The 2016 Ocars Were The Dullest Ever

It’s no secret that we felt that the 2016 Oscar nominations sucked, so it was a bit of a struggle summoning up the will to sit through a four hour ceremony celebrating a very bad set of nominees. But we’re nothing if not dedicated here at Spindle, so without further ado let our film writers Stephanie Coffey and Thomas Dearnley-Davison walk you through it. 

Let’s start with that monologue:

S: Chris Rock tells shiny white people that Hollywood is “sorority racist.” *crickets* shiny white people can’t deal.

T: I love the awkward close-ups to all the white actors in the audience who really, I feel, shouldn’t be applauding the idea of black people getting shot on the regs by cops but don’t know what else to do.

S: Yeah the awkward laughter is a little unbearable. It’s like we want to be supportive, we don’t know what to laugh at because Chris Rock is being too real so we’ll smile at everything.

T: Right? Least funny monologue ever, but also probably the best. What do you think?

S: I think the problem is that racism isn’t funny. He had to be real. He definitely addressed the issues but I think it was actually difficult to make light of the situation. I also think he used the platform to just tell Hollywood what is going on. You aren’t being supportive of black filmmakers, you think you are liberal but you aren’t helping.

T: Yeah like that bit about the Obama fundraiser where he said to the President all these rich white donors don’t hire black people. What is the point of giving a million dollars to a black presidential candidate when you are actively closing down avenues of opportunity for minorities?

S: He’s right. We all have to actively fix the problem. So filmmakers, writers, actors, whomever think about diversity in all your work! It doesn’t matter your background you can help tell human stories.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

S: Alicia why do you look like Disney Princess Barbie? I love you but this Beauty and the Beast thing, I dunno. I was muttering “not Kate, not Kate” over and over and they got it right! Well, sort of: I would have preferred Ex Machina to be your win. And it should be Best Actress. But you are so talented and thank god it wasn’t that Godawful Steve Jobs performance again.

T: Oh God, I woke up this morning and scrabbled to check my phone for this very reason. Thank God it wasn’t Kate. I love you, Kate Winslet, I truly do, we’re from the same part of the world (shoutout to the Home Counties!), so I feel like in a different life we could have been close personal friends, but you did not deserve your second Oscar for this.

alicia vikander

Alicia Vikander accepts her Oscar dressed as Disney Princess Barbie

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

T: I guess the screenplay for Spotlight was fine. Just like the rest of the movie. Should have been Inside Out but they clearly they don’t care about a little girl’s feelings. Also it was written by a lady and they’re not allowed to win stuff.

S: I always get the feeling the writing award goes to something that wouldn’t win a bigger award but that was important, so I was really hoping for Inside Out or Straight Outta Compton. I guess Inside Out did win Best Animated, but still…Straight Outta Compton would have been a huge surprise and a great nod for such a shitty night.

T: Yeah but the writers were both white! The only nomination for the black movie was for the white people. That just sums up this whole shitty Academy.

S: Ugh. I can’t even…

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short

S: White mansplaining wins in least diverse year. Yay! *sobs* Dear God, try harder Hollywood. At least seemingly liberal white man with large spectacles tells audience not to vote for crazy billionaires – progress?

T: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not need the financial crisis mansplained to me by a bunch of guys in wigs. And WHY THE FUCK did Phyllis Nagy not win for Carol? Oh yeah, because she’s gay and her movie is all about ladies.

Production Design, Costume Design, Make-up: Mad Max: Fury Road

S: Mad Max sweeps sets, costumes and make up. I feel like Thomas is going to be really upset but I’m like okay it’s fine. And the Costume Designer was so badass with her skull jacket.

T: You know what? Good for Mad Max. I hear it’s a lady picture but with added explosions. And it’s funny because there’s so many angles to it. For example, I was discussing the movie with a fellow uber-feminist, while my white straight brother was completely baffled as to what we were talking about. Quoth he: ‘all I saw were car crashes and explosions’. Something for everyone, guys. Something for everyone.

S: Sorry straight white brother but yes they snuck in the feminism so boys wouldn’t notice.

T: Boys are stupid. I’m so glad The Revenant did not win for production design. As one Oscar voter put it, ‘The whole movie is set outside. Who’s the Production Designer? God?”

Also, yes that’s Jenny Beavan – she’s a Brit and she’s amazing. Stephen Fry described her as a bag lady at the Baftas, and everyone went mental. He had a point. Also check out how literally no-one claps as she walks down to collect her award…

https://vine.co/v/igWT9HBUnXp/embed/simple

Best Editing: Margaret Sixell, Mad Max: Fury Road

S: This Mad Max editing woman has a great Diane Keaton thing going on. Love her.

T: That’s Margaret Sixel, who – fun fact – is married to Mad Max director George Miller!

S: Ooh, power couple!

Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina

S: LITTLE VICTORIES, GUYS. Maybe this will fuel my Ex Machina sequel idea: hot robot in the city. It’s like 9 to 5 and Working Girl except she keeps murdering everybody so it’s always really awkward.

T: I’m dying. That’s fucking hilarious.

