List, Television

5 TV SHOWS THAT OUTGREW THEIR TITLES 

PicMonkey Collage

The power of a title should never be underestimated – it is essentially establishes the brand and general premise of a TV show, and often acts as the main form of advertisement. The working title for Friends was Insomnia Cafe – does that really give you the impression of a lighthearted sitcom about twenty-somethings in New York City? Exactly. However once a show becomes popular it can often last much longer than it was originally intended to, or it may just naturally evolve in a different direction than what the show-runners originally intended. This can lead to a shows title becoming obsolete – here are five notable examples…

Honourable mention…

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER 

How I Met Your Mother

Original premise: The title is pretty self explanatory – the show is based around Ted Mosby (voiced in the future by Bob Saget, played by Josh Radnor) telling his children how he met their mother. This includes the various adventures he had with his close friends Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), Robin (Coby Smulders), Marshall (Jason Segal) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan). It’s an interesting narrative device which sets the sitcom apart, allowing for timeline hopping and various other antics along the way – however it also gave the show an expiration date.

What it became: This is an honourable mention because, strictly speaking, the show did adhere to the title with the final episode showing Ted meet Tracey (Cristin Milioti), the mother of his children. However, the show dragged out for a total of NINE seasons, making it the longest explanation for how someone met someone ever. There are entire seasons which have very little to do with Ted’s quest to meet the mother, and even the staunchest fans of the show cannot deny that there was definite deviation from the original premise at various points throughout the shows run.

NEW GIRL

New-Girl-Mars-Landing-Review-e1395891444341

Original premise: This Fox sitcom was intended as an out and out vehicle for its star Zooey Deschanel. Centred around the quirky Jess (Deschanel), New Girl saw her trying to navigate life after coming out of a long term relationship and finding herself in her early 30’s and living in a loft with three men. It was an interesting premise, with the original idea being that her roommates Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Harris) act as supporting players alongside Jess’ best friend CeCe (Hannah Simone).

What it became: As great as the early seasons of New Girl were, there is no doubt that the original premise has been left behind as the fifth season is due to begin in the new year. The show is now much more of an ensemble piece a la Friends, but is much the better for it. As fantastic as Deschanel was and is in her role as Jess, both Greenfield and Johnson proved to be the shows breakout characters as Schmidt and Nick. From very early on it was clear that there was some serious talent behind this show, and the decision to focus on the various characters more equally is one that has paid off in the long run. The return of Daymon Wayans Jnr in season 3 (he appeared in the pilot before leaving to star in Happy Endings in ABC, returning after the other show was cancelled) is when the ensemble really comes into its stride, and there have even been attempts to recently to bring the criminally underwritten Winston up to the standard of the rest of the criminally underwritten Winson up to the standard of the rest of the group. Proceeding into season 5 and Wayons Jnr has again departed, whilst CeCe and Schmidts surprise engagement is set to shake up the group dynamic once again.

COUGAR TOWN

BRIAN VAN HOLT, CHRISTA MILLER, IAN GOMEZ, COURTENEY COX, JOSH HOPKINS, BUSY PHILIPPS

Original premise: Cougar Town began airing on ABC in 2009 – from the creator of Scrubs Bill Lawrence, the show starred Courtney Cox as Jules Cobb, a recently divorced 40-something who attempts to return to the dating scene. The show originally saw Jules pursue relationships with much younger men, hence the title Cougar Town. The show featured Christa Miller (Bill Lawrence’s wife, who played Jordan in Scrubs) as Jules best friend Ellie, and many other Scrubs actors made cameo appearances during the shows run.

What it became: The idea of Jules being a cougar was dropped very early on, and towards the end of the first season she began to see men of her own age, ultimately entering into a relationship with and marrying neighbour Grayson Ellis (Josh Hopkins). This premise of the show changed so dramatically in fact that Lawrence seriously considered renaming it. This ultimately didn’t happen, but from the second season onwards the title sequences would have a subtitle added – often poking fun at the no longer appropriate title. The show came to an end earlier this year after six seasons, and the subtitle of the final episode had a subtitle which read: “Thank you for watching ‘Sunshine State’ – Finally got the new title!”

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH 

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH

Original premise: Based on the Archie comic of the same name, Sabrina the Teenage Witch starred Melissa Joan Hart in the titular role. The show began airing on ABC in 1996 and followed the life of Sabrina Spellman, a teenage who discovers on her sixteenth birthday discovers that she is half-witch and has magical powers. She lives with her 600 year old aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), as well as talking cat Salem (Nick Backay). The show is based around Sabrina’s attempts at coming to grips with her powers alongside leading the normal life of a teenager, including High School and dating, all the while hiding her powers from those around her.

