The Oscars, Analysed, Best Actor

Oscars2013-620x350We wrap up the acting categories with the Actor in a Leading Role category.

The Nominees:  Bradley Cooper  ‘Silver Linings Playbook’;  Denzel Washington  ‘Flight’;  Daniel-Day Lewis ‘Lincoln’;  Hugh Jackman  ‘Les Miserables’ and  Joaquin Phoenix  ‘The Master’.

OK, this category has plenty of credible nominations. Plenty of snubs as well. Hugh Jackman was the best thing about ‘Les Miserables’, but still not good enough to get this nom, but I still can see why he got it. The other 4 are all great nominations. The long list of snubs include John Hawkes for ‘The Sessions’, Jack Black for ‘Bernie’, Matthew McConaughey for ‘Killer Joe’ and Richard Gere for ‘Arbitrage’.

Personally, though, I would’ve loved to have seen Jean Louis Trintignant nominated for ‘Amour’, all the love seems to be falling for Emmanuelle Riva’s performance, which is amazing in its own right, but I liked Trintignant’s more, and I would’ve loved if he would’ve been there instead of Jackman or even Cooper, as good as both of those were.

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Who Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix  ‘The Master;. Hands down. No question. The best performance of the year and one of the best of the last few years.  His figure, gestures, mannerisms, all stay imprinted in our heads. It was a captivating performance. I won’t be angry if Day-Lewis wins, how can I? He was brilliant as well, but Phoenix’s performance is something else, in my view.

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Who Will Win: Well, who else? Daniel Day-Lewis  ‘Lincoln’. It is quite a performance. Again, he transforms his body, showing us a Lincoln more moulded by grief, politics and war. With the signs of wear and tear of years of struggle, both personally and professionally. Apart from Phoenix, no other performance comes close to this one, and it should rightly win.

Yazen Al Samen

The Prestige Review

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Words by Naomi Jeffreys

“Are you watching closely?”

Christopher Nolan, a British born director who has created such films as ‘Inception’ (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), created a film which was content on asking questions, pushing the audience, having an ambigious ending. It starred Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson.

‘The Prestige’ is a film like no other. According to IMDB the film follows; “The rivalry between two magicians is exacerbated when one of them performs the ultimate illusion.” Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play the two male leads, Borden (Bale) and Angier (Jackman).

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Nolan constantly asks the audience to ask questions, to let their imagination run wild. The internet went mad at the time of its release asking questions as to the real meaning of the film. It also helps that Nolan had a budget of $40,000,000 with the film grossing $109,676,311 worldwide. Evidently, audiences liked to be pushed. After all, what’s the point of film if you aren’t left wondering how the film ends?

To the film itself, the actors, Jackman, Bale and Johansson offer up a plethora of characters. With Jackman and Johansson donning believable accents, Johansson a British accent and Jackman a convincing American twang.

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But it is Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale who carry the film, their intense rivalry, which is demonstrated through a number of flahsbacks; with Borden and Angier’s obession growing to find the ‘perfect, real magic trick’, their personal lives start to fall apart.

Nolan once again demonstrates why he can drive audiences in to cinemas, his strong creative vision; Nolan has said on the ambiguity of the film mirrors the art of magic itself;   “And the real paradox, which is the paradox of magic, but this is to me what’s interesting about the subject, is that much as the audience wants to know the secret, the secret ultimately will be disappointing. That’s the nature of magic. And that’s, to me, the key thing which I’m trying to do in the film.”

There is so very much to write about this film, that it is quite tricky to write about. Critics must of course, critique the film. But with this, I don’t believe that there was one thing wrong about the film. As an avid movie goer, I have seen good films, bad films and anything in between.

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Directors nowadays tend to hand the film to the audience on a plate, there is no need to think, to ask questions, to carry on the film after the credits have finished. But Nolan is unique in the vision of all of his films, he forces the audience to think about the narrative arc, to care about the characters.

This is a film which must be seen.

“Are you watching closely?”

The Best Films of 2012

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Words by Yazen Al Samen

What a year 2012 has been for franchises. From Superheroes to teenage vampires to Hobbitses to even British secret agents. Films that have grossed in the billions, and still do. However, there were films that stood on their own alongside those big hitters. 2012 has been again a rich year for films, here on English shores, even though we are yet to be hit with ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Lincoln’,  ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ or ‘Flight’, among other movies, which have already took sweep of the US and have gained critical momentum.

Yours truly has watched as much as he can during the past year and here I present my personal list of the best films I’ve seen during the past year, I’ve discounted films like ‘The Artist’ and ‘The Descendants’ because even though they were released last January, they’re not really 2012 movies as they were 2011 releases in America and are even considered 2011 movies by the BAFTA. Anyway, here I roll with the list (excluding Documentaries):

First, some honourable mentions:  ‘The Deep Blue Sea’, ‘End of Watch’, ‘The Grey’, ‘The Impossible’, ‘Killer Joe’, ‘Killing Them Softly’, ‘Looper’, ‘Prometheus’, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, ‘To Rome With Love’.

 10. ‘Holy Motors’

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I guess “Holy Motors” is what you call a wild ride. This is a movie like no other, one of the most all out bat shit crazy films I have seen. The plot involves Denis Lavant as a certain Monseiur Oscar, who spends his day travelling around Paris in his limousine, and attending different “appointments”.

In each appointment he dresses as a different person and acts differently. Featuring supporting turns by Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, and directed by Leos Carax, one of the less active, yet most famous of modern French directors. The end result is a wildly entertaining film that reaffirms your faith in the originality of cinema.

9. ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

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Benh Zeitlin’s first film, winner of the Camera D’Or at Cannes Film Festival, is a feast. A film awash with originality and wonder. At its center is Hushpuppy, a 6 year old, as played by Quvenzhane Wallis, who is already gaining Oscar momentum, and rightly so. Hushpuppy lives in a Louisiana Bayou which is secluded from civilization, and her home is about to be hit by a giant storm.

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is full of first time actors; it’s been gaining momentum since it premiered at Sundance almost a year ago. This is one of the best independent films of recent years.

8. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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Unlike the first 2 films on this list, which might have slipped under some people’s radar, I doubt you missed this one. Christopher Nolan’s climax conclusion to his Batman trilogy, which is not without its flaws, is one hell of an achievement. It is such an ambitious film that elevated Batman from a superhero into a right tragic figure.

It is quite something to see a film that goes as far as this, to take an already glorified super hero, pretty much imprinted in our minds, and go into a story that explores peace in modern society and the implications of violence. It is far from perfect, but it is hard not be taken away by Nolan’s movie.

7. ‘Anna Karenina’

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The team behind ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Atonement’, led by director Joe Wright and his muse Keira Knightley, return here in an eloquent adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic, starring Knightley as the titular figurine who blasts into an adulterous affair with a young officer (Aaron Johnson).

The film is a spectacle, filmed on a stage and in close spaces with expert choreography, the movie plunges into the passions and taboos of 19th century Russian society. Includes supporting roles for Jude Law, Emily Watson, Kelly McDonald and Olivia Williams.

6. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

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Wes Anderson has always been an acquired taste, and here he continues to show why. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a magically whimsical film, with characters so freshly conceived and minutely detailed, it explores common Anderson themes like young love, in this case between two eleven year olds (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman), who escape into the wilderness of their small Island in the 60s.

And in turn get the whole people of the Island searching for them. Features an impeccable turn by Bruce Willis, along with Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton among many many others.