Category Archives: Film

Oscar Nominations 2017

While this year’s Oscar nominations have been praised for their record-breaking diversity, they’ve also been criticised for some major snubs and the inclusion of some fairly undesirable characters. Two steps forward, one step back; still, progress?

Here with me to discuss the nominees are Cinematographer Stephanie Coffey and Poet Ben Ladouceur. 

Best Picture

Arrival

T: This is one of my favourite films of Oscar season. I saw it twice! It’s about a lady saving the world through communication and compassion! It’s smart sci-fi in the vein of Ex Machina and Never Let Me Go.

B: And Eternal Sunshine! But I didn’t like the font they used when they suddenly started giving the alien language subtitles. It was a terrible font I am trying to forget. I hope this movie loses.

T: Completely reasonable.

S: I still haven’t seen it. I will, I promise. But I can’t help but think it’s a bargain bin Contact. I’m sorry Amy. I love you. If I ever get famous and this surfaces, please still work with me.

T: Contact was…ungood. “They should have sent a poet” – Jodie Foster. Fun fact: Arrival was also the name of Abba’s first great album and the title song has bagpipes in it.

B: I wish this movie had bagpipes in it. But we’ll talk about the soundtrack later.

Fences

S: I’m going on Thursday! I’ve been warned it’s like five hundred hours of non stop dialogue! I can’t wait to see Viola’s snot nose crying in more context than the trailer.

B: Yesterday I rewatched her seven-minute movie-stealing scene in “Doubt” and there was a lot of nose dripping. And a lot of blinking. She’s cracked the code of acting: equal parts snot and blinks. That’s how you win awards. That’s all it is.

Hacksaw Ridge

T: No.

S: Why did we just forget that Mel Gibson is anti-semitic and terrible? God, Hollywood you have the memory of a goldfish. No, Mel Gibson you can’t come to the party…

Hell or High Water

T: No.

S: “I don’t understand the question, therefore I won’t respond.” – Lucille Bluth. I’m pretty sure I used this joke last year but it still applies.

Hidden Figures

T: Yey Hidden Fences.

S: This movie looks fun. I think I’m going to take my mom!

T: Let’s all take our Mums! Even though mine is kinda racist, she really loves all the Shondaland shows so she’ll probably dig this.

La La Land

T: This film was a delightful confection. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but two minutes after leaving the cinema I’d forgotten everything that had happened. Hollow. “La La Land ties with All About Eve and Titanic for most Oscar nominations ever!” – yeah, All About Eve had FIVE nominations for acting. Blah Blah Bland and All About Eve are not comparable. Bye.

S: Ugh. I wanted to love this. I thought this movie was going to save me from my bleak winter and fill my heart with joy. There were a lot of nice things about this movie. It was pretty, it had gorgeous cinematography but it just felt flat. It didn’t have that something special. I had no tears and I wanted tears. I also think the last five minutes was better than the whole movie. 

B: I’m sick of show business movies winning awards. Like, there are so many movies about Hollywood. It’s why I hated Birdman. The guy’s problem is he wants to be a successful actor. That’s a pretty specific conflict for so many “must-see” films to have in common. There are so many career fields, ripe for the dramatizing! Where’s the must-see blockbuster about, like, beekeepers? Or proofreaders? Show me it.

Lion

T: This keeps being described as ‘moving’, so I guess I’ll see it.

S: I keep having amnesia about this film. I keep forgetting what Nicole Kidman is doing at events and things. And then I’m like “oh right you did a movie”.  I’ll watch it on my couch when Netflix releases it in a few weeks.

Manchester By the Sea

T: This was very good. Sad white men are important. Kenneth Lonergan is a great writer and director, but if you want to watch a really great film of his with similar themes, check out You Can Count On Me. It has all the same stuff – loner guy, small town, family death – except it also stars Laura Linney. And thus is vastly superior. Write-in Best Picture nomination for You Can Count On Me!

S: You had me at Laura Linney. I vote for this write-in!

Moonlight

S: Moonlight had some story structure flaws. It could have been a bit tighter and the characters a bit more developed but looking at the whole category it might have been the best of the bunch. Until I see Contact II, it has my vote.

