Daniel Day-Lewis Wins Third Best Actor Oscar

February 25, 2013 by  
Filed under News

DDL570Daniel Day-Lewis has won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Actor for his title role in Lincoln.

The prize is the English-born star’s record third Best Actor Oscar, after previous wins in 1989’s My Left Foot and 2007’s There Will Be Blood.

“I really don’t know how any of this happened,” said Day-Lewis.

“I do know that I have received so much more than my fair share of good fortune in my life, and I am so grateful to the Academy for this beautiful honor.

“It’s a strange thing,” Day-Lewis joked on receiving the award from Meryl Streep. “Three years ago… we decided to do a straight swap. I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher, and Meryl was Steven’s first choice for… for Lincoln – and I’d like to see that version!

“Steven didn’t have to persuade me to play Lincoln, but I did have to persuade him that if I were to play Lincoln, perhaps it shouldn’t be a musical!

“My fellow nominees, my equals, my betters, I am so proud to have been included as one amongst you.”

In reference to his extreme method acting, Day-Lewis joshed: “Since we got married 16 years ago my wife Rebecca has lived with some very strange men.

“I mean, they were very strange as individuals, and probably very strange as a group… but she’s been the perfect companion to all of them.

“I’d like to thank Kathy Kennedy our producer, and through you, our mighty team of co-conspirators. At the apex of that human pyramid, there are three men to whom I owe this and a great deal more.

“Tony Kushner, our great skipper Steven Spielberg, and the mysterious mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln.

“For my mother. Thank you so much. Thank you.”


February 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Film Reviews


Mama is in cinemas now


Often the most irrational and idiotic nightmares are also the most terrifying ones. They’re the nightmares that you can’t remove from your memory, no matter how hard you try to.

It’s just like a dream I sometimes have in which the former Tory MP Michael Portillo beats me with a tube of BacoFoil, as he cackles and caterwauls his way through a rendition of “The Look of Love”. It’s the sheer absurdity of it, I suspect, that makes it seem all the more horrific.

Coincidentally, this is also the only way I can explain my feelings on the film Mama, an utterly ridiculous and yet somehow still very frightening horror, which has audiences peeing their pants with laughter before it has them doing the same all over again with fright.

The plot of the film centres on Victoria and Lilly, the young daughters of an financial firm executive, who is introduced to the audience after having recently shot his business partners and his estranged wife. In a mad frenzy, the man returns home, collects his children and speeds off with tears forming in his eyes, as he tries to fathom what he’s going to do next.

After narrowly avoiding a serious car accident, the man eventually winds up at an old abandoned house, where he decides his only option is to commit suicide, but not after first killing his daughters. However, things don’t quite pan out like that, and when the man holds a gun to Victoria’s head, a strange creature attacks him before he has time to pull the trigger.

Flash forward five years later and a team of searchers stumble across the abandoned house. Having all but given up hope of finding the girls, they’re surprised to discover that they’re still very much alive, although living a feral-like existence, eating wild fruit and walking on all fours.

After returning back to civilisation, the girls are kept in isolation before being put in the care of their uncle, Lucas, and his girlfriend, Annabel, who is essentially a character that Janeane Garofalo would have played back in the ‘90s. Lucas makes a living drawing what look like preliminary sketches and Annabel plays in a derivative punk group, making her in particular an unlikely yet well-meaning guardian.

Understandably, spending the last five years living in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere hasn’t done wonders for Victoria and Lilly, as they keep making bizarre references to someone—or indeed something—called “Mama”. At first everybody suspects that “Mama” is imaginary, but then after a series of freak events, a more sinister conclusion starts to seem like a possibility.

Mama is a horrifying creature. She lives in the closet, she changes form and she can glide around the room making no sound if she chooses. Sometimes she’s a dark stain on the wall. Other times she resembles a human-like form. But we’re kept guessing to what she truly is until the last half an hour of the film.

Mama is certainly not without humour. There are many amusing moments, such as when Lilly plays with Mama while Annabel goes about household chores, completely oblivious to what’s happening in the next room. There are also plenty of just plain stupid moments—many seemingly unintentional—which had the audience around me snorting and whispering little witless remarks.

Yet when the scary parts happened the laughs seemed to turn into nervous titters, because part of what the film does well is mixing the completely absurd with the unsettling. It indulges in expected clichés, but always shocks the audience seconds later with some deeply macabre imagery.

There are, unfortunately, countless incidents where the film tries to startle the audience with loud noises or by having something appear on screen rather unexpectedly: making somebody jump doesn’t really mean anything if there’s no suspense to back it up. But more often than not, Mama is a decent, albeit quite campy, horror that draws the audience in with its silliness before devouring them whole with something truly frightening.

