‘Editorials’ Articles

84th Annual Academy Awards – Prechat

This discussion was recorded on 20th February 2012. Thanks to David Barr for helping me to bounce my thoughts about. Please forgive any typos in my rather hurried transcription!

 DC: It’s strange the way these years roll into eachother. I find myself sitting infront of a webcam again twelve months after the last time.

 DB: …and the Oscars are just days away.

 DC: It’s one of those years that highlights how good the previous year really was. It’s the sort of year where all you want to do is go back, re-watch everything that came out in 2010 and remember how much better it was. You look at The Fighter, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, Never Let Me Go, True Grit…these sorts of things. This was all awards fodder but at the same time relatively low budget, artistically minded, great reviews, enormously commercially successful. To be interested I need a horse to get behind.  Last year it was Fincher for Best Director with The Social Network, a decision from the Academy we both think was a bad one, but we just haven’t had anything like that this year – hence the disinterest. There’s only two films I really loved that are nominated for Best Picture and there’re the two that are most polarising audiences – War Horse and The Tree of Life. They’re pushing people into two separate camps. Though The Artist is suffering a backlash as a result of the ridiculously exaggerated critical acclaim its getting, even the dissenting voices seem fairly tolerant of its defects. The same isn’t true of War Horse and The Tree of Life. Those who hate those films really, really hate them, those who love them really, really love them. It’s the same effect Black Swan, which I loved, had last year. People who disliked it were incadescent with rage about the prospect of it being nominated, let alone winning things. I just don’t think The Artist, or any of these films for the most part, provoked that sort of reaction in people. With The Artist, the only people who seem particularly interested are the cinephile cliques and critics circle types. Audiences aren’t turning out to see it in anywhere near the same numbers as saw last years crop. Sure, relative to its budget its profitable, but it’s no commercial smash. That sort of disconnect between the Academy and audiences is especially apparent so far as the ommision of very popular, quite worthy contenders like Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are concerned. They’ve thrown in The Help to satiate the American megacrowds, but largely it seems a list of things most people haven’t really seen. If the Academy have decided they’re primarily interested in films that aren’t big hits, then for Christs sake choose the actual best ten films of the year – don’t slam the categories with middleground nothingness. The Kings Speech made $400 million, Black Swan did about $300 million, True Grit and The Social Network did well over $200. All these films were good, but they also resonated with wide audiences. Why this year is the Best Picture category neither up to that quality, nor packed with anything that’s had much success with the cinemas?

 DB: That’s very well summarised and largely reflects how I feel. Even supposedly well reviewed films like Midnight in Paris annoyed me. Stuff like The Artist, I mean, its fine, but its as though they’re clutching at straws trying to make it out to be better than it is.

 DC: You get it in weaker years. When there’s not an actual competition, like there was in 2011, you end up with everyone desperately grasping at something to launch onto a pedestal.  BAFTA, the Globes, the guilds, and probably the Academy have decided The Artist is going to be that. The problem is that audiences aren’t particularly interested. The film community wants to elevate this thing to a standard beyond and above it. Not to denigrate the film, which is nice in its own way, but it almost does a disservice to the work of everyone involved to heap a sugar rush of false praise that’ll come crashing down shortly after their film wins everything at the ceremony. Everyone needs to step back and acknowledge that this isn’t a backpatting year. The work wasn’t up to scratch.

 DB: Likewise, The Descendents and Moneyball. Both I enjoyed, both good films, but last year they wouldn’t stand any chance of being nominated. Its that kind of year where 7/10, 8/10 movies are unfortunately nominated..

 DC: Its not unusual to get a wild card disaster like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in there, but its just the bog-standard blandness of the rest that annoys. Midnight in Paris pretty much epitomises it. In no sensible year should a pleasant little nothing like that be up for Best Picture.

 DB: Absolute fluff. Trivial, not very good. Quite dislikeable.

 DC: I’d almost say the same for Hugo, which I quite liked in many ways. Admirable change of tone and direction for someone like Scorsese who has primarily been associated with more adult films, but…I mean…this is not a Best Picture nominee. It’s a charming, likeable childrens film that sometimes reaches into more interesting territory, but there’s a massive structural faultline dividing it into two separate films. I don’t understand how it can be talked up as a genuine Best Picture contender! The ommisions seem more interesting than the actual stuff nominated. Considering the relatively poor standard of the nominees, how the hell are the likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive, Bridesmaids, Shame…which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard more than deserved a nomination. Why have these sorts of films been ignored whereas Extremely Loud and Midnight in Paris make it in.

 DB: The Descendents. Why the hell is that in there?

 DC: It’s a strange year. The strangest thing is that something like Tinker Tailor hasn’t been completely ignored. Its in the Best Actor, its in the Best Screenplay, its in the Best Score. Why didn’t it make it in the nominations for Best Picture? Extremely Loud, a total flop, critically hated in there…

 DB: There’s only nine nominations, which is odd.

 DC: Its been well written about that the Academy has some problems in terms of the current makeup of the membership. They have these five thousand members and the average age is sixty or sixty-two or something. Lots and lots of people who were involved in the business, the technical side of the industry forty or fifty years ago. Now they sit in their little beach house in the middle of nowhere getting gift bags sent to them by studio couriers. They see the names Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and the nice bag of shit Scott Rudin’s gang have sent over – and they tick all the right boxes. Its madness. Its not representative of the audiences, or even the broad views of most American critics.

 DB: Its very strange.

 DC: As a consequence we end up with true masterpieces like Fast Five not making it into the final ten.

 DB: Its absolutely absurd. Also Friends with Benefits. Definitely should be in there.

 DC: Justin Timberlake for Best Actor.

 DB: Masterpiece. So good.

 DC: We laugh now, but we really were talking up JTs chances for a Supporting Actor nomination for The Social Network. I still think he was snubbed.

 DB: He did get snubbed.

 DC: So was Andrew Garfield.

 DB: He was superb.

 DC: Fast Five is the killer for me though. The dedication Dwayne and Vin brought to building up the enormous muscles we all enjoyed deserves an Oscar of its own.

 DB: It does. Insane oversight.

 DC: There’s always next year for Mr Diesel. Money is always second to art, integrity and spirit – but the real issue is deeper – can he suspend his life to momentarily venture to that dark place called Riddick? Best Actor 2013. Shall we start rolling through the Best Picture nominees?

 DB: Yep. The Artist? Really nice, really likeable…but its just fluff. It doesn’t amount to much of anything. For all its technique and warm, likeable performances…its unfortunately been elevated onto this level where you can only be underwhelmed by the people that’ve told you it’s a masterpiece. It’s not.

 DC: I agree. It’s the sort of film that if it’d been undertalked about I might accidentally catch it at Curzon or something and tell people to go and see it. I can’t even comprehend what’s going on when the Academy and the other groups have plucked this thing from the void and are lifting it up to the top of the pile. I’m not saying the Academy should be commercial stooges and just go with the most successful films out there, I like it when films like The Hurt Locker can make no money but still do well during awards season, but I think the public view has to be taken into account to some degree and I don’t think the public are remotely interested in The Artist. I just don’t get it. The most frustrating issue of all is when something is overrated and overhyped. You immediately find yourself, quite against your will, joining in with the backlash because you feel compelled to help point out that the film isn’t as good as its made out to be.

 DB: It’s so annoying.

 DC: It happened to some extent last year with The King’s Speech, and it really, really happened with Slumdog Millionaire. With both occasions though my main gripes came from feeling the competing David Fincher films were much more worthy of the victory. The King’s Speech is leagues ahead of The Artist though. It works. A year on you can look back and have an enormous amount of respect for its qualities. Maybe The Artist is just scrambled in my brain. I’ll look back at it in a couple of years and think it’s amazing. Or maybe not. Maybe the reality is that everyone else will look back in two years and be surprised when they realise it won Best fucking Picture!!

 DB: They’ll remember what a bad year it was.

 DC: It has nothing profound to say. It’s quite neatly and effectively stylised, but nothing that bowls you over. I can’t see anyone involved ever going on to produce anything else of tremendous relevance.

 DB: The cinematography and acting are nice, but its all just a pastiche. How much acclaim can you offer something so shamelessly derivative?

 DC: Selfishly, I like awards to be earned with hard graft. You make some good work for a while then swing in with the killer blow. At any point there’re a few filmmakers who are really building up to their best work. The Artist sweeps in and smashes all that away. Its an oddball entry that breaks apart that nice, ordered little system by popping up and running away with all the silverware. The Descendants?

 DB: It didn’t have the edge Sideways had.

 DC: Or Election for that matter. It was gentle though, warm and comforting with some sharp character work. In a world with ten nominees I’m totally fine with it sitting in one of the back-end positions. That its seriously being talked up as a contender for Best Picture seems very unusual to me. Someone like Alexander Payne you expect to do good work. It’s him doing what he does well.

 DB: It’s fine. It’s no progress or any sort of patch on his best work. It’s a film that’s enjoyable to have seen, but it didn’t leave me with any longterm satisfaction and certainly didn’t show any career development on Payne’s part.

 DC: I felt a greater emotional connection with the characters than with some of these other Best Picture nominees, but I think that says more about these other films than about anything particularly remarkable on Payne’s part. He writes this sort of stuff in his sleep. I don’t think it quite has that special something that warrants an Oscar push. Like The Artist though, I think we’re perhaps being a little unfair on it. It’s a good film when you take away the baggage, which is more than can be said for the next thing nominated called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I slated this on the blog last week. It’s repellant. It’s horrible. Stephen Daldry said some very complimentary things about his fellow nominee The Curious Case of Benjamin Button a couple of years ago, so I don’t want to offend him too much, but I don’t think he’s made a good feature film since Billy Elliot. His last two films before this one, The Hours and The Reader are very stodgy literary adaptations that totally fail to capture any of the qualities of their respective sources. It just feels like he’s a guy that is constantly sniffing around for the next awards bait. This is a new low. Any issues I had with those films, neither of which I liked much, pale in comparison to how much I disliked this film. There’re moment in that perrenial Oscar whipping boy Crash that I hated for battering you over the head with its crassness and insensitivity, but with Extremely Loud – written by Eric Roth, quite a good screenwriter -  how did they read through the script of this and not see how badly it must’ve misfired on the page? The boy is so, so annoying. He runs around with a tambourine, every line is over-written to death, he’s supposed to be autistic or something. None of this is presented logically.

 DB: Who is the kid?

 DC: Some dickhead they found on a quiz show.

 DB: Thomas Horn?

 DC: Yeah. He’s awful in the film. Ultimately the failure is Daldry’s. Again. I hate to be so cruel to an English director, but its horrible. Its horrible.

 DB: I need to see this.

 DC: The guy on really likes it. He can’t justify why. It’s some sort of gut instinct that makes people like something in spite of themself. There’s no sane justification for including a dream sequence where a soft focus, CG Tom Hanks tumbles head first from the falling World Trade Center as it collapses.

 DB: My God.

 DC: It’s mind-boggling how wide of the mark some of these decisions are. I was laughing at how ridiculous it was, especially so far as a the terrible plot twist at the end is concerned. It makes no sense.

 DB: Save that one for when I watch it.

 DC: It’s Golden Raspberry material. It seems like nearly everyone screamed WHAT when it was nominated for Best Picture. I’ve seen a couple of articles digging back through reviews that’ve found, by means of a crude tally, that it’s the worst reviewed nominee in like twenty years. That sounds about right to me. This is an actively bad film. It makes Crash look like a worthy Best Picture winner. It makes Daldry’s previous two farts look like artworks you’d hang in the National Gallery.

 DB: Daldry didn’t pick up a Director nom?

 DC: No, but Max von Sydow snuck in for Supporting Actor. I’d rather have had Albert Brooks or Robert Forster from The Descendants.

 DB: I would’ve gone for Brooks.

 DC: The Help next. Chris Columbus produced this apparently, which makes him a potential Oscar winner if it takes Best Picture.

 DB: What world are we living in if Chris Columbus is holding an Oscar?

 DC: Indeed. Just watched this film last night and I really liked it, quite to my surprise, though I’m not apologetic for liking it. I think it’s a much better film than the dodgy advertising gives the impression of. It’s a good comparison point to Extremely Loud  and War Horse actually with all three set against these big historical contexts. I’ll come to War Horse later, but to touch on Extremely Loud again, that film makes the mistake of relying on 9/11 to push its emotional buttons in the absence of anything of its own to offer. The Help never does that. The Civil Rights stuff is going on in the background. I’m sure the way that’s handled, any historical inaccuracy, might annoy those more knowledgable about American history than me, but I think the focus is primarily on the characters, their chemistry and interactions and how both human evil and decency can thrive in any situation. I thought the characters were drawn with a nuance and detail that’s really refreshing for this sort of film. The ensemble cast are great. This guy Tate Taylor that directed it, I’m not sure if he’s directed anything before, but he really seems to get how to use these actresses effectively. Someone like Bryce Dallas Howard has popped up in a few things and been a bit iffy. Nobody but Lars von Trier, that favourite of ex-Spider-Man actresses, has managed to get much out of her. In this film she plays the sort of bitchy, evil villain and this Tate Taylor guy seems to understand exactly how to take advantage of her abilities. It’s really well cast and everyone, Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, they all fit in perfectly. I can see why its been so successful in America. It’s sitting probably in that back half of the nominees again, the sort of film that in a better year would only just scrape into the Best Picture category. It’s best suited to the acting categories and I’m pleased to see it pick up a few nominations.

 DB: I quite want to see it.

 DC: Hugo. The stuff it does well it does so, so well. The stuff with Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès is lovely, but unfortunately its tied in with this predictable, bog-standard adventure with an orphaned boy running around a train station that doesn’t work anywhere near as well. I can credit it a great deal for how good the production design is, the costumes, the ensemble of characters I liked. It’s all elegantly put together with the polish you expect from Scorsese, but the story of this boy isn’t terribly compelling. It’s a shame that it’s mashed together, often quite crudely, with this much more interesting story about Georges Méliès. Scorsese’s focus would have been better focusing more on that stuff. I know it’s based on a book, but sometimes it feels a bit like two different films. The Méliès stuff is much more sophisticated and impressive. It’s frustrating because it feels like a missed opportunity for a fuller focus on a better story. I’d rather he’d junked the novel and focused exclusively on that character. As a production it’s technically excellent, it’s very well filmed, the cast are very good. It’s often quite funny. The score is quite good. People were often slightly over-reaching themselves with their praise towards it.

 DB: I can’t believe a 3D film was nominated for Best Picture.

 DC: I didn’t like the 3D. Never works for live action. Hopefully Scorsese won’t work with it again.

 DB: That would be an annoyance.

 DC: Midnight in Paris?

 DB: I didn’t like it at all. Its not even that I found it mediocre like a lot of the films you’ve talked about, I think I just don’t like Woody Allen anymore. Not even hit and miss, I actively dislike nearly all of his recent films. I think he’s really disengaged from audiences, and he’s producing absolutely nothing – work of the absolute lowest order. Wank fantasies. The opening montage of Paris is hilarious. It must be the longest opening scene outside of Mission Impossible 4.

 DC: He makes these films for like fifteen million dollars and they say come and shoot a film for us in Barcelona, come to London, come to Paris – we’ll sort you out with tax breaks if you use our local crews and fit in a load of travel brochure photography. A glowing Eiffel Tower! I think you’re a bit unfair on it. He’s in no way consistent as a filmmaker, with this 2 bad 1 good 2 bad 1 good thing for the last decade. I watched it with Anna and she didn’t finish watching it, she didn’t like it at all. No, not interested after like forty minutes. I followed it through to the end and I thought it was okay. I liked the cast, the concept is fine but its so superficial, its so lightweight and throwaway – I’m surprised that its odds of winning Best Original Screenplay are so good because as far as Allen’s filmography is concerned; its notable solely for not being unwatchably bad, its just lightly, happily nothing. It’s not awards material by any means.

 DB: The only thing that remotely carries it is Owen Wilson’s natural charm. Even his character’s fairly questionable. He’s a bit of a dick.

 DC: Not as big a dick as Michael Sheen.

 DB: Sheen’s unbearable. Rachel McAdams is unbearable.

 DC: I like Hiddleston.

 DB: It’s so offensive to think Woody Allen thinks he can put words into Hemmingway’s mouth. The way these historical figures speak is so…it’s like his vision of Paris. It’s that same vision applied to these famous characters and it’s unbearable.

 DC: I was very conscious that it was actors reading dialogue. In spite of that, in spite of how contrived it was and how aware I was of this ridiculous setup, I kinda enjoyed myself with the film.

 DB: Give me Bill & Ted anyday, give me Napoleon and stuff, Lincoln…

 DC: It got swallowed up a bit in its own vague references. The Marion Cotillard stuff didn’t work at all.

 DB: Another victim of overhype. So well acclaimed. Bizarre…

 DC: My favourite two Allen films of the last few years are Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

 DB: I liked Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

 DC: Midnight in Paris received better reviews than those films even though it’s not a patch on either of them. Match Point is so un-Allen, and sticks to this really neat little central theme without getting tied up in the quirky Allen-talk.

 DB: Midnight in Paris. One of the best reviewed films of the year. Bonkers.

 DC: I don’t know why it’s there. Moneyball?

 DB: Moneyball.

 DC: I liked it. Even with only five films nominated I could’ve seen it slipping into one of those positions. I know it had a tough production where they tried to get it made for a long time.

 DB: Steven Soderbergh, right?

 DC: Yeah, then Aaron Sorkin came in later and re-wrote the endless script drafts. I wondered for ages why Brad Pitt was obsessed with getting this thing about baseball statistics made, it doesn’t sound very good, but now that its finally been made and I’ve finally seen it, I get that it’s not a sports film exactly and its instead trying to tell this very specific story about a real guy, the business community of baseball, and how he developed this formula for choosing the squad. The cast is great. The script is great and I really liked the way it appealed to people who don’t know the slightest thing about the sport. It’s not a winner necessarily.

 DB: Same, good film.

 DC: Much like Clooney in The Descendants,  It’s a good opportunity for someone like Pitt to remind us why we like these A-grade moviestars that exist in a different stratosphere of celebrity to most other actors. He’s got such an easy charm and plays the best version of Brad Pitt, moviestar, that he possibly can.

 DB: That’s very true, yeah, I think of it as a very solid four-star film. I’m not sure how much Sorkin changed from Steve Zaillion’s drafts, but it’s good.

 DC: I think he just punched up the dialogue.

 DB: I didn’t need to see Soderbergh direct this film. I think Bennett Miller does a good job.

 DC: I had some problems with Capote a few years back. I think Hoffman has been miles better in nearly everything else. Miller did a good, workmanlike job on this though bringing together the different elements into a tight production. It worked.

 DB: Little Jonah Hill.

 DC: He’s started to balloon again I think.

 DB: He’s getting fat again?

 DC: I saw a picture of him on a beach with Channing Tatum promoting 21 Jump Street. He was in a wetsuit for some reason. Looked like he’d been hitting the buffet cart over January. Too many maltesers.

 DB: He’s not funny now that he’s thin.

 DC: He’s good in it, but let’s not go crazy, he’s nominated for the Academy Award simply because people are shocked he didn’t pull a gross out stunt at any point. He didn’t do a poo on the floor.

 DB: Outtakes?

 DC: I resent that I’ll have to refer to him as ‘Academy Award nominee’ Jonah Hill.

 DB: Yeah.

 DC: Let’s not slag him off too much though. He did the work.

 DB: I bet Seth Rogen is furious. He wants one!

 DC: If you’d told me Jonah Hill would be nominated for an Academy Award two or three years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face. Moneyball thumbs up! The Tree of Life?

 DB: How many times have you seen The Tree of Life?

 DC: Once, in the cinema. Firstly, to clarify, I love Terrence Malick. A little over two years ago I trawled through his films in chronological order over a weekend. I’d seen The Thin Red Line as a teenager, but going back to watch Badlands and Days of Heaven then The Thin Red Line again – I was completely blown away. The New World had massive problems but so much that was amazing about it, you could never just write it off. The Tree of Life blew me away in the way those first three films did. It’s convoluted and flawed in many ways, but its filled with the sort of material other filmmakers simply aren’t capable of approaching. The ambition is so great. It tries, and often succeeds, in doing things totally beyond the grasp of any other director but Malick. Experimental and intelligent and beautiful. These big, overlapping themes that other filmmakers don’t even dream of taking on, yet he’s somehow able to retain a coherancy to a million different strains of thought all at once. Somehow he ties this shit together. I know he shoots hour after hour after hour of footage and then cobbles together an edit which best represents his vision. To some people that can feel confused and messy, and it is to some extent, but it also really works. The great stuff in this film is greater than anything the other nominees can offer. That said, I’m aware that it polarises people. Someone that makes the sorts of films Terrence Malick makes is never going to be audience friendly exactly, so I think his winning of the Palme D’Or at Cannes is probably more befitting this sort of film than any realistic chance of making a good Oscar run. It’s too uncommercial, but I’m pleased its been recognised with a nomination for Best Picture and Best Director. I hope it wins for the Cinematography. Also, I’d like to say that Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain should have been nominated for this over Moneyball and The Help. They’re amazing in this.

 DB: I feel I need to see it again, but I mostly loved it. As a complete film. I’m not entirely sure my opinion, but it certainly belongs there. Of the nine films nominated, they’re unanimously unambitious films. It’s a mix of adaptations and safe bets. There’s nothing particularly bold apart from The Tree of Life. There’s a 45 minute section as good as anything I saw last year, where the children are born and you follow this sort of montage as they grow up. The performances he got from the young boys. That was the film, for me. Those three boys growing up in the fifties. I’ve never seen anything quite like that on film.

 DC: He creates these startlingly beautiful images. He’s been criticised for shooting actors as though they’re animals in a wildlife documentary, but it’s total bullshit. He’s just very aware of the environment and the wider frame. It’s miles more advanced than the photography you get on a nature documentary. There’s this instinctive, unlimited imagination that’s tapped into the chemical makeup of the world.

 DB: He’s got an interesting eye and a totally original way of shooting things.

 DC: That’s why you get these big players like Nolan and Fincher holding him up in such high esteem. They know he’s got something totally unique. A real voice. He’s the anti-Daldry. Those guys aren’t capable of working in this sort of way. There’s nothing distinctive. Malick would never take a studio script and a studio job or make something as emotionally empty as Extremely Loud. He has an actual vision, solely and singularly his own. As a result he’s this fascinating guy, despite his relatively tiny body of work. War Horse?

 DB: Discuss.