What it became: The show’s title stopped making sense when Sabrina stopped being a teenager – though it is a little hard to pinpoint when exactly this became the case. The timeline is a little jumbled, but it can be assumed that Sabrina did not remain a teenager for the entire seven season run of the show, given that she turned sixteen in the pilot. ABC cancelled the show after the fourth season, but The WB picked it up for a further three years, depicting Sabrina’s life as she embarks on a college education. There were numerous shake ups and cast changes, and the show failed to retain a following an ultimately came to an end in 2003.

TWO AND A HALF MEN

Two-and-a-Half-Men-two-and-a-half-men-24621700-1280-800Original premise: The series, created by The Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre, charts the life of Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) who is forced to take in his brother Alan (Jon Cryer) after his divorce. They are also regularly joined in Charlie’s beach house by Alan’s young son Jake (Angus T Jones). The title was derived from the two men – Charlie and Alan – with Jake constituting the half man. The sitcom was originally a vehicle for the infamous Charlie Sheen, and the episodes were generally centred around Charlie’s womanising, partying and the subsequent bad influence on Jake, with Alan desperately trying to raise his son incident free.

What it became: By the time the show entered into its eighth year, Sheen’s real life demons seemed to be catching up with him and his various antics culminated in him being fired. His character was unceremoniously kissed off via being hit by a train off screen. Ashton Kutcher was then brought in as Sheen’s replacement, portraying millionaire Waldon Schmidt, who buys Charlie’s beach house and let’s Alan continue to stay there. It’s rare that a show can ever recover from losing its main character, and Two and a Half Men was arguably already faced with diminishing returns before Sheen’s departure. The show was also faced with outliving it’s premise due to the fact that Jake grew up and was no longer the titular half man. It didn’t help that Angus T Jones turned on the show and pushed for a boycott – leaving Kutcher and Cryer to attempt to carry on alone before the show thankfully drew to a close last year, long after anyone stopped caring.

FRESH MEAT

o-FRESH-MEAT-facebookOriginal premise: This hilarious British comedy from the writers of Peep Show was originally based around the idea of six students being placed in a shared house for their first year of university. The title was based around the fact they were first year students – freshers – and the majority of the humour was based around this concept, following the trials of the group as they face typical first year problems such as establishing your identity, forging romances and scraping through classes. The show featured an ensemble cast that included comedien Jack Whitehall and Name of The Inbetweeners fame.

What it became: The title was derived from the fact that the characters were freshers in their first year of university, making it redundant as they all moved into second year in series two. That’s not to say that the show suffered any demise in quality – the show was as funny as ever and the no longer applicable title had no negative impact. Following their generally disastrous first year we saw the group continue to navigate life. The writing remains strong and it is great to see these characters develop and continue with their endless blunders.

Standard
Film, List

5 HILARIOUS PRODUCT PLACEMENTS IN MOVIES:

Waynes-World-product-plac-001Movies are a tough business, no doubt about it, and they sure do cost a pretty penny. This means that in order for a lot of movies to get made, they might have to accept payment from companies and brands in return for incorporating a product into the finished film. It’s just one of those things, and most of the time filmmakers manage to incorporate product placement without drawing too much attention away from whats going on – some even manage to use it to their favour to create laughs (Wayne’s World, for example). However, that’s not always the case, and more and more films are being accused of laziness in this area – Jurassic World this Summer felt at times like an extended ad break. I have compiled a list of five hilarious instances of product placement:

Honourable mention…

CASTAWAY – FEDEX

10This one is an honourable mention due to the fact that FedEx didn’t actually pay for the extended appearance in Robert Zemeckis Castaway. The film, starring Tom Hanks, follows the story of a time-obsessed FedEx delivery man who fights for survival on a desert island after a delivery fight for, you guessed it, FedEx crashes. The company logo features pretty heavily throughout and the service is essential to the plot, leading many to deduce that FedEx must have paid a huge sum for such extensive product placement. However, this was not actually the case – Zemeckis has publicly stated that it was he that approached FedEx rather than the other way around, believing that an authentic logo was essential to the overall realism of the film. Interestingly enough, FedEx were in fact initially dubious about the film due to the fact that it featured one of their planes crashing.

5 – SAN ANDREAS – PEPSI

Pepsi-Product-Placement-in-San-Andreas-2015-MovieSan Andreas is hilarious in a lot of ways, very few of them intentional, but the product placement is without a doubt one of the highlights amongst the madness. The film is a disaster movie which appears to exist only to allow director Brad Peyton to live out all his childhood fantasies and let Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson flex those gigantic muscles – there are explosions, earthquakes and tsunamis galore, so just where they would manage to fit in an advert for Pepsi was always going to be problematic. Yet manage it they do, with Paul Giamatti’s Dr. Lawrence Hayes taking a nice long sip of Diet Pepsi before going about finding out about that pesky earthquake, as you do. Even more hilariously, this is not the only example of blatant product placement in the film – there is also an excellent shot near the beginning where we see dozens of Apple logos light up on students macbook in a crowded lecture hall – the height of subtlety.

