Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Gravity (2013)


Matt Kowalski: I get it, it's nice up here. You could just shut down all the systems, turn down all the lights, just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There's nobody up here that can hurt you. It's safe. What's the point of going on? What's the point of living? Your kid died, it doesn't get any rougher than that. It's still a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it's time to go home.

Right, now let's get a crack-a-liking. This post was a bit long overdue, so I won't waste your time prepping you anymore. Since we've had had the Golden Globe Awards, the SAG Awards, the Producer's Guild Awards, the Critics Awards and the much ignored People's Choice Awards, it's time we get this boat sailing and start doing some major revewing of what's in the cinemas right now and buzzing for the Oscars. 

Many opinions have been flying about for this particular film. Some of which were mostly (in retrospect) negative, regarding mostly the "acting" element in the film. Many people (in retrospect) were defuting that there was any acting involved in the film. It was just all floating and CGI flying over our heads for 2 hours in the cinema. But let's dig a little bit deeper, shall we?

The reason I used the word - in retrospect, twice above- is because up until the point the film was shown in the cinemas, people were too eager to go and marvel at Alfonso Cuaron's phenomenon. 'Oh what has he achieved now? Does it work? Is it as spectacular as they market it to be?'. And so on and so forth.

So we went to watch it and form our own impressions on this space adventure. 

Gravity then - what's it about? 

Just briefly to say the synopsis, for those who have not yet indulged in watching this film, and would like to know what's all the fuss about: "Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone - tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness." (source: www.imdb.com)

So let's start with emotion: was there any? Various opinions in the horizon, many have intense objections regarding emotional drama in the film. Personally I experienced goosebumps. Major ones too. Why?

First of all, let's not forget on the conditions the two actors were asked to portray their characters in. 90% of the film was shot with green screen, having just a camera pointing to them or following them around, talking to the absolute emptiness, floating about, with heavy space gear on. And on top of that, they had to deliver lines, and extract emotion. 

Maybe so, Clooney's role may have been limited, he hardly stayed there long enough to develop any kinds of emotions with the viewers, apart from the comedic relief ones very early one in the film - and most of the female audience were sad to see him go so soon from their screen projector. 

So was it enough to have a one-protagonist film for the remaining time of the film, and a female one at that?

I've never considered Sandra Bullock, THE GREATEST actress to hold an entire film all by herself. However, she in in some ways brilliant in her own manner - as we have seen her in the past in comedies and dramas alike (The Blind Side, Crash, The Lake House, Speed, The Proposal, Miss Congeniality I & II). As an actress she did have her ups and downs, but looking at her acting work objectively in this film, we must grant her that she did a pretty good job in maintaining a balance in her role. 

It is a big deal to just float about and have the ability to convey the fear, the loneliness, the sadness of this character. Lest we forget, Cuaron, cleverly subplotted the character's backstory into the plot, and how the vast emptiness that she was experiencing in her life, would ultimately be the breaking point for her survival. It was a bold move to allow Bullock to transform this space journey into a journey of survival, but I believe it paid off for multiple reasons. 

Considering the visual techniques in Gravity, we have nothing but marvel Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Paris Je T'Aime, Great Expectations). He co-wrote the screen play with his son, Jonas Cuaron, and he made sure that he didn't spend a lot of time on trivial matters when it came to induling in his space experience. 

Visually, Gravity was an immensely challenging film to shoot due to all the various aspects he had to consider regarding what it actually feels like to be in space. Along with his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men, they chose to enhance their production with real-life elements that would enable the viewer to believe that whilst the dramatic action was in place so would the visual will be in a perfect coordination. 

An example of that was the use of the lighting and the sound which would indicate at exactly what time span the action was unravelling whilst the time was rapidly moving. They managed to coordinate these two key elements in this visual story, so that every time one of the actors would move or float would have the precise lighting and sound that would actually exist in real life space time. Along with their LED lighting techniques and their physical movement coordination they had to make sure that every dramatic line would not step onto the visual narrative of the film's production.

The average viewer will consider all of these make-belief techniques and undertakings trivial and unimportant to the dramatic narrative of the story, at some points even exhausting and with nothing real to convey. 