S: Like, she gets passed over for a promotion so just stabs that person at the copier…

T: I would watch the shit outta that movie. The best visual effect in Ex Machina was them making Dreamboat Oscar Isaac slightly less attractive. Oh, who am I fucking kidding, he was a dreamboat from start to finish, weird 80s professor glasses and all. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, good for this movie! It’s about ladies!

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

S: Again, I was chanting “not Rocky not Rocky not Rocky”…I heard Mark R – and I was like, RUFFALO! Rylance…what?

T: I’m so fucking glad Sly did not get this for Creed, or ‘Black Rocky’, as Chris Rock put it. I did not care about Black Rocky, I did not go and see Black Rocky. If you want to see a great movie directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan then I’d recommend Fruitvale Station. Finally watched it this weekend, it’s utterly brilliant and I cried and cried and cried. Also Octavia Spencer is the stoic Mom so there’s just like a whole bunch of reasons to watch it. Instead of Black Rocky.

Also, hold up, Mark Rylance is brilliant. I haven’t seen Bridge of Spies – why the hell would I have seen Bridge of Spies? – however he’s a Brit and a hugely talented theatre actor. Does occasional TV – he was amazing in Wolf Hall. Did you see Wolf Hall?

S: No I didn’t see Wolf Hall. And that’s not the point. NOBODY saw Bridge of Spies. I cannot even adjudicate his performance because I will NEVER see Bridge of Spies. This movie doesn’t exist. So just give it back to Mark Ruffalo and be done with it.

T: Oh man, I hated Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight. Seriously, bullshit performance. 0 stars. However, I rewatched The Kids Are All Right the other day to remind myself that he’s actually brilliant. He shouuld have won for that.

S: The whole category was a joke. You know what, maybe that’s it. Maybe they were bribed to care about Sylvester Stallone and Mark Ruffalo and what’s his name in a wig, and then the Academy went rogue and was like all these people suck let’s at least give it to the guy who was good in Wolf Hall.

Best Original Song: Sam Smith, Jimmy Napes, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’

S: Gaga killed it.

T: Gaga went full on Tori Amos in her song, piano bench humping and all. I liked it.

S: Sam Smith I love you and your message but I loathe Spectre: the film, the song, Daniel Craig’s foot face. To quote The Weeknd, Spectre isn’t worth it, you don’t deserve it. Lady Gaga worked it.

T: So this is a thing now? The Bond theme song automatically goes on to win the Oscar? Fuck you, Sam Smith. The best nominated song was Simple Song #3 from ‘Youth’. I listen to that in my flat all the time, it’s beautiful. But it’s opera and it’s sung by an Asian lady so of course they weren’t going to vote for it.

S: Or like give it to Gaga for The Hunting Ground. Super relevant issue and she’s still a pop star. Just care a little. James Bond is so misogynistic and outdated and terrible.

Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant.

S: Iñárritu ignores the stick man for ages and gives a diversity speech.

T: That’s fucking rich – he’s just made an epic movie where natives are solely depicted as savages or noble tree-whisperers, and the only female character in the whole goddamned thing is a silent native woman who gets repeatedly raped by white men. Sort. It. The. Fuck. Out.

S: Yeah it’s interesting that Iñárritu has now made a career of white male protagonists, and his female characters have actually be terribly stereotypical. He’s talented but definitely not changing the status quo. I might have just had an epiphany that he’s a good TECHNICAL director. But the content is f-ing stereotypical.

T: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jason Moore was snubbed for ‘Sisters’. Who else do you think should have been nominated?

S: Sean Baker for Tangerine. God that was a great film. Shot on iPhones and it looks amazing, such a feat. Champion that direction, Hollywood.

T: Oh God, I’m a big racist transphobe and I have not seen Tangerine. I will endeavour to watch it this week as it’s on UK Netflix.

S: Do it tonight. It’s brilliant. If you are reading this, finish the article because we spent a lot of time on it and then you go watch Tangerine too. Unless you did already and then good for you, Glen Coco.

Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room

S: Brie takes it. No surprises here. We love her. She’s perfect. That’s it, that’s all.

T: But dude, what the fuck is she wearing?

S: I kinda wanted to sweep that under the rug…

T: It should be about the art, not the fashion, but by God that’s the elephant in the room.

S: …but okay you opened the bag: The fashion was the worst it’s ever been. Like I know the 90s are back but guys, not terrible 90s prom dresses. The belt with the matching hair piece and a twist? I’m just going to need to accept that she’s talented and fashion isn’t really her thing. Her stylist should be fired immediately though. Also random side bar did you see Reese Witherspoon with like flouncy poofs across her chest. Like WHO dressed these people?

T: I have no idea what Reese was doing, however I find it brilliant that she and Tina Fey turned up wearing the same thing. And Tina wore it best. Boom.

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

S: Imagine if they snubbed Leo, again, for, like, Matt Damon on Mars. He’d quit Hollywood. He’d die. But he won. Why does every keep giving him standing ovations? It’s sort of annoying. Like I get he got snubbed but hasn’t this night taught us that so do a lot of people? Sorry Leo. There’s bigger fish to fry now. I don’t care about your big important manly film.

