brings to life a convincing 19th Century France. Some of the settings, particularly the rounding up of revolutionaries (shot in Greenwich) is visually spectacular, and you feel the excitement building for the big barracade showdown. However, when the time comes to see this spectacle, which on stage is one of the biggest wonders and ores of the production, you are left slightly underwhelmed. The enclosed area of streets in which this is set, very much look like part of a set and takes away from the marvel of the scene we have just seen, this is a shame, because it makes viewing inconsistent and those Les Mis fans who are very familiar with the stage production will be particularly observant in these parts.

Hoopers’ camera angles at times are also interesting. He mixes some of the most simple shots with some which more feel like he’s puffing up his peacock feathers to show his dominance in the film world. Ironically, it is the more simplistic work, which demonstrates his talent more effectively, Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.25.01rather than the more auteuristic attempts. It’s interesting however, seeing what works better on stage than on film. The magic of the theatre is about pushing peoples imagination, and scenes like the sewer are not as impactful in the film version. On the flipside, the visual portrayals in Master of the House really help elevate the song and the comedic element to the scene.

Overall this is a strong attempt at taking this concept to a cinematic audience. The faults are highlighted but are in no way damning to this pleasing production. Never before has anyone brought this musical version of the Victor Hugo novel to the cinema successfully before, and although I think there are far too many strong contenders for best picture at the Oscars this year, I think Les Miserable will have a considerable run at the awards ceremonies.

But whilst we wait for the award based outcome of this film, we can check out some interviews from the New York premiere…which aren’t quite what they seem…