 DC: I love War Horse. It’s my favourite nominee. It’s my favourite Spielberg since Saving Private Ryan, maybe since Jurassic Park. I think it’s magnificent. I haven’t read the novel or seen the stageplay, but it seems the story is wonderful enough to have made an impact on audiences across multiple mediums. Using the horse, and the episodic structure as a means through which to tell this epic tale with WWI as the backdrop – it’s so old fashioned dealing with these deeply un-trendy themes like loyalty, friendship, bravery, honour. There’s a great tendency to get very cynical and Guardianista about something so unashamedly traditional. There’s nothing here to let you in on the fact this is from a filmmaker operating in 2012, it’s Spielberg doing his fucking damndest to make audiences cry by presenting them with this very earnest, very sincere adventure. That really works for me. I like being manipulated by a director if the film really earns that emotional investment. I know some critics have accused it of being too sugary, but I don’t think it’s a fair criticism because the emotional beats are never dishonest. If you build a genuine attachment to characters, you’re going feel something real when tragedy strikes. It’s textbook filmmaking on a technical level to be able to provoke that sort of reaction in people. It’s the greatest gift of any visual artist. John Williams’ score is great, it’s long but not too long, the characters are great, it’s got the Spielbergy comic touches and humorous moments, it’s sad, it’s funny. It’s fantastic.

 DB: Richard Curtis wrote it, right?

 DC: Yeah, adapted from the novel and stageplay. If people can get on board with it, in the same way people were able to get on board with the boy in ET emoting to a rubber puppet, than it’ll win them over. Some people will always point and laugh, the rest of us will sit back and buy into the world Spielberg presents to us. He handles this stuff better than anyone. I really, really loved it, and find myself in the strange position of agreeing with the Daily Mail. It’s Spielberg’s finest hour!

 DB: …and you loved the end of AI?

 DC: *laughs* I think the end of AI is cathartic.

 DB: I don’t even know why I brought that up? You were talking about Spielberg sugar, which I love, but I don’t like the end of AI at all. I’ll probably love War Horse.

 DC: I think AI earns that ending. It would take a colder, harder man than Spielberg to have ended it at the bottom of the sea. Also, like the Malick thing, I like it when people reach into the realm of the spectacularly crazy. Fuck it let’s cut to 2000 years later and the world is covered in ice and humans are gone and futuristic androids are everywhere!! It’s so gloriously nutty.

 DB: So you want War Horse to win and think The Artist?

 DC: Part of me feels guilty of wanting something as conventional as War Horse to win, but it comes from the heart!! It’s a shame it doesn’t stand a chance.

 DB: To summarise – Shame should be in there, Drive.

 DC: Tinker Tailor, Bridesmaids.

DB: You love Bridesmaids don’t you?


DC: It’s amazing. So pleased it snuck into the Original Screenplay category. It’s the best mainstream studio comedy I’ve seen in ages.

 DB: I’ve seen it two and a half times now. When it’s good it’s really good, but it’s too long, it just drags.

 DC: All those Apatow productions are too long. I’m used to it by now. At twenty minutes too long it’s still brilliant. It does such a good job of developing the characters.

 DB: The food poisoning scene, the aeroplane scene – very good.

 DC: Even without the setpieces, the characters are so well drawn. I really hope they don’t try and make a sequel. There wasn’t a drama last year with such a well defined cast. I’m annoyed it didn’t make the final ten. It was successful and very well liked. How did it avoid a nomination when junk like Extremely Loud got in?

 DB: Actor?

 DC: I haven’t seen A Better Life. Did one of the Weitz brothers make that?

 DB: Yes, yes. The Mexican guy?

 DC: Of the others – Clooney for Descendants, Dujardin for The Artist, Oldman for Tinker Tailor and Pitt for Moneyball. I don’t get why Dujardin is winning this award at other events. It’s a good, physical performance with a lot of smiling and gurning, but it can’t compare with what, say, Oldman did in Tinker Tailor. He doesn’t articulate or project emotion in anywhere near the same way, the character just isn’t likeable either.

 DB: He’s an ungrateful asshole in The Artist.

 DC: I don’t know how we’re supposed to like the character.

 DB: So stubborn.

 DC: The woman by comparison is practically a heroine for being so nice to this asshole.

 DB: I don’t understand it.

 DC: I don’t get the dog hype either. Dogs doing human things happens all the time. He doesn’t do it any better than any other film animals. Certainly not as good as the CG dog from Tintin or Gary the Duck from The Pacifier.

 DB: The horse from War Horse?

 DC: Snubbed for Best Actor. I’m sure this guy from A Better Life must be amazing. As an unknown to sneak in as a nominee when nobody saw your film. It’s impressive. He must be good. Clooney and Pitt are both doing exactly what you expect. You’re reminded why you like them so much. Oldman for me is the best there. He’s just brilliant. He’s always been loved for hamming it up a bit, but he underplays so well in Tinker Tailor. The more I think about his performance the more I like it. The raise of an eyebrow and the twitch of a mouth goes a long way. There’s such a gravitas there at the heart of this amazing supporting cast. He definitely deserves to win it. Actress?

 DB: Happy to see Rooney Mara in there. I think it was a brave choice by Fincher to cast her and it paid off.

 DC: I was surpised Tilda Swinton didn’t make it in for We need to Talk about Kevin. The film wasn’t perfect but she was so, so good. She’s always good.

 DB: She was amazing. I have issues with the film.

 DC: I guess she’s won before though, and she’s always floating around in a prospective award winning role or two. It’s just a shame that a performance that completely dominated that film and was very well received was passed over in favour of this Albert Nobbs thing that seemingly nobody has seen or heard of. Glenn Close walking around dressed as a man.

 DB: The poster is terrifying.

 DC: I haven’t seen My Week with Marilyn. I’m sure Michelle Williams is very good in it. You can sort of tell what to expect from the trailer. I don’t have strong opinions, I think Streep is going to win. It’s the best performance of the three I’ve seen in this category. She’s amazing even by her lofty standards. The makeup, the full character with mannurisms, voice…it’s impressive work. She gives Thatcher this whole inner life that goes beyond impersonation. I also liked Viola Davis in The Help last night. Quite underplayed. Not too many big ‘Oscar’ scenes. Rooney Mara was great too. I’m pleased to see her in there. She throws herself into the part. I think we both had some minor issues with the film, but her performance is fantastic and I’m glad it hasn’t been ignored by the Academy.

 DB: Yeah. It’s a good performance. Good accent, it’s bold…

 DC: …fearless.

 DB: Fearless, yeah, there’re some very unpleasant scenes in there that she does well with. I’d like to bring up Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene. It’s the victim of its own ridiculous hype, I was lead to believe it was some sort of masterpiece, but she’s certainly very, very good in it. I found myself rooting for her much as I rooted for Jennifer Lawrence last year. Best Supporting Actor?

 DC: I haven’t seen Branagh in My Week with Marilyn. We discussed Jonah Hill. I liked Nick Nolte in Warrior – which has been really screwed over by this awards season. I liked it a lot. It revels and rolls in every single sports movie formula but it does it all so well. The MMA fight scenes are so raw, so exciting, so intense. The performances from Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte are fantastic. It’s certainly better than a couple of those Best Picture nominees. I’d like it if Nolte won. Same with Plummer for Beginners.

 DB: I really like Plummer.

 DC: A film that was pretty good, a little underrated. Plummer was excellent. Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud, he was probably the best thing in it. The section that deals with his character is more interesting than the rest, but you’re still left with the annoying feeling that better performances were ignored in favour of this.

 DB: Is he a baddie in it?

 DC: No, he’s good. You look at it and you can’t help but think back to Albert Brooks, Cumberbatch in Tinker Tailor

 DB: Paul Walker in Fast Five

 DC: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

 DB: Dwayne. Yes.

 DC: Supporting Actress. I’ve seen four of the five. I haven’t seen Albert Nobbs. The two performances from The Help are both really good. I wouldn’t want to pick between them. Bejo is good in The Artist, but I don’t get why she’s nominated. My choice is Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. It’s a star-making role. There’s a great tradition of broad comedic roles slipping into a slot there and taking awards home. People were talking about that character as they left the cinema. Like Mara, she’s fearless. She rolled up the sleeves and jumped head first into this ridiculous character and created something memorable. 

 DB: I just realised we didn’t talk about Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia?

 DC: She’d be in Best Actress. She should have been nominated.

 DB: That girl in The Artist was nice but, again, see above.

 DC: Directing? Spielberg should be in there. I don’t know why Woody Allen is nominated.

 DB: Absolutely ridiculous.

 DC: Scorsese for Hugo, well, he’s Scorsese! Hazanavicius for The Artist is going to win it. Alexander Payne, not a remarkable directing feat by any means. What about Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor, Spielberg for War Horse, Von Trier for Melancholia? So many better options. Malick for me feels like the only one that really deserves to be there.

 DB: Same. It’s just an uninspiring category this year.

 DC: Allen and Scorsese are so fucking predictable.

 DB: Steve McQueen for Shame, Winding Refn for Drive. Baffling.

 DC: Winding Refn annoys me the most. I can understand Drive is very provocative, it’s an exploitation film and that alone might exclude it from certain categories – but it bowls you over with the strength of style. The mastery of the craft of shooting a decent action film, it’s so impressive. The scene in the lift. So, so good.

 DB: Lose Malick and gain Daldry and this would be insufferable.

 DC: Original Screenplay.

 DB: Margin Call is in there.

 DC: Luke saw that at a screening in Soho for Movie Farm. He really liked it. I’m hoping to see A Separation in the next week or two. The Artist I don’t get. Why’s it nominated for its screenplay?

 DB: It barely has a story.

 DC: Midnight in Paris. Same. Not up to scratch. It’s gotta be Bridesmaids for me. They’ve created something. Relatable characters, an interesting story, emotional resonance. It’s a very good screenplay. Just to stop Woody Allen!

 DB: It’s just so shocking. I’m trying to think what else should have been in there? Drive was adapted, right?

 DC: Yeah.

 DB: Submarine?

 DC: Adapted.

 DB: Just a shit year really for Original Screenplays.

 DC: Yeah. Bring back Charlie Kaufman. Adapted – interesting that The Ides of March has got in there when it isn’t nominated anywhere else. Fairly good film, a little unremarkable. Certainly up to the calibre of some of the other stuff nominated. It’s watchable.

 DB: Yep. Gosling, Clooney. All good.

 DC: For me it’s Tinker Tailor. I don’t know why Hugo is nominated. There’s nothing about the script that stood out for me other than the fact they unsuccessfully mangled together two films. I’d happily see Moneyball take it just to see Sorkin win for the second year in a row.

 DB: It’s gotta be Tinker Tailor.

 DC: I haven’t seen any of these Animated films this year.

 DB: I’ve seen Rango. It’s pretty good.

 DC: I don’t know if it was inelligble as a mo-cap, but I’m shocked by the ommision of The Adventures of Tintin. It won the PGA and Golden Globe. I don’t know why it wasn’t nominated. I thought it was very good. Haven’t seen any of the Foreign Language films either. As I said last year, I tend to catch up with them six months down the line. I’m looking forward to Bullhead. I’ve heard about the Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain buying the film for US distrubution. Devin Faraci at Badass Digest was excited about it,

 DB: Devin…

 DC: He’s still the best commentator out there, unfortunately. I don’t like it anymore than you do.

 DB: Cinematography?

 DC: The Tree of Life. It’s a good category. I think Hugo is nice, but it loses points for the 3D element.

 DB: I like Jeff Cronenworth’s work with Fincher on Dragon Tattoo.

 DC: Janusz Kaminski for War Horse is good too. He’s often accused of putting too much light through the lense. He overlights everything. It’s a really valid complaint too, it winds me up. War Horse is the first time in about fifteen years that he just lets the frame sit on the landscapes without letting too much fucking light in. He doesn’t slam light onto the screen every minute. It’s got a warm, natural glow to it and the photography is really beautiful as a result.

 DB: The Artist. I have no problem with it in there. It does what it does very well. It looks of a time and place. That’s the main aspiration they seemed to have for it.

 DC: It’s attractive. Similar thing with Editing. It’s hard to feel strongly without commenting on stuff we’ve already talked about. I like Wall & Baxter on Dragon Tattoo. They won last year for The Social Network. It’s not their fault, they keep things choppy on a scene-for-scene, but the script is flabby as hell in the final third. It shouldn’t win. Art Direction? Harry Potter probably. I don’t know if those guys have won before. They’ve created such big, memorable sets that do such a good job of capturing the descriptions in the novels. Speaking of which, that was excluded somewhat unfairly from the major categories. You’d think they would have made a bigger push after eight massive films.

 DB: Did they ever get any nominations?

 DC: Just a couple of technical bits. Never anything big.

 DB: Never for the script adaptations?

 DC: Nope. I’ll be annoyed if The Artist wins just for dressing a set to period.

 DB: Same for Midnight in Paris. Jesus.

 DC: Hugo and War Horse both…well…they’re not interesting categories. How much can you say about Costume Design?

 DB: Oscar Nominee W/E.

 DC: Jane Eyre is in there. Good film. Mia Wasikowska would have been a worthy nominee for Best Actress.

 DB: What is Anonymous?

 DC: That Roland Emmerich Shakespeare fraud picture. With Rhys Ifans.

 DB: *laughs* Did anybody see that?

 DC: Evidently someone liked the costumes.

 DB: I remember posters all over the tube, thinking nobody would go and see it.

 DC: Makeup. The Iron Lady.

 DB: Yep.

 DC: Original Score. Apparently this is John Williams 46th and 47th nominations. How good is that?

 DB: Very cool.

 DC: The worst thing is knowing The Artist is going to win. Despite the Vertigo thing. War Horse is Williams’ Best Score in twenty years.

 DB: She wasn’t very happy, the woman from Vertigo, was she?

 DC: She was not. Best Song? I haven’t seen The Muppets yet but I listened to that song on YouTube and liked it. It’s the better of the two. I really liked the song from Captain America. Star Spangled Man.

 DB: *laughs*. He’s knocked out Hitler 47 times.

 DC: There’s some cool stuff in there. Sound Mixing? Transformers 3 was nominated for an Oscar?

 DB: Give it to Dragon Tattoo.

 DC: Finchertastic. Sound Editing. Drive. They’re in the Fight Club sole-nomination category.

 DB: Visual effects? Real Steel?

 DC: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

 DB: Yeah. Did anyone see Real Steel?

 DC: Robot boxing. No.

 DB: Apes had superb effects. It’s all about the eyes.

 DC: Haven’t seen these Documentary films, but the ads for Pina annoyed me so I hope it doesn’t win. Also Joe Berlinger for Paradise Lost 3 – I hope he loses because he directed Blair Witch II.

 DB: Really? Fuck that guy. Oh my God. *laughs* As if they’d let him near a camera again.

 DC: I love that the original guys still pop up every other year to talk up a sequel or prequel as if it’s ever going to happen.

 DB: They just sit looking at their bank balances being absolutely chuffed to death.

 DC: I haven’t seen the shorts. I did attend some of the London Short Film Festival at Curzon last month though which was quite enjoyable.

 DB: See anything good?

 DC: About ten or fifteen shorts. Some of them were very good. If something has the momentum to reach the Oscars though it tends to take till next year. I’m sure some of these nominees will pop up online. Certainly last year I looked at the winning film on some website.

 DB: In summary, I usually enjoy our incessant chatting and texting in February, massively disagreeing with people and getting fucked off that the films we like aren’t nominated, but this year it hasn’t happened, it just isn’t an interesting year. Unless Steven Daldry wins or something.

 DC: If Extremely Loud won Best Picture. Looking at the nominees for last year it’s The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, Winter’s Bone, True Grit, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, The Kids are All Right. All of those films are so good…

 DB: It’s an insanely good list.

 DC: You don’t realise how good you have it until afterwards. The worst films there would be amongst the best this year. Inception and True Grit and stuff, throwaways that had no chance of winning, piss all over any of this years nominees.

 DB: Yeah. It’s a strange year. Are you going to stay up to watch it?

 DC: I’ve had to watch the guys from The Artist giving winners speeches at every single award for the last month and a half building up to this. I just want them to take all the Oscars and go away so I can be angry in peace. It’s the industries fault for not producing enough good films and not nominating those they did. I couldn’t cobble together a list half as good as last years 10 nominees even if I selected from absolutely everything that went on general release. Maybe next year. Les Miserables vs Lincoln vs The Master vs Fast and the Furious 6.

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Top 10 of 2011

The release gap between US and UK causes me endless grief, especially when attempting to collate my thoughts as to the highpoints of the last twelve months.

When trying to reconcile my choices with other commentators I prefer to omit anything released over the spring that went wide in the US the previous year.

As a result of this ongoing headache there’s a narrow band of films that unfortunately end up being omitted from my list each year. For reference, if my list came from a position of sanity, the following would definitely make the cut:

Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
The Fighter (dir. David O’Russell)
True Grit (dir. Coen Bros)
Never Let Me Go (dir. Mark Romanek)

In addition, there are a few bits & pieces I sadly missed that might also have made the big ten. Some, hopefully, I intend to catch in the New Year; many have featured on American critics lists. They include ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, ‘The Help’, ‘Contagion’, ‘Moneyball’, ‘Tyrannosaur’, ‘Shame’, ‘Kill List’, ‘Senna’ and ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ which I’m catching tomorrow morning. Most have January/February UK releases or are out on DVD shortly. I’ll try to catch any relevant features before the Academy Awards on February 26th.

My Favourite 10 films of 2011

To varying degrees and for various reasons, I enjoyed the sci-fi love-in of ‘The Adjustment Bureau’, the enormous sweaty muscles of ‘Fast Five’, the inventive scares of ‘Insidious’, Joe Wright’s slick directorial reinvention ‘Hanna’, the charming genre play of ‘Attack the Block’, the epic, emotional ending of Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter in ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 2’, those simian thrills and bright ideas found in ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, the grungily gothic ‘Jane Eyre’, the adventure, joy and excitement of ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, the charming, gentle ‘Beginners’ and David Fincher’s beautifully coiffed ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’.

My final ten are my final ten though and in no particular order:

Archipelago (dir. Joanna Hogg)
Bridesmaids (dir. Paul Feig)
Drive (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier)
Source Code (dir. Duncan Jones)
Submarine (dir. Richard Ayoade)
Thor (dir. Kenneth Branagh)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (dir. Tomas Alfredson)
The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick)
Warrior (dir. Gavin O’Connor)

Joanna Hogg, evidently the champion of middle-class social realism, gave us the strained, unbearably awkward ‘Archipelago’ with understated performances and painterly landscapes. ‘Bridesmaids’ was the perfect studio comedy with appealing, relatable characters and smart but accessible humour. Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ floored me; each frame print-worthy and polished, as cool and calm as its mysterious lead. ‘Melancholia’ was, as its sparkling creator promised, a beautiful film about the end of the world. ‘Source Code’ was another triumph from the great Duncan Jones. Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’ was fresh, distinctive and the calling card of a brilliant new voice. Marvel’s ‘Thor’, directed by Kenneth Branagh, was the first superhero feature in a while to hit the sweetspot between silly and serious, making the absolute most of the material with a terrific cast and knowingly earnest comidrama. The adaptation of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ was cold, still and as dense and satisfying as a Christmas cake. ‘Warrior’ slipped in by virtue of three great actors doing great, punchy work. Last, but not least, Terrence Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ was impossible, indescribable and nothing short of extraordinary.

My favourite two film experiences of 2011 were ‘Jurassic Park’ on re-release at the Vue London West End in September and ‘Alien’ on Blu-Ray at home this December. They both remain untouchable masterpieces.

Sadly, for each positive, there was a negative, and once in a while I found myself wading through the shit.

Not even a gleefully nutty Nic Cage could prevent me from falling asleep after less than an hour of ‘Drive Angry’. ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ would have worked better as a videogame. ‘Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides’ and ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ were sloppy, worthless sequels to increasingly unwatchable franchises. ‘Green Lantern’ was a failure on every conceivable level. ‘Sucker Punch’, for all my support of Zack Snyder, made me want to beat him over the head with a stick. I hated it.

See you in 2012!

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83rd Annual Academy Awards – Opinions

I’ve written a short opinion piece for a friends multimedia blog regarding last nights Oscar ceremony.

You can find it here

As you can expect, I’m not a happy boy.

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83rd Annual Academy Awards – Prechat

This Discussion was recorded on 21st February 2011. Thanks to David Barr for joining me.

DC: It’s one of these things where the best films involved have really popped up over spring as a result of the time delay in the UK. What’s otherwise been a dire 2010 has spilled over into a fantastic early 2011 for British audiences. I imagine the Americans are having a horrible time. The ten nominees are strong but there’s a predictability about the main category that’s upsetting. I don’t think it’s too bold to say that ‘The King’s Speech’ is going to win Best Picture next Sunday. I don’t begrudge it its success, it’s a thoughtful, sensitive story with three lovely performances, but to be a true great you have to have some bite, you’ve gotta jab the jump leads up pop culture’s asshole.

DB: *laughs*

DC: You’ve got to have something electric and magical flowing through your veins that sets you apart from the others. Even though there are ten terrific films nominated for Best Picture, ‘The Social Network’ is the only one that has that immediacy, that relevance that justifies elevating it above the other nine. It may not win the Oscar, but have no doubt about it – it’s the best film there. I rewatched it yesterday and it’s strange, like many movies you end up loving, something different seems to come to the forefront everytime. Anna was seeing it for the first time and seemed to gravitate toward the love story between Eisenberg & Garfield, but for me I was surprised that the element I really latched onto this time was the time and place. That opening cue card informs you that you’re at Harvard in Fall 2003 and…I mean…I entered higher education literally the following autumn. We were there for this, this is our era. This isn’t a period outside of common memory; we were literally there as social networking spread across the world. Consequently, people like you and I feel close to the story. Modern audiences feel part of the story. Eye patched drunks and psychotic ballerinas and stuttering monarchs can’t touch that.

DB: Absolutely. I think that’s a very valid point. I should make it clear from the start that I haven’t seen two of the Best Picture nominations and won’t have seen True Grit until the Saturday, but certainly in terms of filmmaking and storytelling, ‘The Social Network’ really is in a different league. I know that’s clichéd to say, but there’s just something amazing that happens when you watch all David Fincher’s films.

DC: You’re overwhelmed by the technical brilliance alone. That alone just takes you. The quality of the edit is unbelievable. It’s very difficult to juggle those sorts of different timelines and chronologies at the best of times, especially when they could be perceived as being very similar – referring to the two depositions that are going on simultaneously. It’s completely effortless.

DB: It just flows, it works. That sort of effortless Fincher craft is in some ways unrivalled, and yeah I think a lot of that has to do with these two editors he’s attached too, Wall and Baxter.

DC: It flows inside and around individual sentences, back-and-fourth and side-to-side and through time at its own desire. It’s so loose and free and natural.

DB: It’s just one of those films that’s so relatable for such a wide range of audiences. My Dad loved it and he’s never been on facebook a day in his life, it’s there with the universal themes like aspiration, greed, broken friendship.

DC: I’ve seen these ten films and I think they’re all terrific and it’s rare that happens. There isn’t a single bad film there. What is there though are films that have been done before or are very formulaic. A film like ‘The Fighter’ is very formulaic. It’s very, very good but it’s also incredibly formulaic. A film like ‘The Kings Speech’ is conventional, very stagy. ‘Toy Story 3’ is great but, it’s also a second sequel. ‘True Grit’ is a classical western, ‘Kids are all Right, ‘Winters Bone’, ‘127 Hours’, ‘Black Swan, ‘Inception’, all fantastic and wonderful in different ways and I’ll praise them to the end of the Earth, but none of them overall has that relevance or that, as I said, that bite of ‘The Social Network’. It’s there, it’s got the electricity under the skin. It’s got the mojo.