T: You know who should have been nominated instead of these losers? Those Ex Machina guys. Probably Domhnall over Oscar but either one really.

S: And Michael B. Jordan. Like if you’re going to nominate Stallone then nominate Black Rocky too. If this is a good movie he clearly contributed to it.

T: You know what was completely snubbed? Macbeth. That movie was fucking incredible. Michael and Marion are a dream team and should have won every award going. So we’re saying the best actor list should have been Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Fassbender (but for Macbeth) – and who’s the 5th?

S: IDRIS ELBA! Bam!

T: FUCKING NAILED IT. Of course. Can you imagine that line-up would have been 3 out of 5 people of colour. And every one of them so much more deserving than any of the dull white dudes who actually got nominated.

Best Picture: Spotlight

S: Oh fuck this, I’m going to bed.

T: Spotlight? Okay I have a lot of feelings about this. Firstly, I fucking hated The Revenant so literally any other movie could have taken it and I’d be super happy. In theory, Spotlight is such a damned Important Film which shines a Spotlight (GEDDIT?) on a really horrible and pervasive issue in society. So, good for it. It was just lifeless as a piece of entertainment. Sorry guys.

S: You know what I’m realizing? This actually was a time warp. No diversity, Spotlight, weird 90s prom dresses. Like wasn’t this the year that Marty Mcfly and Doc go to the future? Something happened with the Delorean and we totally transported back to 1993 and so that’s why this is all happening. MYSTERY SOLVED. You are all welcome.

T: Holy fuck! Who knew? I’m so glad you’re here on this journey with me.

First published on Spindle Magazine.

The Oscar Nominations Sucked Hard

From the inclusion of films with middling reviews to the exclusion of any non-white performers in the acting categories, this year’s Oscar nominations were a mixed bunch, to put it kindly. At Spindle we were so incensed we simply had to vent our frustration, so here our film writers Stephanie Coffey and Thomas Dearnley-Davison provide you with an angry guide to the films up for awards.

Best Picture

The Big Short

T: I don’t need the financial crisis mansplained to me. Buh-bye.

S: To quote my friend Rich Sibblies “it’s the movie where everybody is wearing a wig.” So in the spirit of Amy and Tina we’ll call this “Explosion at the Wig Factory II”.

T: Agreed.

big-short-spindle

Bridge of Spies

S: I don’t even have time to be funny about this one. No. Just no.

T: I’m sure it’s very worthy and all. And I’m sure it has many match-fades to the stars and stripes, because Spielberg. Not my cup of tea really.

Bridge-of-Spies

Brooklyn

S: You know this seems like a nice story that my Irish Nan would tell me.  

T: That’s why I loved this movie. It reminded me of my dear Irish Nan. #immigranttears.

brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

S: You know, I didn’t hate this movie. I never thought it would be an Oscar film, but I’m so angry at awards season I’m kind of like fuck it. GO MAD MAX!

T: I like your chutzpah. I haven’t seen it…I look forward to catching this late at night half-cut and sort-of remembering that it’s pretty good the next day.

mad max

The Martian

S: I watched this on a plane. I was all like fine, I’m on a plane, I’ll watch Interstellar II and find out what happened when Matthew McConaughey left Matt Damon on Mars. I turned it off after 20 minutes and switched to Hot Pursuit starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. Hot Pursuit is a better film than The Martian.

martian-movie

The Revenant

T: Oh God, FINE I’ll go and see this. But I just want people to know I really, really don’t want to. It seems unnecessarily gruelling. I did not enjoy Birdman, so the reviews saying this movie is the best thing since sliced bread do not particularly move me.

S: Honestly, Iñárritu’s wild hair and his goatee. His fervour for life and art make me believe he  knows something I don’t. I’m with Thomas – I really don’t want to see this but, like, I have to.

Room

S: Read my review of Room right here on Spindle! *plugs own work*

room image

Spotlight

S: Am I the only one that feels like I would have cared more about this film in 1993?

T: Where the fuck is Carol?! This list is completely null and void without a nomination for Carol. And 45 Years. This whole list stinks of old white dude. What do you think?

S: I think Inside Out should be Best Picture of the Year. IT’S ABOUT A LITTLE GIRL’S FEELINGS.

Actor

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo

S: “I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.” – Lucille Bluth

bryan cranston trumbo

Matt Damon – The Martian

S:… see above.

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

S: JUST GIVE IT TO LEO. HE TRIED SO HARD.

T: Leo’s going to get this, right? There’s not much else to say here.

Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

S: Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs inspires an unexplained rage in me. Also it’s not your turn Fassbender and we all know you can do better than this. Just patiently wait your turn in the checkout line and you’ll be cashed out soon.

steve jobs michael fassbender

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

T: Eddie’s performance is absolutely atrocious. I have no idea how he was nominated. 

S: Eddie, you’re like the boy in drama class where we’re like… Okay Eddie, we get it. You’re good. Just let someone else have a turn in the improv circle.

Actress

Cate Blanchett – Carol

S: We love you, Cate. Cate would graciously just give it to Brie.

T:  If only it was two months ago, Cate would have swept this. To be fair, Cate has two Oscars so can probably afford to give someone else a go.

carol slider

Brie Larson – Room

T: I’m guessing this will go to Brie Larson? Brie is great so I’m happy for her to get this.