Watching with friends will likely provide many laughs, but later on, long after the film has ended, one might find oneself checking underneath the bed, lest Mama is hiding below the mattress.

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A Good Day To Die Hard: Review

February 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Film Reviews


A Good Day To Die Hard

In cinemas now

“Yippee ki-yay Mother Russia” It’s a good tagline: it’s just not got much of a movie to go with it. Bruce is back in the vest and heading over to Russia, where his son (Jai Courtney) is involved in a CIA plot to rescue a government whistleblower (Sebastian Koch). Things soon go tits up, and Willis and Son find themselves racing across Eastern Europe to retrieve some tasty secrets.

This being a Die Hard, of course, nothing’s that simple. Neither, in this case, is it that clear. Gone are the clever feints of the original, to be replaced by twists that feel obligatory and make a nonsense of everything that’s gone before. Not that what had gone before made a lot of sense anyway.

It’s interesting that the Russians have swung around to being the Hollywood default for bad guys again, but this isn’t a film that’s interested in the changes their country has seen in the past 20 years. It’s just full of cool and scary names the writers sorta recognise from a dozen other trashy flicks. The screenplay’s got low-grade photocopy all over it, and it’s grasp of nuclear physics makes Dan Brown look like Robert Oppenheimer.

Willis’s relationship with his son is a retread of his relationship with his daughter from the last movie – and a barely developed one at that. Plenty of franchises end up bastardising their first entry, but few rip off an already shit sequel. There might be a character arc there if you squint (let’s lay some chips down now that Die Hard 6 will see Willis going after his ex-wife), but the film won’t thank you for spotting it. It’ll barely thank you for being present.

Even if you can be bothered to concentrate, frenetic camerawork and cuts every millisecond make it difficult to follow. In an early set piece, trucks and armoured cars barge their way through the Moscow traffic, but it’s all spectacle and no elegance. It’s like watching someone playing Grand Theft Auto badly.

It’s also a humourless affair. There’s nothing like the endlessly quotable lines from the original. Instead, we’re thrown the sort of crap flippancy that wouldn’t raise a laugh in a footballer player’s locker room. Willis remembers these films were once funny, but has dialled his archness up to a point of intolerable smugness. He’s not just someone’s dad; he’s someone’s incredibly annoying dad.

A Good Day to Die Hard is ridiculous, but so rough around the edges it doesn’t even qualify as mindless fun. It can’t be bothered to engage with its own narrative and instead looks like an accountancy spreadsheet flickering past at 24 frames per second. The next instalment’s already in the pipeline: let’s hope they get the marketing guy to write the script.

Rust and Bone – Review

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Film Reviews


Internet dating doesn’t appeal to some. It might be because they have political ambitions and it might come back to haunt them. It might be that their idea of happiness doesn’t involve an SSRT blissed out singleton with a soft-rock soundtrack. But anecdotal evidence mostly suggests it’s because they refuse to believe that the person they’re destined to end up with will find them through tick-box compatibility.

Rust and Bone is a love story, but not the sort that Type A princesses spend their formative years creating a vision board for. It’s about the kind of love that meanders unreliably and blooms unpredictably.

Director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) coaxes intense yet physically intelligent performances from both Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Inception) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead). The Belgian, in particular, embraces Tony Soprano’s ideal of a male lead, a man who “wasn’t in touch with his feelings, he just did what he had to do.”

Audiard doesn’t make it easy for the audience – he trusts the two leads to flesh out a chronologically stuttered plot – whilst Cotillard and Schoenaerts’ characters don’t make it easy for each other. They are both self-destructive individualists: He acknowledges his lack of interest in romantic continuity, whilst she admits that she only enjoys a man’s attention until he commits to her.

Nonetheless, this is what sustains interest in the characters: it’s not a story about two people falling in love, it’s a story about two people adjusting to emotional levels that are new to each other.

This, in turn, makes the narrative much more affecting; not because the progress of their blossoming romance mirrors your own story; but because it highlights the unpredictable cause and effect that catalyses desire into something more permanent in an immature, but emotionally plausible way.

No dramatic gestures, no Disney safety net, no manufactured happily ever after – but a far more honest interpretation of what it means to be yourself, accept another for their potential incompatibilities and persevere in the hope that the sum is greater than the parts.

A wise adolescent once told me that she recognised that she’d reached romantic maturity for the first time when she no longer had to ‘have the conversation’ to know what her relationship status was – she just knew. At a time when so many love stories require their leads to be unnaturally explicit with their feelings to the audience, Rust and Bone is a terrific film about what it takes to fall in love and what falling in love takes from you.