DB: It’s got the mojo. I hate to bring it round to ‘The Kings Speech’, but because it’s the favourite, I mean, it’s hard, we do gravitate towards knocking the favourite if it’s not your, or our, chosen favourite but…this year…’The Kings Speech’ does seem to be the favourite but as we were addressing earlier, it just lacks that magic. It’s not the films fault, it’s very well shot, I think Firth is excellent and Geoffrey Rush excellent, Bonham Carter possibly slightly overrated.

DC: If she wins the supporting actress award I won’t be a happy boy.

DB: No. It’ll be absurd. I can understand her winning the BAFTA.

DC: BAFTAs are a crock of shit anyway.

DB: It’s a pat on the back for anyone in Britain. It wouldn’t have made it into my top five of last year by any stretch of the imagination and, for all its beauty and nice wide angled shots throughout, I just…

DC: He’s someone who has a background in television miniseries and dramas mostly.

DB: He started on Byker Grove!

DC: At the same time, it’s still, I don’t want to use the word ‘stagy’ again, but…

DB: It’s not that it’s stagy, it has every reason to be a cinema film, it’s just not the masterpiece that people want it to be or are deluding themselves that it is. It’s just not.

DC: Ultimately ‘The Social Network’ is a better story better told.

DB: ‘The Social Network’ genuinely does amount to more than the sum of its parts whereas ‘The Kings Speech’ is merely a good story told well.

DC: It’s frustrating that a film like ‘The Kings Speech’ has to have its reputation soured by a lot of film fans because it prevails against superior competition. It’s not the films fault. One of the biggest problems I had this year was the passing over of Chris Nolan for Best Director. Frankly speaking, it’s absolutely ludicrous. I mean, I can understand not nominating or awarding someone for making a Batman film, but when they make a film that’s wholly original, critically and commercially successful, as well as being from a guy viewed as being overdue recognition in that category, and you pass them over in favour of someone who places a static camera on two excellent, classically trained actors who would do a good job reading the phonebook. It’s just upsetting. You talk about ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and these sorts of films, but it’s just what the Academy, if it wishes to stay relevant, needs to be getting away from. Last year we got to watch a film like ‘The Hurt Locker’ which under other circumstances would never win an award like Best Picture but it went on and took the big awards over the more commercially favoured rival. This year is a big backtrack to the Miramax style prestige films that were winning ten or twenty years ago if ‘The Kings Speech’ takes it. I’m not saying I’m against conventional, formula movies – but if you want that there are two better ones there in ‘The Fighter’ and ‘True Grit’. All wonderfully reviewed movies mind you, there are no black sheep there. There’s no ‘The Blind Side’.

DB: No ‘Precious’ either. And at least Jason Reitman didn’t have a mediocre-fest out this year.

DC: The only films I can see on the fringes of maybe not deserving a Best Picture nomination are maybe ‘The Kids are all Right’ or ‘127 Hours’. Both have a million and one great things about them, but they’re not Best Picture winners.

DB: It’s the ‘ten nominations’ factor.

DC: If I was picking five to nominate for Best Picture it’d be ‘The Social Network’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Inception’, ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Black Swan.

DB: I’d have ‘Winters Bone’. It’s excellent.

DC: I only saw it on Friday. Still letting my thoughts settle. There’s no denying it’s very good. Maybe you’d sneak it in over ‘Black Swan’ simply because ‘Black Swan’ seems to have split people so much. It’s always a fucking love/hate thing with melodrama. Best Actor?

DB: Yep.

DC: Five Best Actor nominees. I’ve seen four of them. Haven’t seen Javier Bardem in ‘Biutiful’. Everything I’ve read suggests he’s good in it but he won’t win. He’s just won. Bridges in ‘True Grit’, you know, for someone who’s just won as well it’s not an Oscar winning turn. If Bridges hadn’t won for ‘Crazy Heart’ it could be a career-win, but it hasn’t got the magic there necessarily. I’m being unfair. It is fantastic. The film is just dominated by Stienfeld. My favourite of the five is James Franco in ‘127 Hours’. It redefines who the actor can be and is capable of. Bridges is someone, not to downplay the performance, who you sort of expect to be brilliant everytime. The fact he’s able to take a well written character and have fun with it isn’t a surprise. Franco has a more difficult job there. Eisenberg is obviously amazing and Colin Firth too who is going to win it. I don’t have a problem with that. He definitely makes ‘The Kings Speech’.

DB: If ‘The Kings Speech’ deserves one award above all others, it should be for Colin Firth or possible Geoffrey Rush. It’s an actors film.

DC: Rush is great but even he’s up against better competition. Firth is the more obvious victory. It’s upsetting that Franco seems to be sidelined. You watch these films and that’s the performance that really…I mean…the others are supported by great support and great material. Franco literally has only himself to rely on. He’s literally on the screen alone in front of the audience for ninety percent of the runtime. That’s a very difficult thing to do. These other guys are great but they’re surrounded by some of the best support in the business. It’s the Franco factor.

DB: I think, you know, maybe it’s just from watching some of the behind the scenes stuff with Fincher on ‘The Social Network’, but the more I think about Eisenberg’s performance it’s just absolutely spot-on. Also, where the hell is Ryan Gosling’s nomination? He was perfect in ‘Blue Valentine’. Heartbreaking stuff, remarkable continuity between two different eras in their relationship, funny and sad. Williams was excellent and nominated, so to have only one part of a ‘two-man show’ is just all kinds of wrong. It also has the best little song and dance with Gosling singing and on guitar, and her tap-dancing. One of my favourite scenes of the year.

DC: Not seen, but agree Eisenberg is great, don’t think it’s showy enough to win an Academy Award though.

DB: I agree.

DC: Franco, being on screen alone, that ticks off the Oscar voter clichés as well as being good enough to really deserve it. The only thing that won’t but should count against Firth because of the nature of this ceremony, is the fact he’s gone for such an obvious role. I disliked Kate Winslet for doing it, and now for Firth to go and play disabled royalty in a period drama. It’s so upsettingly obvious. It seems, much like ‘The Kings Speech’ winning best picture, that it’d be great it they fucked him over.

DB: *laughs* They won’t. I’ll be happy to see him win.

DC: Yeah.

DB: Can I address one point that I don’t think I made quite clear on Best Picture.

DC: Sure.

DB: I genuinely think ‘The Social Network’ is still going to beat ‘The Kings Speech’. I have money on it at the bookmaker. I’m convinced of it.

DC: So in terms of stamping down our feelings, you both think it’s going to win and think it deserves to win. I think it deserves to win but think ‘The Kings Speech’ will take it. Best Actor we both think Colin Firth will win, I think Franco should win, you think Eisenberg should win.

DB: Well…maybe actually I think Firth should win *laughs*

DC: *laughs*

DB: Sorry.

DC: I’m sure Colin Firth appreciates your support.

DB: I love ‘A Single Man’

DC: Maybe they should go back in time and trade over. Firth can have it for that film and Bridges can have it for this one and everyone would be happier.

DB: Best Actor in a Supporting Role?

DC: Seen all five. Bale, Rush, Hawkes, Renner, Ruffalo. This is always the best category. The supporting actors get to have fun with it. The obvious one to go for, unless ‘The Kings Speech’ starts cleaning up, is Bale in ‘The Fighter. He’s amazing in it. So loose and energetic and having the most fun he’s had in about ten years. He must have loved getting his teeth into it. It’s a little upsetting that Mark Wahlberg hasn’t gotten more recognition.

DB: Like Bale said in his Golden Globe acceptance speech.

DC: Exactly. In order to do this in the film you need to hinge it around someone else doing the stoic, serious thing. Without that someone like Bale wouldn’t be able to spark it up and have some fun. I think Bale will win it. In terms of my favourite, it’s fucking difficult. Hawkes is great in ‘Winters Bone’ and Renner in ‘The Town’ is fun, though I wish Andrew Garfield had been nominated instead, Rush is good. My favourite has to be Mark Ruffalo in ‘The Kids are all Right’. I think it’s the best performance in the film because it’s so understated. From a male perspective, that’s the role I clicked with. It’s a guy who’s, you know, he makes it look very easy. He doesn’t go for the obvious Oscar moments. He understates to a degree where the acting is imperceptible, which you really got in ‘Zodiac’ as well. He takes a character who is flawed in so many ways and the antagonist of the piece, but makes him so lonely inside that you can’t help but like him. He balances of this charisma with this sadness. One of my big problems with the film is that the character didn’t get any big moment at the end.

DB: Don’t spoil it I haven’t seen it!

DC: The character gets fucked over in order to preserve the family unit. You almost feel he’s s scapegoated for the problems in their marriage, some of which are admittedly his fault. He’s just immature and trying to find his way. There’s no genuine malice. The character deserved a redeeming moment to let you know he’ll continue a relationship with the kids. The character is so layered and interesting. So sympathetic. It’s the exact opposite of someone like Bale or Renner hamming it up a bit and having some fun. Bale, for the physical transformation as well, has it in the bag though. I have no problem with that.

DB: I think John Hawkes is excellent and absolutely terrifying in ‘Winters Bone’. I can’t see why Jeremy Renner, or anything about ‘The Town’, would be Oscar nominated to be honest. Geoffrey Rush is very good. Mark Ruffalo is normally my favourite thing in any film he’s in so I can imagine feeling exactly the same way.

DC: Supporting Actress. I’ve seen four of the five, I haven’t seen ‘Animal Kingdom’. I hear it’s great.

DB: I saw the trailer for it at Curzon.

DC: It looks really good.

DB: Guy Pearce keeps showing up in films out of the blue.

DC: We were talking about that the other day. Showing up with a moustache. He shows up in ‘Kings Speech’, ‘Bedtime Stories’, ‘The Road’, ‘The Hurt Locker’. He’s decided to be in 1 scene per film. This is a leading man.

DB: Yeah.

DC: I’ll come out and say that if Hailee Steinfeld doesn’t win, Steinfeld who should be nominated for Best Actress, without doubt, if she doesn’t win this category they’ve lost their minds. If they give it to Bonham Carter they’ve lost their fucking minds. There’s only one winner there. She deserves to win. I think she will win. ‘True Grit’ is going to get largely ignored but the thing that makes the film is this performance at the centre of it. She’s in pretty much every scene. If they think pushing for the supporting win is more likely to result in victory, than I guess I have no complaints.

DB: You can’t fault them for not wanting to put her against Portman.

DC: Bonham Carter, Leo and Adams are all good in those films, but none of them are ‘Oscar winning roles’. Worse performances have won than all three and all three are good, but there’s a difference between three good actresses on good form and a star. I can’t speak for Jacki Weaver in ‘Animal Kingdom’, but it’s got to be Steinfeld!

DB: Well fingers crossed. I think Amy Adams is the slight outsider second.

DC: If ‘The Kings Speech’ starts sweeping up and Bonham Carter & Rush both take those awards, than potentially we’re looking at that one film winning several trophies that it really doesn’t deserve simply off the back of the momentum built up around the project.

DB: It’s the ticking-box phenomenon.

DC: Voters see Bonham Carter and they don’t see her name, they see the name of the film next to it. Steinfeld though, I mean, Bonham Carter is a professional actress who has been in the business for 25 years. This is a fourteen year old girl with no prior credits who acts two Academy Award winners off the screen. People have been trying to play against Jeff Bridges for forty years and they always come off second best. This is the first time I’ve seen anyone act against him and make him seem the weaker of the two.

DB: Quite the compliment.

DC: The big one. Best achievement in Directing. I’ve already said it’s a travesty that Christopher Nolan wasn’t nominated. I don’t necessarily think he would have won, but it’s a big two fingers to him and the misfortune of ‘Inception’ peaking six months ago. They’ve chosen to go for the likes of O’Russell, Hooper or The Coen’s over him. I can’t fathom how that has happened. Nolan spent $160 million making a big budget arthouse film that shot in several countries, made $900 million worldwide, got unanimously critical praise and came from someone overdue acknowledgement from the academy. The result – no nomination. They go for Tom Hooper who falls into the Minghella, Daldry, Madden, Joe Wright camp of totally uninspiring British directors with indistinguishable styles or interests, all of whom could have turned in a film like ‘The Kings Speech’. There’s no auterial stamp. Nolan dominates every frame. It’s totally his.

DB: There’s always the one lack of nomination that particularly frustrates. To make a film like ‘Inception’, it’s a director’s film. He wrote it as well. He created the world. Hooper has no distinctive style, he has no visual flair.

DC: He’s a good dramatist, he seems to know how to get the best out of the actors, but there’s nothing there that makes you stand up and applaud. You can feel Nolan’s fingerprints on every area of the production. Hooper crafted a polished and impressive drama, but it’s nothing more than that. Nolan awed his crowds. The cultural impact of something like ‘Inception’ compared to ‘The Kings Speech’ is testament to how much more deserving of a nomination it was. It trended on twitter for like a fucking month. Of the five, it would be easy to understate how great a job O’Russell and The Coen’s did, but they’re filling out the five. Two sets of directors working in the upper band of their work. Aronofsky ‘Black Swan’, glad he got a nomination, but I don’t think he’s going to win. In terms of what’s actually going to occur, it’s a Hooper vs Fincher battle. I think we can both agree it’s the award we have the most emotionally invested in this season. Fincher has to win this. He has to win it. On the weight of it, even though he didn’t win the DGA, which sits him in second place statistically, I just can’t see…I mean…he has to! He has to! *laughs*

DB: In our minds it’s just so obvious.

DC: If only I could transplant the way I feel about this. There’s no denying we’re horrendously biased about this as fans of this one guys work over the last fifteen years. There’s one man who is pointing out at me.

DB: His well-trimmed beard.

DC: Seven or eight films into the career. It’s time to have it. I think ‘The Coen Brothers’ made better films than ‘No Country for Old Men’, much as I will always hold ‘Fight Club’ closer than this movie, but like those guys it’s Fincher’s year to win, and he’s doing it with an extremely accomplished movie. He’s racked up all these successes, he’s had some acknowledgment with his ‘Benjamin Button’ nomination a couple of years ago, but ultimately now it’s time to take the big one. It has the relevance, it has the success, it has the universal acclaim and it has the director with the most appeal who you most want to see standing on that stage. Directors like Tom Hooper come and go, they stand on that stage and do their piece and nobody is really compelled to watch. This is David Fincher. People want to hear what he’s going to say.

DB: He has been, personally, the director of our generation. As we discussed earlier, what ‘The Social Network’ brings to the table as a piece of entertainment and as a film set during this period in time, it’s just a combination of elements that Fincher absolutely gets. It was so exciting to think what someone like Fincher will do when you hear he’s making a film about Facebook, much like when he was announced to be doing ‘Chef’ with Keanu Reeves. We were baffled and completely thrilled. By association alone you know a project has something serious going for it.

DC: Pawn Sacrifice with Tobey Maguire. You hear David Fincher’s name associated with a project, and he gets himself tagged onto a lot of projects he doesn’t end up making, but when you hear the name, the fantasies start spinning in your head. What could it be? You know it’ll be brilliant, but how’s he going to achieve it, how’s he going to go about it. He’s the Radiohead of directors. Those other directors have taken obviously strong material and made good, strong films. Fincher has taken something that in different hands could have completely collapsed in on itself and made something awards worthy, one of the best films of 2010.

DB: It’s just so cinematic, there’s just something about the way he crafts. His use of music, the way he blocks his actors. He’s just…

DC: Coming from the music video background he knows how to propel and power it forward with sound and images that are beyond what the others are capable of composing. He has a vision. He read the Aaron Sorkin script and it just came together in his mind. Hooper had two world-class actors and a camera, and unsurprisingly coaxed something watchable out of them. It’ll be a fucking shit if he doesn’t win. I can concede Best Picture to ‘The Kings Speech’, a lot of unworthy films win Best Picture, but if Fincher loses the directing category then it’ll take a lot to stop me going on a venomous, angry, hate filled, fanboy rant against ‘The Kings Speech’ lasting the next twenty years of my life.

DB: I know. It happens every year. They give it to the wrong person and incremental hatred for an otherwise decent film builds up.

DC: ‘A Beautiful Mind’ or ‘Chicago’, both absolutely fine, but their wins make you actively dislike them. Neither should have even been nominated. Bizarre.

DB: You just know Hooper isn’t going to do an exciting film next, either.

DC: Who is sitting there desperate to see what Tom fucking Hooper does next? You hear Fincher is hearing of doing something and you start thinking ‘what could it be’? What’s it going to be like? How is he going to approach it? How is he going to shoot it? Hooper…what is there?

DB: He’s going to get attached to some film that isn’t even a blimp on the radar. It’ll be fine, it’ll have a very famous couple of actors, it might be a well known story but it’s not going to elicit any kind of excitement. In anyone.

DC: Fincher has had genre-cred since the world go. His opening film was an ‘Alien’ movie. People always trust that he ‘gets’ it. He’s able to get some of the excitement, some of the fandom passion into otherwise serious movies. Original screenplay?

DB: Yep.

DC: Haven’t seen the Mike Leigh film. I don’t doubt it’s great, they’re always great. I’d go for ‘Inception’.

DB: I’d go for ‘Inception’.

DC: Simply to make up for the white washing of Chris Nolan from any director shortlists at the Academy. They seem to deny his existence. There are several legs to ‘Inception’, but Nolan is at the heart of it. He conceived this film.

DB: I actually thought the heart of the film was the suits and the slicked back hair.

DC: I like the way that by the time we cut forward to the deposition scene in ‘The Social Network’, Eduardo Saverin has obviously seen ‘Inception’ and rocks out the slicked hair look.

DB: So slick. Nice suit. Extractor.

DC: ‘Inception’s a great summer movie with a load of great ideas that it juggles perfectly inside the confines, if you want to call it that, of a big, crowd-pleasing blockbuster. It started with one man, on his own, sitting down at a computer with no pre-existing material. He created from scratch.

DB: Gigantic scope.

DC: Wonderful sci-fi idea, fully fleshed out and completely original. I have no other great praise for the other nominees. They’re all good scripts aren’t they, but they don’t elicit the excitement. I think ‘The Kings Speech’ will take it, but I’d love it if Nolan won.

DB: For all the discussion, ‘The Kings Speech’ is going to win it.

DC: Adapted Screenplay. I’ve seen all five. It’s not even a competition. I remember reading ‘The Social Network’ during autumn 2009 and putting it down and saying ‘this is one of the best scripts I’ve ever read’. It immediately jumps out from the first line of dialogue. You could see this was brilliant. You could see Fincher tearing it up. It will win, it should win. Everything else is a distant second.

DB: Sorkinese. Incredible dialogue and structure, loved what he did without establishing a single truth for sure, I think it’s the best way. Great story.

DC: I’m surprised ‘127 Hours’ is there. I mean, I can understand it’s difficult to script a one-man setup, but it’s so Franco-centric. It’s Simon Beaufoy right?

DB: Yeah.

DC: So much of the film is geared around Franco, not much of which is necessarily on the page. I bet it’s about 20 pages long.

DB: Just notes for Franco really.

DC: It’s got to mostly be just Boyle and Franco working on location, storyboarding and figuring it out on set. I’m not criticising it necessarily, it just seems odd it’s nominated.

DB: ‘Black Swan’ wasn’t nominated.

DC: Is that adapted?

DB: It’s original.

DC: Cinematography?

DB: It’s got to be Deakins.

DC: Deakins for ‘True Grit’. I’ve seen a lot of amazing looking westerns though.

DB: He should have won for ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’. It’s beautiful.

DC: ‘Jesse James’, ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Prestige’, all blacklisted that year. That was the year ‘The Fountain’ missed out on a nod for its score, a score still regularly used four years later in trailers and ads. It’s a difficult category because all five films look gorgeous. If I had to go for any, maybe ‘Inception’.

DB: ‘The Social Network’.

DC: I love the lighting in the San Francisco club. What’s it called?

DB: Ruby Skye.

DC: The lighting on JT. It’s perfect. I like how dark and grungy the dorm rooms look. The scene at Henley with the location smudged out so the focus is only on the race. ‘Inception’ though, the whole thing is coated in this metallic sheen and this amazing, pristine film stock they used. It looks so sharp. Classic celluloid. Not a second of soft focus. Wally Pfister, you know, this guy needs to work with more people than just Nolan. He needs to work with someone else. His surname is Pfister!

DB: ‘Black Swan’ is a beautiful film.

DC: Great job with the handhelds on stage. Tough stuff to shoot.

DB: All the throwbacks to the Argento movies and stuff.

DC: It’s the sign of someone who has submerged himself in a certain type of movie. Was that Libbitique? ‘True Grit’ will win. ‘Inception’ I would like to win.

DB: ‘True Grit’ will win. I’d have a toss up between ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Inception’.

DC: Editing is a tough one. Why is ‘Inception’ not nominated for Best Editing? Why is seemingly, a film that is as pedestrian and linear as ‘The Kings Speech’, apparently a better example of editing than a film that jumps between four levels of human consciousness in different locations, in different time zones and does it as a singular, cohesive piece of action? ‘The Kings Speech’ just treads scene to scene like any standard drama.

DB: It’s TV editing, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t need to be any more than that, but it simply isn’t nomination worthy. The third act of ‘Inception’, we said it as soon as we saw the film, how on Earth did they edit that? It’s just unbelievable.

DC: I can live with is not winning Best Picture, but it’s the obvious ‘win’ when you first see the film. No fucking nomination? What’s wrong with them!!! Out of what we’ve got to play with, it’s got to be ‘The Social Network’.

DB: I think it’ll win.

DC: I think it’ll win too. I think it should win for aforementioned reasons. It jumps, it cuts together between different events completely effortlessly. That’s immediately more interesting than anything that ‘The Kings Speech’ can provide.

DB: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, they’re incredible. ‘Benjamin Button’ had exemplary editing. It made the film.

DC: The ‘Benjamin Button’ backlash is still in full swing. I’m waiting another couple of years for it to swing back again. The problem is that people see it as a commercial, Hollywood epic, a ‘Forrest Gump’, when actually it’s far more esoteric, personal and uncommercial. It’s more ‘Days of Heaven’ than ‘Gone with the Wind’. That rubs people up the wrong way because they’re still expecting the obvious, crowd-pleasing beats and they never come. It’s too dark and beautiful for that.

DB: I agree. It’s got a lot going on. It’s very experimental for its scale.

DC: It made $300 million worldwide and I’m surprised it made that. The characters actively ignore convention and fate. They make their own choices, even with the more fantastical elements. They’re together for a portion of the film that amounts to a few years, and then they aren’t again. There’s no great doomed-love split, he just does a runner one day. That’s so unusual. So interesting.