S: You’re very good, Brie. And you’re also very charming and likeable. I would be very fine with you receiving an award. I still love you as Kate Gregson from United States of Tara. Best show. Bring back Tara.

Jennifer Lawrence – Joy

T: I wish they’d have booted out Jennifer Lawrence in favour of Lily Tomlin.

S: If I could somehow time travel, I would erase JLaw’s win for Silver Linings Playbook and then I’d be okay with Joy being her first win, but I’m sorry she cannot have another one.

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

T: HOORAY for Charlotte Rampling. I’m so happy. Brilliant film, magnetic performance.

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

S: You’re very talented, Saoirse! Don’t worry, babe. Your Oscar is coming soon!

T: Yeah and I think she knows that, so we cool this year.

Supporting Actor

Christian Bale – The Big Short

Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Spotlight-movie

S: OMG this category blows. My vote is for Mark Ruffalo because he usually adds value to most films. I am blindly assuming he made Spotlight better.

T: Yeah I wouldn’t be upset if Ruffalo took it. Go Mark! Why not give it to Sylvester Stallone, just for a laugh?

S: It’s not funny to make Sylvestor Stallone an Oscar winner. This is like when Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar.

T: What the hell is Three 6 Mafia?

S: It’s 2006, the handsome Jon Stewart is hosting and Three 6 Mafia wins Best Original Song for the acclaimed “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.” Queen Latifah announces the winner and can’t even contain her confusion. Jon Stewart utters the famous quote “I just want to make something very clear: Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars; Three 6 Mafia, one.”

T: Oh god I remember! THEY BEAT DOLLY PARTON FOR BEST SONG. Sacrilege. Also, ‘the handsome Jon Stewart’? Okay Mom.

S: I happen to find Jon Stewart very attractive. He was a mediocre host, but still.

Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara – Carol

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight

Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

T: Firstly, Rachel McAdams stole Jane Fonda’s nomination. I mean I’m sure she’s a nice girl and all but it’s fucking J. Fo, for Christ’s sake. Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander are both leads, so shouldn’t be here anyway. Who’s going to take this? Winslet just won the Globe…do we think she’s the frontrunner here? OH GOD we could have Kate and Leo winning on the same night! Amazing.

kate-winslet-golden-globes-2016-win

S: No no no. Thomas, Kate’s fine. She won for The Reader. We don’t want a Meryl repeat where she wins for a crap film. And let the Kate and Leo thing go. She married Ned Rocknroll, we can’t trust her love life anymore.

T: As Amy Lavelle said here on Spindle, “I don’t know which is more offensive; his first name or his last”

S: Kudos, Amy. You’re going to change your last name to Rocknroll and you’re like you know what would sound really cool with that… Ned?

T: Also, I did not like The Reader.

S: Well that’s something we will need to discuss, in length, over Skype. Because she was amazing. But in anycase, Kate does not need a Best Supporting and especially not for this crap Steve Jobs film where she didn’t do anything.

T: Okay then who deserves it? I’d be happy with Rooney.

S: Alicia Vikander is giving me major big star vibes and I want her to win everything. Actually, wait. If this is how I feel then she should not win Best Supporting as it can be the kiss of death and she’s a lead! Fine I’ll be okay with Rooney. She’s quaint.

T: You haven’t seen Carol, which makes you gaycist.

S: YOU STOLE IT FROM ME. You stole Carol and Brooklyn and Suffragette! Damn UK release dates.

T: I’m sorry the release dates changed and I got to review it first

S: I’m also curious as to why Rachel McAdams specifically stole J.Fo’s nod…?

T: J.Fo was a shoo-in the whole time, and Rachel McAdams was a maybe at best. All the other nominees were locked-in quite a while ago, ergo Rachel McAdams stole J.Fo’s nomination. Rachel McAdams is really short. I saw her in Toronto at the LCBO at Dundas and Dovercourt one time.

Director

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

Alejandro G Iñárritu – The Revenant

Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Adam McKay – The Big Short

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

the-revenant

T: Lenny Abrahamson for Room but no Todd Haynes for Carol? Really? Isn’t the whole thing about Room that the film is less good than the performances? How the fuck did this happen? I am so upset. All these other people can fuck off. I’m sure Iñárritu will probably take it and we can all go take a nap.

S: Yes. Iñárritu will win. He will talk about the passion of filmmaking and I will be like YES Iñárritu! I’m into this!

T: He won last year. He needs to back the fuck up.

S: Well then they should have included someone who is a decent contender. Like if Ridley was there they could be doing the Stallone thing and be like “here take this, here’s an award 30 years later.” Or as my friend Keri Wallace said “It could be his Training Day” Shout out to Keri Wallace who also cares a lot about pop culture.

T: I would have said Todd Haynes (obvs) but also Andrew Haigh for 45 Years. You know what? Let’s just fuck it all and include whoever directed Trainwreck or Sisters or Grandma or some other lady picture.

S: So our final decision is the director of Sisters? I’m okay with that.

T: Yes. Jason Moore should have been nominated for Sisters.

