Victoria Wood 1953 – 2016

Victoria Wood

19th May 1953 – 20th April 2016

“Everyone’s a national treasure these days; you can’t move for them. But there should only ever be one at a time. For years, it was Dame Thora Hird. After she died, it was going to be Judi Dench, but then Joanna Lumley saved the Gurkhas so she got the gig.”

High-Rise – Film Review

High-Rise

What do I even say about High-Rise? Everything about this film is so distinct and unique it defies description or definition. It is a unique entity and so is hard to line up and compare against all other films. I’ll do my best for you.

In a slightly askew version of London in 1975 Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into a modern concrete high-rise. Inside he meets all manner of unusual character brought to life by an impressive cast list you’re better off finding on IMDb than me typing out here. The tower has everything a resident might need from a swimming pool to a market and Laing soon realises it has its own social structure too. On the lower floors live the families and poorer residents while at the top reside the wealthier residents and local celebrities. In the penthouse Laing finds the building’s visionary architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons).

All is well, if a little surreal, for a short while but before long a riot/party/social uprising begins and all hell breaks loose. In a surreal manner naturally. By this point in the film I entered an almost dreamlike state in which I felt like I was watching the film through a haze. Could this have been down to it only being 3pm and my watching my third film of the day or was I being elevated to a higher plane through cinema? I’ll let you decide.

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The combination of screenwriter Amy Jump, here adapting J.G. Ballard’s novel, and director Ben Wheatley once again produce a unique beast. Not only is it different from all the other films at last year’s film festival but distinct from everything their collaboration has produced before. The tone veers wildly, and sublimely, from comedy to horror to drama. This is the film you expect Ayoade or Gilliam to make and yet the result is distinctly Wheatley.

And the set! The set is that of a gorgeously brutalist tower block with, presumably fake, cast concrete inside and out. Having recently toured the Southbank Centre as part of a celebration of brutalism I feel especially qualified to say the set design was top-notch; both bleak and beautiful as life in London so often is.

I have pages of notes with various thoughts and comments on the film but on reflection I can’t help but feel that sharing these would you might take away from the surprise and delight that High-Rise has in store for you. You will laugh, you will wince, you will marvel at the almost naked sight of Tom Hiddleston. If there’s one film you need to see to stay relevant at a cinephiles dinner party, this is it.

It’s like Snowpiercer but vertical. I loved it more than I understood it.

I will admit that the film did lose me at times but for sheer no hold barred inventiveness I can’t withhold a single star.

High-Rise is out in UK cinemas now and I dare you not to watch.

The Witch – Film Review

The Witch

It is the 17th century a god fearing Puritan family have left a plantation to set up their own farm on the edge of a wood in New England. Not long established in their new homestead and events take a turn for the macabre. In fact something happens early on that is so horrific I couldn’t help but fear for the safety of every member of the family of seven, and fear for what else my eyes might have to witness. Isolated on their farm the family find themselves struck by misfortune and mistrust soon spreads amongst them. As the family start to suspect one another a very real evil lurks in the woods.

What is nice (nice?) about The Witch is that it doesn’t waste time second guessing whether or not there really is a witch. It is clear to everyone early on that the boogeyman is real and isn’t one to hesitate. It is also refreshingly old-fashioned; with the setting being 400 years ago there are no mobile phones to lose signal, no found footage, and no shaky cam. More importantly there are no roads, no vehicles, and no escape.

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It is astonishing to think that this is Robert Eggers first film as either writer or director. It is a bold move to use authentic 17th century dialogue and the effect might be jarring at first but ultimately gives the film a good sense of the other and removes it from the safer world we live in. As for the direction; the film is morbidly beautiful to look at with a palette filled with greys and properly dark blacks. There are no brightly lit nights here just endless shadows filled with your worst nightmares. Eggers brings to mind the best work of Ben Wheatley and will hopefully have just as diverse a body of work over the coming years.

Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie lead the family as the two parents and play them brilliantly as a pair who love their children but love God and fear the devil all the more. Lucas Dawson and Ellie Grainger are delightfully cheeky and creepy as the two young twins while the real stars of the show are Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw as the older siblings. Scrimshaw tackles a more mature role than his age would suggest and Taylor-Joy carries us through the film before redefining the role of the final girl.

The Witch is a pure, gimmick-free piece of cinema. It is delightfully terrifying and filled with an air of unrelenting fear and genuine horror. Don’t expect any sudden jumps just a consistent feeling that all’s not well. Because it certainly isn’t.

The Witch is out now in the UK and is a must see.

Next to Her – Film Review

Next to Her

Chelli (Liron Ben-Shlush) and Gabby (Dana Ivgy) are sisters who live together in Israel. Chelli loves Gabby dearly and in the absence of their mother has taken it upon herself to look after her younger sister whilst still maintaining a day job. Like all siblings they love each other yet often fight and their close relationship has lead to an unacknowledged amount of co dependency. What makes their situation particularly tricky is that Gabby is intellectually disabled and Chelli is her sole carer.

When a social worker discovers that Gabby is left alone at home during the day, often banging her head against the floor, Chelli is forced to share her burden and take Gabby to a day centre. It is at the point that her sister is no longer totally dependant on her that Chelli finds herself lost and without the purpose she once had. Without the feeling of someone else depending on her completely Chelli no longer feels as loved and so seeks out romantic love instead.