DB: It’s heartbreaking, it’s exceptional. It was my favourite of last decade.

DC: Art direction. Who cares? I’d go for ‘True Grit’. You can often make a comment that all the period details and costumes in something were nice, but considering its modest budget, they stuff every inch of the Roger Deakins frame with impeccable details. Every shoe lace. It’s completely authentic, which is necessary really for such a traditional Western. You feel like the Coen’s and their cameras have been dropped back in time a hundred and fifty years.

DB: ‘Inception’? Three very distinctive looks to the film.

DC: I can’t praise Potter too much as so much of it is derivative of what’s been done in the previous six films. They don’t go to the school in this one though. Why is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ nominated? The art direction was atrocious. The world was murky and horrible and completely, tediously predictable. It’s the worst film Tim Burton has ever made. Descended into a self parody of a Tim Burton CG Disney film. Terrible animation, terrible design, terrible events.

DB: He’s become Disney’s little bitch boy.

DC: He’s gone. Don’t even get me started! I think the sweep-up may gift it to ‘The Kings Speech’ for reasons unknown, but I think ‘True Grit’ is my favourite.

DB: I think voters might just go for ‘Inception’ because, you know, some of them must have the good sense to realise it deserves something.

DC: What happens with these ignored films is that voters feel so bad, they end up racking up the technicals to make up for fucking it over in the important categories. This is on the fringes of being technical, so maybe. Costume Design – ‘I am Love’ is my preferred winner. I’d say ‘True Grit’, but ‘I am Love’ looks amazing. It looks like a proper designer has gone to work.

DB: What is ‘The Tempest’?

DC: Shakespeare. Julie Taymor. I don’t think it’s even come out yet.

DB: Not out until the fourth of March apparently.

DC: Tilda Swinton looks amazing in ‘I am Love’. ‘The Kings Speech’ has totally lazy costuming. Characters in suits. They don’t even look particularly period. ‘I am Love’ has a distinct look and style. Swinton looks sharp. I think ‘The Kings Speech’ will take it, but ‘True Grit’ too…I mean…the costumes suit the characters perfectly. Everything you need to know is in the outfits. From the frilly, silly Matt Damon through to the bulky, thick-skinned Bridges. Why’s ‘The Kings Speech’ nominated though? All he does is wear fucking suits.

DB: They’re nice suits. I will never, ever see ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

DC: I liked the costumes in ‘Black Swan’. Portman had a cool look. The coat. Polanski style.

DB: How it didn’t get a makeup nom either. I mean, the makeup was stunning.

DC: Costumes in ‘Inception’ Too cool for school. If you’re going to have suits, have ‘Inception’ suits rather than royal suits. What the fuck is wrong with you.

DB: There’s only one suit film in 2010, and that’s ‘Inception’. Everyone knows that.

DC: I liked the costumes in ‘The Social Network’.

DB: Good hoodies, good flipflops.

DC: Zuckerberg is dressed like Zuckerberg. Everyone else looks like rich American kids.

DB: It’s good. Jewish Caribbean party.

DC: Best sombrero. Makeup is an uninteresting category. ‘The Wolfman’ should win, obviously.

DB: Rick Baker, good. ‘Black Swan’ should be in there. Outstanding, the black and white swan make-up was superb, it totally changed her face and character. Don’t really care though. ‘Barney’s Version’! For sticking some facial hair on Paul Giamatti?

DC: Apparently Paul Giamatti growing a beard now warrants a makeup award.

DB: Insane.

DC: Surely, you know, Franco in ‘127 Hours’ going through the different stages of dehydration is more deserving of a makeup award than ‘Barney’s Version’. Who sat there and thought, ‘shit I better nominate ‘Barney’s Version’ for an Academy Award. 6000 voting members wrote that down. What is wrong with them? Best music? ‘The Social Network’. ‘Inception’ too through. So iconic. The horn.

DB: That’s the one you hear showing up on Top Gear or whatever.

DC: ‘The Social Network’ score is so unexpected, so completely mad and unsettling and weird.

DB: The Trent Reznor score for ‘The Social Network’ is exceptional. Watching the extras on it, the recurring theme that starts at the opening credits that keeps popping up, then again when Eduardo confronts them at the Facebook offices. The theme works so well.

DC: I think ‘The Social Network’ will win that category and it deserves to.

DB: I agree with that.

DC: Best Original Song? Nobody cares. I’d say the song from ‘127 Hours’.

DB: Nobody cares since Bruce Springsteen wasn’t nominated for ‘The Wrestler’.

DC: Best achievement in sound. Hey, ‘Salt’ got nominated! I quite liked ‘Salt’.

DB: I quite liked ‘Salt’. I much preferred it to ‘Red’ and all those other films.

DC: I’d watch another ‘Salt’ movie. I think ‘The Social Network’ should win for sound. They’re not afraid to play a scene as it is, and would be. The characters shout in a noisy place. The diegetic club music doesn’t fade into the background so we can hear them talk, they have to scream at eachother. It’s so unusual.

DB: It’s exceptional. That said, I wouldn’t have a problem with ‘Inception’ to win that award.

DC: It’s a techie, ‘Inception’ might win all of them. Sound editing? ‘Inception’?

DB: Yeah. Visual effects? ‘Inception’.

DC: I agree. Why is ‘Hereafter’ nominated?

DB: *laughs*

DC: It’s a fuck-you to ‘Tron: Legacy;.

DB: Why is ‘Unstoppable’ nominated for sound editing?

DC: ‘Hereafter’ is punishment for the dire, dire special effects on young Jeff Bridges in ‘Tron: Legacy’. It’s an awful category because nothing stood out for me on the effects front in any of those films except ‘Inception’. Best Animated Feature? I’ve only seen ‘Toy Story 3’. I hear the other two are good.

DB: Same. No brainer. I really enjoyed ‘Despicable Me’. Would have liked to have seen it nominated.

DC: Foreign Language film. I traditionally get around to the Foreign Language films in spring the following year, so I haven’t seen any of them yet.

DB: ‘Incendies’ is meant to be very good.

DC: ‘Biutiful’ too, with Bardem. Documentary features? I have ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’ and I’m waiting to watch it. I’ve heard a load of controversy about ‘Gasland’ in the last few days. They’re all supposed to be good.

DB: ‘Restrepo’ and ‘Inside Job’ are both supposed to be decent. ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’ is superb. Whether it’s fully real or slightly fake, it’s hilarious.

DC: All in all, I think ‘The Kings Speech’ is going to be the big winner of the night. I think it’s going to win five or six. I think it’ll take Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, art direction, it has a good chance of taking one of the supporting actor awards too, but…I’m hoping ‘The Social Network’ can spoil its evening by sharing some of the honours, especially Best Director, Editing and Score, which it more than deserves. Of the nominees, there is always a possibility that ‘The Kings Speech’ could stomp over the whole evening, weighing it up, as there’s a very, very good chance it might take that directing award and the editing award. It could take eight or nine. I would hate to see a film that had the impact of ‘The Social Network’ that got people talking about it that had the misfortune to peak a month or two early in its campaign, having to settle for the screenplay award. It does the Academy a disservice if they let one film steamroll over better competition across the board. There are ten nominees, all as good, if not better than that film.

DB: Back in November, December time, ‘The Social Network’ was clearing up every single award going.

DC: It took the golden globe; it took every single critical award going and then the PGA, the WGA the DGA went the wrong way. What lost it for them? I think Fincher must have done something to piss people off. He isn’t campaigning like the others are. He’s out shooting a movie in Scandinavia at the moment. Hooper and the gang are playing the politics game and attending the right events with the right people. It’s shameless. They want to win. Fincher doesn’t give a shit. He’ll show up at big ceremonies out of respect for the nomination, but he isn’t motivated by the ability to win awards. He didn’t give a shit when ‘Benjamin Button’ lost to ‘Slumdog’, and he doesn’t care now. If he did win though, I think he’d be quite touched.

DB: He’s still the outsider. And yeah quite possibly being punished for not being one of those keen-bean arseholes. I mean busy making another very exciting film, hanging out with Daniel Craig, no time to go round shaking hands.

DC: It’s embarrassing these guys who will do anything to win, who campaign like they’re on tour. Fincher takes his foot off the gas and lets the film do the talking. The Coen Brothers are like that too. These people deserve to be rewarded far more.

DB: We have zero authority to say this, but you can picture Hooper being shuffled around by The Weinsteins, party to party and voter to voter. It’s like an election campaign. It’s brown nosing. Fincher is first and foremost a director, and he went straight from ‘The Social Network’ to the next project.

DC: The thing that excites me is that the British Academy backed him. He won the BAFTA award. It’s a ceremony I don’t take very seriously, but they opted to give Fincher the nod even after ‘The Kings Speech’ hit its stride. If that’s the British Academy than hopefully the Americans will feel the same. I don’t think it’s going to be enough to tip the Best Picture award in the favour of ‘The Social Network’, but it might get him a directing Oscar. I could live with that. There are notable years when the best film nominated just takes the director award. Ang Lee with ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and Spielberg with ‘Saving Private Ryan’. It’s the Academy knowing they’re making a bad decision and trying to make up for it a little bit. My conclusions? Six for ‘The Kings Speech’, Three or four for ‘The Social Network’ and the same amount in techies for ‘Inception’. All these films will march on. Five or ten years will pass and ‘The Kings Speech’ will pop up on BBC occasionally, but the films that will stay with people and truly endure will be ‘Inception’, ‘The Social Network’. These are the cultural artefacts. These are the artistic landmarks when you want to know about this period in film history. People enjoying these films, showing them to their kids generation to generation. ‘The King Speech’ doesn’t have that. It’s about a stuttering king in the 1930s. It’s a likeable film that’s also completely unremarkable.

DB: No spark.

DC: Don’t reward those sorts of films by giving them awards. Just let them be there to progress the careers of their casts. In a perfect world, it would exist alone in the acting categories with no presence in some of these other areas. I mean come on! I’d like to see someone making an honest argument that ‘The Kings Speech’ is a better film than any of those. They know they’re full of shit. They’re just doing it to fuck with us!

Unfortunately hardware glitches lead to our Best Actress thoughts being deleted. For reference, I predict Annette Bening will take it for ‘The Kids are All Right’ over the more deserving Jennifer Lawrence. Whilst David Barr would be happy to see Williams or Lawrence take it, he thinks Natalie Portman, his favourite, has it in the bag. I have no problem with this outcome.

Good luck to all involved on Feb 27th!

Posted in Editorials | 1 Comment »

Top 10 of 2010

Happy new year! The Fincher household better clear room in their trophy cabinet come February 27th!

1. The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)

2. Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

3. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (dir. Edgar Wright)

4. Let Me In (dir. Matt Reeves)

5. The Road (dir. John Hillcoat)

6. Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich)

7. Kick-Ass (dir. Matthew Vaughn)

8. Greenberg (dir. Noah Baumbach)

9. Monsters (dir. Gareth Edwards)

10. The Town (dir. Ben Affleck)

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‘The Work of Christopher Nolan: A Discussion’

This discussion was recorded on the 3rd August 2010. Luke Allen can be found at his blog HERE.

DC: I like Christopher Nolan because he’s one of the few directors with a distinctive style and clout working in mainstream cinema. One of the only guys standing up for dark, challenging blockbusters in a sea of flashy mediocrity. He wants to entertain on a grand scale but he doesn’t want to compromise which is why I respect him. He makes these big, intellectually demanding films befitting of the destructive and dangerous characters he creates to inhabit them. People have accused him of being cold and clinical, but the stories he’s telling demand exactly that. You can’t reinterpret Batman and pack it full of fart jokes and neon lights – especially after what the series became in the nineties. He’s made very adult, very earnest pieces of grand scale pop-art. The guy nails the tone like a pro. That’s why people flock to see his movies.

LA: I’d agree with everything there. He’s a director that has consistently refused to conform. Compare him to one of the other directors making these big, epic blockbusters, he sticks very rigidly to his guns. He may have made Batman movies, but they certainly don’t feel like the Batman of old. You know a Christopher Nolan movie when you’re seeing it. To say he’s ‘cold and clinical’ would, I think, it’s a very narrow minded way of looking at things. It may be ‘cold and clinical’ but he delves more into the psychology and the depths of his characters than a million Michael Bay’s. He’s consistently interesting. He makes these epic, dark films and they may be, you know, twelve rated since Batman, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re aimed at kids. They’re aimed at intelligent adult audiences. He doesn’t take the piss.

DC: He doesn’t trick you. Yeah, I think it’s probably the ‘cold and clinical’ thing winds me up too, you know, people suggesting he has no sense of fun. People said the same about Kubrick and it’s been part of the reason the two have been compared. I don’t think it’s a fair comparison to either of them, it’s an odd comparison, I don’t think they’re particularly similar filmmakers. Just because they avoid sickly Hollywood sentiment and their manipulation of the audiences emotions is almost invisible, doesn’t mean they’re somehow distant. The emotion is there, it’s woven into the fabric of the films. It’s how we connect with the characters on the most basic level. Just because the actors and actresses don’t burst into cliché tears every five minutes. His latest movie, ‘Inception’, that just opened a couple of weeks ago and we’re going to talk about later, the emotion is at the heart of what the film is, it’s integral to the journey of the main character and our relationship to him.

LA: Angier in ‘The Prestige’, look at what happened with him after the death of his wife, to say it’s ‘cold and clinical’, this is a man who has been completely torn apart because of the death of his wife. To say it’s ‘cold and clinical’ is a load of rubbish.

DC: These characters are capable of love and they’re capable of feeling. Just because it isn’t treacly, smeared all over the screen in this vile Hollywood way we’re far too accustomed to in these big American films, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. As I said, his skill as a director is so great that the manipulation is invisible. You don’t see the strings being pulled. That’s a gift.

LA: Not just in terms of emotion, in terms of narrative, you can say he’s become known for his playing with narrative, but he also plays with time. His most famous work before ‘Batman’ was ‘Memento’ which definitely did play with narrative, the manipulation of the audience. Even in his linear works, the way he plays with narrative, it’s consistently trying to keep you on your toes and make you keep up. Even in ‘The Dark Knight’, which functions on the idea the antagonist is totally unpredictable, despite being a cartoon blockbuster; you don’t know where it’s going. It’s the same with ‘Inception’. They set up the rules, but even though they’ve set up the rules, I mean, there’s that level of fear in terms of the way the plot line goes and the misdirection he throws out. It’s consistent with all of his work and it helps, with the non-linear stuff that he turns the head-screws in even more.

DC: And you don’t realise as you’re watching it! That’s the great thing. When people talk about directors they try to lay down their defining characteristics as an auteur. With Nolan, the big ones that stick out are the unconventional narrative structures, the jumbled up chronologies that even slip into the ‘Batman’ films to an extent, the demand for interpretive readings by the audience and the refusal to spell it out to you in quite the way you expect. The troubled and morally ambiguous male protagonists, I wouldn’t go as far as to say they’re anti-heroes but they’re half way there. There’s this control over reality. The control over reality is in all of them. The Scarecrows mind gas in ‘Batman Begins’, Leonard Shelby’s amnesia in ‘Memento’, the dreamscapes in ‘Inception’, the magic tricks in ‘The Prestige’. Control seems to be at the heart of his interests and it’s reflected in the narrative themselves.

LA: The chaos in ‘The Dark Knight’ as well, in terms of control, that’s kind of the complete antithesis in terms of the whole film being about the loss of control. Even in that respect it’s there. The interesting thing though, if you look at all of the major characters, as you say, they’re all flawed to the point where if you look at ‘The Prestige’, even though Angier becomes the more bitter and evil of the characters, neither of them are particularly nice people. The way Borden is so fixed on his art that it costs him his marriage; it costs him his brother at the end of the day. You spend time with these characters but they are morally and psychologically ambiguous as well. There are no full stops, so to speak, the characterisation is very complicated.

DC: I’m hesitant to use the ‘anti-hero’ line but I think obsession drives these characters. There’s a mission. They’re all driven by something from the start. These are troubled, difficult, not necessarily particularly nice people that have an aim. They’ll do anything and hurt anyone to achieve it. I can understand how that can turn off a lot of people maybe, I don’t know if you’d call it a flaw, but he deals with these character traits repeatedly. To evolve from a great into the great, or one of the greats, I’d like to see some range there by throwing himself out of his comfort zone.

LA: The funny thing is as well, when you say driven, I know you haven’t seen ‘Following’, but in terms of protagonist type and motivation, ‘Following’ is actually one of the more uncertain. To give you a bit of back-story, the main character is on the dole, trying to be a writer and he starts following people. He bumps into this guy who’s also called Cobb. Cobb’s a thief and starts showing him…

DC: *interrupts* I guess Nolan loves the name ‘Cobb’?

LA: Yeah.

DC: What’s he so fucking obsessed with the name ‘Cobb’ for?

LA: If he was called ‘Dom Cobb’ I would have had a problem.

DC: It’s not a bad name but it seems odd to use the same name in two different movies. He sits there at night going ‘I love the name Cobb I LOVE COBB. He loves corn on the cob.

LA: They both play thieves as well.

DC: Do you think he eats corn on the cob while he’s writing?

LA: *laughter*

DC: I love cob.

LA: He shows the main character how to be a thief, and the main character starts to model himself on Cobb. In typical Nolan fashion it delves into twisty, turny territory. In terms of character motivations though, it’s quite ambiguous as to why the main guy is doing what he does. He admires Cobb, Cobb’s charismatic and wears a suit, has slick hair, it’s basically Christopher Nolan in thief-form. Trying to avoid giving a minor review, I think ‘Following’ is good, I know people say ‘Insomnia’ is his weakest work, but I think ‘Following’ probably is because it was effectively made by amateurs. In Nolan fashion its written very, very well, it does the non-linear narrative very well, but it’s Nolan trying to make a professional movie without professional actors. The dialogue is well written but it doesn’t have the same presence as it would if it was being read by a professional actor.

DC: I haven’t seen ‘Following’; I’m not yet a Nolan completist, but it seems unfair to hold up what is essentially an independent, very, very low budget early film.

LA: It was done on the weekends as well.

DC: It’s not fair on Nolan to hold it up in his filmography alongside ‘Memento’ and everything that followed. It’s a calling card by an amateur young filmmaker in his twenties prior to getting the funds to make something a little bit more polished.

LA: It’s like Aronofsky going from ‘Pi’, this quirky little studenty movie onto ‘Requiem for a Dream’, which contains some of the same sensibilities but is far more complete and recognised, so to speak. Would you agree?

DC: Yeah, I mean, Paul Thomas Anderson as well with ‘The Dirk Diggler story’ in his teens. They’re just experimenting before the big break. Even ‘Hard Eight’ to an extent, a good film in its own right, but the filmography really kicks off for me with ‘Boogie Nights’. All very interesting if you’re a completist and a fan, but for most people you’d say Nolan’s mainstream career begins with ‘Memento’ and follows through from there. At some point I’d like to watch ‘Following’ and see how it fits with the jigsaw puzzle, watching out for the traits and trends as they pop up in that earlier film.

LA: The funny thing as well with ‘Following’, it’s an interesting film as you say if you’re a completist, and I am a very, very big Christopher Nolan fan, but the other thing you realise after you watch it is that it really doesn’t look like a Christopher Nolan movie. He has quite a good working relationship with Wally Pfister, his DP, and this is the only one his movies not done by Wally Pfister. It doesn’t feel like the rest of his work. There’s a consistency of style in everything from ‘Memento’ to ‘Inception’ that’s lacking from ‘Following’. You kind of feel that because Wally Pfister wasn’t involved in any way, it ultimately doesn’t feel at all like a Christopher Nolan movie. It’s just Nolan filming his friends on the weekend.

DC: I really like these occasions where a DP teams up with a director almost exclusively. I’m not really aware of what else Pfister’s really done. He almost seems like a one-man show for the most part.

LA: It’s funny actually, I’m a fan of Mark Kermode the critic, and he makes the point every time he reviews a Christopher Nolan film that Wally Pfister started off directing straight-to-video erotic thrillers until he met Christopher Nolan.

DC: No way, no way! Is Pfister a pseudonym?

LA: I have no idea.

DC: A guy with the name Pfister doing porno movies? For real?

LA: *laughter*

DC: Are you sure it isn’t one of these things like Roderick Jaynes the Coen Bros fictional editor? It’s a pseudonym and Nolan actually photographs his own films. I can imagine Nolan with a raised eyebrow craftily creating a former porn-star DOP while he does the whole thing himself.

LA: I’m looking at his IMDB page. He’s real. He did a movie called ‘The Granny’ before ‘Memento’, pretty much everything else is erotic thriller. Now he’s one of the best cinematographers working in big budget filmmaking. Barry Sonnenfeld as well, he did porno movies before.

DC: Verhoeven too. It’s funny really, it’s a criticism that’s been levelled at Nolan that he seemingly has no interest in sexuality or sexual behaviour – so it’s funny that he’d work so closely with a guy that spent the first half of his career photographing pornography. The desexualised Nolan world and he picks a guy who’s best at filming come-shots. We’ve done the sexualised Batman anyway.

LA: All the work that isn’t ‘Inception’ and his ‘Batman’ movies do feel very similar. ‘Inception’ has this wonderful thing where it feels like a Christopher Nolan movie but it also feels different from everything else as well. In terms of mood, ‘Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’ are probably more closely alike any two Nolan movies, even his two ‘Batman’ films, which both feel very, very different. I genuinely don’t feel like I’m watching a comic book movie when I watch ‘The Dark Knight’, whereas with ‘Batman Begins’ you still have the villain running around with a bag on his head and Liam Neeson spewing this thespian dialogue

DC: I’m lost in this conversation. What were we talking about?

LA: Sorry, distracted. Yeah, mood, in terms of the mood of his movies, I feel ‘Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’ have a lot in common. I think the psychology of his characters in both of those movies, it’s the darkest he’s got in delving into the reasons and motivations for his characters actions. That whole unreliable narrator thing in both movies as well, if you think about it ‘Memento’ has Guy Pearce’s character unable to form new memories, anything he informs us is to be doubted, whereas in ‘The Prestige’ they spend half the time reading from each others diaries and the one-upmanship is such that you can’t trust a word they’re telling the audience. Those kind of dynamics are where Nolan works best, I think.

DC: Is this something that’s present in ‘Following’ as well?

LA: Not so much the unreliable narrator, but the main character is very naïve, you don’t mind me divulging the ending do you?

DC: By all means.

LA: Cobb, the thief, works for the mob. When he realises the main character is following him, he uses this to implicate him in something. The whole ending is one of these ‘rug out from under the feet’ kinds of things, with Cobb setting the guy up and this writer character potentially going to prison.

DC: Corn on the cob.

LA: Cobb gets away scot free.

DC: So it’s basically, much as ‘Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’ change you interpretation of the film with knockout endings, plot twists that don’t feel lazy or inorganic, but rather change your understanding of the film that preceeded them but enrich it rather than diminish it.