4 – WORLD WAR Z – PEPSI

03-pepsi-bisPepsi seem to love placing their product into films where it makes little sense, with Coca-Cola’s main rival also showing up in zombie thriller World War Z back in 2013. It seems that any character in a film that is going to be required to deal with some form of disaster just has to have a few glugs of Pepsi goodness before they can continue on their way – even if you’re Brad Pitt. It’s hilarious in the same way that San Andreas is in that it is just flat out ridiculous and only succeeds in totally bringing you out of the film for a couple of minutes as you try to get your head around how weird it all is.

3 – THE LEGO MOVIE – LEGO

the_lego_movie_2014-wideThis one manages to be both hilarious and clever, surprising everyone in the process. The Lego Movie became one of 2014’s biggest success stories – based on the building block toys, directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord managed to make a film that was inventive, wacky and above all else, entertaining with a heartfelt message. This is no mean feat for a kids film, but its all the more impressive when you consider that the film is really just one long advert for Lego, with sales reportedly going up by 11% in the wake of the films release and a sequel in the pipeline. Now that’s product placement done right.

2 – ZOMBIELAND – TWINKIES

8-zombieland-quotesProduct placement works best when it is either natural to the surroundings or incorporated into the plot in a way that doesn’t feel overly intrusive, usually in the form of a joke or gag. Zombieland pulls this off perfectly, with Woody Harrelson’s character “Tallahassee” being obsessed with Twinkies. The character is on a quest to find them, and that moment when he gloriously fulfils his dream probably had all of America hankering for the sweet yellow treat. The joke is funny, but also feels organic to the overall tone of the film and is a great example of how to pull off product placement without compromising the finished film.

Side Note: Zombieland also nailed cameos – Bill Murray, anyone?

1 – ANYTHING MICHAEL BAY IS INVOLVED IN

transformers_product_placementMichael Bay isn’t a director known for his sophistication, so it can hardly be a surprise that the guy appears to be a pretty big fan of the old product placement. How else is he going to fund the increasingly ludicrous explosion extravaganzas he calls films? There was X-Box in The Island, Burger King in Transformers, but Michael Bay was officially awarded for his contribution to the big business that is product placement earlier this year. The Bandcameo product placement awards (yes, it’s a real thing) deemed Transformers: Age of Extinction the film with the most product placements in the past year, with a staggering 55 separate brands being featured throughout. 55. The film ran for a ridiculously bloated 165 minutes, but how they still managed to fit FIFTY-FIVE different brands in a film about robots and Mark Wahlberg is a mystery. It’s hilarious because if you didn’t laugh you would probably weep at the fact that this guy continues to make films and that they continue to make millions.

What are your favourite moments of hilarious product placement? Let me know in the comments section!

 

 

Standard
Film, Opinion

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR PIXAR?

Pixar-Logo-700x300

1995 was a big year. I was born, Pierre Omidyar founded eBay and the DVD was invented. But one of the most notable events of the year (in terms of pop culture at least) was the release of Toy Story. The first ever wholly computer animated motion picture, Toy Story was a technological feat, and it made Pixar Animation Studios a household name.

The California based company have now produced no less than 16 films (including The Good Dinosaur, which is out in the UK today) and have revolutionised the industry several times over. For years Pixar were motored on, with an unprecedented hot streak that began with Toy Story and ended (arguably) with Toy Story 3 in 2010. In between these book ends audiences were graced with; A Bugs Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters Inc (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Wall-E (2008) and Up (2009).

download2011 hit, and with it came Cars 2, for the first time raising some questions. Whilst the Toy Story sequels seemed necessary and resulted in one of the best movie trilogies of all time, Cars wasn’t a film that felt like it needed its world revisited. Brave, Pixar’s first fairytale the following year made it seem like the shine may have been starting to wear off the once untouchable studio, with Roger Ebert noting that it wasn’t the ‘groundbreaking’ stuff the studio were known for. Monsters University (2013) was a prequel, again raising eyebrows in spite of generally positive reviews.

Inside Out was a smash hit this Summer and was deemed a return to form for the studio known for its innovation, imagination and universal appeal. The jury is still out on The Good Dinosaur, which reportedly has been dogged a tough production, but early reviews have praised the animation over the apparently lacklustre plot. 2015 is the first year that the studio has released two films in one year, a feat it is set to repeat in 2017, and it seems that the two films represent the two reactions that Pixar films tend to be met with – critical adoration, or the realisation that they have failed to live up to the extremely high standards set by that 1995 – 2010 streak.