T: Missing: Jackie. What the hell?! Out of this lot, I’d probably go with Arrival to be honest.

S: Hidden Fences! I vote for that.

B: I feel like it’ll be the Manchester By the Sea movie because things happening next to water is very moving to people.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Dev Patel (Lion)

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

T: GWAN MICHAEL SHANNON. I thought he was great in Nocturnal Animals.

S: Weird that the Globes went for Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Sorry Thomas, but I think that was a better choice. Taylor-Johnson was needlessly sinister and such a nut bar. For the Globes, I still felt like I liked Mahershala Ali better but I was like okay Aaron Taylor-Johnson played a pretty good nut bar. I’ll allow this. But Michael Shannon. Man detective. Meh.

T: A testament to the wide range of male-centric stories just dying to be told, this category features not one but TWO grizzled southern sheriffs with Shannon and Jeff Bridges. But I just really, really like Michael Shannon.

S: I don’t understand this, so I’m going to talk about how Jeff Bridges made a sleeping tape. He recorded himself talking peacefully. You can listen to it and have good dreams thanks to Jeff Bridges. It’s like meditation. You can find it at www.dreamingwithjeff.com. For some reason he teamed up with the my website provider. What up squarespace? It popped up one day when I went in to log onto my website and update it… I was like WTF Jeff Bridges. This is hilarious. I posted it on Facebook and no one took the bait….but now people have to listen to me!

T: Lucas Hedges is a great young talent who provides some much needed light and shade to this movie. A nice contrast to Casey Affleck’s misery-fest performance. You go Lucas! Dev, you will always be the kid from Skins. But good for you.

S: I fuckin’ love Skins. Cassie was so crazy. In my opinion Ali was the best thing about Moonlight. I loved his performance and when he holds little Chiron in the sea. That was such a beautiful moment and so I think he should win.

B: Simon Helberg was great in Florence Foster Jenkins and maybe should have been nominated in this category. That’s my hot take.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

T: Casey Affleck is a sex rapist*. Hollywood doesn’t mind that, though. They gave Woody Allen his most recent Oscar in 2012 and he’s a proven child sex rapist. Anyway, Affleck is quite good in this and the likely winner.

*Casey Affleck is an alleged sexual harasser.

S: Yes. I banned this movie because I don’t care about it and I don’t want to support men accused of sexual harassment. Sorry Casey. You are a bargain bin Ben Affleck and even he is bargain bin so you are like the DVD that has scratches on it and has to be thrown away. Also I learned from the Golden Globes he only got this role because Matt Damon turned it down which for some reason is funny to me.

 

T: Andrew Garfield, you were great in Boy A and Never Let Me Go so I can’t begrudge you this. I just have no intention of ever seeing this movie.

S: I quite like him. But no to this movie. Never Let Me Go was a very good film. Should we just talk about that film instead?

T: Never Let Me Go is heartbreaking and filled with brilliant performances. The resigned sadness in Carey Mulligan’s face at the end, and that beautiful score. So haunting.

B: And Keira Knightley being vindictive and desperate both at the same time effectively! Ugggh. Never Let Me Go should win best actor.

S: See this is waaay better. I feel calmer already…

T: Ryan Gosling’s nomination is baffling.

B: Oh yeah? How come? I haven’t seen it yet. Is he just okay?

T: He’s charming Ryan Gosling doing his charming Ryan Gosling thing. Lovely dancing, but that’s it.

S: Yes, Thomas is right. It’s just Ryan Gosling playing the piano and looking hot. He’s been in MUCH better films than this.  Give him a retroactive Oscar for Place Beyond the Pines, or Half Nelson, or Blue Valentine. Heck, Young Hercules! Breaker High! Something else.  

Someone else! – Homer Simpson

B: Young Hercules!

S: If the Academy wasn’t a bunch of annoying losers they would be all like, “We’re really, reaaaally sorry Denzel for giving you an Oscar for Training Day. Here is a real Oscar for a movie you put your heart and soul into.” But no they’ll give it to Casey Affleck. BOOOOOOOO.