Rust and Bone is out on DVD on the 25th of February 2013

OTB Interviews: Agyness Deyn

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Features


Agyness Deyn was first scouted in the mid-2000s by modelling agency Select while shopping in London’s Kentish Town with her friend Henry Holland. Her career as a cover girl began with the May 2007 issue of American Vogue and she’s never looked back.

A former student of music and drama, the Lancashire-born Deyn’s acting ambitions started with a small part in Louis Leterrier’s Clash Of Titans (2010), in which she played the goddess Aphrodite, and she has also provided vocals for The Five O’clock Heroes and Lucky Knitwear. In Luis Prieto’s Pusher she plays Flo, a high-class stripper involved with Frank (Richard Coyle), a small-time drug dealer whose life is unravelling fast.

What sealed the deal for you?
Seeing [ Luis Prieto’s] work. He made a short film called Bamboleho, where there’s a scene that’s basically two kids making out on a roof with a beach scene in the background. You think they’re actually on the beach, but then the camera pulls back and they’re in front of a poster – they’ve been living on the top of this rundown building, and they’re basically shagging on an old mattress! It was beautiful, both in terms of the way that it was shot and the moments that he’d captured.

So when I read the script I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical London gangster film – I knew it was going to have a certain beautiful quality about it. I think he’s capturing the grit of it, but there’s also a love story there. Which, for Flo… (Pauses) That’s what her character’s all based around, really. Love.

Did you see the original Pusher film?
No. I made a choice not to watch it, just because I didn’t want to recreate the original character. I think this is going to be very different. In the original, I think Flo was perhaps a little bit more passive and Frank was much more masterful. Flo, in my interpretation, is kind of like a very delicate flower. Child-like and vulnerable. An addict, basically.

What kind of addict?
She’s a heroin addict, and, obviously, with that, she wants to pause her life and get away from it. She’s caught up in this world and needs a way out. She has a job as a stripper, but it’s really just another outlet, another way she doesn’t have to be herself. She transforms herself – she puts a wig on, and an outfit, and then she becomes another person. Because when you get down to the bones of her she’s super-fragile and all she wants is to be loved. She’s quite on her own.

How much did research did you do – not just into the life of a heroin addict but into the life of a stripper? Is it all in the script, or did you have any help?

For some of it, yeah. For the stripper side of it, I worked with an amazing woman who works at Browns [a strip bar in Shoreditch]. She was so generous with her time. I hung out with her, went to work with her, and she’s now become a really good friend through this whole process, showing me the ropes. She took me into her environment and I kind of felt a kind of a part of the family that it is, basically. I discovered that, in
these clubs, from the DJ to the doormen, to the women that run some of these places, it becomes a very strong family unit.

How about the addict side of it?
Well, anyone can have a sense of that. The idea of being an addict is just to get away from everything, to numb yourself from the world.

Did you have any preconceptions of the stripping world?
I’m quite an open-minded person, so I was quite comfortable going into it. I was well aware I was a guest in this environment, so I was just observing – taking it all in, really. Although it was quite funny, because I had punters coming up to me and asking for dances. (Laughs) I was like, OK, it looks like I really am Flo!

Has it been hard to switch off?
It has been, yeah. When we’ve been finishing at 4am, and I’ve not been getting home till 5am after a full-on day of crazy, emotional scenes, I get home and I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s over! Now I have to sleep and then get up and do it again.” So, yeah. You have that period where you think, “I’m NEVER going to be able to sleep …” And then you wake up in the morning! But each day’s different. Yesterday we were doing all the strip stuff, where I was Flo at work. (Laughs) That was interesting!

What kind of outfits were you wearing for that?
Erm … Barely there! (Laughs) And then of course there’s the wig I have, just for when she’s working. It’s really mad … Now, I don’t watch any of the footage back. Sometimes they’ll say, “Do you want to watch it, just to see how it looks?” But I feel that, whatever I’m doing, if Luis is happy with it, I don’t need to see it. But when I was doing the stripping stuff the other day, a friend of mine recorded the end bit on his phone. I was in my own little world, pole-dancing or whatever, and when they showed me, I was like, “Oh my God, that is NOT me.” (Laughs)

Not that I was possessed! But I really was Flo. And it was so liberating and freeing to feel that way – to feel really in the scene. Because if it was just me doing it, as myself, I’d be so self-conscious, but I kind of got lost in it.