LA: Even on outlandish territory, I mean, the whole idea behind the ending in ‘The Prestige’ is as outlandish as he’s gotten really across his career, but still it feels convincing even when it goes to that science-fictiony place. It sticks with it. Even away from that, would the Borden brothers really continue to be one person as there family collapses around them. Because you’ve invested so much in these characters and in the narrative he’s spun though, you don’t really question any of it. They’re so well made, they’re constructed within an inch of their lives, and you just go with it.

DC: Yeah, I think the thing I love about ‘The Prestige’ is that…

LA: It’s your favourite, isn’t it?

DC: Yeah, it’s my favourite, you follow these characters that make a living out of illusion, out of tricking their friends and family, out of tricking the world, and they think they’re in control, but ultimately they’re not. Without sacrificing the internal logic of the film, they find themselves confronted by a power they can’t understand and can’t believe when the Tesla character creates something that genuinely is magical, even though it takes this turn, it never becomes fantastical.

LA: It never sacrifices its integrity.

DC: Correct. I’ve heard people say they think Nolan tricks the audience by taking this turn into the supernatural, but I think the exact opposite.

LA: It seems completely natural really. It’s a film that deals with magic and magicians, it seems a natural progression for the film to delve into something as outlandish as that. If it was anything less I would have actually been a bit disappointed. If it had all been an illusion I would have been more pissed off.

DC: You could take those characters and tie it up in a nice, thrillery, real-world kinda way, but Nolan wants you to feel the wonder that Borden and Angier’s audiences feel. You don’t get that with the twin twist alone. You need it to go somewhere you don’t expect.

LA: I agree completely. There’s a very fine line though when you’re going to go as leftfield as the film does. I have real issues with the Cameron Crowe movie ‘Vanilla Sky’. I didn’t buy into how outlandish it got. It did just seem completely ‘out there’ considering what preceeded. With all Nolan’s movies though he establishes the world so well that you really buy into everything. Tesla, as a historical character, was a nutter anyway.

DC: A friend told me Tesla used to walk around saying he had a miniaturising ray in his belt. The guy was obviously capable of amazing things, and I love the speculative, historical fiction element, taking one of the great real-world geniuses of their era and tying them in with the fictional element and the supernatural element.

LA: One of the things I also found interesting when watching the special features on the DVD a while ago is that Nolan, despite the period, treats it like a contemporary thriller. It isn’t some costume drama. He’s quite open about the fact it wasn’t about how accurate the aesthetic of turn-of-the-century London was, it’s a contemporary dramatic thriller that just happens to be set in the nineteen hundreds.

DC: I also think that, first and foremost, despite the places it goes, it’s firmly rooted in the characters. It’s ostensibly a story of obsession and rivalry. I guess the best comparison that immediately jumps to mind is the Milos Forman ‘Amadeus’ film. At first glance, it’s some sort of period biopic, but on closer inspection that’s really not what the film is at all. ‘The Prestige’, really, is a dark and often quite frightening drama about two men who come to have this great hatred and competition with each other. It’s a character study.

LA: You can almost consider it a prelude to the psychological warfare between Batman and The Joker. These two, at the end of the film, they just hate each other. It’s quite interesting seeing them start off as these bickering stagehands, onto these careers as very successful magicians, yet their relationship personally and professionally deteriorates until they hate each other to the very bone. I love the progression of it. They never have a great relationship to start with but in terms of how spiteful their relationship gets, it’s dark stuff. It’s darker than ‘The Dark Knight’. If you look at ‘The Dark Knight’, in terms of the playing off of the characters there, you know, The Joker may be charismatic but he doesn’t have any of the depth of Borden or Angier and that’s what makes ‘The Prestige’ work. The chemistry between those two characters.

DC: I love that it escalates to the point that they’re both willing to commit these acts that go beyond terrible. Their dedication to destroying the other in every way, their dedication to their career, their artform, whatever you want to call it. The Jackman character does things so terrible they’re scarcely touched upon. The classic Nolan ‘final shot’ Jesus Christ moment. Cue Thom Yorke.

LA: It’s personified in that moment. My favourite scene in ‘The Prestige’ is that moment where Angier meets Borden in prison and he’s Lord Cauldlow, and you know something sinister is happening and he says to Angier “you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty anymore”. I really, really love that moment. The rest of it is all about the rest of the loose ends, but the apex of these two characters is at that one moment where you realise just how far one has gone to ruin another. It’s one of the best character moments I’ve ever seen. I still think ‘The Prestige’ holds the most weight in terms of his characterisation.

DC: People criticise Nolan for his inability to write women but that’s a load of horseshit when you spend five minutes with the Rebecca Hall character in ‘The Prestige’. It’s the perfect use of a supporting character to illustrate a broader point about a leading character.

LA: It’s the perfect example of a supporting character fullstop. It adds extra weight to how far Borden is going with his career and carrying on with this act. It’s physically causing the woman he’s married to break down and eventually commit suicide. It does exactly what a supporting character should do. That’s my take on it.

DC: It’s a little sad that the Johansson character doesn’t quite get the same strength of material as Hall does. Hall’s probably a better actress anyway, but Johansson seems a little superfluous and underdeveloped. I’ll give the critics that one.

LA: I think ‘The Prestige’ is one of his most underrated films, and I think it’s his least critically lauded. It has under an eighty percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes which I think is very unfair. It’s every bit as good as ‘Memento’ and ‘Batman Begins’ and as I said, it’s probably the best work he’s done with characters.

DC: It’s his ‘Barry Lyndon’. A minor classic that people will give a lot greater credit to a few years down the line inside of a larger body of work. It really requires a little time and repeat viewings to truly appreciate how strong some of these elements are and how perfectly he conducts his orchestra, so to speak. One of the things I realised about it as well which is increasingly noticeable, especially with ‘Inception’, is what a strong director of actors he is. Often an overlooked quality. I don’t think you’ll find an out-and-out poor performance in any of the films he’s made over the last ten years. ‘The Prestige’ was the first time it really jumped out at me how impeccable the supporting cast are, through to the small roles. Andy Serkis’ role, Bowie as Tesla. Michael Caine may be my favourite performance in a Nolan movie. He’s the real emotional centre of the thing.

LA: He’s also, in amongst all these crooked people, one of the only truly decent people in the movie. He’s the anchor for these two men and I do find it funny how as you realise one of these leads isn’t quite as decent as you thought he would be, his loyalties start to change as the audiences do. It’s part of the deception of the film that the perception of the characters changes so radically. At the beginning Christian Bale seems cocky and arrogant but as it progresses you kind of realise that he’s really nothing on how far Angier’s willing to go.

DC: I think this may be part of the reason it wasn’t particularly critically or commercially successful. It’s very difficult for an audience to accept the lead character changing and unravelling in front of you. You spend the bulk of the screentime with Angier and it’s only afterwards, upon reflecting, that you realise what a horrible, dislikeable character he ultimately is. When you’ve followed him through his wife’s death, his desire to create these shows and discover this perfect trick, I mean it’s very difficult for most audiences to understand. Bale in the ‘Batman’ films takes Bruce Wayne to some dark places, but he’s always, I wouldn’t say morally upstanding, but he’s ultimately the hero and ultimately will, and does, do the right thing. He’s for the most part a force for good in a fucked up world. Angier on the other hand is a complicated and ultimately failed, evil man. Unfortunately he’s also the protagonist.

LA: It’s funny that you mention that, moving onto ‘Memento’…

DC: Moving back to ‘Memento’ *laughs*

LA: Moving back to ‘Memento’, Leonard is also a very difficult protagonist who’s also difficult to empathise with in some ways.

DC: You first meet him as he’s committing murder.

LA: It’s not even just that, you realise his motivations and you realise his motivation is to find the killer of his wife but because of his whole unreliable narrator and that goes back to the whole structure, the structure has been accused of gimmickry, I actually think ‘Memento’ works mainly because of its structure, in terms of portraying the fragmented nature of Leonard’s mind.

DC: It’s absolutely necessary for ‘Memento’ to be structured as it is with these parallel narratives, one of which is in reverse. The Shelby character is the beating heart of the film; we see the world and events exclusively through his eyes. Because of the nature of the characters condition, the only way we can truly understand how it is for him is for Nolan to try and replicate that confusion in the audience.

LA: The nature of his plight through structure. It just works in a very compelling fashion. You’re finding stuff out as he is. Have you seen the special feature where you can watch it chronologically?

DC: I’m aware it exists, I haven’t seen it. It seems pointless.

LA: Totally pointless.

DC: It seems as pointless as a special version of ‘Batman Begins’ or ‘The Prestige’ in chronological order. You witness events in the order Christopher Nolan intends you to witness them. Certain points about the characters or the story are revealed when they’re meant to be. To experience it any other way is a disservice to the film they’ve made. It’s as ridiculous as that cut of the Godfather for television where they put all three films in timeline order. It’s nonsensical and gimmicky. If Coppola wanted to do that originally he would have done that originally.

LA: When I say that both ‘Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’ are quite alike, in terms of the character, as we’ve just discussed with Angier eventually ending up being this repugnant person, I’m not saying Leonard becomes repugnant, but through these people we meet by the time the film ends in the middle of the story, we learn that Teddy isn’t the nasty person he’s said he is, we realise Carrie Ann Moss isn’t a very nice person and is manipulating him for her own revenge, but in terms of realising how untrustworthy Leonard is, when it comes to the end and we realise what he’s actually done in terms of giving him this purpose to solve this crime, he’s a character that you start empathising with, much as Angier, but end up sitting there thinking he’s quite crooked. There are those moments of conscience there, yet he consciously decides to have Teddy be his target. He consciously chooses in those moments of clarity to just continue on so he has purpose. He’s just as difficult a character to empathise with by the end of the movie as Angier is in ‘The Prestige’.

DC: I don’t entirely agree. It isn’t a wisecracking, jokey character here, he’s obviously dangerous, traumatised and we don’t really know a great deal about him. What we learn about the character at the end of the film changes the way we view the character on future viewings of the film, but there’s a sympathy there at the end that Shelby gains during ‘Memento’ and Angier slowly loses during ‘The Prestige’. Obviously ‘Memento’ is told in a nonlinear fashion, but that’s the point we leave the characters at and consequently our final feelings regarding them are as they are at that point. Neither of them are as unreasonable as Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’.

LA: I wouldn’t say Leonard becomes as evil as Angier, I wouldn’t even necessarily say he becomes evil at all, but what I took from the film is how untrustworthy he’s become, especially as a protagonist. How reliable is he? The fact this protagonist has taken you through this journey immediately makes you question not just what the hell is going on but literally everything in the narrative. It’s not just Leonard. In terms of its structure, you find out all these different things about all these different characters. I mean, things that Teddy has done for his own personal gain directly effect those of Carrie Ann Moss who in turn uses Leonard to get revenge, and obviously Teddy is in the frame as this John G character. The broken brain function makes everything else unreliable in the narrative as well, not just the quest itself but everybody else. You can’t trust anybody in that movie whether they’re a nice person or not. That’s kind of what makes ‘Memento’ work and that’s kind of why you don’t have a choice but to watch it in the order it’s in. It just wouldn’t work otherwise.

DC: People thought it was a little unusual at the time, if I remember correctly, when Nolan decided to do a remake of ‘Insomnia’.

LA: It was a recent film as well.

DC: It was a recent film. It doesn’t seem particularly surprising to me, I mean, it doesn’t seem to me like a project he’s groomed. It’s a job for hire. He’s had this explosive independent debut with ‘Memento’ and well, let’s just say I don’t blame him for choosing to do a studio project. A lot of the traits present in the characters in ‘Memento’ follow through into the three leads in ‘Insomnia’. Swank, Williams and Pacino almost feel like continuations of some of the things he plays about with in the previous film. Certainly this unreliable narrator, troubled and destructive protagonist. Pacino has a great deal in common with Guy Pearce in ‘Memento’.

LA: I agree with you in terms of it seeming like a ‘hack for hire’ job, and it’s also the only one of his movies he hasn’t had a writing credit on in any way, shape or form. You do get the impression that someone at the studio saw ‘Memento’ and thought, ‘that guy would be quite good for this’, but if you think about all the motivations of everyone involved, especially how troubled Will Dormer is, it does seem custom made for someone who delves so much into the character motivations as Christopher Nolan.

DC: It’s exactly the same situation as David Fincher’s in now with his ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ remake. The project is perfectly suited to his sensibilities; he’s very much the obvious choice to make it, so though there’s an argument about sacrificing your integrity in order to have a payday and get the greenlight for some projects you want to make, and so fourth, at the same time you’re not choosing to make a Transformers movie or a Twilight movie here. You’re at least picking a commercially viable project inside of the studio system that’s well suited to you as a filmmaker. Yes, on retrospect ‘Insomnia’ is Nolan’s weakest film and it’s his least personal film and least interesting film, but as a stepping stone to what followed, and as a means to integrate himself into the studio setup, I think he picked a sensible project. Excellent acting talent was handed to him on a plate and he made something worthwhile.

LA: It’s definitely his most conventional film to date. If you don’t include ‘Following’ it’s his weakest movie, but it’s like looking at Pixar’s back catalogue where, in my opinion, there weakest movie is ‘Cars’ – a film I still liked. ‘Insomnia’ is still very much worth everybody’s time. It’s his most conventional film I feel, but not through a fault of his own. In terms of filmmaking prowess he was able to make something that could have been really bog standard and generic into at least a pretty interesting movie.

DC: Because of Nolan, we’re holding the film up to higher standards than it requires. Had most other directors made that film it’d be given a great deal of credit. Because it’s racked up next to the likes of ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’ etc, unfortunately it’s going to look a little shabby by comparison. I don’t want to do the film a disservice, it’s very polished and professional, but I don’t think audiences had any real passion for it. There’s no cult love or fanbase there either.

LA: Yeah, there’s no major fanbase for it. People acknowledge it’s a good movie when people think about Christopher Nolan but …

DC: It doesn’t inspire much passion or real interest.

LA: I think Robin Williams and Hilary Swank are both very understated. I think Williams’ performance is one of his best. Pacino is generally great. It’s the ‘hack for hire’ job though and there just doesn’t seem the same level of passion as the rest of his work.

DC: You can’t expect an audience to be enthusiastic about something the filmmaker isn’t enthusiastic about. Audiences can feel that. The example that jumps straight to mind is ‘Spider-Man 3’. I don’t think it’s deserving of much of the criticism levelled at it, but the problems stem from Sam Raimi’s heart not being in it. You can sense it. It feels the same with ‘Insomnia’ to a lesser extent. It’s the only time where the ‘cold and clinical’ label probably does apply. He’s going through the motions. It’s an admirable drama but it never truly grips an audience.

LA: I think he did that one with Warner Bros, and obviously he’s done everything since with Warner Bros, but it kind of shows when you move onto something immediately afterwards like ‘Batman’, with a character like Bruce Wayne, Wayne seems custom made in terms of the dark, gritty stuff you find in the graphic novels like ‘Batman: Year One’ and ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ – that sort of portrayal of Bruce Wayne seems custom made for someone who’s made films with characters like Will Dormer and Leonard Shelby.

DC: He definitely seemed more interested in the project. It’s a good match of director and material. The ‘Batman’ series had gone so far from what Batman can be and probably should be. A dark, quite frightening, vigilante superhero in a dark and dangerous city. Nolan made the protagonist exactly that. Shelby and Dormer are there and Christian Bale as Batman is there. He’s not a grinning, shark repellent, nipples Batman.

LA: *laughter*

DC: This is a dangerous man on a merciless one man mission.

LA: He’s on a path to self destruction when you meet him. He’s in a prison on the other side of the world. Nobody’s going to take the killing of their family very well, but this is something else. He’s in prison, he has no problem taking on five guys at a time. The great thing is about the way its done is he finds this mentor figure in the form of Liam Neeson that’s able to make him channel it. The thing I like about ‘Batman Begins’ is that as an origin story, it really shows how someone can channel that aggression and trauma into something that can be used for the forces of good – resulting in Batman. Going back a bit, I remember when we saw it with James. He was sceptical because it was a comic book movie, after we came out of it I asked what he thought and he just said “the movie speaks for itself”. That’s everything you need to know about ‘Batman Begins’ really. When you have a gentleman who’s sceptical about comic book movies as a whole and he digs Batman as much as we did, that speaks volumes for the film. It’s able to engage on every level. It’s not about nipple Bat suits and Arnold as Mr.Freeze; it’s about finally delving into Batman as a person and as a character.

DC: By getting a real filmmaker they’ve been able to take a potentially interesting character and treat them seriously for once. It’s not a slick, nothing, entertaining summer movie. This is a real film with real characters and real weight behind it. Just because it’s dealing with traditionally exaggerated, fantastical comicbooky ideas doesn’t mean the drama can’t have weight to it. By approaching Batman as a psychological drama as well as a gourmet popcorn movie, the film works a lot better than the last two instalments of the series ever could. It’s the interpretation of that character required at this time and it required a filmmaker as talented as Chris Nolan to make it.

LA: When you think back at it, the campy nature of Batman just doesn’t seem to fit with it. When you look back, the Burton ones are darker than the Nolan ones in some ways, in terms of how gothic they are.

DC: They’re different movies. Burton has a different approach to the darkness. It’s not as grounded in reality or character and there’s this really offbeat, sadomasochistic, fetishised edge to the character. The drama doesn’t have the same weight to it. I love the movies, especially ‘Batman Returns’, but they’re more Burton quirk projects than anything. ‘Batman Begins’ is an exploration of what would really lead a man to do the things you see on screen, and you buy into it. That’s testament to Nolan’s skill that you do.

LA: On top of that, it still knows it’s a comic book movie, more so than its sequel. Its sequel delves into being even more gritty and real than ‘Batman Begins’. Though you can sit down and believe that a man would dedicate his life to this cause, and at the end of the day he’s dressing up as a Bat and fighting crime, there’s still the comic book aesthetic. Though everything’s portrayed in a very convincing light, you still have Batman being able to use his grapple hook to fly up fifty stories. They’ve still been able to integrate a character as ridiculous as The Scarecrow and his fear toxin and make it believable. Even joking about the fact that the character of Ra’s Al Ghul is immortal.

DC: I think one of the things that really helps Nolan is the use of traditional filmmaking techniques. He has a real passion for old fashioned craftsmanship, eschewing modern special effects and CGI where possible in favour of real world locations, sets and practical techniques. That really enables you to believe that the world of Gotham City and these characters exist and to buy into it despite the fact that it’s heightened reality. The nature of the way the production design in the last two ‘Batman’ films Warner Bros put out prior to ‘Begins’ was such that you could set the bloody ‘Godfather’ in that setting and you couldn’t take it seriously. You could have Daniel Plainview in that bloody setting and you couldn’t take it seriously. Nothing in the world could ever be taken seriously in that interpretation of Gotham. I honestly think you could drop Clooney and Mr.Freeze into Nolan’s Gotham and I’d probably start thinking ‘Christ this almost works’, you know? You create such a visceral, real world that I’m willing to buy man-in-bat-suit inside of it.

LA: When there’s talk about Nolan believing The Penguin to be a difficult character to portray, you know, I’d consider The Scarecrow a more difficult character than The Penguin. It’s not impossible to have a character like that in Nolan’s world. Maybe a disfigured gangster? It’s already got you thinking in that way. If they have The Riddler in the next movie it won’t be portrayed as this jokey prankster.

DC: They get to the core of it. The Joker was a twisted, disturbed representation of chaos. A Catwoman would be another vigilante on the street; Robin would be a young nutcase replicating what Batman does, The Penguin would be an eccentric crime boss. These are all characters that Nolan can, and will, make work. He grounds these characters in reality and consequently you accept the, let’s be frank, ludicrous nature of the things you’re witnessing.

LA: It’s grounded in reality, but because it’s based on a comic book you’re allowed to have certain suspensions of belief. The Joker being able to predict what the police are going to be doing ten days ahead of time – that’s the nature of the character. Because he is this psychotic genius, and because with all of Nolan’s movies he’s invested in the world he’s set up – Gotham city being such a shithole you really could believe it would birth something like The Joker. The Joker would be a product of somewhere as horrible as Gotham City. Two-Face as well, it also seems a natural story progression for someone that is so obsessed with chaos in Gotham City to birth a super villain in the form of Two-Face. You’re invested in the characters so much that you can’t help but be drawn into this world. It’s so grounded in reality that you actually start to think Richard Branson could take up the mantle as ‘Virgin Man’. It just works. It works in both movies.

DC: George Osbourne is ‘Vat Man’.

LA: *laughter*

DC: Maybe they could use that in part three? I do agree though, but for me, moving into the second film, there’s grandeur, you know, it does what great sequels do and explores the world further and makes the events and what’s at stake much bigger. He seems to have got it under control with ‘Inception’, but going into the biggest film he’d made at the time with ‘The Dark Knight’, Nolan lets some indulgences in and it ends up a little messy structurally. The pacing is really offbase in the third section of the film. We can say that this is a comic book universe where a character like The Joker can predict what the police are doing, but I think they took his plots a scheme too far in that film. An ending too far. It starts to take you slightly, ever so slightly, out of the reality Nolan had created. It’s a minor nitpick in what is otherwise an excellent movie. It does feel somewhat, certainly moving into the next film, that I really hope he’s able to keep it as grounded as ‘Batman Begins’ and not do what traditionally most third parts of a series do by jumping too far into the ‘other-worldly’. Sometimes it seemed ‘The Dark Knight’ dipped its toes in the danger zone in that last forty five minutes.

LA: When people shower ‘The Dark Knight’ with so much praise, I mean, I did prefer it to ‘Batman Begins’, but that’s not to say that the quality between the two is as great as everyone makes out. I think ‘The Dark Knight’ is only better than ‘Begins’ very marginally. It’s like you say, ‘The Dark Knight’s a messier film and ‘Begins’ is more tightly paced and structured. If something of minor significance at the beginning of a movie becomes fairly major, in the case of ‘Batman Begins’, the little blue flower he finds ends up being pretty much the catalyst for everything else. In terms of structure, it’s much more contained and works well for it, but ‘The Dark Knight’ has this epic scale. I’m willing to put up with the chaos in it because of the sheer bravura of the thing. It’s an audacious piece of work.

DC: The actual villains plot in the final hour of ‘Batman Begins’ is fairly rudimentary even though it’s executed very well. The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ causing mayhem and chaos in and around the city and in and around the characters is immediately more compelling. In addition, the action sequences, even though they’ve never been of paramount importance in Christopher Nolan’s Batman world, they’re better choreographed, better cut, more enjoyable than in ‘Begins’. The increased budget and expectations of a sequel mean he had to raise the game in those areas. Hopefully he’ll raise the stakes even further next time.