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Emma Stone (La La Land)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

T: Oh, Emma. You did your best, but there wasn’t much to work with. You’re only an okay singer and you didn’t have many beats to play. My main beef with her win here is that in a couple of years I’m confident she will deliver an absolutely brilliant performance in a much better film and won’t win because they already gave it to her here.

S:  This one is really heartbreaking for me. I love Emma. I always have. But this just wasn’t very good and you just weren’t very good in it. I think the okay singer thing was my biggest problem. Like, it’s a musical. You have to be a good singer. Those are the rules. I didn’t make them. I agree with Thomas. Her Oscar is like three years away and it’s going to be amazing.

T: Natalie Portman IS Jackie Kennedy. She plays the different layers of Jackie’s grief so well. THIS is the one that should win.

S: I like Natalie. I still hate Oscar baiting biopics. But sure, give it to her.

T: You know what? Florence Foster Jenkins is the kind of late-career Meryl performance that people sneer at. The fact is, Meryl is excellent in this, as usual. Will it be mentioned anywhere in her obituary? No.

B: Yes yes, go Meryl. But this is the slot that should have been Amy Adams’. It’s crazy that she’s not on here. She’s a total Overlooked Olga.

S: Lol to overlooked Olga.

T: An egregious oversight, especially seeing as Arrival was nominated for eight awards and she basically is the whole movie. Also missing: Sarah Paulson for Blue Jay, Susan Sarandon for The Meddler and Sally Field for Hello, My Name Is Doris. Come at me.

S: I fear Amy is like too good and then each year some one-off comes in and takes her Oscar. Like everyone every year is like yeah, yeah, she’s amazing but did you see? Emma danced this year! Amy is so long overdue. WHERE IS HER OSCAR?

B: I hope Huppert wins. This movie was batshit crazy. It’s by the Showgirls director. This movie is like Showgirls, but France instead of LA, and the video game industry instead of the stripper industry, and a fantastic lead actress instead of a terrible one. Also about times as much sexual violence. And it does that French movie thing where there are like 10 supporting characters with their own little subplots for no reason. Oh, I want to see this again. No idea why it isn’t on the foreign nominee list, though to be fair I haven’t seen any of the movies that actually made it onto the list. #teamisabelle

T: Loving has been under the radar but the love for Ruth Negga’s performance has been solid. Good for her.

S: Yeah, why is this film so under the radar? Ruth Negga is stunning and I heard she was really good in this. I will watch sometime this week and report back.

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (Fences)

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

T: I BEEN STANDIN’ BESIDE YOU FOR EIGHTEEN YEARS. Enough said. A wagon of Oscars for Viola. Technically a lead performance? Anyway, this puts her closer to EGOT as after this she will have an Emmy, Oscar and a Tony.

S:  Viola got her Globe this year. So all she needs is the O.

T:  No Steph, the G is for Grammy…

S: Oh. I don’t think she’s ever getting a Grammy.

T: Three words: spoken word album

S: She just does a spoken word album to get the EGOT?

T: All she has to do is narrate a bunch of nursery rhymes and she’s there.

B: Even just her reading the classifieds. And it would be in the bag.

S: I’m still bummed it wasn’t a lead. This is a lead performance. Viola deserves BEST ACTRESS etched on her Oscar.

T: Fun slash sad fact: with her third nomination, Viola Davis becomes the black performer with the most Oscar nominations in history. Another fun slash sad fact: this is only the third time that three actors of colour have been nominated in a single category. The other years were 2004 and 2007. And our final fun slash sad fact: Octavia is the first black woman to be nominated for another Oscar after winning. Hattie, Whoopi, Halle, Jennifer, Monique and Lupita haven’t managed it. (Sidebar, Hattie is dead, so never will.)

B: Lupita will get around to it some time soon.

S: I love Octavia. Two for Octavia! You go Octavia! Sidebar of my own: can we please find a way to give Whoopi another Oscar? SISTER ACT 3: HABITUAL HABITING

T: “There was one habit she just couldn’t break…”

S: “…dressing up as a Nun for obscure reasons.”

T: So, Michelle Williams is in Manchester by the Sea for ten minutes and just cries the whole time. No.