PicMonkey Collage

Looking ahead, Pixar have announced five films, bringing them up to 2019. Only one of them – Coco (2017) – is an original concept, with the other five all being sequels to previous films. Finding Dory is set to hit screens next year, with Cars 3 following in 2017, Toy Story 4 in 2018 and The Incredibles 2 the following year.

Is this worrying? As stated earlier in this post, Pixar are loved for their original animations, and it doesn’t look like originality is high on their list of priorities at the moment. Cars 3 doesn’t really make a lot of sense – Cars wasn’t even one of the best loved original concepts, and the sequel was the closest thing the studio has had to a critical failure, making it seem strange that they have decided to go back for a third try, though it’s probably down to the merchandising opportunities – Pixar are still a company trying to make big bucks after all.

Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 are in risky territory, running the risk of tainting two beloved classics. It’s also going to have been over a decade since the originals were released by the time the sequels come out – are they going to be able to make these characters and stories relevant a second time around?

maxresdefaultThe most worrying of all, however, is the fact that they are going back to Toy Story for a fourth film. The original trilogy is the perfect example of Pixar – and animation – at its very best, with a saga perfectly balancing across three films and ending on a spectacular and emotional high. If Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 are in risky territory, Toy Story 4 runs the risk of destroying the entire generations happy childhood memories (Ok probably not quite that bad, but you catch the gist). John Lasseter, Pixar legend and the director of the first two Toy Story films, is back at the helm, and we can only hope that he would only come back for a great story. He announced earlier this year that the film would focus on the romance between Woody and Bo Peep, who was absent from the third film. It’s all very vague so far, and whilst it could go either way it is going to be a hard one to get right. It will still make piles of money though – everyone is going to want to see if they have pulled it off. Very clever Pixar, but you are playing with fire.

Coco looks like it could be promising. Following the story of 12 year old Mexican boy Miguel, the film is based around the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico. Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) is in the directors chair, and the Day of the Dead festival is a promising inspiration for some beautiful animation, so heres hoping that they can complete the magic triangle with a great story to match.

So, what does the future hold for Pixar? Right now, it looks like a lot of sequels, and the studio is going to have to work hard to keep its most beloved work sacred. The huge success of Inside Out earlier this year will hopefully inspire the studio to get back to doing what they do best – inspiring us all with stunning animation and original concepts.

Standard
Reviews, Television

PEEP SHOW S9 E3 ‘THREEISM’ REVIEW:

peep-show-s3-20090618172600_625x352We are now halfway through the final series of Peep Show, and the El Dude Brothers are yet to disappoint. Threeism dials things back considerably after the madness that ensued last week, but it was no less funny.

Mark (David Mitchell) has moved on from Dobby (Isy Suttie) it would seem, but that doesn’t mean he has become any rational in his quest for love. This week he has tracked down April (Catherine Shephard), a girl he followed to Dartmouth University back in Series 2 (yes, really). April could be the one after all, but she’s married now. Mark sense some resentment, so of course he organises a dinner party in an attempt to lure her away from monogamy.

Jeremy (Robert Webb) on the other hand is trying out life as a gay man, except then he decides to sleep with his lover Joe’s girlfriend Megan – his (presumably only) life coach client. Before long he has created a very Jez-esque situation that of course wreaks havoc upon Mark’s aforementioned dinner party.

This is the first time this series that we have not been graced with the company of Super Hans (Matt King), and it is mainly due to this that it feels like this episode operates at a much lower key. Super Hans has always been excellent due to the fact that he just pops up from time to time – a reflection of the thoroughly random nature of his character – so it’s probably not a bad thing. Plus, if it turns out last week was the last we see of him – what a way to go.

We see the return of another character in the form of April. With it being the last series, we are seeing a ‘greatest hits’ of sorts with the return of various characters. April was a surprising but ultimately welcome addition – she was a one-off character, but it actually follows Marks development to realise that she is the type of girl he should have been pursuing long term. It wouldn’t be Peep Show if it was that simple, and Mark’s bumbling attempts to wean her off her husband were fantastic.

The final series is shaping up well at this point – a perfect blend of comedy and progression in each episode. With only three more to go, it’s getting hard to come around to the idea of it all coming to an end.

My top five quotes from this episode are…

“Eyes? Bleach? Is that a bad one?” 

The rare situation where Jeremy is the voice of reason.

“He’s very decent, very wholesome. How can I steal his wife?”

Mark back on his lifelong quest to find ‘the one’.