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With her unique living circumstances finding love is not easy for Chelli but new co-worker Zohar (Yaakov Daniel Zada) shows some promise. As she and Zohar become closer and his relationship with Gabby also develops Chelli finds herself struggling to keep the two people she loves the most happy as their needs often conflict with one another. The entirety of the film is a series of struggles as people with imperfect lives strive to make them work and tear each other down in the process.

Not only taking the lead but also having written the script Ben-Shlush gives a soulful and honest performance as Chelli; an imperfect woman trying to make the most of a devastating situation. Ivgy gives a wholly convincing turn as the handicapped younger sister and Zada is fantastically hard to read as the too good to be true Zohar.

Next to Her is at times almost painful to watch as the ordeals of the characters start to take a toll on those watching. The film is ultimately rewarding as you are left to question your own judgements of the characters and ask yourself how you might cope in similar circumstances. Coming out of the screening I found myself breathing a sigh of relief and a little too shaken to take in the next film on the schedule. After an experience like Next to Her you will want to take a stroll in the fresh air and let yourself escape from the film. A tough but worthy watch.

Next to Her is on limited release in the UK now.

Data Driven Oscar Predictions 2016

Oscars 2016

How do you predict the Oscar winners? Do you watch all the nominees and weigh up their relative merits? Nothing so simple or subjective here at Mild Concern. We gather data, we analyse it, and then we stay up all night to see if our predictions were right and if Leo and Kate recreate their Titanic pose holding matching statuettes onstage.

Why try to guess when you have maths on your side? According to the BBC it is all the rage these days.

For anyone with no more time to spare my predictions are below and for aspiring data nerds I go into more detail afterwards.

Category
Predicted Winner
BEST PICTURE
The Revenant
DIRECTING
Alejandro G Inarritu – The Revenant
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Brie Larson – Room
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Sylvester Stallone – Creed
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Spotlight
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Big Short
ANIMATED FEATURE
Inside Out
FOREIGN FILM
Son of Saul
DOCUMENTARY
Amy

To make my predictions I will be using 14 other awards ceremonies and looking back at how often the winners they chose have overlapped with the eventual Oscar winners since the year 2000. Using this I can see which awards are good at predicting the Oscars in which category and using the award winners so far this year I can see who will win on Sunday night. Simple!

DISCLAIMER: I’ve tried this twice before getting 10/11 right the first time and 6/11 the second; place your bets accordingly.

Best Picture

The Revenant

This is one of the trickiest categories to predict with a variety of films winning predictor awards. Until a few weeks ago Spotlight was in the lead having won three awards but The Revenant jumped into the lead having won the BAFTA which matches the Oscar winner 63% of the time.

Chance of winning: 19%
Runner up: Spotlight (18%)
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Best Director

Alejandro G Inarritu
The Revenant

This is another award that was previously veering another direction. Mad Max: Fury Road was cleaning up at various critic’s choice awards but The Revenant stormed into the lead after grabbing the Director’s Guild Award which predicts the Oscar a massive 80% of the time.

Chance of winning: 39%
Runner up: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road(30%)
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Actor in a Leading Role

Leonardo DiCaprio
The Revenant

There is no real competition here. DiCaprio has won four predictor awards including the SAG and Critics’ Choice awards which each overlapping with the Oscars 73% of the time.

Chance of winning: 61%
Runner up: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs (12%)
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Actress in a Leading Role

Brie Larson
Room

Brie Larson accepts no defeat in her victory-heavy journey to the Oscars. Her chance of going home with the Oscar is even more certain that Leo’s having won a total of five predictor awards for Room. If you haven’t seen the film yet then please do, and take some tissues.

Chance of winning: 62%
Runner up: Charlotte Rampling (15%)
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Actor in a Supporting Role

Sylvester Stallone
Creed

A close call here with the eternal Rocky star winning three awards to Mark Rylance’s four victories. Luckily Stallone got his hands on the Golden Globe which has a solid 87% overlap with the Oscars.

Chance of winning: 39%
Runner up: Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies (30%)
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Actress in a Supporting Role

Kate Winslet
Steve Jobs

Alicia Vikander has received a lot of love this awards season but her nominations have been spread between The Danish Girl and her far superior performance in Ex Machina. Winslet has remained focussed and has three predictor awards with 60+% Oscar overlap.

Chance of winning: 43%
Runner up: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl (27%)
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Original Screenplay

Spotlight

As the only nominee to win any of my predictor awards there is no competition outside of pure fluke. Not that the Oscars are immune to pure flukes… That said Spotlight has won a total of 5 awards so this is far from a token win.

Chance of winning: 53%
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Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

A more mixed field for adapted screenplay but The Big Short walked away with the Writers’ Guild Award which is right 73% of the time.

Chance of winning: 40%
Runner up: The Martian (18%)
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Animated Feature

Inside Out

Putting The Good Dinosaur firmly behind them Disney Pixar will still win an Academy award on Sunday as Inside Out has won almost all of my predictors including the animation specific Annie Award. This is the award that I feel most confident about.

Chance of winning: 88%
Runner up: Anomalisa (4%)
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Foreign Film

Son of Saul

Time to pretend you’ve heard of any of the nominees! Hungarian critical darling Son of Saul is all over this.

Chance of Winning: 43%
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Documentary

Amy

This tragic British documentary about Amy Winehouse is set to take home a golden statue despite the protestations of her father. Having won all but one of the key awards nobody else comes close.

Chance of winning: 66%
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