Did you ever encounter any prejudice, being a model turned actress?
No. I don’t really feel that. I’m not saying that I don’t care what anyone thinks, because obviously I do! But I know that if I come to work and I do the best I can, do my best in that moment, then I can’t really do any more. And if I’m enjoying it, all the better. I just want that fulfilment.

I don’t feel that I’m going to have to work harder than anyone else, because I’ll always work hard, whatever I’m doing. I’m always gonna do my best, the best I can be in that moment. And obviously it changes every day, because it depends on what’s going on – in your head and in your heart.

Pusher is out on on Blu-ray, DVD and to download on 11 February 2013, from Momentum Pictures

21 And Over – Preview

February 6, 2013 by  
Filed under News


They say: Straight-A college student Jeff Chang has always done what’s expected of him. But when his two best friends Casey and Miller surprise him with a visit for his 21st birthday, he decides to do the unexpected for a change, even though his critical medical school interview is early the next morning. What was supposed to be one beer becomes one night of chaos, over indulgence and utter debauchery in this outrageous comedy.

We say: Lots of potential. Except for the 2 Broke Girls style racial humour.

Why Has Orwell Not Translated Successfully to the Screen?

February 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Features


Notable for his ability to compress a whole chapter’s worth of insight to the size of Christmas cracker joke, George Orwell’s influence should be obvious to even those who have yet to read a single word that he wrote. His ideas have far transcended his books, providing the inspiration for countless works, including Terry Gilliam’s magnificent film Brazil and many songs by the band Muse, whose derivative form of alternative rock has become a tremendous hit with angry thirteen-year-old boys who refuse to tidy their bedrooms.

The quality of many these derived works, Brazil being one of few exceptions, is often pretty bad, which is perhaps proof enough of Orwell’s competency as a writer. It is true that often when something is said so well, there’s really no need to elaborate much further. But then why is it that screen adaptations of the author’s books have so frequently missed the mark?

One possible answer could be that Orwell’s work is largely open to interpretation depending on the reader’s political leanings, and that the satisfaction of reading a book like Nineteen Eighty-Four comes from being able to imagine its dystopian world from a personal point of view. Free from heavy-handed adjectives and graphic description, Orwell’s text enables readers to experience his ideas for themselves.

In the case of Animal Farm, however, perhaps fables are just best left on the written page. There are two major film adaptions of the book, both of which are reasonably enjoyable, but ultimately contain too many deviations from the source material to have any great sense of depth.

The first of these adaptations was a British animated feature from 1954, which was produced by Halas and Batchelor, a firm that had previously made propaganda films for the British government. As an early artefact of British animation, the film can only be described as a triumph, but as an Orwell adaption, it does very little to show what happens when well-meaning ideas are distorted by those who rule with iron fist and little else.

The same is true of the second big Animal Farm retelling, which was produced, once again, by the most unlikeliest of companies, this time the cuddly and inoffensive Hallmark, who turned Orwell’s story into something that looked and sounded like the then recently released Babe. Starring a fantastic cast comprised of Pete Postlethwaite, Patrick Stewart and Kelsey Grammer, it was oddly disjointed, and seemed to linger uncomfortably between being part cute critter story and part political satire.

Another Orwell adaptation from around the same time starred Richard E. Grant and Helena Bonham Carter, and was released in North America under the title A Merry War. Adapted from Orwell’s socially critical novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, it was released here under the same title, and told the story of a successful copywriter who
suddenly quits his job for the artistic satisfaction of writing poetry.

Of all of the films that have been based on Orwell’s books, Keep the Aspidistra Flying was one of the best, offering up a well-observed and humorous critique of the rigid class-system that both fascinated and horrified Orwell in equal measure.

Since Keep the Aspidistra Flying’s release, though, films—particularly those made in Hollywood—have become noticeably faster-paced, often to the point where they induce nausea. A film like Fast Five, for instance, which as I understand was written by a hyperactive seven-year-old, has presumably been made to replicate the sensation of being stuck on a speeding merry-go-round.

It’s all part of a strange trend in which the industry has developed a propensity to cater to a fictitious audience of barely conscious mouth-breathers, who enjoy nothing but loud noises and rapid movement. Of course, this is the complete opposite to how Orwell wrote, which was not to guide his readers by the hand or tell them how they should feel.

It’s for this reason why news of there being a Hollywood Nineteen Eighty-Four film in the works is so underwhelming. Michael Radford was one of the few who was able to successfully translate Orwell’s vision of the future in his adaptation of the novel, and he did this by remaining true to the source material and not updating it for contemporary audiences.

Alas, it seems unlikely—although certainly not impossible—that the same can be achieved in this current era of cinema.