S: This is how little we care about this category. There is now a space in my brain that knows the Director of Sisters’ name.

Sisters-Tina-Fey-Amy-Poehler

Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

T: Everyone is wanking over The Big Short, but we all know this should go to Carol. Phyllis Nagy’s script is beautiful. But because MEN is the theme this year, it will go to Explosion in the Wig Factory II.

S: Thomas nailed it. I can’t add anything here at the risk of being redundant.

Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

T: I bet this goes to Spotlight because it’s such an Important film with lots of well-meaning white men in it.

S: Spotlight lost to Philadelphia in 1993.

T: Inside Out. Hands down.

S: INSIDE OUT IS ABOUT A LITTLE GIRL’S FEELINGS. It should win.

T: It’s one of the few films in the whole list that deals with women and feelings, and seeing as Carol ain’t gonna get shit then Inside Out should.

S: Agreed. Preach.
INSIDE-OUT-19

Cinematography

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

T: Well Steph, you’re the cinematographer so you tell me? I vote Carol, because they did a thing with a type of film and stuff (I can’t remember all the clever things about cameras I wrote in my review.)

S: Odd category. My money is on The Revenant because they went into the wilderness and the cinematographer froze to death.

T: Ugh, how long are they going to bang on about the wilderness element? You’re a Canadian cinematographer. You go out into the cold with a camera and freeze to death all the time. You should have an Oscar. In fact, I’m changing my vote. Stephanie Coffey for the win.

S: YES. STEPHANIE COFFEY for the win. I’m going to be a big star. But these people are in Hollywood. They don’t understand snow there so they are very impressed with these men and the elements.

the hateful eight

Costume Design

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

T: I vote Carol once again. Magnificent. I hope The Danish Girl doesn’t get it because I want that film to go away empty-handed and think about what it’s done. Also, Sandy Powell is a legend so if she wins for Carol or Cinders then I’d be happy.

S: Sigh. There were A LOT of dresses in The Danish Girl. So. Many. Pretty. Dresses. I would be happy with Carol or The Danish Girl.  

the danish girl uk release

Best Make-up and Hair

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

T: Firstly, what is this film called The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared? The Academy are now making films up just to see if anyone’s paying attention in the smaller categories.

S: This is like hour three of the show. Everyone’s bored and like “fuck, just get to Best Actor and Actress so I can turn it off and find out about Best Picture tomorrow.” They throw in this fake film just to see if you’ve fallen asleep. The Academy is all like ‘Gotcha.” The Academy, they’re such pranksters.

T: Will Mad Max get this one? Oh God, it’s going to be The Revenant isn’t it!

S: You know what? I was going to go on a diatribe about how the makeup was actually really good in Mad Max. I was really impressed. I forgot it’s a bunch of old white dudes who are going to be really impressed with how Leo has icicles on his face in the wilderness.

T: Can we just refer to Revenant as The Wilderness from now on?

S: You took the words right out of my mouth…

Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

T: Oof, tricky: how do you put costume stuff against sci-fi stuff? The Academy leans towards costume dramas in these categories so I’m thinking Danish Girl or Wilderness takes it. Although there is a lot of love for Mad Max, so it could swoop in and take it.

S: I know you still think The Danish Girl should sit in the corner and think about what it did. But those sets were really stunning. I’m going to vote Danish Girl. If they only win the side awards, like the ones where really talented people tried really hard, is that okay?

T: Okay fine. I will accept craft awards because that was the only thing good about it.

T: There are some other awards, but I don’t care about those.

S: Phew I didn’t want to do anymore either. Production Design is where I draw the line. I really only pay attention to the other awards because I’m in this pool where forty bucks is at stake…

 

Theatre Review: Bull @ The Young Vic

There’s a reason why Mike Bartlett’s funny and brutal ‘Bull’ runs only 55 minutes. If you sat through two and a half hours of this, you would lose your mind. 

We’re invited to spectate as three employees at an unnamed corporation battle it out to keep their jobs. Corporate downsizing means one of them is about to be fired, and big boss Carter (Nigel Lindsay) is coming any minute to decide who’s for the chopping block: icy, manipulative Isobel (Susannah Fielding), cocky, arrogant Tony (Max Bennett) or jittery, insecure Thomas (Marc Wootton).

The action takes place in a boxing ring, and there couldn’t be a more appropriate setting to witness the bullying, power-plays and outright psychological warfare waged by Isobel and Tony against hapless Thomas. Marc Wootton’s portrayal of a man out of his depth in this cutthroat world is faultless, sadly suggesting that this may not be a unique situation for one of life’s perennial losers. Bennett and Fielding tear into their roles with glee, aptly circling him like bloodhounds ready to take down the weakest of the pack.

bull 2

Director Clare Lizzimore manages to marry the raw physicality of a boxing match with the outward civility of a 21st-century office environment. Isobel’s sleek hair and perfect make-up belie her barely-concealed viciousness, while at one point the lean, muscular Tony displays his washboard torso to Thomas for a good five minutes as a primal declaration of superiority. (Unbelievably I was seated directly behind Max Bennett during this sequence, and therefore denied what was undoubtedly a glorious view).