“Oh no, Joe in bedroom, Megan in the hallway – I’m playing genital jenga” 

Jeremy is also back to his usual antics, albeit with a twist.

“Beans are pasta sauce!”

Jeremy keeping it classy, as always.

“I live with a gay couple. It’s political correctness gone normal”

Mark doing what he does best – being Mark.

Standard
Film, Lists, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: ACTING NOMINEE PREDICTIONS:

1401x788-162616927

The Oscar race is well and truly underway, and movie fans are now being treated to some of the best that cinema has to offer between now and February 28th next year. The acting nominations are among the big hitters in terms of Academy Awards, and the Academy are going to have some extremely tough decisions on their hands next year in that area. Bearing in mind that the I have not seen a great deal of these films, I have compiled my current predictions for who will be nominated in the four big acting categories – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

BEST ACTOR:

PicMonkey Collage

THE FIVE:

  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

WILDCARDS:

  • Tom Hardy, Legend
  • Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes

This is an extremely strong category this year, and certainly the category that everyone will be talking about. The Academy are a big fan of a truse story, and this is very much looking like its going to be the main trend in the Best Actor nominations this year. Johnny Depp is already making waves for his performance of real-life gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, which is out on Friday here in the UK. Depp has been accused with going for quirk over content in the past few years, and this has been lauded as a real return to form. Even just looking at the trailer, it is clearly a totally transformative role, and whilst the gangster genre is a hard one to nail I don’t think there are going to be many criticisms of Depp’s performance, making him a real contender for Best Actor.

Eddie Redmayne won in this category last year for his excellent turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, which was above all a real feat in physical acting. It could be two in a row for the British actor with Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl seeing him take on the role of Lile Elbe, the first ever person to undertake gender reassignment surgery. This film has the Academy written all over it, and Redmayne stands a real chance at becoming only the third actor (after Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks) to bring home the statue two years in a row.

Leonardo-DiCaprio-Oscar-2014Leonardo DiCaprio is being heavily tipped to finally get his Oscar with The Revenant. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the man behind last year’s Acadamy success story Birdman, the film tells the story of Hugh Glass, a man who survived being mauled by a bear in 1820’s Dakota Territory. The film is already expected to be a technical masterpiece, but will it also bring DiCaprio his fifth nomination? You have to root for him really, if they don’t give him an award soon they are going to end up giving him one for a mediocre film in years to come when they finally realise he was overlooked (a la Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman). The downside of a DiCaprio win? There won’t be anymore of those hilarious GIFs spreading across the internet (sorry Leo).

Steve Jobs wasn’t as much of a commercial success in the US as expected, but this shouldn’t affect Michael Fassbender’s chances of nabbing a nomination as the Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s film of the same name. What he lacked in physical resemblance he more than made up for in nailing the complexity of Jobs’ character in a real warts-and-all fashion. He probably won’t win, but a nomination is surely on the horizon.

I am yet to see Bridge of Spies, but there is pretty much no doubt in anyone’s mind that: a) it will be great; b) it will be nominated for a lot of awards. It has some of the best talent in Hollywood behind it after all, with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, the Cohen Brothers with writing credits, and Tom Hanks in the lead role.  If that’s not a recipe for awards gold I don’t know what is, and I think Hanks is all but guaranteed a nomination. He has been nominated five times before, winning twice in the early 90’s for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, and Bridge of Spies ticks a lot of Academy friendly boxes, but with such a strong Best Actor category this year anything could happen.

PicMonkey CollageDue to such a strong category, there are a few performances that have an outside chance of getting a nomination. I haven’t totally ruled out Matt Damon in The Martian – a great performance from a very popular actor. The Academy does appear to take commercial success into account in some cases – could we see Damon toppling Fassbender if they base it on the Box Office?  Tom Hardy in Legend could be in with an outside chance, though it would seem the odds may be stacked against his heavyweight performance. Hardy took on the double role of the Kray twins, but I think if it came to an Academy nomination his more restrained turn as Reggie could be in with a chance. Legend is another example of the busy and difficult gangster genre, and its very distinct sense of Britishness could see it remain on the outskirts come the Oscars. Sir Ian McKellan also delivered an excellent performance as an ageing Sherlock Holmes in Mr.Holmes, though the films early release date and understated nature could see it getting overlooked in a very flashy category.

BEST ACTRESS:

PicMonkey Collage2

THE FIVE:

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
  • Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

WILDCARDS:

  • Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash
  • Melissa McCarthy, Spy

Best Actress is a great category this year, with a range of excellent performances to choose from. Jennifer Lawrence has just become the highest paid actress in the world, and she has also been nominated two years in a row, winning in 2014 for Silver Lining’s Playbook, and her hot streak looks set to continue with her latest Oscar effort, Joy. Joy sees her reunite for a third time with director David O Russell to chart the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film isn’t out yet but Lawrence is almost guaranteed to make it a hat trick with a third nomination.