B: Umm if that’s true it makes me want to see it more.

T: …why?

S: Yeah, Ben…Why?

B: She cries well. Why hasn’t there been a Joni Mitchell biopic yet? When they get around to making one, it will suddenly occur to everyone that Michelle Williams is the perfect person. And she’ll just cry and smoke and play guitar. Doesn’t that sound good?

T: Okay, yeah, I can see that. Better than Taylor fucking Swift doing it anyhow.

Best Score

Jackie

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

T: La La Land gets this, right? Aside from that, Jackie has a great score and I’m surprised Arrival isn’t nominated in this category. Also, apparently Dustin O’Halloran, who did the excellent music for Transparent, is now an Oscar nominee for Lion. Well done Dustin!

B: Fun fact, Arrival was disqualified because the song at the beginning and end isn’t an original song. It’s called “On the Nature of Daylight” and it’s in every movie you’ve ever seen. And movies are disqualified if they have too many non-original songs diluting the original material. And to be fair, when you think of music from Arrival, this is the song you think of.

S: Thanks for that fun fact, Ben! It’s important to educate our audiences!

T: I agree that’s a very memorable part of the score, and I love Max Richter, but for me the standout part is where it keeps going WAAAAAAAAAAARGH really loudly and made me jump.

S: WTF Passengers? I think it has to go to La La Land because if the musical movie doesn’t win best score then what is it doing?

Best Song

Audition (La La Land)

Can’t Stop the Feeling! (Trolls)

City of Stars (La La Land)

The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)

How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

T: This is a toss-up between the Academy’s boner for La La Land and their boner for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m gonna say that this goes to Lin because he’s the man of the moment, the decade, the century.

B: I haven’t heard any of these songs so my pick is “The Empty Chair” because I assume it is a sequel to the Les Mis song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” about how the tables aren’t empty anymore but there’s this one chair that’s still empty and it’s too bad.

T: Okay but who is Jim James Foley? And why does he have these disparate empty chairs and tables? Is he a lesser Les Mis character? This category raises more questions than it answers.

S: Hahah. WHO THE HELL IS JIM JAMES FOLEY? He was Prisoner 24602. He was right  behind Jean Valjean. Didn’t you see him?

T: Um so you know how Wicked tells the flipside of Wizard of Oz? Maybe we could write a musical called 24602 about this guy whose chair is empty.

S: OMG. This might be our life’s purpose. Real talk though: I actually liked City of Stars. It was catchy in a cute, mumbly sort of way. I’ll go with that.

Best Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

T: La La Land. Honest to God. Give it a rest. Give it to 20th Century Women, because ladies. Fun fact: that movie is the same director as Beginners, which I know absolutely crushed you Steph.

S: God this category is L-I-T-E. None of these were really that good. I haven’t seen 20th Century Women yet. Let’s go with that!  

B: Yes, to 20th Century Women.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

T: I vote Arrival.

B: I don’t know man! Arrival was good, but it was kind of plothole city. I read the book right after and the book actually takes care of all the plotholes. It’s a lot more pedantic and attentive to logic than the movie — there are actual diagrams about light refraction at some point — and so the emotions it causes are that much more effective, since you’re totally on board with what’s going on. The movie didn’t have nearly as much theoretical groundwork. Instead of making you cry with math, it made you cry with violins. So, yes, lovely movie, but imperfect adaptation. (To be fair, I acknowledge that it had a lot more math and science in it than basically any other Hollywood movie. More fog too.)

S: Ben has given me a new goal in life. I want to cry with math! I’m going to blindly pick Fences. I’VE BEEN STANDING BESIDE YOU FOR 18 YEARS!!!

Animated Feature

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life As a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Remember last year when that movie “The Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared” was nominated and we were convinced that the Academy was playing tricks on us? Well, what on God’s green Earth is “My Life As A Zucchini”?!

S: Haha I have no idea. The Academy is trying to see if we’re still woke!