The true masterpiece comes from within these elements though; if we but only consider that the character is actually floating solo in space, with no mission control to actual have a guidance from, the gravity of the situation is a fierce one. What Cuaron plays upon, is so skillfully to produce a unison between the psychological action going on in the character's psyche along with the external forces that penetrate the character with their visual infusion. In terms of production filmmaking, this is a visual glory at its best. And Cuaron did not fail to produce a carefully executed story that would present a thematically challenging narrative whilst allowing the viewer to get a glimpse of this 'what would it be like out there'. 

In visual terms, the production team worked marvels, thus quite rightly so it is now heralded with an overflow of nominations and awards. The filmmaking community distinguishes this work, not so much on the sympathy of the characters but for the gravity of the visualization of the unknown. And to this we would only be fair to admit Cuaron's extraordinary directorial genuis. 

Objectively so, this film is not everyone's cup of tea type of film. It is not your average Star Trek or outer space experience kind of film, but it is definitely a visualized conceptual piece of filmmaking you simply cannot reject by its lack of family drama. It is another piece of art, a more uknown thematically filmmaking piece, that deserves its proper recognition in its own terms. 

Lastly, just to briefly mention the astounding musical score of the film by composer Steven Price, which is also up for an Oscar nomination. You can listen to a piece from the soundtrack here

For those that did enjoy the film, I am glad you relished in its own groundbreaking filmmaking boundaries. And for the ones that didn't, I hope it didn't drag on too long till you got out of the cinema hall. 

Till next time folks. 



Monday, 13 January 2014

And the Golden Globe goes to...

So I know I promised a "Gravity" post, but since tis the season to give out awards already, let me report last evening's highlights, just for the sake of it.

Not gonna bother with too much commentary, as this is kinda the warm-up of the Oscars. 

Personally, in the world of great filmmaking, I believe that very few notable films see a good buzz and a worthy acknowledgement from the Academy, but hey, this is Hollywood so, the jig is up, so sit back, relax and watch ahead. 

So here's what happened yesterday in Hollywood:

Best Motion Picture - Drama

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Other Nominees:
Captain Phillips (2013)
Gravity (2013)
Rush (2013/I)
Philomena (2013)

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

American Hustle (2013)

Other Nominees:
Her (2013)
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Nebraska (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama

Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Other Nominees:
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips (2013)
Robert Redford for All Is Lost (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama

Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine (2013)

Other Nominees:
Sandra Bullock for Gravity (2013)
Judi Dench for Philomena (2013)
Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Kate Winslet for Labor Day (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Other Nominees:
Christian Bale for American Hustle (2013)
Bruce Dern for Nebraska (2013)
Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Joaquin Phoenix for Her (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

Amy Adams for American Hustle (2013)

Other Nominees:
Julie Delpy for Before Midnight (2013)
Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha (2012)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Enough Said (2013)
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Other Nominees:
Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips (2013)
Daniel Brühl for Rush (2013/I)
Bradley Cooper for American Hustle (2013)
Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle (2013)

Other Nominees:
Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine (2013)
Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Julia Roberts for August: Osage County (2013)
June Squibb for Nebraska (2013)

Best Director - Motion Picture

Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity (2013)

Other Nominees:
Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips (2013)
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
David O. Russell for American Hustle (2013)
Alexander Payne for Nebraska (2013)

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

Her (2013): Spike Jonze

Other Nominees:
12 Years a Slave (2013): John Ridley
American Hustle (2013): Eric Singer, David O. Russell
Nebraska (2013): Bob Nelson
Philomena (2013): Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

Best Original Song - Motion Picture

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013): Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Brian Burton("Ordinary Love")

Other Nominees:
Frozen (2013): Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez("Let It Go")
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): T-Bone Burnett, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Justin Timberlake, George Cromaty, Ed Rush("Please Mr. Kennedy")
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013): Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion("Atlas")
One Chance (2013): Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift("Sweeter Than Fiction")

Best Original Score - Motion Picture

All Is Lost (2013): Alex Ebert

Other Nominees:
The Book Thief (2013): John Williams
Gravity (2013): Steven Price
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013): Alex Heffes
12 Years a Slave (2013): Hans Zimmer