Brooklyn has been receiving excellent reviews, with the majority of the praise being aimed at the performance of Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead role of an Irish girl who emigrates to America. The film is an understated masterpiece, and Ronan deserves all the praise she can get for her work, making this nomination another pretty safe bet. The Irish actress was nominated in the supporting actress back in 2007 for Atonement, aged just 13 at the time, and her transition into adult roles is awards-worthy indeed.

Cate Blanchett is one of those actresses that is so consistently good that it is almost taken for granted. She is being heavily tipped for a nomination for her role as the titular Carol, in the film based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel. She is already a six time nominee and two time winner – winning in the Supporting Actress category for The Aviator in 2004, and bagging Best Actress for her sensational turn in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in 2013. Carol is out in the UK on Friday, but Blanchett’s impressive CV already suggest that she will be a main contender come February.

Suffragette is the kind of film I’m surprised hasn’t been made before now – a look at the struggle in the UK as women fought for the vote. It featured an excellent cast, including Helena Bohem Carter and Meryl Streep (in hardly more than a cameo, granted), but at the heart of it all was Carey Mulligan, who plays a young working class wife and mother that gets swept up by the cause.  It’s going to be a tough category this year, but I think Mulligan has a real chance at being nominated in this undeniably important film.

The Academy, or perhaps Hollywood as a whole, can be a real ageist old bunch, but I still think that Dame Maggie Smith is a real contender this year for her fantastic turn in The Lady in the Van. It’s like Suffragette in that it’s all very British, but it has a charm that will still be felt across the pond. This isn’t as strong a contender as the others, but that is not down to the acting in any way. Smith is tremendous, bringing her huge talent and underrated comic timing to the fore.

PicMonkey Collage5This is another extremely strong category, but it has been an big year for strong female performances and there are a few excellent ones that might nab an unexpected nomination. Ricki and the Flash was a really bad movie, but the Academy (along with the world) love its star, Meryl Streep (NINETEEN nominations, more than anyone else ever), and she has been nominated for less than stellar films before with August: Osage County, so don’t count her out of the running just yet. The Academy has never been particularly rewarding of comedy, so it would be a surprise to see the nonetheless deserving Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer bag nominations for Spy and Trainwreck respectively. Never say never though – McCarthy in particular is becoming a real Hollywood success story, and Spy was a fantastic revamp of both the dated spy format and spoof genre, so a surprise nomination is not totally out of the question. She was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her equally hilarious turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids, showing that even the Academy can’t turn its nose up at truly excellent comedy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

PicMonkey Collage3

THE FIVE:

  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Alicia Vinakaner, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
  • Jane Fonda, Youth

WILDCARDS:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Julie Walter, Brooklyn

PicMonkey Collage6Rooney Mara is making real waves for her performance in Carol alongside Cate Blanchett. With Blanchett being the stalwart that she is, it is no small praise that Mara apparently matches the leads talent in the film about a love between two women. She was nominated in the Best Actress category in 2011 for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but lost out to Natalie Portman in Black Swan. This could be Mara’s year, with Carol receiving critical adoration that looks set to carry the film through to a successful awards season.

This post has already detailed the fact that The Danish Girl is serious awards bait, and Alicia Vinakaner looks set to be a real contender in the Supporting Actress category. She plays the wife of Eddie Redmayne’s character and it is sure to be a very engaging and complex role. It’s the type of thing that the Academy eats up and a non-nomination for Vinakaner would be a shocking game changer.

Kate Winslet looks like the only other chance Steve Jobs’ has in terms of acting nominations. Whilst the film boasts excellent performances from the likes of Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, they are arguably not prominent enough to be real contenders in the Supporting Actor category. Winslet is on excellent form as Jobs’ assistant and confidant Joanna Hoffman, providing a voice of reason to the visionaries tunnel vision. No stranger to the Academy – in 2008 she won Best Actress for The Reader, and in the process became the youngest actress to receive six nominations (aged 33), and it is looking relatively likely that she will bring it up to seven next year.

Macbeth was a stunning film. The refusal to deviate from the original Shakespearian script did of course make it quite hard to follow, but it still received significant attention from critics, and rightly so. French actress Marion Cotillard was an excellent Lady Macbeth, matching Michael Fassbender’s performance as the murderous king to a tee. Fassbender was excellent as Macbeth but his nomination for Steve Jobs is a much surer bet, and it is difficult to decide if Cotillard would fall into lead or supporting role. I think it is more likely that, if nominated, it will be in Supporting Actress. This one is 50/50 however, as there is a good chance that her excellent performance may go overlooked.