Guys, I bloody loved Zootopia. I watched it Hungover one day and it made me really happy. It has a great message. And Jenny Slate plays a lamb and it took me the whole movie to figure out it was her. It was driving me crazy! For those of you who don’t know, Jenny Slate is the genius behind Marcel the Shell with Shoes on:

She’s a very talented comedienne who has done many other things but this still cracks me up to this day.

T: Can we make her a write-in for best actress for Obvious Child please?

S: YES! Totes. And also can we just TAKE NOTE that Mona Lisa Saperstein is one of the best characters ever created. #parksandrec4lyfe. Basically Jenny Slate we love you! Don’t ever change. Here is a video I just found of Jenny doing the voice recording for her Zootopia lamb:

 

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)

Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

T: Have we all forgotten that Mel Gibson is a bigot? Like, this is not okay. Anyway, Pablo Larrain should have been nominated for Jackie. Ridiculous. This will probably go to Damien Chazelle for La La Land right? And while I can’t begrudge him per se, I’d rather see this go to Denis Villeneuve.

S: There’s too many boys in this category. I’m bored. Sure, Damien, fine, you can have this. But just remember that Whiplash was better…oops, that sounds like a threat. It wasn’t. I’m just very passionate about this issue.   

Best make-up and hairstyling

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

T: Write-in nomination for the wigs in Florence Foster Jenkins.

S: Agreed. I’m actually thinking Florence Foster Jenkins is the dark horse of this whole competition.

T: Imagine if Meryl swoops in and takes Oscar #4 for FFJ? That would be a lol.

S: Omg. And then she makes another amazing speech about how Trump is a dolt and America needs to figure it out. The curtain comes down and the show is over folks!

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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…

 

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.

Have You Seen…Bridegroom?

If you haven’t heard of Bridegroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of wedding comedy in the vein of the dreadful Katherine Heigl film The Big Wedding. Instead, our titular Bridegroom here refers to Tom Bridegroom, partner of Shane Bitney Crone. Shane and Tom lived in Los Angeles and were deeply in love, building their careers and travelling the world. Then Tom died in a tragic accident, and the bottom fell out of Shane’s world. But that’s not the saddest part of the story; what happened next, with Shane being banned from attending his soulmate’s funeral and being threatened with violence by the Bridegroom family, makes for a harrowing watch; the final kick in the teeth is, of course, the fact that Shane had no legal ground to stand on.

The documentary unfolds in a linear style, telling both Shane and Tom’s stories of growing up in the American heartland and the pain and heartache that ensued as they both came to terms with their sexuality in environments deeply hostile to LGBTQ people. Shane fares better than Tom here; his family, after the initial shock, accept him totally. Tom, on the other hand, is more or less ostracized by everyone except his mother, who eventually admits a tacit acceptance of his true self. This all changes after Tom’s death, as his family close ranks and bury Tom with full military honours – denying who he really was and denying those closest to him the right to say goodbye.

Bridegroom is brought to us by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, one-time creator and writer of hit sitcom ‘Designing Women’ and long-time friend to the gays. It’s well documented that during the run of the show, Bloodworth-Thomason would have Julia Sugarbaker, played with haughty Southern perfection by Dixie Carter, espouse progressive, liberal values. Carter herself was a registered Republican so not all of these leftie diatribes went down too well with her. Still, they struck a deal: Dixie would say whatever the writers wanted as long as she got to sing in at least one episode each season!

Jokes aside, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason used her cuddly sitcom about Atlanta interior designers to make some groundbreaking statements on television in the late 80s. The episode in which the ladies find out a family friend is both gay and has AIDS not only showed care and compassion towards the subject instead of outright fear and anger, but also put our characters in the position of having to deal with other narrow-minded bigots.

Bloodworth-Thomason apparently ran into Tom and Shane at a wedding in Palm Springs and was later saddened to hear of Tom’s death. When she investigated further and found out the full story, she and Tom decided to collaborate on this documentary.

At times, Bridegroom isn’t an easy watch. It’s brutally honest and the subject matter will have you in tears many times throughout. But it ends on a message of hope; thousands of people contributed to Kickstarter to ensure Bridegroom got made, and as the credits roll we are shown messages from people who have seen the film and have been moved by it – most memorable are those that say they were prejudiced against gay people and have completely reversed their position after seeing Bridegroom.

