Suffragette – LFF Review

Suffragette

Mary Poppins is probably the only other time I remember seeing a suffragette as a character in a film. Mrs. Banks had a sash and a song and it all seemed quite jolly. It is about time then that we got a decent film focussing on the struggles of the suffragettes and here’s Carey Mulligan giving it a try.

Directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, Suffragette closely follows the story of Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) as she becomes awakened by and involved in the Suffragette movement. After joining a small gang in London’s East End – we’ve all been there – she is forced to decide if she is willing to sacrifice her home, family, and job for the fight to get women the vote. Her motley crew is led by the educated Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and the group as a whole looks up to the almost mythical Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep).

Streep is featured heavily in the promotional campaign for the film but, while her presence is often teased, she only makes an appearance in one scene to deliver a rousing speech and secure a few Supporting Actress nominations. Having Streep in the role is quite apt though as the buzz of excitement around even the possibility of seeing Pankhurst speak matches that of the press scuttling off to the Suffragette press conference after the screening.

Suffragette 2

The focus of the film is not on the high-profile historical figures played by the likes of Streep and Carter but rather on Mulligan whose face is rarely out of close-up throughout the film. I couldn’t tell you much about the setting of many of the scenes but I can tell you how Carey’s face looked at any given moment. Mulligan is undoubtedly a skilled actor, giving her best East End accent, but I struggled to connect with her character emotionally. Perhaps it was something about the script; every conversation in the film related to the issue at hand leaving no real room for any characters to be developed beyond their stance on votes for women, a topic on which no grey area was allowed. I’m not saying that votes for women is a grey area just that no character was allowed to doubt their opinion in either direction. No minds were changed and no characters had arcs.

As Mulligan’s Maud got involved in the movement the film introduced various characters whose involvement and sacrifices seemed that much greater. It left me with the feeling that we had been following the wrong woman and were only seeing half the story of the suffragettes. If we were supposed to use Maud as a proxy for the audience it might have helped to turn the camera away from her face and towards what she was experiencing.

At last year’s festival I finished The Imitation Game wanting a better film to honour Alan Turing and with Suffragette I felt the same. The suffragettes deserve a better film than this to show the world what they were fighting for. From the moment the film starts the slow fades between text cards setting the scene imply a sense of importance but the story it then tells lacks the emotional connection and scope that is needed to really drive the message home.

The film is perfectly OK and might get some buzz in the short-term but I expect it to languish on ITV on a rainy Sunday afternoon in years to come.

Suffragette opens the Film Festival tonight and screens again tomorrow. Some tickets are still available online. Suffragette then opens in UK cinemas on 12 October 2015.

2014 Oscar Nominations Not-Remotely-Live Blog

Oscar Nominations

I wasn’t quite organised enough to have a liveblog up and running when the Oscar nominations were announced this lunchtime but I made myself a post so I’m damn well going to put something in it. I will forgo listing all the nominations as they can be found everywhere else on the internet. The important facts are these…

  • Gravity and American Hustle lead the pack with ten nominations each, closely followed by 12 Years a Slave with nine. Nebraska has a pleasing six nominations and Her continues to taunt me with five nominations and a UK release that has yet to arrive.
  • Judi Dench and Meryl Streep are competing for the Best Actress award, a title that Dench has never won and one that Streep has taken twice and been nominated for fourteen(!!!) times.
  • The only nomination for Saving Mr. Banks is for its music and this upsets me greatly.
  • Blue is the Warmest Colour has completely failed to be nominated for Best Foreign Film and that is a tragedy as it clearly is the best foreign film and if you ask me the best film overall. So there.
  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa has been nominated for an Oscar. Take that in. It’s for Best Makeup and Hairstyling but still, it just feels wrong. Weirdly American Hustle is not nominated in this category despite the hair being the best bit.
  • David O Russell and American Hustle continue to rhyme and sound incredibly satisfying.
  • Jonah Hill has received his second Oscar nomination. Who would have thought he’d ever be an Oscar contender considering his former career in broad comedies? Ditto for Matthew McConaughey who has moved so far away from his Romantic Comedy background he is barely recognisable.
  • Best Live Action Short is not normally a category I can comment on but somehow I have seen nominee The Voorman Problem twice and it is worthy of the win. The short stars Martin Freeman as a psychiatrist called to a prison to deal with an inmate who is convinced that he is God (Tom Hollander). It is short, clever, funny, and has famous people in it.
  • There are really only three nominees for Best Film. For the past three years I have seen the winner of the top prize at the previous year’s London Film Festival therefore this year’s winner must come from the films I saw back in October. The real list of nominees is as follows:

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her

Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

Let’s meet back here on 2nd/3rd March to discuss the winners.

Oscars 2012: One Big Yawn of Agreement

The Oscars are clearly, and arbitrarily, the most important of all the award ceremonies yet coming as they do after a dozen of similar awards are given out to the same winners, by the time the Oscars finally arrive we are suffering from award season fatigue. This is where the desire for surprising winners comes in, despite The Artist, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer all being worthy winners writing about them winning the awards they were tipped to win isn’t all that exciting.

But is that the point? The Artist really was the best film of the past year and deserves to win all the awards it won, the list of winners is not surprising but for the first time in years it is hard to disagree with any of the choices. Let’s not gripe about predictability and just be happy that worthy winners won awards and that Eddie Murphy wasn’t the host.

I am happy that The Artist won five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Costume Design and Best Score) leaving Hugo to pick up all the technical awards. I am happy that A Separation won Best Foreign Language Film for being an amazing drama and that Rango won Best Animated Film despite being semi-grown-up. I’m happy that Woody Allen won an Oscar for the screenplay for Midnight in Paris and showed that he remains a relevant film-maker. I’m happy that Jim Rash co-won an award for co-writing The Descendants leaving amazing-but-almost-cancelled-sitcom Community with an Oscar winner amongst its cast. I’m happy that The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won Best Animated Short Film because, as we all know, it is damned adorable.

What I am most happy about is Bret McKenzie won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Man or Muppet”. There has never been a more obvious (there was only one other nominee for a start) yet deserving win.

So there you have it, the 2012 Oscar awards have made me happy but weren’t very exciting. It was the award ceremony equivalent of eating a trifle (for me at least).

BAFTA 2012 Debrief

Last night BAFTA presented their annual film awards to an excited crowd of famous people, and I managed to forget that the ceremony was happening due to having a fun weekend and the fact that BAFTA somehow forgot to invite me along to the event.

BAFTA made some wise choices last night as they threw plenty of awards at The Artist, (Best Film, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Music and Best Costume Design) and showed some much-needed love for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Outstanding British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay).

Meryl Streep took home an obvious win for her role in The Iron Lady making her Oscar win so certain it isn’t that exciting any more (and makes me think I should really make an effort to see the film). Christopher Plummer took home Best Supporting Actor for Beginners, a great role in a charming film which hopefully more people will seek out now that Plummer is winning awards all over the place.

Senna picked up Best Documentary and Best Editing making this the first year I can actually see what makes the editing in a certain film superior to others. As Senna was cut and pasted together from archive footage with nothing new being filmed for the documentary it is a pure feat of editing. It’s the equivalent of taking all of your old home movies and trying to cut together a BAFTA winning documentary, probably not worth the effort.

Further down the list of winners The Skin I Live In was dubbed Best Film not in the English Language and Rango won Best Animated Feature Film. Both films from my Top 20 Films of 2011 and both deserving winners, not least because I haven’t really seen any of the other nominees.

Perhaps the category with the most interest for me, partly because of the great talent taking up each space on the short list and partly because this was a category for which the winner was not obvious, was the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. The award went to Paddy Considine for Tyrannosaur and is a great victory for a stunning debut. Frankly I would probably have had the same reaction for any of the nominees (though possibly not Coriolanus) as I have a lot of love for Black Pond, Submarine and Attack the Block.