I haven’t seen Youth, the drama starring British acting legend Michael Caine, but I have heard nothing but good things. One of the main points of praise has been Jane Fonda’s supporting role, and I think there is a fair chance that she, an American legend herself, could be appearing on the list of nominees. She has been nominated seven times before, winning twice in the 1970’s, and it would be great to see her make a return to the Academy with her first nomination since 1986.

Supporting roles are a harder category to define in general, and it is therefore harder to pinpoint who might be heading for nomination – a role too big and it might not make the supporting category but also be too small for the main award, too small and it can’t justify a nomination. I believe (and hope) that Julie Walters may still be in with a chance for her small role in Brooklyn, where she provided the film with a whole lot of heart and some sweet comic relief. However, it does run the significant risk of being too small of a role, so I won’t be holding my breath over this one too much. Jennifer Jason Leigh could make a surprise nomination for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming western, The Hateful Eight. She is the only woman amidst the titular eight, and with a crowded primary cast it is still yet to be seen how prominent of a role she will really play, so this one is still very much up in the air. It’s also worth noting that the Academy have been proven to be uncomfortable with Tarantino’s particular brand of gloriously violent film-making, with his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction failing to win Best Picture, which doesn’t bode well for Jason Leigh bagging a nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

PicMonkey Collage4

THE FIVE:

  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Robert DeNiro, Joy
  • Bradley Cooper, Joy
  • Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

WILDCARDS:

  • Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Tom Hardy is in with much more of a chance at a supporting nomination for his role in The Revenant. Hardy is known for his massive commitment to his roles, and it is sure to payoff in a film of such intense nature.

David O Russell really loves the Jennifer Lawrence/Robert DeNiro/Bradley Cooper trio, and the Academy seems to also. Both DeNiro and Cooper are set to appear in Joy, and if the past is anything to go by they are probably both in with a pretty decent chance of nomination. DeNiro is a Hollywood heavyweight, having appeared in some of the best films ever made, and now has the sort of untouchable appeal that is also held by the likes of Meryl Streep, whilst Cooper has been nominated the past three years in a row and, like Lawrence, is on a hot streak that is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

Benicio Del Toro has received high praise for his role in the tense cartel thriller Sicario, and it looks like he may bag himself a nomination. He won an Oscar back in 2000 for his role in Traffic, which was also a crime thriller, and the genre seems to be the actors forte.

Spotlight recieved a limited release in the US earlier this month and has already been met with critical acclaim. It has an ensemble cast with no clear lead, but Mark Ruffalo has been singled out by several critics as one of the films many highlights. Ruffalo has been nominated twice before, and also just seems like such a nice guy that I think he has pretty strong chances.

PicMonkey Collage7It’s a hard one to call, but Joel Edgerton may be in with a chance for his role in Black Mass. The actor has made an impression this year with his directorial debut in The Gift, where he also showcased his impressive acting prowess. Whether he will manage a nomination from what the trailers are making to look like very much Depp’s film is yet to be seen. Spotlight is also getting a great deal of attention, and Michael Keaton may get a nomination in his role after missing out on Best Actor to Eddie Redmayne last year. He was nominated for his spectacular lead in Birdman, so could he get a consolation supporting nomination this year? The Rocky franchise, which was put to bed in 2006 with Rocky Balboa, is being passed over to Michael Jordan with Creed, which will see Sylvester Stallone once again return to his iconic role as the now ageing boxer. It’s yet to be released in the UK, and seems unlikely to be awards bait, but the trailers are suggesting a potentially upsetting ‘Rocky’s sick’ storyline which may bring Stallone into unexpectedly the running with an outside chance.

So there you have it, my predictions for the 2016 acting nominees! Here is a playlist with all of the trailers that have been mentioned in the prediction lists, check them out and let me know what you think in the comments section!:

Standard
Film, List

5 FILMS WITH SURPRISING INTERPRETATIONS:

One of the best things about film is the fact that most movies, especially the best ones, are open to interpretation and have various different meanings. Some metaphors and theories are so well-known and talked about that they have become accepted as basically being the truth, such as the idea that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is about segregation in the USA. Others are much less discussed and more unexpected, and here are five that I find to be the most surprising…