Bridegroom is at its heart a love story, a relatable and human tale of love found and lost between two soulmates; but it also serves as a beacon of hope for the world and an appeal for love in the greatest sense between all human beings.

Originally published on Get OUT! Canada

Film Review – August: Osage County

Let’s start with a line I Tweeted immediately after viewing August: Osage County:

Throwing down the gauntlet here in the midst of decidedly mixed reviews, I was challenging anybody to sit through John Wells’ film of Tracey Letts Tony-award winning play about the darkness and poison at the heart of the dysfunctional Weston family and genuinely come away feeling like they’d been cheated of two hours of their time. Sure, it leans towards the melodramatic, but this pitch-black comedy was adapted from one of the best Broadway plays of recent years and is filled with a top notch cast.

Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, a pill-popping, snarling gargoyle of a matriarch whose marriage to Beverley (Sam Shephard) is held together only by a mutual understanding: she has her pills, he has his alcohol. Beverley then commits suicide – by drowning himself, appropriately enough – and this brings home the entire extended, damaged clan. Put-upon middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the only one to have remained in Oklahoma, and she’s joined by eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts), who returns with her recently separated husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and surly teenage daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), while relentlessly upbeat youngest sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) shows up with smooth new fiance Steve (Dermot Mulroney) in tow.

Rounding out this messed up bunch are Violet’s sister Mattie Fay (Margo Martindale), imbued with similar tendencies towards antagonising and criticising others, in particular her long-suffering husband Charles (Chris Cooper) and doltish son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). To say that putting these characters together under one roof creates a powder keg effect is an understatement: conflicts explode left, right and centre from the get-go, and the action doesn’t really let up for too long throughout.

The most harrowing scene is the 20-minute showcase sequence that places the entire family around the dinner table after Beverley’s funeral. Violet is drugged up and in fine form; she systematically proceeds to ‘truth tell’, as she puts it, indulging in a series of sustained attacks designed to provoke every single person round the table. And boy, does she succeed as Barbara finally erupts and physically attacks her mother. Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep are both particularly effective in this scene, with Streep deftly playing the notes of one of the most manipulative mothers ever committed to film while Roberts’ burning rage flies off the screen.

august osage county spindle magazine

It’s a situation that everyone in the audience can relate to. We’ve all had to suffer awkward family dinners where resentments bubble under the surface, ready to boil over at any moment – though pills, suicide and incest are less often involved. And that’s the catharsis that August: Osage County provides us – most families can never be as bad as this one, rotten to the core as they are.

Needless to say, the movie does not end on a happy note. One by one the characters flee, unable to handle the toxic atmosphere. Particularly affecting is Julia Roberts in her final scene, driving along the open road and pulling over to try and process her emotions. In the space of a few seconds, she registers several emotions: regret, sadness, anger and finally feelings of exhaustion and the need to escape. Roberts is usually thought of as a movie star first and actress second, but the raw emotion she displays in August: Osage County reminds us of just how good she can be when given the chance.

Going back to my earlier Tweet, what I was rallying against here were some of the decidedly mixed reviews the movie has received since its release and some of the criticism that missed the point. I’m also aware that what we’re getting into here is meta-criticism, that is to say criticism of the criticism, something which has exploded since Lena Dunham’s Girls came on the air and thinkpieces began to pop up everywhere dissecting the nature of the dissection of the show. Quite the rabbit hole.

But the negativity surrounding August: Osage County bears discussion, too. In the most coherent of the middling reviews, the consensus seems to be that by cutting an hour from the original material and trying to soften some of the play’s darker edges, the film-makers have lost what packed such a punch in the first place. There is a truth to that, especially at the end of the movie where it’s clear that the film-makers vacillated between cutting at the bleak moment of the play’s original ending and adding on a more – not Hollywood ending, exactly – but a more palatable conclusion for the film.