LA: His entire career seemed to culminate in something as successful and critically lauded as ‘The Dark Knight’. After that you sat there and thought, where can he take it now? The thing about ‘Inception’ is, not only do I think it’s the best thing he’s done to date, everything he’s done prior to ‘The Dark Knight’ that led to ‘The Dark Knight’, all the faults he learnt from that experience he didn’t just perfect, but almost made his own with ‘Inception’. ‘Inception’ is in terms of its structure, in terms of the way it’s written, in terms of everything is so much more of a step up not just from ‘The Dark Knight’, but from everything he’s done, you kind of get the impression if everything was leading up to ‘The Dark Knight’ then everything he did there was leading up to ‘Inception’ and I honestly don’t think, unless he pulls something crazy out of the bag with ‘Batman 3’, that he can make a movie quite as successful in every way as ‘Inception’ is.

DC: It feels like the peak of everything he’s been working towards as a filmmaker this last decade. Some directors, take Peter Jackson recently, they let their flaws and indulgences get the better of them as he’s done with ‘King Kong’ to an extent and then definitely now with ‘The Lovely Bones’ – which is a disaster. Others acknowledge their flaws and problems and try to work at them and sometimes even turn them into positives. It’s a big two fingers at his critics. Anyone who criticised him for the lack of an emotional centre to his films, he grounds ‘Inception’ entirely and exclusively in that. That is what the film is about. That is what the main character is striving for. Equally deep, equally dark and disturbed and troubled character – but this time his quest is for something entirely pure.

LA: He’s not a morally bankrupt character either. It seems like he’s the first major character, well, Batman isn’t really morally bankrupt…he’s a broken man, but his intentions are ultimately pure even though he’s trying to exorcise these demons. They start off the movie and you’re in the middle of a heist. The movie just sits there and it establishes that the technology to do this exists and it sticks so rigidly to this world that, well, woe betide someone who tries to take a toilet break at any point, it throws it all at you so quickly that if you miss a beat you’re likely to get lost. It’s refreshing in that way because he’s not treating his audience like kids, at all, he’s basically saying ‘if you can’t keep up – tough luck.’

DC: With both the characters and the world. It’s one of these occasions where there are no real criticisms. Anyone who searches for any is grasping at straws. They’re nitpicking. The only one that does seem to pop up here and there though is a problem with exposition sequences and the fact that there’s the need for an audience surrogate in the Ellen Page Ariadne character. I think it’s ridiculous to suggest the film wouldn’t need that. It already demands so much of its audience it would be to the detriment of the film if it dropped you into a world without any explanations. It’s necessary to have that surrogate to help you understand some of the limitations and demands of this reality. I feel a little sorry for Ellen Page. The character’s a construct, essentially. She has a clear, singular purpose. She plays it very well though.

LA: It’s funny because I think one thing we discussed after seeing ‘The Dark Knight’ is that Christopher Nolan, you really look forward to the dialogue scenes even when he’s doing these big action movies. I think this is the first time though that you get so lost in the spectacle that even though the dialogue scenes have been and gone, there is literally nothing…you can’t say the action in this movie is sub par to the exposition, even though that’s all very well done in this film. He’s gone leaps and bounds from ‘Batman Begins’, which admittedly has some slightly messy action scenes. The heist in ‘Inception’ takes up pretty much the entire last half of the film. Compared to minor skirmishes really in the ‘Batman’ films, this single, continuous sequence dominates the entire last hour of the film. The first hour sets up these rules and sets up this technology and in terms of the logistics of putting these ideas into practise, it is completely staggering that he’s been able to orchestrate something that’s not only compelling but also doesn’t sacrifice the character development that’s already there.

DC: The final hour of ‘Inception’ is so ingenious, so completely indescribably ambitious on every level, it’s impossible to really talk about – you have to experience it.

LA: It’s not just ambitious, in terms of not just the technical achievement in the filmmaking, but in terms of the ideas behind it – I was in awe. What if that truck is going around the corner too quickly? When it’s tumbling down the hill and the gravity is switching off in the hallway. That they have to orchestrate these kicks, when they talk about the dreams within the dreams, time slows down, they know that when Yusef goes off this hill, Joseph Gordon Levitt has two minutes to get the kick ready in that dream, within the other dream they’ve got twenty minutes and within limbo they’ve got something like an hour. When you get your head around it and realise that Nolan has effectively constructed this world that’s not just complex, but when you’re finally able to understand how it works, and the functions and how infallible this idea and the logistics of this idea is, you kind of have to stand up and applaud. It’s the best way to describe it. At the end of the movie, when you stand up having fully experienced this world and having felt that gratifying effect, you’re almost high-fiving strangers on the bus on the way home. That wave of satisfaction you get from sticking with this film and trusting Nolan to take you through the process. The setup is great, but when it puts the ideas into practise it moves into an entirely different place.

DC: Watching the film, the experience afterwards, it’s comparable to the experience of having just listened to a truly great album. Sometimes you’re just baffled. You listen to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’…

LA: Sgt Peppers.

DC: Ok Computer or any of those, and you just think ‘how did they create this?’ ‘How did they do this?’ You don’t understand how human beings are capable of such things. It’s a very rare experience that you’re completely staggered by how it was possible to conceive an idea, let alone execute itself in a medium other people can experience. It’s just…

LA: Your brain feels like its melting. I think the last time I felt this good after watching a movie, this wave of gratification, was probably after I saw ‘Magnolia’, which as you know is still my favourite movie of all time. It’s odd to compare them, but in terms of the feelings I felt afterwards its, I mean, I saw ‘Inception’ by myself…

DC: Likewise.

LA: The only guy I could chat with afterwards was this guy who was also by himself. It’s an odd experience when you’re in a packed theatre and you end up communicating with a complete stranger to try and explain how great you’re feeling. There was just this knowing look between the two of us.

DC: It’s the Jurassic Park ‘you just made fucking dinosaurs’ moment. How was a guy capable of it? It sounds like such fanboy loved-upness, but I just can’t comprehend how he was able to conceive and execute the idea. One of the greatest achievements of all is that somehow he was able to smuggle this into the confines and restrictions of a big studio film. He was given 200 million dollars by a major corporation in mainstream American cinema and able to make a film that has more ingenuity, ideas and bravery then anything I’ve seen anywhere, of any budget, of any language. There’s some seriously cerebral science fiction going on here. As you said – brain melting stuff. All you can do afterwards is gasp, breathe a sigh of relief and begin the process of only thinking, only talking about ‘Inception’ for the next…Christ knows how long. That’s all I’ve done ever since. I was at this wedding on Saturday and, you know, people spent a lot of time talking about how fucking mental ‘Inception’ was.

LA: *laughter* I actually found myself getting frustrated by, I mean, it’s one of those kind of moments where…

DC: You can’t express it. You can’t express how good it is. You can’t go up to people and shake them and just say ‘you don’t understand, this isn’t just another five-star film, this isn’t just an exaggeration resulting from the excitement and euphoria of having seen a fun action movie. This film is significant. This may be one of the greatest films that has ever been made anywhere, ever, and I was there watching it in the first few days after it was gifted to the world. To realise that at the time is an amazing thing. I feel like one of the people who were there when those Beatles albums came out, and knew at the time they were listening to something people would probably be listening to in fifty years, a hundred years, they knew they’d be playing these songs to their grandchildren. You watch ‘Inception’ and you know you’re watching something our grandchildren will talk about when talking about films made in this time at this point in the world. It’s the birth of a pop culture artefact,

LA: There’s a couple of things I really like, the first is that the film is actually making a lot of money at the box office at the moment. Not the same levels of commercial success as ‘The Dark Knight’, which was inevitable, but people are seeing it and they are seeing it again.

DC: It’s got the buzz. You don’t do three weeks at number one in America when not based on any pre-existing material, when not a franchise, when not sequel fodder.

LA: Not a remake.

DC: That just doesn’t happen in the middle of summer. It’s almost unheard of. The fact it’s pulling in such high numbers is incredibly satisfying because it’s going to encourage studios to put money into more big, bold, director driven, ideas driven, distinctive and individual visions. The success of something like ‘Inception’ can only be a good thing for American cinema.

LA: When you think about the qualities of Blockbusters recently as well you could arguably say the best blockbusters of recent years are the likes of ‘Star Trek’, which is good, and ‘District 9’, which was very good – but I think one of the reasons ‘Inception’ has struck a chord is that though you get tripe like ‘Transformers’, when stacked alongside other blockbusters – stuff like ‘Star Trek’, which is admittedly an excellent movie – they just don’t compare. This isn’t just entertaining like these other movies; it literally takes narrative cinema to a level that hasn’t been seen in years – over a decade. Like I was saying, the closest comparison you can have in terms of an audacious idea is ‘The Matrix’. ‘The Matrix’, though being a very good film, is not as good as ‘Inception’ by quite a margin. It’s that whole thing of it being an original idea and I think that is why it is so gratifying. Someone has sat down and thought about the logistics of everything. The fact that the complexities of it and the ideas behind it are effectively completely infallible, there’s nothing you can fault with these ideas, is nothing short of breathtaking.

DC: Another two big fingers to the Nolan critics too – it’s absolutely fucking hilarious at points. It’s not just everything you want from a studio film but everything you want from any film. It’s sad, it’s adventurous, it’s funny, the action is fantastic, the performances are fantastic, the visuals are fantastic, the special effects are amazing. On every level it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one you know you’re going to want to have periodically throughout your life for as long as your eyes hold out.

LA: Like you said after you saw it, these sorts of things are the reason we love movies. As you said, it’s the ‘dinosaurs in Jurassic Park’ moment. That’s the moment you realise you’ve fallen in love with movies. Movies like this reinvigorate your faith after so much rubbish. You forget why you bother and then every now and then you get these gems. Last year it was ‘Benjamin Button’ and ‘Let the Right One In’, the year before it was ‘There will be Blood’. Those are the movies you’d typically consider to be great and pop up every year or two, but this is a movie every bit as good as something like that but in the form of a summer blockbuster, and you never, ever see that these days. You never see a movie that’s aimed specifically at an adult audience to make big bucks for a studio that has invested so much in its ideas. He’s always been an ideas man, but I’ve never seen him do it on the same level as this. Never.

Special thanks to Luke for joining me in discussion. More coming soon!

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‘The Social Network’ Theatrical Trailer

As I said when I reviewed the script (see review), I stand by my belief that this is the Oscar frontrunner for next Spring.

See the trailer HERE

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82nd Annual Academy Awards – Predictions

Okay, here we go again for another year, let’s see how I do in the 10 biggest categories….

 Best Picture – The Hurt Locker

 Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

 Actor in a Leading Role – Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

 Actress in a Leading Role Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

 Actor in a Supporting Role – Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

 Actress in a Supporting Role – Mo’Nique (Precious)

 Best Adapted Screenplay – Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)

 Best Original Screenplay – Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

 Best Animated Feature – Up

 Best Documentary – The Cove

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82nd Annual Academy Awards – Prechat

Since this conversation was recorded on 03/02/2010 I’ve caught up with nominees ‘Invictus’, ‘The Cove’, ‘The Lovely Bones’ and ‘A Serious Man’. Please see my reviews for further thoughts.

DC: Okay, so we’re talking about the 82nd Annual Academy Awards with myself, David Camp, and David Barr….in Newcastle?

DB: That’s right, in Newcastle.

DC: Nominations. This is the first time we’ve talked about them since they arrived yesterday lunchtime. Maybe even the last time we’ll talk about them, unless any new thoughts arrive between now and the ceremony. The big press, it would seem, is about Avatar and The Hurt Locker each with nine nominations and Inglourious Basterds with eight….and I’m stealing this text off Dark Horizons! Reading it verbatim.

DB: *laughter*

DC: If I carry on down like this I’ll be talking about the Princess and the Frog in a minute


DB: And The Young Victoria with three….

DC: How did that get three nominations? I haven’t even seen it and I know it doesn’t deserve three nominations.

DB: I know. It’ll be costumes, won’t it.

DC: Yeah. Let’s make it clear here, I haven’t seen all of the films nominated. I’ve seen eight at the moment, and I’ll be watching A Serious Man in the next few days. I’ll be watching The Blind Side if I’m ever caught and tortured by…

DB: Sandra Bullock fans?

DC: Sandra Bullock fans. I’d say it’s unlikely I’ll catch that one in the next hundred to two hundred years.

DB: I can’t think of a point where I’d want to actively sit down and put on The Blind Side. Ever.

DC: We live in a world of 10 nominations so we better get used to it.

DB: Very true.

DC: I’ll start by saying, mostly; I tend to kick up a bit of a fuss about the Academy Awards for one reason or another. This year, I don’t have much to complain about because I don’t feel massively strongly about any omissions, even though I feel 2009 was an excellent year. Only The Road, that I saw a couple of days ago, which swung in and irritated me with its omission. Also, Where the Wild Things Are in some categories. As far as the ten are concerned, it’s a little looser as far as the quality is concerned across the spread, but if you pin it down into the five where there is also a nomination in the Best Director box, I think we’re looking at a pretty formidable bunch. I can look over that list, and there’s nothing in that ten that I feel active hatred for, which is definitely something I’m not used to in other years. Apathy maybe, but no hatred. I can already pin down, as far as I’m concerned, there are three films that are in a different league of quality to the other nominees. The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds and Up.

DB: I’d say the same. Certainly The Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds were, of American releases, the two best films of last year. With our UK dates I had slightly different favourites, but I think they’re the pick of the whole awards season. My thoughts on Up, as I’ve explained, were somewhat tainted by the 3D glasses incident. I know I saw a good film.

DC: Well, that’s the problem with 3D glasses! I’ve spoken a lot about the ‘3D issue’ and my feelings on it and I, to this day, still, stand by them. I hear a lot of people saying ‘Avatar’s a game changer, it’s proved 3D is the future of the medium, it is the new colour, it is the new sound’ This. Is. Not. True. It’s a convenient excuse for studios to add a surcharge to ticket prices, to inflate their grosses and essentially to give a false image of the films financial performance. A few hundred million extra in the bank on top. It’s a gimmick. I don’t think it’s going to be taken up on a regular basis by any genuinely reputable filmmakers.

DB: The only thing worse is this 3D TV that Sky are trying to launch. Not to get sidetracked, but What the Hell! A terrible idea.

DC: I can understand why film studios push it. It’s an interesting gimmick, and Avatar plays with it better then anything else I’ve seen, with the depth of image and the immersion level. It’s something that’s interesting to me, but it shouldn’t be a standard and it’s not something that should be present – especially not in every animated film coming out of the US. I just read the other day that Warner Bros are rolling it out for Clash of the Titans and the last two Potter films.

DB: Yeah, I read that too. They’re changing it, aren’t they? Half way through the process.

DC: There you go. That’s the studio interfering with Letterrier’s creative control of his own fucking film. I doubt he had much of a say on that. The studio probably turned around after seeing Avatar’s box office and said, ‘hand in the cut, we’re adding a 3D render to this and adding $2 a ticket. It’s ridiculous. The film wasn’t made with 3D in mind.

DB: But that’s another ballgame.

DC: That’s another ballgame. In terms of Best Picture, I look down and see a lot of good movies. Let’s go down and talk about each film individually. An Education?

DB: Take it away.

DC: Watched it last night. Very impressed. However it’s a film that’s in that top 10 because…well…it’s a very good film, it’s not a big surprise. Strong performances, strong script, light and entertaining. It’s probably a good jump off point for a couple of actors, especially Carey Mulligan. I think she’ll be a big player in the next couple of years. We should be supportive of it, especially as a British film, but I think it’s probably better placed in acting and writing categories then in with the Best Pictures. All credit to it though; it’s excellent albeit no heavyweight. I’m fairly happy to see it there.

DB: I concur. Highly enjoyable, breezy, fun and very well performed. And yes, great to see a Brit film up there, and whilst it’s not a Best Picture contender, it is certainly much better than some of the other 10 such as Up In The Air, and this nomination will likely open the film to the audience it deserves.

DC: The main thing is to see that it’s there as a result of having 10 best films and the padding that comes with that. It wouldn’t have stood a chance otherwise. We can say the same of The Blind Side I’m sure, which admittedly I haven’t seen, but it would seem obvious it’s being rewarded on two fronts. The first is that it’s been extremely successful in America, $200 million domestic I think. For these reasons, it’s hard to omit completely and I think it’s benefited from those extra five spots. I find it difficult to understand why it’s been nominated though when a film, two films really, should be in that top 10 that aren’t nominated at all. Antichrist and The Road. The former probably wouldn’t have ever gotten nominated for Best Picture.

DB: *Laughter*

DC: I don’t feel too bad about that, but The Road I think has been completely and utterly fucked over on this one. I went in, dubious after a couple of mixed reviews. I’ve read the book, which I like a great deal, but it seems to me the film has been tricked out of a place in that top ten. I can’t really understand why The Blind Side, or even District 9 and certainly Up In The Air are in there, when The Road isn’t. It’s cinematic, performance driven and it has a real weight to it that surely warrants a place in the top ten.

DB: Yeah.

DC: District 9.

DB: What about Avatar!?

DC: I’ll go back to Avatar last.

DB: Okay.

DC: District 9, definitely, definitely being rewarded by the ten place system. An excellent film in many ways and a strong blockbuster and, again, probably a launch off point for a couple of talents who could be big players in the years to come, but it’s not an Academy Award winner and it shouldn’t win in any of the categories it’s nominated in.

DB: I didn’t even particularly think it was a great film, to be honest. It was good, very impressive effects, especially for the budget, the action was well-done, but it sagged in the middle. I can’t believe it’s been nominated for Best Picture. Just look at something like Star Trek, never in a million years should this sort of thing be nominated for Best Picture.

DC: Truth be told, I’d argue the same for Avatar to an extent.

DB: I was going to mention that, yeah. Where’s Star Trek if Avatar’s there, if District 9’s there. It’s just a much better film then both of them.

DC: Yeah, I dunno, you’re not going to hear too much fuss from me though. I really like District 9. It’s a great buddy-buddy, body horror sci-fi movie. It’s going to be very culty. It’s a good movie. I think maybe it’s grown beyond…where it should be…if that makes any sense?

DB: I literally can’t think of another time I want to watch it, other then the time I saw it in the cinema.

DC: There you go. I guess technically it’s not an American film either, which makes it a strange choice for the big ten. The Hurt Locker?

DB: Absolutely love it. You know, probably, well – I’m not going to say the best of the bunch, but…

DC: I don’t think that’s a silly comment. I think it is the best of the bunch. I think that’s the film to beat. It has the producers guild, the directors guild, it has the critical acclaim, it has a director who has possibly been ignored to an extent over the last twenty years. People have never really appreciated Kathryn Bigelow as a filmmaker despite producing consistently good work. It’s…people loved it across the political spectrum because it didn’t drift into irritating, polemical thinking. It wasn’t a leftie attack on the war, it wasn’t a gung-ho, right-wing, flag-waving thing. It was character based, it was intense, it was focused, it was frankly speaking, exactly what I wanted from an Iraq war film at the moment. It focused on one character, one intimate side of the whole conflict, and as a result…9 nominations.

DB: It’s one of the most tense films I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The actual heart pounding effect of it was unbelievable. I mean, bomb disposal as a subject anyway, but after it ended I absolutely loved it where he comes home and is with his family and is holding his baby. He gives the speech about as you get older, how you love less things, and in the end he loves war even more then his child.

DC: What’s that tagline at the start? War is a drug. I love that. It’s not about the broader issue, it’s about one man who has become, because of his nature and the nature of his work, he’s obsessed with, doing, with doing this job.

DB: It’s a great theme for a film anyway, and it doesn’t try any promote war, nobody tries to tell him he’s wrong either but he just loves it. He ends up going back out there, it ends, and your heart is just going *sound effect of rapid heart-beat*.

DC: Inside of that, inside of this very, very close character study of this man, it’s almost as though, at one point it could be called ‘a day in the life of a bomb disposal expert’, played by an invisible character actor playing Sgt James.

DB: He looks a lot like Jason Bateman as well.

DC: Bateman? He’s fat Jason Bateman. Bateman from The Kingdom slept with someone and created Jeremy Renner.

DB: I like the sound of that.

DC: It’s very gritty, down on the ground, close to the action, but Bigelow finds the chance to photograph some…probably the shot that sticks in most peoples heads is the opening explosion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an explosion photographed in that way. It’s, well, it has to be seen to be believed to be honest. Within five minutes you don’t need any further discussion or visuals or anything else. You know what they’re dealing with. I love the minor touches, the way you see sand rise and cars crumpling. Even if there wasn’t a film after that alone, that alone would justify its placement in a couple of other categories. It’s incredible work.

DB: It’s not really a ‘set-piecy’ film, but within that there are these scenes of absolute perfection. The sniper bit where they come across…who do they come across in the desert?

DC: Ralph Fiennes.

DB: Yeah, Ralph Fiennes. That whole bit goes on for absolutely ages. You feel everything they feel. I love the whole camaraderie between the three, when he’s getting the water and stuff. Bigelow nails it.

DC: Bigelow. Yeah, at points it’s almost as though its ten short films based around James’ life in Iraq doing that job. She controls that very well, the structure of the script is excellent. In terms of her placing in the Best Director category, it’s really for those individual set pieces…and as you said, it’s not a set-piece film, but they’re absolutely astonishing, especially considering it’s been done on a very low budget. Ten, maybe fifteen million dollars. It’s raw directing talent. No relying on flashy effects, no tricking you with stars. All she has is her camera, those characters and an edit suite.

DB: It’s kind of the antithesis of Avatar.

DC: I agree. Not to criticise Avatar too much, it’s a good film in many ways in its own right, but in terms of comparing the two side-by-side with 9 nominations each, it’s, for me, not a discussion. The Hurt Locker is the better film.

DB: Yeah, it’s good to see these ‘old school vs new school’ going up against each other.

DC: Husband and wife. Ex-husband and wife.

DB: How much better looking is Bigelow then Cameron’s current wife.

DC: She looks incredible for 58! Poor old Cameron, he’s so chubby and grey.

DB: *laughter*

DC: Maybe a good time to talk about Avatar. Avatar was probably always going to be nominated simply because its made 2 billion dollars. Not adjusted for inflation or taking into account the 3D surcharge, it’s now the most commercially successful film of all time on paper. However, it hasn’t been nominated in any of the acting or writing categories. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a film that should be winning technical awards and technical awards alone. As a technical feat, it’s a masterpiece. Cameron’s done things on screen that’ve never been done before. He’s created a fully immersive world, a beautifully designed world, and I’d be happy for it win for its art direction, production design, whatever, anything along those lines, but for me in order to be a Best Picture winner you have to have ‘a performance’ and a script at the heart of things. The script, not to criticise Cameron too much, he writes serviceable scripts for the sorts of films he makes. He’s not a bad plotter, and the dialogue is passable, the characters passable, but there’s nothing there of any real depth. At the end of the day it’s quite, if you dig under the flashy surface, quite superficial, quite clichéd. It’s more an opportunity for him to show what he can do visually. On that level it’s fantastic, but dramatically the same level of skill isn’t there in the same way as it is in The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds, or even films Cameron’s made before. I don’t think it’s up to anywhere near the same level as Terminator, T2, Aliens or The Abyss, the last of which is horrendously underrated. Let’s just say there was never a moment in Avatar where I didn’t know what was going to happen next. That said, I think it’s unfair for me to talk about it in the same vein as the other films nominated. It is, ostensibly, a big winter-blockbuster, an audience-friendly effects film. It’s one of the best of its kind in recent years, but it’s no Oscar winner. If it wins Best Picture that, for me, will be a joke. The Academy pandering to their worst commercial instincts. The film winning because it made so much money. The Academy should not be supporting that.

