Spotlight On – Felicity Jones, An Update

We return to a less than active feature to revisit the actress that we created it for in the first place. That actress is Felicity Jones, who is about to become everyone’s new favourite person and we got here first. Back off!

Right now Jones is looking at two releases in the next few months, the moderately well received The Tempest and the “good for what it is” comedy Chalet Girl. With lukewarm reviews for both films you’d expect her career to be far from flying high but that all changed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (more on that later).

At the festival Jones starred in Like Crazy, a raw and romantic dramedy about the struggle to keep a relationship alive across the Atlantic. Not only did the film win the special jury prize, so did Felicity Jones herself, finally marking her out as “the one to watch” or “this year’s Carey Mulligan”. Fingers crossed she doesn’t go cutting off all her hair. With this award under her belt you can expect to see a lot more of Miss Jones over the next the next few years and we can’t wait.

Upcoming projects include Hysteria, a film about the inventor of the vibrator, Page 8, a BBC thriller, This Beautiful Fantastic, a modern fairytale and Trap For Cinderella, a bleak looking drama.

There’s no explaining why we find Felicity Jones so intriguing an actress but it looks like we’re not the only ones any more.

Below is a clip from Like Crazy, it’s not the last you’ll hear of it.

Spotlight On – Catherine Keener

Catherine Keener is not exactly someone you would describe as “up and coming” as she has been appearing in films for over twenty years and was nominated for Oscars for her roles in Being John Malcovich and Capote. Despite her long career and award recognition I still feel Keener deserves a bit more praise.

What has brought her to my attention were her roles in last year’s Synecdoche, New York and the brilliant but difficult to watch An American Crime which I saw just a few weeks ago. In An American Crime Keener plays a seriously disturbed mother who ultimately commits some pretty foul acts against a pre-Juno Ellen Page. Despite playing such a despicable character Keener brought humanity to a role than otherwise would have been impossible to relate to.

Catherine Keener doesn’t limit herself to just roles in difficult films, Synecdoche being brilliant but lots of hard work, as she has recently been in lighter fare such as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. For years Keener has been for me one of many actresses who seems to be in every film yet whose name I can’t remember, but no more.

Catherine Keener is simply a great actress who hopefully one day will be talked of in the same way as Meryl Streep is now. Ignoring the horror of Julie &  Julia that is.

Spotlight On – Clark Duke

Clark Duke fits the profile of a lot of my favourite underrated actors in that he has a pretty terrible filmography up to this point.

Prior to this year Duke’s silver screen appearances consisted of a small role in Superbad and a larger role in the simply pathetic Sex Drive. Neither films inspire great confidence in those involved. He has had the obligatory handful of guest roles in TV shows and is currently the best thing in US TV series Greek which follows the trivial lives of students at an American college. Duke also wrote and directed the web series Clark and Michael featuring fictional versions of Duke and his friend Micheal Cera.

This year Duke appears in Kick Ass and Hot Tub Time Machine, two comedy heavyweights that could launch Duke’s career. In Kick Ass he plays one of the leads friends with a comedic subtlety I really enjoyed and with Hot Tub we may well have a comedy masterpiece or a horrible mess; I am really confused about that at the moment.

Clark Duke hasn’t really had a chance to shine yet, and if he does he may fall flat, but I think he has good comedy skills so keep an eye out.

Spotlight On – Six Degrees of Separation

Today I am shining the spotlight on an old film and the recent revival of the play it was based on, John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, and Kevin Bacon isn’t going to be mentioned once. It is about to get cultured up in here.

Both play and film are about an upper class couple in New York whose evening is interrupted by a young man claiming to be Sidney Poitier’s son. The arrival of this character disrupts their lives and the lives of those they know, the script exploring the idea of family and of how people are connected.

The film does not differ greatly from the play but for moving scenes to various locations and the removal of some dialogue. The biggest different I could identify was the pace, the film coming in a full twenty minutes longer with very little additional material. While the play charges forward at a pace that forces you to pay attention, and try to keep up with the wonderful rhythm of the dialogue, the film lingers a little longer allowing you to more easily take in what is being said.

I preferred the way the play just kept moving and, as can happen when a play is transferred directly to film, found some of the dialogue sounded odd when spoken on film which is less forgiving of the hyper-reality allowed onstage. There is no denying this is a play first and foremost and so more suited to that format. That said the acting in both was brilliant and I’m sure I’ve never seen Will Smith turn in such an impressive performance, but then I’ve never seen Ali. Smith is however put to shame by the relative newcomer Obi Abili who has made the role his own.

The script has barely aged a day in the twenty years since being written and this year’s revival, while at just ninety minutes is a succinct and enjoyable trip to theatre. Obviously not everyone can go and see the play but the film is brilliant in it’s own way; Stockard Channing, Ian McKellen and Donald Sutherland can’t be wrong.

Six Degrees of Separation is on at The Old Vic until 3rd April 2010 and the film is available from amazon.co.uk on DVD.

And now a bit where I ramble:

The title of the play comes from the well known theory that everyone is separated by only six degrees of separation, a theory that comes into play when you look at the cast of the film and play. The female lead in the film Stockard Channing starred in the 2007 film Sparkle with both Lesley Manville and Anthony Head who play the female lead and her husband in the play. Also Donald Sutherland both play the same character and have both taken on the role of watcher in different incarnations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ian McKellan and Ian Redford also play the same character and both have had extended stints on Coronation Street. If we’re going to get really tedious then J. J. Abrams went on from his small role in the film to produce the short lived TV series Six Degrees based on this very theory.

Spotlight On – Scott Pilgrim

It’s about time Mild Concern added to the near infinite love for the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs. the World based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

The comics tell the story of Scott Pilgrim, a twenty-something unemployed band member with a teenage girlfriend, whose life is changed upon falling for Ramona Flowers. If he wants to continue to dating Ramona he must defeat her seven evil exes in a story that mixes romance, humour, music and computer games. Scott Pilgrim is set in a world much like our own only with gaming twists such as characters levelling up or leaving behind coins when they are defeated. The books are an engrossing read and the only question is whether Edgar Wright, writer and director, can successfully bring them to the big screen especially as he has recently explained how the script diverts from the series of six books after the third installment.

Audience response from two preview screenings has been mostly incredibly positive with comments such as, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is soooo fun! That movie was soooo good! Can’t wait for it to come out! So silly!”, “Shit is like Nick and Norahs Infinite Playlist and Street Fighter in one lmao”, and “Scott Pilgrim was the nerdiest movie I’ve ever seen and it was awesome. Edgar Wright did an amazing job. What a fun film.”

It’s not just the general public who has gone gaga for Scott Pilgrim as Jason Reitman reported, “It is a game changer for Edgar and the genre. It moves the speed of light and carries more unadulterated joy than I’ve seen in recent cinema. I’m in awe of the sheer control in the filmmaking. It feels like a Matrix for love and how willing we are to fight for it. If I had a movie coming out next year, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it. Hats off my friend. Can’t get it out of my head.” The famously frank Kevin Smith said, among other things, “Its spellbinding and nobody is going to understand what the fuck just hit them.”

The film stars an all action version of Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a supporting cast including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Mae Whitman, Brie Larson and Aubrey Plaza. I could only be more excited if Zooey Deschanel were to ask me to go and see it with her.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is released on 6th August 2010.