More problematic for critics apparently seems to be the sheer scale of the acting involved. Streep’s performance has been singled out as particularly overblown, with the normally level-headed TV and film writer Ken Levine saying of her Oscar nomination that she ‘gets nominated just for showing up‘. No, Mr. Levine: whatever you think of the ludicrousness of awards season, Meryl Streep is one of the most talented film actors of any generation, and though similar accusations were levelled at her of her work in Doubt and Julie & Julia, I defy anyone to deny the emotional truth of those characters and the moments – even if they are just moments – of utter beguilement during any of her performances.

To that end, the supporting cast does a great job matching Streep and Roberts, even if some have less to do than others (Juliette Lewis gets a particularly raw deal in this respect, as I suspect due to cuts from the original material her backstory is hinted at rather than focused on in any meaningful way).

Like the similarly performance-based American Hustle, August: Osage County seems destined to be remembered for the actor’s performances rather than the movie itself, but maybe that’s fine: this is an uncomfortable, brutal yet often hilarious film that dares to look at not only what keeps families together, but – in a divergence from Hollywood’s nuclear-heteronormative ideals – what ultimately tears them apart.

Originally published on Spindle Magazine

Have You Seen…Weekend?

Long have I extolled the virtues of Netflix in these hallowed pages. While the LGBT content may be, um, lacking (1313: UFO Invasion, anyone?) there are plenty of gems in there that either never received a wide release or are difficult to track down. Imagine my surprise when Andrew Haigh’s 2011 romantic drama Weekend showed up on the streaming video service.

I’d heard a sprinkling of info about this film on various social media outlets throughout 2011 but had assumed it had died a death upon release and I’d never get to see it.

Weekend tells a simple and familiar story: Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) meet in a gay bar on Friday night and have what they assume will be a boozy one-night stand; but over the course of the weekend their bond begins to deepen and develop into something stronger. But things are complicated by the fact that Glen is planning to leave the country for good on Sunday…

Taking its cues from movies such as Before Sunrise is no mean feat as the experiment of being stuck with just two characters for almost two hours is a big risk to take. But Haigh, along with Cullen and New, managed to create complex, three-dimensional characters that complement each other extremely well. Russell is a quiet and unassuming lifeguard, not in the closet but not exactly open about his sexuality either – his world is all about safety and shelter, a result of a childhood spent in various foster homes. Glen, on the other hand, is outspoken and combative, an aspiring artist who aims to challenge society’s indifference to gay culture – and sex in particular.

Made on a budget of just $200,000 (£120,000), this is a small, intimate film that focuses on these two characters for almost every frame of the movie. Shot in tight close-ups and using long takes, we’re painfully close to the action; every gesture, every flicker of hope and regret, everything said and not said is amplified. This is no epic Angels in America take on the gay experience; Russell and Glen discuss their romantic pasts and the state of society’s attitude to gays without the aid of heavenly visions. It’s modern gay life that’s tangible to most of us – unglamorous and mundane, which inversely makes it feel every bit as epic as Tony Kushner’s opus.

Even the settings are unique in the LGBT genre – there’s none of the high glamour or tantalising seediness that’s prevalant in most LGBT movies, but rather a drab and pedestrian mix of locations: the high-rise flat, the divey gay bar, the bland local leisure centre. The painful realism of the film doesn’t just come from being a gay love story – it runs much deeper than that. Having grown up in a suburban shithole, the film seems all too familiar to me; the shabby provincial gay bar, the grey tower block on an uninspiring housing estate, the sense of hostility from ignorant pub patrons. This is gay life with all its glossy sheen chipped, cracked and peeling.

As Russell and Glen, Tom Cullen and Chris New are outstanding. The improvisational nature of their performances sucks you in to this incredibly intimate story, and at times it’s like you’re so close to them it feels awkward. Their weekend is so private and isolated that you feel like a voyeur, so watch out – this is a movie that will sneak up on you and leave you broken, like a 21st century Brief Encounter.

I won’t spoil the ending for you; suffice it to say director Haigh opts for a realistic approach right up to the final frames. Weekend is one of those rare beasts – an intelligent, realistic and deeply emotional drama that reflects some of the harsh truths about modern gay life. And it’s also safe to say it’s one of the finest entries in the LGBT film canon of the 21st century.

Originally published on GET Out! Canada