DB: It doesn’t need any more support.

DC: No, it doesn’t. A film like The Hurt Locker that didn’t make any money, needs these awards. It gives it an audience it wouldn’t get through its meagre marketing budget. This gives it a step-off point to be seen by the sort of people who should be seeing it. Avatar, everyone’s seen Avatar anyway! With their 3D glasses on, walking out blinded by flashy effects and a vague adrenaline rush to fight their 3D headache. Some of the things I’ve been hearing, people saying Zoë Saldana should have been nominated! It’s a good performance, and I’m not going to begrudge her eligibility in an acting category because of the animated elements, but it’s not good enough to be awards worthy. Especially whilst Charlotte Gainsbourg got, and I understand why Antichrist isn’t a presence, but her performance in that film was better then any other performance I saw in 2009. To think people are kicking up a fuss about Saldana not being nominated when Gainsbourg got screwed over.

DB: I completely agree with your feelings. I’d happily see it win everything it’s nominated for aside from Best Picture and Best Director because, as you said, it’s not the….scriptwise it’s serviceable, it serves its purpose, it allows Cameron to flourish at what he does best. The fears in the weeks leading up to it that it was going to be all effects, it was going to be terrible where bettered-upon, it was much better then expected, but it’s predictable stuff despite being an extremely impressive cinema experience. Very interested to see how it holds up on Blu-Ray 2D, at home.

DC: That’s a big fear for it. People compare it to the biggest and best blockbusters, and as a cinema experience it’s there, but I can’t see it holding up ten years down the line as a television experience on the same level as The Matrix, T2…certainly not the Lord of the Rings films. Let’s cut Cameron some slack, what we’re doing here is nitpicking a very good film, but it opens itself up to nitpicks simply by virtue of its vast success.

DB: When everyone in the world has seen a film, it’s gotta turn into nitpicks.

DC: Yeah. It’s okay though.

DB: It’s a good film; it’s not a Best Picture winner. Even if there were only five, I think it would be there, but it shouldn’t be. Still, when there’s stuff like The Blind Side and Precious etc in the top ten, I have no problem with it being nominated.

DC: Well, there we go, let’s say we live in a world where Titanic won every award going because it made so much money. LA Confidential was a much better film, I don’t think anyone would dispute that 13 years later. Titanic, also, is very impressive in many ways, not so impressive in other ways. You know, at least that had, bordering on, some great performances. Avatar has, well, it doesn’t have that and it’s going to hold it back on the day. I think, really, it’s a three horse race but two are clearly out in front. Which moves us on to our next, Inglourious Basterds, which is, similarly to Avatar, a lot of people, myself included, had doubts with. I read the script when it first leaked online in May 2008, shortly after the Cannes film festival, or whenever it was that Tarantino announced it.

DB: It was a Cannes to Cannes production, wasn’t it?

DC: I read it then and I could sort of see what he was aiming for, but it didn’t strike a chord with me. The film though absolutely blew me away. I saw it twice in the cinema and re-read the script afterwards, and finally everything came into focus. I understand what he was trying to do. I had thought it would be his least mainstream film since Jackie Brown, but after seeing it I thought no, this is every bit as audience friendly and pleasing as Kill Bill despite being every bit as complicated and cinematically impressive as Pulp fiction.

DB: I agree. Pleasure wise, this is the film that I look upon and it conjours up these memories of sequences I love more than any film nominated. The opening scene, the tavern scene with Fassbender, the cinema scene at the end.

DC: I think if anything, it proves that Tarantino’s understanding of film language is second to none. He knows how to please an audience. It’s as pleasurable as Avatar, but it’s an audience-pleasing movie that also satisfies the critical community looking for cracks. Any cracks they find are papered over with incredible editing and wonderful performances and a great soundtrack. I don’t think the film is perfect, but it’s as-perfect as anything I’ve seen in the last year.

DB: That’s saying something.

DC: Yeah, there are sequences, as you said; as good as anything Tarantino’s ever filmed. It works. He brings together every element of his production. He knows how to shoot, he knows how to get the best out of actors, he knows the editing room, he knows what he’s doing with soundtrack.

DB: The use of Cat People, come on, that’s one of the best scenes.

DC: I think it has a sense of humour cutting right through it that’s probably lacking from the other nominees. We live in a world where a film is nominated for Best Picture that, under some circumstances, you could tell people it features a scene where Eli Roth machine-guns in Hitler’s face from close quarters and they’d say ‘what a piece of shit’, but by the time you get to that point you’ve been lured into what he’s trying to do and he sells it to you. What could seem crass, bizarre and offensive comes across as a glorious fist-punching moment of joy.

DB: You go with the flow. When Pitt says, ‘I think this may be my masterpiece.’ Amazing.

DC: I saw a funny little piece recently with a few directors sitting around a table, and Jason Reitman, James Cameron were taking mocking jabs out of QT for saying he’d only ever shoot on celluloid. They can go fuck themselves, Inglourious Basterds may be the best looking film nominated there considering they turned it over so quickly. I love that each of the chapters has a slightly different sheen, as though they hired different DOP’s. It’s all just Robert Richardson though on cracking form. It’s the comeback people who didn’t like the Grindhouse film and Kill Bill were looking for. It’s the return to dialogue driven Tarantino, with that humour, that audience-pleasing-factor those later films have. It’s the perfect mix.

DB: It’s a film he couldn’t have made a decade ago, before Kill Bill and Death Proof.

DC: It’s the film of someone who has mastered their craft. Precious?

DB: Oh, no!

DC: Precious. I know you don’t like Precious. Why don’t you like Precious!?

DB: It was just unbearably manipulative and formulaic. I just found it a bad film. Excellently acted and stuff, but it was just such a white-guilt fest, pandering to that’s sort of thing ‘you sit through the tough, gritty black film and then express your warm, liberal heart at the end of it’. In it for awards. No thank you. I can’t really see who its aimed at because it’s not inspirational, there wouldn’t be any chubby fat girls watching it inspired. It just seems like its solely aimed at, you know, typically white people who are voting for awards. It’s aimed at them. I have no problem with that sort of formulaic thing when they have their purpose, but you know, with this it’s relentless. I don’t have a problem with strife, with overcoming difficulties and it pays off in the third act. They all have their place in the world, but films need balance. You create tension and you release it. That’s just how an audience reacts to it. This was just so one-note bleakness, it culminated in this, one of the dullest last hours I’ve ever seen. It turned into, once all the abuse and the rape and the pregnancy is out of the way, just so dull. Song placement.

DC: I can understand what you’re saying about the sort of relentlessness of how bleak it is, but I think you do it a disservice to an extent. I’d also agree, I struggle to see why it struck a chord with such an audience as such a small, contained film. It’s a small drama; I don’t know why it’s been talked up to the extent where someone like me has rushed out to see it. It’s in big categories at the Academy Awards.

DB: I know.

DC: It seems unusual to me. At the same time though, I think it’s, the reasons I like it are some of the reasons you don’t. I think it avoids the mawkish sentimentality I could smell off the Blind Side’s trailer.

DB: I don’t understand its purpose. It’s not for anyone.

DC: I think it gives you a view into a life, a world that could be taking place not far from the world we live in supposed ‘developed’ Western society that’s every bit as vile and horrible as anywhere on Earth. It’s a story of what could be happening two streets away in a slightly shitter estate. It has this hopeless, despairing view of this girls life and I think the thing that really anchored me to it was this actress Gabourey Sidibe who’s just amazing. At first I just wanted to laugh at this big, fat piece of shit.

DB: She’s unintelligible for half the film.

DC: But, dare I say it, ‘then she wins our heart’.

DB: *laughter*

DC: But, you know, and then they throw on some more pain. Seriously though, I really think she sells us the story. It feels very authentic and very real. Emotionally, some of the scenes, especially the scene at the end with Mariah Carey as the councillor, it takes us further inside a human then anything I’ve seen in a while. It’s not necessarily about someone I find it easy to connect with initially.

DB: We’re meant to earn that empathy with a character. This was just so manipulative from the mark, so unsubtle in it, I also found half the characters completely underwritten. I mean, the Grandmother, who was she? The teacher, the slightly whiter teacher, why was she a lesbian? All this stuff, who knows. But let me get onto my biggest pet peeve.

DC: *laughter* Go ahead.

DB: The cinematography. The aesthetic of the film. The whole film was in soft-focus. It irritated me so much, the wobbly camera. I mean, they’re not making the Bourne Identity, just lock the tripod off. That scene at the end, the three-way with Mariah Carey.

DC: That’s a different film.

DB: It distracted me so much, the wobbly camera, and the soft-focus. It threw me.

DC: You call it manipulative though, but I don’t see on any level how you can see some of those sequences as manipulative. The cameras on the ground, in the booth with Sidibe, Carey and Mo’Nique. There’s this confession taking place about the reason she’s allowed this abuse in her household, and what’s occurred with her daughter. I mean, you can argue it’s manipulative, but you can make the argument that anything that’s been written and performed with the purpose of driving a story forward is. I think it feels completely real, bordering on heartbreaking.

DB: I don’t know, I just believe you have to earn that. That right to manipulate like that. Through better writing in the first half. I’m aware it’s a manipulative drama, drama is about manipulation, but to do it subtly is a craft in its own. This was just trying so hard to be gritty and disturbing. Without anything to balance it you emotions just shut down and it becomes ‘I don’t care’. The reveal that she has HIV. ‘I don’t care’. I’d zapped through twenty minutes of tedium before this.

DC: It seems the film you’re talking about, in my head, is similar but has Halle Berry putting on 40 pounds to play Precious and an all-star cast, and sweeping camera things, a booming Hollywood score.

DB: Sounds much better already!

DC: It would be directed by Paul Haggis or Ron Howard.

DB: *laughter*

DC: I think Lee Daniels played it real. He didn’t really have a choice because it was such a small production, but I think you’re unfair on it. Your criticisms are the result of the fact you heard about this film repeatedly in big media outlets. If it was something you’d just discovered on a hidden channel at night, you’d sit there and watch it as you would any film and be genuinely impressed.

DB: You go to the cinema and you see quotes saying it’s the ‘best film I’ve seen in years’ and well…it’s not.

DC: *laughter*

DB: I mean, that’s the last film on the list I saw. Disappointing.

DC: A Serious Man?

DB: I don’t think either of us have seen A Serious Man.

DC: I have it downloaded. Coen brothers. I don’t doubt it’s good. I’m sure we’re both agreed The Blind Side looks like a piece of shit. Bullock, I refuse to believe Sandra Bullock has given an Oscar worthy performance. I know the way she acts and it’s the same in everything. It’s fine, it’s perfectly pleasant, she has quite a nice presence, but I don’t need to see the film to know Sandra Bullock has not stepped up to the channel. I haven’t read a single review that’s convinced me Bullock’s performance is up to the level required to be an Academy Award winner. This is her Erin Brockovich win, this is Julia Roberts beating Ellen Burstyn. You know. It’s the ‘well done, thanks for your career, you’ve opened a big film.’

DB: Thanks for Speed.

DC: Thanks for Speed, yeah.

DB: That’s what I’d give thanks for.

DC: Next? Up.

DB: Yeah.

DC: Up. Up. Up. Nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast in like 1992.

*a spray noise*

DC: Was that a lynx bullet you just sprayed?

DB: Why would I have a lynx bullet? Are you suggesting I’m some sort of cunt? It’s a Right-Guard.

DC: I think Up is great. I’m a big fan of Pixar, but I’m not a cocksucker. I tend to only watch their films once. Apart from the Toy Story’s, I don’t think I’ve seen any of the others since original release. Maybe I saw The Incredibles again.

DB: I watched The Incredibles for the second time at Christmas. Much preferred it the second time.

DC: Up has, I’ll start, the best score of the year. Michael Giaccomo really booming, memorable and catchy but yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an animated film that takes it so far emotionally. That first fifteen minutes, you’re not watching cartoons, you’re watching real drama. This is, Pixar are beguiling, remarkable, I don’t know how they achieve the things they achieve. I think Up, on retrospect, might end up being the best film they’ve made. There’s a spirit, a heart beating under the surface of it that’s completely lacking from the animated output of any other production house or studio in America.

DB: Definitely.

DC: It’s got that unknowable magic that only Disney at their best can produce, and it’s there, it’s there in Up and it’s one of those things where you see it and you can’t express the way you feel about the film. You just go, you type out the stars at the end of the review and say ‘go and see this movie’. I think we mentioned earlier we’ve had problems, both of us, with the 3D element that’s completely unnecessary. I think it’s a real shame that Pixar have lowered themselves to the level considering their films open big anyway. But yeah, I think it’s remarkable and I’m glad it’s in the Best Picture category. It’s not going to win but it’s won by being nominated and being lifted up to that level. Pixar are the best studio working and long may it continue.

DB: Yeah.

DC: And Michael Schumacher’s in Cars.

DB: *laughter* I second that. I’ll watch it again before the ceremony. As I said, my feelings are tainted by the fact I saw the film as though it was 3-gamma settings too low and I had a dark picture and a headache. Certainly though, the opening…

DC: Glorious filmmaking. You know you’re onto something when they’re creating instantly iconic images. When those balloons explode out of the roof, it’s…

DB: Life affirming.

DC: All the horrible phrases you’d hear in a tabloid review. ‘Uplifting’, ‘Life-Affirming’.

DB: Four buckets of golden popcorn out of four.

DC: *laugher* It’s five Paul Ross golden clapperboards out of five.

DB: Right, Up in the Air.

DC: Up in the Air. I don’t like Jason Reitman as a human being.

DB: I don’t like him as a human being.

DC: I find it difficult to separate films from the filmmaker. If I like the maker, I’m more likely to see where they’re coming from. All I see in Reitman is..

DB: An arrogant prick?

DC: An arrogant prick basically. The film as well, I feel bad really because, though I hope it doesn’t win I really think that on the page the material is there. It’s so close to being great. In different hands, maybe with a different cast and director, Clooney being too Clooney and all that, there’s a great film in there. Reitman being Reitman though, has this habit of smearing this sort of Reitmany varnish over every frame, it’s so smug and so….

DB: It’s the smug cloud.

DC: It’s the smug cloud. In the smug cloud there are giant DVDs of Up in the Air and Juno. You can have your suave, awesome Clooney but the whole time you’re sitting there thinking Reitman’s stepping beyond his talents. When I think of Up in the Air, I think that if this film had been taken on, if Alexander Payne had done a rewrite and directed the thing, we’d be talking about something on Sideways level I could really connect with. Instead we have something that, it feels a bit like a missed opportunity.

DB: I agree. I think, yeah, Reitman has a good eye for source material, Thank you for Smoking, Juno and this, but they all culminate in a deeply unfulfilling experience. Like we’ve said before Juno was crippled by a very annoying Diablo Cody script.

DC: Which is a shame because Diablo Cody has been proved since to be a wonderful writer. Jennifer’s Body is a brilliant piece of genre subversion. It immediately makes me want to rush out and see what she does next. Going on a side note, I couldn’t believe Megan Fox got a golden raspberry nomination for that film. It’s one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last couple of years, I can’t understand any negativity towards it.

DB: Beats me why. But yeah, Up in the Air is a three star film. It’s very unfulfilling, it just collapses under the weight of its own shallowness. It’s fine. I could watch George Clooney for two hours.

DC: He’s a cool guy and a fine actor in some ways, but I mean, I think there’s not much to take from it other then nodding and going ‘Vera Farmiga’s always good isn’t she’, ‘Clooney’s always fun, JK Simmons is always fun’. Reitman always takes the easy route though and he could’ve pushed it further. He goes too Hollywood for someone working in a mid-budget range. There’s nothing challenging in the way he directs. I’m terrified, I heard rumours the other day he might be getting his hands on ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ when the rights open up in the next few months following Salinger’s death.

DB: *pained noise*

DC: I’m against a film being made anyway, but the last person in the world, literally the last person in the world I’d want making that adaptation is Reitman. I’d rather have Michael Bay making it.

DB: *laughter*

DC: At least he understands something about coming of age stories based on the first half hour of Transformers. Jason Reitman, god forbid, leave it alone. Go and hang out with Michael Cera and your orange tictacs

*tape dies*

DC: In between, nothing happened except I talked about being bullied into watching the Blind Side. Losing a bet or something and having to pay off the loneshark by watching it, crying with my hands chained up screaming ‘please, please don’t make me watch it’. Maybe the fat black guy from The Blind Side could marry Precious? They’d make a good pair.

DB: That’d be the end of her woes.

DC: Yeah, there we go.

DB: How bad did the food look in Precious? I think that’s the worst culinary thing I’ve ever seen in the cinema.

DC: We’ve gone back to Precious just to talk about the cooking? They only eat fried food. Giant bucket of chicken. I’m still surprised you didn’t go for a film that features a black down-syndrome child. I thought you’d love that.

DB: *laughter*

DC: It’s the sort of thing Hampshire boys enjoy from urban drama.

DB: Why did Mo’Nique put a wig on when the person came to visit? I didn’t get that.

DC: Reasons unknown. Eitherway, I think we’ve done the ten. If I had to rack them up in terms of what I think should be nominated, the perfect five for me would be The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Up, Antichrist and The Road. It’s not a perfect world though, and instead I’m putting my weight behind The Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds. Those two have it. I’d be very unsatisfied if Avatar won. The rest just won’t.

DB: I agree.

DC: There are three horses left. I’m happy with two of them.

DB: Let me just say, I’d like to have seen Watchmen in there. If you’re going to have ten, if you’re going to have District 9, where the fuck is Watchmen?

DC: Well, Watchmen’s a film that’s got the Fight Club factor. It’s a cult film that has its audience, that audience is already growing as time goes on, but I think Devin at CHUD made a good point when he noted that it’s out, unfairly, of production design and costume design categories. Surely even people who had problems with it as an adaptation can see it’s worthy of positioning in technical boxes.

DB: The level of detail is unreal. It’s remarkable.

DC: I think it’s almost a masterpiece, and I think people are realising it more and more as time goes on. Especially inside of fandom and the internet film community, it already has a high level of respect. I can live with the fact it hasn’t been placed here though, it became apparent fairly early on that it wasn’t going to be a film to find much success commercially or critically. It has its audience though, its audience love it and I’m a proud member of that audience. I remain nothing less than delighted, as a fan of the book, with what Zack Snyder came up with. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

DB: Absolutely.

DC: I guess I would have liked to have seen Jackie Earle Haley slotted into the Best Supporting Actor category, but, there you go, it’s not a film that struck a chord with these sorts of people. It’s fate is to live on the message boards of film websites. As a resident of said websites, I feel ok with that. So what’s on Best Picture, rounding up?

DB: I feel the same. Very, very happy with The Hurt Locker or Inglourious. It’s either those two or Avatar that have a chance. Surely in this world Up in the Air or Precious couldn’t get it. The others are filling up the numbers. Up is going to get its Oscar in the animated category. Locker or Basterds. Happy either way.

DC: Yeah, it’s…Jason Reitman for Up in the Air is quite likely to win for the writing, Up will be in on animated, if anything it’s proved the best and worst of a ten nominee system. It’s proved it’s full of filler, and it doesn’t actually open it up to any more dark horses, but it’s given an opportunity to drop some films in there just to acknowledge them…which is nice. At the same time, it makes it doubly frustrating that Where the Wild things Are and The Road and, I won’t mention Antichrist again, aren’t there. District 9, Up in the Air, The Blind Side or whatever, they’re in there when films received with universal acclaim and great popularity are missing. Why isn’t Where the Wild Things Are not nominated for its costumes? Crying over spilt milk. Actor in a leading role? I’ve only seen two of the films, but it’s obvious Morgan Freeman is there for playing Mandela, the token, unavoidable nomination, Colin Firth I expect is excellent – can’t wait to see the film, similarly with Jeff Bridges and Crazy Heart, I expect it’s like Monster, the film is secondary to the performance. Of the two I have seen, George Clooney shouldn’t really be nominated. He’s fine.

DB: He’s Clooney.

DC: Exactly, but Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker, really glad he’s nominated and someone I never really considered would be. I’m pleased though. It’s so invisible it’s easy to ignore what a lynchpin of the film he is. He’s at the centre. The two I feel a little sad are missing are Viggo Mortensen for The Road who, similarly, is absolutely at the heart of that film and should be nominated, and I know you had problems with it, but Sam Rockwell in Moon. I don’t necessarily think it should have been nominated in any other category, but Rockwell is certainly better then Clooney in Up in the Air. It’s a great performance from an underrated actor. It’s a real shame they’ve, I heard, didn’t even put out screeners for Moon. Marketing department cock-up. It could have been a contender. It has a lot of support from the internet community. It got pretty great films. His time will come, I suppose. A lot of people think it should have been in on Best Picture, which I don’t agree with, but still…

DB: No way. It’s a fine film, a good debut. An excellent debut. That’s all it is.

DC: At a budgetary level it’s impressive they did it for five million, especially considering Avatar cost, potentially $500 million, and also down on the lower end of the scale District 9 for less than $40 million. How did they spend so much on Avatar! For what it’s worth, I should probably mention, I actually think the aliens in District 9 were, the phrase photo-real is banded around a lot, but I think they composited better against the background then the aliens in the live-action Avatar segments. I’d love it if they stuck a finger up at Cameron and gave the visual effects award to District 9 for turning it in on such a tight budget. Again, I’m nitpicking, most of the effects in avatar were mind-blowing. It does deserve the award. Two fingers at Transformers II for not being nominated though.

DB: Thank God for that.

DC: Any thoughts on actor?

DB: The Bridges thing is, probably like Marion Cotillard in La Vie on Rose, an excellent performance in an average film. I’m sure it’s great. Clooney behaves like he does in the Nespresso adverts, which is perfectly watchable, but not an Oscar winning part. It’s Colin Firth for me – definitely. He just nails it. He’s the strongest part of a very good film, and it’s not an easy role either, it’s a nice reminder of what Firth can do. He also wears the whitest, best-pressed shirt I’ve ever seen. Immaculate.

DC: There’s a wonderful story on Nick Hornby’s blog today. When he found out he’d been nominated for his script for An Education, his wife was sitting next to him at an Arsenal match having also been nominated for producing the movie. Colin Firth was sitting behind them, nominated for A Single Man. It almost made them feel better about Arsenal losing to Man Utd. I expect A Single Man is great. I was talking the other day about Tom Ford, he seems a really interesting guy, multi-talented. I expect he’s turned over something really special.

DB: *waves bottle* This is what I wear. Tom Ford for men. It’s incredible.

DC: It looks like his urine. It’s a yellowy colour.