Carter finally arrives and while he offers helpful take-downs of each of the characters, (a wonderful, brief performance from Lindsay as the boss we’ve all had who just has no time for all your whinging), he’s ultimately on the side of the alphas.

Max Bennett is convincing as Tony, fully inhabiting his smarm and public-school superiority complex, but he draws the short straw with a character who gets much less to do than his sparring partners. Instead the spoils go to Susannah Fielding, who gets to deliver the powerhouse speech that brings the play to its climax and finally brings Thomas’ house of cards tumbling down.

Bartlett offers no easy answers: ‘Bull’ asks what happens when we abandon our compassion and attack those perceived to be weaker than us. The answer, apparently, is that we survive.

  • ‘Bull’ is on at The Young Vic until January 16th. Tickets £25; £10 ringside standing tickets are available for each performance.

Theatre Review: Barbarians

“There’s always a fucking wall in the way. Always get so far, and there’s a wall to block it.”

The characters in Barrie Keefe’s Barbarians, revived at The Young Vic, are always on the wrong side of those walls, struggling to catch a break in a world where the odds are stacked against them. School-leavers Paul (Brian Vernel), Jan (Alex Austin) and Louis (Fisayo Akinade) roam the streets of 1970s Lewisham – a place where even their school Careers Advisor is now on the dole – looking not just for employment but purpose, acceptance and a sense of belonging. Keefe’s play, first staged in 1977, shows us in brutal detail the anger, violence and intolerance that erupts when society turns its back on its youth.

The audience is confronted by the characters’ anger from the second they enter the space. The actors prowl and sneer, making uncomfortable eye contact as you shuffle into your seat and look for a safe spot to place your mid-range Merlot. At this point we are the insiders, the oppressors; representatives of the system. Hemmed in by a sparse, chipboard set, the actors kick and punch and scramble to be heard. Brian Vernel’s Paul, in particular, will not be ignored. The most hopeless of the trio, his predilection for petty crime and physical violence prove to be his only outlets for his anger, embodied in a chilling performance by Vernel.

There’s hope among the bleakness for Louis, recent graduate of a refrigeration course who suspects there’s more to life than his current lot. Fisayo Akinade perfectly captures Louis’ mixture of naivety and burgeoning awareness, saying in our recent interview that “out of the three of them I feel that he matures the most, which is a really great arc to play – that sort of slow realisation that actually your mates may not be the best thing for you.”

Alex Austin does well with a difficult character, stuck between these two worlds – will he find the surrogate family he craves in the army cadets, or does the answer lie with the National Front? Racism is of course the thread that runs through the piece, pulsing with an ugly energy (complemented by the excellent music and sound design throughout) – eventually rearing its head with devastating consequences.

While the material is somewhat dated by references to Thatcher, Doc Marten’s and the Front, Director Liz Stevenson does well to bring to the fore Barbarians’ central warning: that if we turn our back on our youth, the consequences will be dire.

  • Barbarians runs from until 19 December at The Young Vic. Tickets £10/£15 available on the Young Vic website.

Interview: Fisayo Akinade On Banana & Barbarians

To call Fisayo Akinade a ‘rising star’ would be something of an understatement after the 2015 he’s had: earlier this year he shot to fame as the irrepressible Dean on Russell T. Davies’ shows Cucumber and Banana, before appearing opposite Dame Judi in election day themed play The Vote at Donmar Warehouse.  Now, he’s embarking on his first starring theatre role in Barrie Keefe’s Barbarians. He plays Louis, one of three youths in 1970s Lewisham who leave school to find that nothing but unemployment and disappointment await them. We spoke to Fisayo during rehearsals at The Young Vic to talk diversity, zombies and getting advice from Russell T. Davies.   

Barbarians was first written in the 70s – were you aware of the play before it came to you?   

No, I had no idea. I’d seen Barrie’s film The Long Good Friday, but I had no idea it was written by him. So I had no idea this play existed until the audition came. Then when I read it, I knew I had to do it. It’s just so brilliant. Even so many years later it still resonates with what’s happening now with the state of our government and with the state of unemployment in the country. You can draw so many parallels with what the play was saying then and with what’s happening now, so in a way it’s remained timeless. It’s just so well written and so darkly funny and honest – brutally at times. It was a real privilege to just to read it.

So was that what attracted you to the role of Louis?

There are actually quite a few similarities between me and Louis. He comes from a very loving family, not from a broken home like Jan and he hasn’t got abusive parents like Paul. So even though he’s a part of this culture with the jeans, the Dr. Martins and the braces, he’s coming at it from a much more comfortable place, which immediately sets him apart from the other two. His home life isn’t terrible, although outside this sphere he’s not doing too well – he’s unemployed, he’s got these skills but he’s got no work. That was a really interesting thing to play. Then to play the fact that he really really wants to make a go of things, he doesn’t want to be broke, he doesn’t want to be on the dole and he doesn’t want to be unemployed. So every time an opportunity comes along he just throws himself in and I thought that was a really lovely quality. You see that develop as the play goes on. The play spans three years of their lives and out of the three of them I feel that he matures the most, which is a really great arc to play – that sort of slow realisation that actually your mates may not be the best thing for you. He’s just a really interesting character and as soon as I read it I just said “yes, please!”