For the full list of winners skip on down to IMDb.

Well done BAFTA, you did good.

A Few Obligatory Thoughts on the 2012 Oscar Nominations

In case you haven’t been lucky enough to have me mumble at you about the 2012 Oscar nominations in person, I thought I’d share with you some of my gut reactions to this year’s list of films of actor types that may win a fancy gold statue. For the full list of nominees have a look on IMDb, it’ll save me a lot of copying, pasting, and messing around with italics.

Extremely Lame & Poorly Reviewed
Somewhere amongst the nine nominees for Best Motion Picture of the Year is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the family drama about a young boy searching for the lock to match a key left to him by his father, a victim of 9/11. What makes this film stand out, beyond its terrifying poster, is that it is the worst reviewed film to get nominated for this award for the past 10 years. At the time of writing this potential Oscar winner has just 47% positive reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes with a pretty damning consensus; “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has a story worth telling, but it deserves better than the treacly and pretentious treatment director Stephen Daldry gives it.”

Albert Who?
Noticing that a film called Albert Nobbs had gathered three nominations I decided to look into it. Turns out that Albert Nobbs is a woman in 19th century Ireland pretending to be a man in order to survive, and is played by Glenn Close. Curious to see what Glenn Close would look like as a man I bravely Googled on.

Thanks Glenn, I didn’t need to sleep tonight anyway.

Gary!
With Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sadly missing out on a Best Picture nod it’s great to see Gary Oldman getting his first ever Best Actor nomination, and not for his role in Kung Fu Panda 2. In Tinker Oldman ably held together a weighty bit of British cinema and showed hipsters that some people actually wear oversized glasses for medical reasons. What a guy.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Mediocre Biopic
With Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams both getting nominated for Best Actress, it seems that it really doesn’t matter how lukewarm the reaction is to your film so long as you give a scarily accurate portrayal of an icon. In a way it’s reassuring to know that no matter how mediocre the film you’re in, there’s still a chance to act your way above the rest of the film.

Plummer!
It’s exciting enough that the little seen film Beginners might get some free press thanks to Christopher Plummer’s nomination, but the fact that Captain Von Trapp has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor twice out of the last three years is almost too much too handle. Excuse the hyperbole, I’m tired.

Woody’s Back
Woody Allen has another hit on his hands as Midnight in Paris garnered four nominations, and three of them are the kind that people actually care about. Shame I have 45 Woody Allen films to get through before I’m allowed to watch this one.

How Could They Leave Out ________?
For every nomination which warms the cockles of your heart there will be dozens of omissions which are completely outrageous and terribly short-sighted of the academy, only in your humble opinion of course. For me there’s not enough love for Drive and Olivia Colman has been robbed, robbed blind I say! I’m sure you have your own opinions, but how can they be as important as mine?

A Few Surprising Screenplays
The fact that fantastic Iranian film A Separation and delightful silent film The Artist are both nominated for Best Original Screenplay, a category normally filled with English scripts filled with dialogue, shows a fun bit of diverse nominating from the academy. It brings to mind the fact that the only time Buffy was nominated for a Golden Globe for writing was for the almost silent episode Hush. For anyone not sure why I’m rambling about Buffy, why not have a look at what the script for The Artist looks like, you can download it here.

The Difference Between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing is…
The same as the difference between Drive and Moneyball, apparently. These two categories, for Sound Mixing/Editing, have always baffled me and no more so than this year where they share a fourfilmnomineecrossover.

Is the Animated Feature Oscar Just for Kids?
I had a theory that Best Animated Feature only goes to the most accessible end of the animated film genre. With a few “proper” animated films on the shortlist, Chico & Rita and A Cat in Paris among them, I look forward to being proven wrong. The absence of Cars 2 from the list gives me hope.

If nothing else, at least we’ll get to see this fella again (I hope):