Best Animated Film

Frozen (2013): Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Other Nominees:
The Croods (2013): Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Despicable Me 2 (2013): Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Best Foreign Language Film

The Great Beauty (2013)

Other Nominees:
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
The Hunt (2012)
The Past (2013)
The Wind Rises (2013)

Best Television Series - Drama

"Breaking Bad" (2008)

Other Nominees:
"Downton Abbey" (2010)
"The Good Wife" (2009)
"House of Cards" (2013)
"Masters of Sex" (2013)

Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (2013)

Other Nominees:
"The Big Bang Theory" (2007)
"Girls" (2012)
"Modern Family" (2009)
"Parks and Recreation" (2009)

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Behind the Candelabra (2013) (TV)

Other Nominees:
"American Horror Story" (2011)
"Dancing on the Edge" (2013)
"Top of the Lake" (2013)
"The White Queen" (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama

Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad" (2008)

Other Nominees:
Kevin Spacey for "House of Cards" (2013)
Liev Schreiber for "Ray Donovan" (2013)
Michael Sheen for "Masters of Sex" (2013)
James Spader for "The Blacklist" (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama

Robin Wright for "House of Cards" (2013)

Other Nominees:
Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife" (2009)
Kerry Washington for "Scandal" (2012)
Tatiana Maslany for "Orphan Black" (2013)
Taylor Schilling for "Orange Is the New Black" (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy

Andy Samberg for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (2013)

Other Nominees:
Don Cheadle for "House of Lies" (2012)
Jason Bateman for "Arrested Development" (2003)
Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory" (2007)
Michael J. Fox for "The Michael J. Fox Show" (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy

Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation" (2009)

Other Nominees:
Lena Dunham for "Girls" (2012)
Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie" (2009)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "Veep" (2012)
Zooey Deschanel for "New Girl" (2011)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Michael Douglas for Behind the Candelabra (2013) (TV)

Other Nominees:
Matt Damon for Behind the Candelabra (2013) (TV)
Al Pacino for Phil Spector (2013) (TV)
Idris Elba for "Luther" (2010)
Chiwetel Ejiofor for "Dancing on the Edge" (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Elisabeth Moss for "Top of the Lake" (2013)

Other Nominees:
Jessica Lange for "American Horror Story" (2011)
Helen Mirren for Phil Spector (2013) (TV)
Helena Bonham Carter for Burton and Taylor (2013) (TV)
Rebecca Ferguson for "The White Queen" (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Jon Voight for "Ray Donovan" (2013)

Other Nominees:
Aaron Paul for "Breaking Bad" (2008)
Corey Stoll for "House of Cards" (2013)
Rob Lowe for Behind the Candelabra (2013) (TV)
Josh Charles for "The Good Wife" (2009)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Jacqueline Bisset for "Dancing on the Edge" (2013)

Other Nominees:
Sofía Vergara for "Modern Family" (2009)
Janet McTeer for "The White Queen" (2013)
Monica Potter for "Parenthood" (2010)
Hayden Panettiere for "Nashville" (2012)

Friday, 10 January 2014

'Tis The Season to Be Jolly...

So here we are again.

Another year gone by. The award season, has once more stepped threw our threshold. It is high time to start re-viewing some of this year's, or past year's more like it, films.

Many worthy contenders this year, although they do look rather dreary thematologically. 

During the past year, I have delved more into the TV SERIES entity, so had very limited time to approach films. I find myself rather picky these days, and only accept to watch films that are "worth my while".

But, really, how can you know what is worth your while, if you don't give a chance. 

Hence, I will keep a rather open mind for this award season too. 

I have seen very few of the oscar nominated (well not officially nominated yet) films for this year.

Since, the Golden Globes are fast approaching - due to broadcast on Jan 12, 2014, I had better start getting down to business.

Mind you, I have watched A LOT of other notable films this year, who sadly for one reason or another have not made it into the Academy's elite-list.

Oh well. C' est la vie.

Moving on. Next order of business: GRAVITY. 

Coming soon folks...