 

Alex Austin and Fisayo Akinade in rehearsal for Barbarians.

Alex Austin and Fisayo Akinade in rehearsal for Barbarians.

Would you say that you’re more drawn to roles about social issues?

I think it’s more about good stories, and I think good stories are often relatable. When people can see a bit of themselves in it, it resonates with everybody. I was part of some shows I was really proud of – Refugee Boy was amazing because we had Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees come up afterwards and thank you because they hadn’t seen their stories told before, so it was really amazing to be a part of.

 

What’s it been like returning to the theatre?

You don’t realise how much you miss something until you go back to it. It’s been really lovely to be back in a rehearsal room with the other actors and to have conversations about the characters and the story at length. Whereas on TV you sort of have to do that on your own in your room.

 

This year has been huge for you, especially with your roles on Banana and Cucumber – do you feel like this has opened doors for you?

Definitely. I hadn’t done any TV until Cucumber came along and ramped my life up a gear! There have really been lots of incredible opportunities that have come off the back of that, it’s been a really great springboard for me.

My aim was never to be a star, it was simply to produce good things with good people and I think I’ve really managed that. Working with Russell on Cucumber and Banana was like a dream come true. We all know Russell’s work and we all know he’s a genius, but for him to really get behind me and take me under his wing has been incredible. He’s a really wonderful man.

 

He’s done that with a lot of the cast of Cucumber and Banana – newcomers who are now really on the map because of his investment in them.

Definitely – you’ve got Letitia Wright, who in my mind there is no doubt that she is going to be a mega star. Charlie Covell is just excellent, Dino Fetscher did an episode – Russell has just been really great.

He said to me once “I’m a middle class white man and it would be very easy for me to write from this perspective – but I’m aware of that so I change it.” So in the script it says ‘Meet Dean, he’s 19 years old and black’; ‘Meet Scotty, she’s 21 and black’ – he writes it in so Producers and Casting Directors have no choice but to cast the roles that way. He really pushes for representation on screen.

 

Who would you really love to work with? Do you have a dream role?

There are people that I would love to work with. Steve McQueen, Dominic Cooke – Paul Thomas Anderson would be a dream come true. I just want interesting characters!

 

What’s coming up next for you?

I’m really enjoying the ride – there’s a lot of cool things coming up and I just hope I’m in the mix for them.

 

And you’ve just finished shooting a zombie movie?

Yes! That was called She Who Brings Gifts with Glenn Close, Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton. I got to shoot some guns which was really fun! It was a bit surreal to wake up every morning, get to the set and Glenn’s there to greet you.

 

Can you remember the best piece of advice you’ve been given that you’d like to pass on?

I know often you can get impatient and want the big job right off the bat, and a friend said to me “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” If you sprint you’re there now, you’ll have a great six months and then that will be it. Whereas if you methodically go from job to job and just enjoy the ride you will have a longer career.

Russell also gave me a good piece of advice about being out in the media. The question is: are you gay? Yes you are. And that’s it.  If you say it right off the bat and you’re open in your everyday life then you can talk about the thing you’re there to talk about, which is normally the work and not your personal life.

  • Fisayo Akinade stars in Barbarians, which runs from 27 November to 19 December at the Young Vic. Tickets £10/£15. £10 preview tickets are available 27 November to 1 December. Tickets available on the Young Vic website.

Film Review: Carol

The news that director Todd Haynes was filming a 1950s-set love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara set many pulses racing.

After all, this is the same man who’d helmed the lush, female-centric period dramas Mildred Pierce and Far From Heaven. But if you’re expecting more of the same here, then you may be in for a surprise. Haynes has never been a predictable film-maker, so though he returns to what may seem like familiar territory, he delivers what is possibly his best work to date: an intelligent film full of grace and beauty, anchored by bewitching lead performances by Blanchett and Mara.

Based on the 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel ‘The Price of Salt’, Carol concerns Therese Belivet (Mara), a young department store worker who has a chance encounter with the more mature, glamorous housewife of the title (Blanchett) while she shops for Christmas gifts for her young daughter. Some flirtatious chat and a misplaced pair of gloves later, and the two are reconnecting over lunch in a dimly lit restaurant, all meaningful glances and careful confidences.

But wordly, sophisticated Carol is not as put-together behind closed doors: her marriage has fallen apart and her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) is all-too aware of her lesbian predilections. It makes sense that she’s drawn to youthful, innocent Therese as the prospect of a Christmas away from her daughter looms: but the separation may be more permanent as her husband’s jealousy turns litigious and the relationship between Carol and Therese is threatened.

For much of the film, Carol remains a mystery, even to herself: Haynes emphasises this by often shooting her with her back to us, or through misty windows and just out of sight on the side of the frame. As the film progresses and the relationship between the two women becomes intimate, Therese joins Carol on the other side of the glass. This being the early 1950s, their relationship is utterly secret and must take place in a private, interior world. Haynes invites us in, and many of the film’s comedic moments come from us being in on the joke: take, for instance, the utter disregard which the women treat an oblivious salesman who tries to flirt with them.