DB: Tom Ford. For Men. That’s why Firth gets my vote.

DC: Nibbler of Keira Knightley’s ear.

DB: *laughter*

DC: Actress. I think, again, I’ve only seen two. No Blind Side Bullock, no Helen Mirren in The Last Station…though I get the impression Mirren’s nominated because she’s Helen Mirren, Bullock’s nominated because the film’s been successful. I’ll see The Last Station, I will not see The Blind Side.

DB: Meryl Streep?

DC: Meryl Streep Haven’t seen that movie either. Don’t necessarily need to, may do at some point. Carey Mulligan in An Education is fantastic, wouldn’t complain for a second if she won. It’s the breakout. It’s Winslet in Heavenly Creatures. It’s the film that kicks off a career and always stands as a gold star against their name. All the performances across the board in An Education are great.

DB: I’d say Mulligan would be my favourite. It’s a very balanced performance – at once sweet, intelligent, too old for her years, and ultimately naive. Definitely the breakthrough… we’ll just wait for Wall Street 2 to put the icing on the cake.

DC: Gabourey Sidibe in Precious, you think she’s…

DB: Excellent.

DC: You do?

DB: I have no problem with the acting. The acting is superb.

DC: It’s nice to see that the fat black kid from Hook has had a sex change and gone onto new things since that film.

DB: I have no problem with her being nominated. I’d rather not have the film win an oscar, but I can’t fault her performance. Excellent. Maybe she could enunciate a little better? As Gary Oldman says in that Friends episode.

DC: It’s the best performance I’ve seen from a ball since Wilson in Cast Away.

DB: *laughter* I don’t have an enormous amount of say for that category.

DC: Me neither, for neither of the big acting categories. I mean, we’ll tick them off before the ceremony. Directing, we’ve covered to an extent. I’m putting myself behind Bigelow. It’s her year. She has the directors guild award.

DB: Yeah, that’s the big indicator.

DC: First female to win, potentially. I think it’s the same as Best Picture really, except I wouldn’t have as many objections to Cameron winning here. I think what he’s done, at least on a visual and technological level, is probably worthy of a nomination. Tarantino understands film like no man alive. Wouldn’t complain. But Bigelow, it’s her year.

DB: Yep.

DC: And I don’t mean that in purely a ‘let’s award a career’ way. She owns each frame.

DB: If Tarantino gets screenplay, Bigelow for director.

DC: I think everyone’ll be happy with that. At the same time, Tarantino’s going to win a directing award at some point in his career, it’s an inevitability, but that said I think he’ll struggle to ever top this film. Time will tell. Lee Daniels for Precioushe….Precioushe…I can’t say the title!

DB: Precioushe. You’re speaking like her now!

DC: *laughter*

DB: It’s not a well directed film. I mean, obviously…

DC: No, I think it is well-directed. The actors didn’t act themselves, I just…surely Lars Von Trier for Antichrist or even Pete Docter for Up. It seems a little unusual that Daniels is in with that crowd. Similarly with Jason Reitman, which I don’t really understand. What does he bring to his work other than spoiling the hard efforts of the cast and crew? I suppose you could make an argument for the fact that he always turns good performances out of his actors, which is fair enough, but I’m not sure if that’s because of anything other then the fact he has the worlds best casting agent.

DB: Is there a single scene in Up in the Air where you think, ‘he must have really needed to coach that performance’.

DC: That’s where Precious differs. There’s the scene at the end of Precious that shows real drama, real skill, not just on the part of the actresses. With Reitman, that moment never comes in Up in the Air. That moment is in nearly every fucking second of Inglourious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. Best supporting actor? I’ve only seen one of these, this is terrible! Invictus, The Messenger, Lovely Bones aren’t out yet. I feel alright about it. Waltz has won anyway. He was always going to win. He’s got the Ledger role. It was won before the nominations. Carve it on the trophy. Fair play to him, he’s excellent.

DB: It’s a superb; I mean obviously there’s a lot on the page, but that character – one so evil but affable and funny.

DC: I would have loved to have seen Fassbender nominated too. We can play this game all day though, praising every member of the cast.

DB: Fassbender’s accent should get an award of its own. He was excellent in Fish Tank too. The sneaky shite.

DC: Molina and Saarsgard from An Education could have been in there too. Supporting actor, I mean, not best accent. Though they did nail that as well. Supporting actress?

DB: Yeah.

DC: I’ve seen Farmiga and Kendrick in Up In The Air, Mo’nique in Precious. Haven’t seen Crazy Heart or Nine. Based on those three, Mo’nique should win it. That final scene speaks for itself.

DB: Yeah, well I think Penelope Cruz was most likely nominated because she’s Penelope Cruz and she turns in excellent performances everytime. I can’t see Nine being a particularly great one. Gylenhaal, I presume is very, very much a supporting role to Bridges, more or less playing off him. The Up in the Air girls, this talk of Anna Kendrick is completely lost on me. It wasn’t a performance.

DC: She was serviceable but not memorable. It wasn’t something you’d even highlight in a review. Vera Farmiga on the other hand was very good.

DB: Kendrick gives the exact same performance in Twilight.

DC: Absolutely. Farmiga has a real effortless charm though.

DB: I liked her in The Departed.

DC: One of my favourite performances of last year was in a horror film called Orphan, which I think was unfairly treated by critics. She’s in almost every scene, with Peter Saarsgard, but in Orphan she’s fantastic. She holds the screen in what could otherwise be a slightly empty horror film; she adds real weight to it as this alcoholic mother character. She’s great in everything.

DB: The Departed.

DC: Yeah, absolutely. And The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I don’t think this is necessarily her year, but I don’t think it matters. She’ll be back in a couple of years, her careers just picking up. She might end up in the perennial Cate Blanchett supporting nomination, constantly finding her way into these sorts of categories. Foreign language film?

DB: I saw A Prophet in the week and it was absolutely excellent. You know, that should be in the ten big boy films.

DC: The film that strikes me as a big European omission, I think it was probably eligible last year, but I don’t think it was submitted by the Swedish film board, was Let the Right One In. That, if anything, should have been an obvious choice. That was last year though, so be it. I think the one, based on what I read, I’m most interested in seeing is The White Ribbon.

DB: Yeah I’ve got that downloaded. I just haven’t found the time I’m in the right mood to sit through two hours of The White Ribbon.

DC: Michael Haneke seems like an interesting guy. It’s supposed to be pretty great. When I find the right time it’s on the list to see.

DB: Watch A Prophet before March. You’d love the aging and the continuity. It’s just, I mean, that should be nominated for direction. It’s superb.

DC: It’s the American Academy. You know what they’re like.

DB: Yeah, but the fact, not to keep bashing on Up in the Air, but its placement in all these categories, Kendrick and Reitman getting their nominations, they need to look a bit beyond the film with big movie stars.

DC: I dislike this habit of the Academy to pick three or four big movies and go about nominating them in every single category. I think they’re maybe slightly better this year then they have been in the past, especially in some of the smaller categories, but its frustrating seeing say…Precious nominated for film editing. I like Precious a great deal but it seems highly unusual.

DB: I looked down the list of nominees and I hadn’t even realised.

DC: Avatar’s score seems to be nominated for reasons unknown. Animated feature? I’d like Coraline, but I’d love it if Fantastic Mr Fox sneaked in there. Up has already won, but by being a Best Picture nominee it doesn’t need to win here. It will though, and I’m fine with that because it’s wonderful. To see Wes Anderson walking around with an Academy Award would give me the kick of the night.

DB: I disagree. It’s…that category or not, animated feature or not, it’s not an Oscar worthy film. Regardless of Up’s placement in other categories, Up wipes the floor with those other nominees. Frankly, I mean, if there’s an award for technical animation, I’d hands down give it to Fantastic Mr Fox.

DC: I think you’re unfair.

DB: I liked it. I like it!

DC: It has a real charm, a real heart. You’re right about Up, it’s just the Wes Anderson fan in me wanting it to take the award!

DB: What’s The Secret of Kells? What is that?

DC: No one knows what The Secret of Kells is. It’s some additional film that they’ve plucked out of obscurity.

DB: I’m googling it.

DC: Boring category every year. It’s obvious who’s going to win every year, and it’s usually the Pixar film.

DB: Right, it’s a film with a March 2010 release date. It has Brendan Gleeson in it.

DC: *laughter*

DB: It’s, I don’t know, it’s French, Belgian and Irish. Great.

DC: It’s probably amazing.

DB: Can you say filler? Adapted screenplay, I’d Hornby for An Education. It’s very impressive.

DC: Hornby’s ability with characters crosses over really nicely to film. The actors know what they’re doing; they’re so rich and real. The dialogue’s sharp and it’s got a real light, enjoyable way about it. District 9, a little unusual it’s nominated.

DB: So bizarre.

DC: I think it’s more a director’s film. Some of the ideas Blomkamp plays with have some worth to them. There’s undoubedtly some interesting analogising, but still – odd.

DB: Yeah.

DC: In the Loop. I passionately, passionately love The Thick of It, but I don’t think In The Loop carried over any of the energy. It was a massive disappointment. Some of the decisions they made, in using the same actors in different roles, were bizarre, none of the American sections worked. That said, I’m pleased it’s been nominated as it gives international recognition to the strength of some of those characters, particularly Malcolm Tucker. Some of the dialogue is very funny. The idea of seeing Armando Iannucci sitting next to Nick Hornby, both confused why they’re nominated for Oscars, it’s funny beyond belief. I don’t think it’s a bad movie, it’s just sourced from much stronger material. Fine with Precious being nominated, Up in the Air, good script – happier to see it there then in the picture or director categories.

DB: Same with Up in the Air. Precious, I don’t think its good writing at all. It gets some fundamental drama things very wrong and that’s the result of the script. It’s not the direction, the performances, what irks me the most other then the awful aesthetic of the whole thing is the screenplay. In the Loop….I’ve never seen The Thick of It, but I really enjoyed In the Loop. Very funny. It kinda strikes me as something that’s, you know, quite heavily improvised on set.

DC: I think it’s because I’ve been watching The Thick of It that I’m so tough on it. In The Loop can’t capture the same magic as those thirty minute chunks. The Thick of It is closer, more authentic. It’s based just around Whitehall and 10 downing street. The story of In The Loop isn’t up to much. None of the American characters work, none of those actors know how to work with the style or the dialogue, they don’t understand the humour. The British cast members are on an entirely different level. It clashes in a really unpleasant way. I just wish the entire thing had been more contained. More then anything, I just don’t think a feature length version of The Thick of It was necessary. You can have a few dozen really good, really funny Malcolm Tucker one-liners but even that doesn’t make up for it.

DB: Screenplay original? Its gotta be Inglourious Basterds. Hands down.

DC: Yeah. I think so. I mean, I look at those and I imagine A Serious Man being pretty hot stuff. I’ll watch it tonight or tomorrow. Inglourious Basterds is the one though.

DB: That probably is the strongest category.

DC: Revisiting it, especially after initial misgivings, then watching the film, finally understanding what it’s the template for, that makes it even more remarkable then it is on screen. It’s his masterpiece, as he says. It’s Pulp Fiction with fifteen years of experience lumped on. He’s matured to a level where he plays with the very fabric of what film is.

DB: That’s his expertise, those kind of films….I love those films where everything’s culminating into one specific point, you get the threads, you’re waiting for the last puzzle piece and then it ends in such a well-directed and written scene in the cinema. It’s funny, it’s tense, it’s violent, it’s ballsy.

DC: What can sound a little tacky and silly comes across so elegantly on screen. Some of the ideas, even the title, gives a totally false impression of what the film is. It isn’t Grindhouse, it’s Pulp Fiction. He should win. Art Direction? Avatar. Got to be Avatar. That or the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which I’d like to say I’m really pleased to see has been placed in some of these categories. I think Gilliam will love that. It’s a film that could have easily been ignored, but it’s been recognised in some small way. Especially as Gilliam works on a tight budget, I’m pleased to see it there. Avatar will win it though.

DB: I think a lot of these we can skip over.

DC: Yeah, art direction and production design.

DB: Cinematography?

DC: Hang on a second, is art direction and production design the same category? I can’t see a production design category? Is that just a BAFTA thing? Are they the same thing here?

DB: *laughter* I think so.

DC: Eitherway, Avatar’s won. Parnassus had some imaginative, cool sets, but James Cameron created an entire world from scratch. There is no better then creating each blade of grass. Cinematography? Avatar will probably win that too. Should be Inglourious Basterds though, or Hurt Locker. I mean, they’re all strong. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a beautiful looking movie. I don’t doubt, based on what I’ve seen, that The White Ribbon is too. It’s a tough one. If I can get my two cents in again though, *cough* The Road *cough*

DB: Antichrist.

DC: Antichrist.

DB: The prelude to Antichrist is the most beautiful thing I saw all year.

DC: It’s victim to the existence of other films. And The Road, The Road is just astonishing on a visual level. I mean it’s, well you have to see it to believe it. Some of the images cut into your head. Avatar will win, even though I think Basterds is probably the most deserving. It’s strange really, what does this phrase mean in conjunction to Avatar? It has such a large digital element. Surely the visual effects side should cover Avatar. Can you place what is essentially an animated film in a cinematography category?

DB: Very valid point.

DC: I mean nothing really struck out for me in Avatar’s live action sections.

DB: Yeah, I mean, as impressive as effects are, that’s all they are. It’s fairly redundant. Compared to Basterds, Hurt Locker or what I’ve seen of White Ribbon, but yeah – Antichrist deserved a nomination, especially when I saw it digitally projected. It just knocks you off your feet.

DC: I would’ve liked to have seen the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus in there too. I think the cinematography was excellent. And Watchmen, obviously, Where the Wild things Are. It goes on. In terms of set design, where was Synecdoche, New York? Was that eligible last year?

DB: I was going to mention that. I think the score for that, Jon Brion’s score, I love it.

DC: I can understand why it’s absent, it’s on a different level of cult, obscure surrealism.

DB: Hoffman, Hoffman should have been in Best Actor.

DC: It should be in a few of these categories. I don’t know, it’s a funny one. It wasn’t really in the awards game at all, this year or last. I think it got some press at Cannes, that was it. It’s a forgotten film I fear. There will be people out there though, it’s their favourite film. It’s better that way.

DB: Slight sidetrack, I have the Blu-Ray. The DVD cover is the worst thing. There’s a big quote on it saying ‘the funniest film of the year’. It’s just bizarre. It’s got all these quotes, it’s just so weird! Funniest film of the year! Awful, awful artwork.

DC: You either get it or you don’t. People watched it and felt they connected with something. It’s like Kaufman filters out audience members. In the upper filter there’s vast numbers of people loving Eternal Sunshine, beneath that less love Malkovich and Adaptation, at the bottom are the core of people who clicked with this movie in a fairly profound way. I’m not entirely sure I connected with it, but there are so many layers there I think I’ll revisit it during my life until I come to a greater understanding with it. Who knows, it could end up being my favourite Kaufman film! There’s a lot going on there I don’t even pretend to understand or know what he was intending. Apparently it’s Roger Ebert’s favourite film of last decade though.

DB: There’s a really good extra on the disc with these bloggers discussing it.

DC: He’s playing with some fascinating concepts in a really original way. I hesitate to call it science fiction or drama, I don’t know how I’d categorise it, it’s almost un-categorisable. It’s something, that’s for sure.

DB: Costume design?

DC: We don’t care about costume design. Parnassus should be there, Where the Wild Things are should be nominated. Stupid.

DB: For documentary, I’d just like to say, The Cove is the best documentary I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

DC: I can’t wait to see The Cove! Everyone’s praising it to me. I tend to get through all the foreign films in the end, even if it takes me a few months after the ceremony, but I’m fucking rubbish on the documentaries. Certainly I’ll force myself to watch The Cove.

DB: Never seen a film about such a bunch of good hearted, intelligent people against guys up there with the worst villains in cinema history.

DC: Do you mean, as bad as the villains, I think we’re both agreed…

DB: *together* The family in Million Dollar Baby.


DC: There are no villains, there have never been villains as evil as Hilary Swanks family in Million Dollar Baby.

DB: They’re up there.

DC: And they’re real, which makes it even more frightening.

DB: Diabolical.

DC: Not interested in short documentaries.


DB: Editing?

DC: Editing. The Hurt Locker. It’s got to be The Hurt Locker.

DB: Yeah, it’s just a replica of Best Film.

DC: Editing almost exists as a category to, you can’t have a Best Picture winner that only wins two awards, it’s there to help pad out its victory. The Hurt Locker will win Picture, to pad that out it’ll also win director and editing. Maybe a couple of others too. That’s no bad thing. The editing, truth be told, is the best of the five. They’re all pretty good, I don’t know what to say! Other then Precious maybe, I’m not sure why that’s in this category. Avatar too maybe, it’s a bit flabby. The action sequences are cut like a pro though. He knows what he’s doing. District 9 too. The Hurt Locker will win though.

DB: Makeup? I’d like to see Star Trek get an Oscar! I don’t really give a shit.

DC: Well, it’s, no-one cares.


DC: Why even have that category? Music score….Up. The best score there.

DB: Yeah. I really liked the Watchmen score though.

DC: I think the Watchmen score was more soundtrack. Avatar shouldn’t be nominated. It’s not good; it’s not one of James Horner’s best. Sherlock Holmes is fun, jumpy Hans Zimmer. I like Fantastic Mr Fox, is that Desplat?

DB: It is Desplat. He’s had a really good year. A Single Man had a great score too, not sure how much was original though and how much was soundtrack. Either way it was a good egg.

DC: Up. Up is the one.

DB: What else did Desplat do? He’s just churning them out. Did he do Precious or something?

DC: Music song. Not interested. Really glad the shitty Leona Lewis track from Avatar wasn’t nominated. I was sure it would be.

DB: Does Jeff Bridges sing The Weary Kind? I quite want to hear that.

DC: It can’t be as good as the Clint Eastwood song from Gran Torino. My favourite song of all time.

DB: So good.

DC: Short film animated, Wallace and Gromit will win. Don’t care about live action short film. Sound editing, where are Paranormal Activity and Drag me to Hell. Where are they!

DB: The sound for Drag me to Hell was, it made half the film.

DC: Considering it received unanimous good reviews, it’s been completely forgotten. I can understand it’s not an ‘oscar’ film, but in that sound category, both those films should be nominated. Should be there. Instead, as discussed, let’s pad out the winning films in bigger categories by adding to the horde. Avatar will probably win it. Sound mixing? What is the difference between sound mixing and sound editing?


DC: Is that the same category? They’ve ditched production design and split sound in half. Eitherway, nobody cares. I think Avatar will win both of those awards.

DB: It’s so bizarre. Is there some sort of see-saw effect that Transformers just notched out Up? It doesn’t make any sense.

DC: Best fighting robot sounds. I love that Transformers Revenge of the Fallen has been nominated for an Oscar. How do they judge that? How does someone go ‘I really think the sound mix in Star Trek was great’? That said, five minutes earlier I was sitting here angry about two films for their omission.

DB: Maybe they looked on the avid and saw how many audio channels they had. Transformers probably had several hundred.

DC: Visual effects, Avatar will win. I’d get kicks if District 9 did, but it’s Avatar’s to lose. Star Trek shouldn’t be nominated, I think the effects were better in both Transformers and Where the Wild things Are, the latter of which did some really interesting facial animation stuff. I think Star Trek was a good film though.

DB: It was the best blockbuster of the year.

DC: I think that was one film I saw in the summer that really surprised me. I didn’t have the highest expectations and it took the franchise, or my expectations of the franchise, to the next level. It really gave it that, dare I use the cliché, operatic, epic feel that was missing from the Star Wars prequels. They had a real love for the material and the characters. Everyone put on their A-game. I can’t wait to see where they take it next.

DB: I agree.

DC: Okay, so that’s us done? Rounding up?

DB: Rounding up, it’s good to see the two best films of the year, which often doesn’t happen with the Oscars, nominated so highly. For all the omissions, The Road and stuff, it still is the two best films of the year.

DC: I completely agree. At the end of the day, we’re looking at a two or three horse race every year. To be blessed with two of those three genuinely being the best, is kind of remarkable. Especially considering The Hurt Locker is a very small movie. For that to be there, and to have received the credit it deserves, is amazing. Inglourious Basterds too under different circumstances could have been ignored, but it’s good to know everyone is on board with supporting it. My main intention, though I have no say, my main stake is to stop Avatar winning Best Picture. I’ll sit there praying it doesn’t. That would represent Hollywood at its worst if they go and give the ‘biggest film of the year’ the ‘biggest award going’ just because it’s the ‘biggest film of the year’. Everyone ticking that box knows in their heart of hearts that just because it has a big marketing budget, just because it has flashy special effects, just because it made a lot of money…that somehow makes it the best. It’s the same sort of thinking that got Titanic winning all those awards twelve or thirteen years ago. If it happens again, it’s a fairly sad state of affairs. The Hurt Locker is the better movie.

DB: Very true. I’m just trying to think…probably the last time it was the case was when all the Lord of the Rings films, you know, the big money earners actually were the best films.

DC: They lucked out with that one. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was the best film nominated. They struck a chord with both audiences and critics and, I mean, I think it’s unfair to compare Avatar to that. Lord of the Rings worked on a totally different level. It’s a phenomenon that, you know, it’s difficult to explain.

DB: No, I wasn’t saying that, I mean…you know…the temptation to be caught up in the Avatar hype.

DC: I think we saw a similar thing last year with a lot of people kicking up a fuss when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated. I think that fuss was probably justified to an extent, I think The Dark Knight should have been nominated. I don’t think it should have won, I don’t think it should have taken any more awards then it did, but it deserved to be noted there. I think this ten nominee thing is in no small part because of the omission of that film and the resulting anger, and that they nominated a film, The Reader, that was received very poorly, critically, didn’t make any money, wasn’t liked by anyone. For reasons unknown, it found itself slipping in as one of the most unusual, flat and boring Best Picture nominees I’ve ever seen.

DB: I think we’re done?

DC: We’re done.

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2000-2009: The Worst film of the Decade

And the worst…

Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004)

‘I’ve learned to never underestimate the academy’s bad taste. ‘Crash’ as best picture? What the fuck.’
-Manohla Dargis (New York Times)

I feel truly sorry for the films decent ensemble, as the status afforded to ‘Crash’ as a result of the academy’s monumental mistake has left its reputation in the gutter. Its awards success has been its undoing. The spotlight revealed the extent of its failure. Its legacy is to be despised. As the sun rose after that disgraceful March night, Paul Haggis found himself one of the most reviled men in Hollywood – the creator of the most actively mocked and dislikeable non-genre film of the twenty-first century.

‘Crash’s script will one day be used (in film classes) to illustrate poor screenwriting practices. It’s a contrived masterpiece of false emotion, terrible dialogue and simplistic moralizing – rolled together in a derivative hyper-link structure that not even it’s enormously talented cast can fathom. One could be forgiven for thinking Haggis wrote it as a comedy. My detest grows greater with time.

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