Carol cory michael smith

While many of Haynes’ fans may be hoping for a picture-perfect, sweeping melodrama, Carol avoids many of the familiar clichés that mid-century set queer dramas often fall into. Blanchett does finally get a barnburner of a scene in a lawyer’s office towards the end of the film, but generally the urge to kick and punch and scream at the oppressiveness that surrounds the characters is resisted throughout.

The opportunity to see the film on 32mm in a special screening at Picturehouse Central was a delight, as shooting on Super 16 mm gives the film a grainy, richly textured look – “like shooting through a nicotine haze”, said Haynes at a Q+A session after the showing. Cinematographer Edward Lachman won the Golden Frog for Best Cinematography at the Camerimage Festival, and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t take home the Academy Award too.

While it looks absolutely stunning, Carol has a rather muted colour palette and adheres more closely to the true run-down greyness of post-war New York City. The city of 2015 proved impossible to shoot in, so filming instead took place in Cincinnati – a city in a time capsule, according to Haynes, who spoke of referring closely to an image book to create the look of Carol. Photographers such as Saul Leitner and Esther Bubley provided reference points for every department, from art direction to costuming and indeed the actors themselves. The supporting cast, which includes Sarah Paulson and Jake Lacy, are also top-notch, and even the non-union extras that populate the film seem to have stepped right out of Haynes’ image book.

Aided by Sandy Powell’s costumes, and hair and make-up with the finest attention to detail, Blanchett and Rooney truly look like they’re from the 1950s. Their intelligent, sensitive performances lend the film a rich, fiery inner life, even in its moments of stillness and chilly distance.

Carol is the romantic drama that Audrey Hepburn and Joan Crawford never got to make. It may not be quite what you’re expecting, but it will certainly leave you utterly bewitched.

  • Carol is released in the UK on November 27th. Spindle recommends seeing the film in the delightful surroundings of Picturehouse Central, just off Piccadilly Circus.

Is Kylie’s Latest Pop Effort The Result of Ageism?

Kylie Minogue’s latest album Kiss Me Once has just been released to affectionate – if not quite ecstatic – praise, and having listened to it a few times, I’ve already classed it as a guilty pleasure. A really, really guilty pleasure.

Because it’s like sugar; addictive and sweet, yet no good for me. I firmly believe there is a place in the world for carefree pop music – you can’t spend your life endlessly listening to Morrissey, after all – but when even the most shamelessly commercial pop music starts to feel cynical and calculated, you have to ask what’s going on. Why do I feel so patronised?

Kiss Me Once is the latest example of a worrying trend in which mature women in pop aren’t allowed to be just that – mature. Coming hot on the heels of Madonna’s lacklustre MDNA and Cher’s disappointing Closer To The Truth, Kiss Me Once tell us once and for all that older women in pop aren’t allowed to grow up and develop their artistic style; while all these albums have a scattering of great, catchy pop tunes, they overwhelmingly seem cynically produced to appeal to gay men and tweens – two demographics I didn’t think had much crossover appeal.

It’s not as if these women have always produced mindless mass-appeal pop either. Madonna co-wrote Like A Prayer and Frozen; now she sings to her lover ‘I’ll give you the password to my phone’ – quite the admission of love and trust, if you’re 13. Cher, who once longed to Turn Back Time, now implores ‘all the women in the club, stand up’, while Kylie, who breathily invited us to ‘Confide In Me’, now invites us to ‘Sexercise’.

I’m not saying that older women can’t be fun, playful and sexy, and there are those that would argue these artists are making a bold assertion of their vitality: ‘look at me, I’m not over the hill yet’. But I don’t believe that any of these women find it particularly empowering trying to keep up with the Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez crowd. The fact is, the inanity of these lyrics and the bland, over-produced music that they are set to seems to make a bold statement about what, if anything, mature women have to contribute in the pop landscape. It’s do or die: act like a 15 year old, or disappear forever.

Many of the filler songs that pack these records feel as if they were written for Miley or Selena initially. (Note: Cher actually covered Miley Cyrus’ ‘Lie To Me’ on her last album. Cher does Miley? Universe implosion imminent.) Does anyone truly believe that if Madonna wanted to write an album where she tried something a bit different or wrote lyrics about her experiences from a more mature perspective, the result would be a dud?

MDNA may have reached number one on music charts in most countries, but it still ranks as the lowest-selling album of Madonna’s career. And for the record, she was 40 when she co-wrote the Ray of Light album, some of the best work of her career. Did anyone worry about her ‘advanced age’ then? No, because they were too busy listening to an interesting, complex and mature record.

I guess we should have seen this coming with Madonna – after the misstep of her American Life album, she made a clear decision to get the gays back on side by sampling Abba’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ on the electro-disco track ‘Hung Up’. It seems that at that point Madge – or her management – decided they would stop trying to push boundaries and instead go with lowest common denominator tween-pop-lite approach.

Is this simply unabashed capitalism or deeply entrenched ageism? I say the truth lies somewhere in between, and while I look forward to the day we get a new Ray of Light or Impossible Princess, I guess I’ll have to content myself with an amazing and varied body of work by three amazing women.

Originally published on Lifetime Television