5 – DRAG ME TO HELL is about EATING DISORDERS

DragmetohellSam Riami’s 2009 outing was released to critical acclaim and it considered a return to the directors roots, with his early outings being the cult classic Evil Dead films. Despite this being the case, a surprising amount of people write the film off as being camp or un-scary, apparently forgetting the cult B-movie  appeal that Riami became known for in the first place. Drag Me To Hell tells the story of Christine Brown (Alison Loham), a young woman living and working in LA who has a curse put on her by a creepy gypsy woman Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver) which will see her being literally dragged to hell in three days. It all seems like something that could be taken at face value, but one more interesting interpretation of the film is that it us actually depicting a character being consumed by an eating disorder. There is actually quite a bit of evidence to support this idea throughout the film. There is very prominent fly imagery throughout the film, which holds heavy connotations with death and the decay of flesh. We see a picture of a younger Christine who is overweight, and an attack tends to take place whenever food is introduced on screen.  Any attacks or incidents that take place in Christine’s home always take place in the kitchen, and when the spirit that is harassing her is shown in shadow form it has pig hooves, again playing into the idea of Christine’s insecurities. The incidents that occur throughout the film are always related to the mouth or including vomit, again creating the idea that Christine is suffering from an eating disorder. Ganush shows many attributes of bulimia sufferers such as poor nails and rotting teeth. Christine is also never shown to eat throughout the film, and the time that she tries to she is attacked. This genuinely just scratches the surface of the idea, and Youtube and the internet is filled with much more detailed analysis of the film which lend even more credibility to this very interesting theory.

4 – TOY STORY 3 is about THE HOLOCAUST

Toy_Story_3_posterI know, I know, how can a PIXAR film be about something as horrific as the holocaust in any way, shape or form? But there is no doubt that a lot of the parallels are there, and Pixar has made its name by providing beautiful animation with a range of deeper meanings which contributes to its universal appeal. Toy Story 3 saw the toys we had all come to know and love dealing with the fact that Andy is all grown up and going to college. The fact that the film came out in 2010 meant that the generation that grew up loving the first two movies (AKA me) were also growing up and therefore found it very difficult to control their emotions come the films end (if you didn’t cry you are heartless). All the misty eyed emotion that comes with viewing the film means you may not have noticed some of the distinct parallels the it holds with the treatment of Jews in the holocaust. One of the more on the nose references comes when Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) suggests that the toy gang hide in the attic to avoid being given away. This can be seen as a direct reference to the famous story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who hid along with her family in an attic during the second world war, with her diaries becoming famous across the world following the end of the war. Looking at the narrative in a broader sense, we see the toys being taken away to Sunnyside Daycare. What seems like a utopia soon reveals itself to be a fascist dictatorship at the hands of Lotso-Huggin-Bear (Ned Beatty). This can be taken as a metaphor for the treatment of Jews and concentration camps during the Holocaust. It’s an interesting theory which gives a much deeper meaning to an already emotional film. I’m going to stop writing about it now, I think I have something in my eye…

3 – BATMAN RETURNS is about MOSES 

Batman-Returns-batman-returns-14752890-655-492The second Batman film directed by Tim Burton, released in 1992, actually went so far as to ignite a debate about antisemitism regarding Danny DeVito’s performance as primary villain Penguin. The film sees Penguin introduced as a grotesque baby who is sent down the Gotham Zoo river in a basket by his wealthy parents, thus growing up within (adopted by?) the city sewers and eventually unveiling a plot to kill the first born in every Gotham family. This can be seen to directly parallel Exodus from the Bible – where Moses was sent down a river in a basket, adopted by the Pharaoh, with God later unleashing plagues which included the death of every first born child in Passover. The fact that Penguin, the films villain, is carrying out these actions is what led to the antisemitic accusations, as well as the arguments that DeVito’s character depicts many Jewish stereotypes. Howeve Wesley Srick, the (JEWISH) screenwriter of Batman Returns, was adamant that this was not the case and said he had made deliberate reference to Exodus/Passover in the script. Personally I thought that this reference seemed rather obvious once it was pointed out, and I can’t believe I hadn’t already made the connection in my mind on my own.

2 – THE GREY is about DEATH

The-GreyThe Grey was released in 2012, with the marketing material having a field day capitalising on Liam Neeson’s post Taken popularity as an action hero. The actual film turned out to be much more than an Alaskan based alpha-male/wolf action fest however, instead proving to be a sombre look at the nature of death. The film depicts the journey of oil-rig workers who are faced with trying to survive after a plane crash lands them right in the middle of a wolfpack (not The Hangover kind) death-zone. No matter what your take on the movie, The Grey does not make for comfortable viewing, and my interpretation is that this is because we live in a society where death is a major taboo, and it is therefore no wonder that when we are faced with a film that tackles the subject in such a head on matter we are bound to feel slightly awkward. In the film we see Neeson’s character Ottoway tell a mortally wounded casualty of the plane crash “you’re going to die”, and we see everyone else react in a mixture of shock, horror and discomfort that we the viewer are also experiencing. Looking deeper into the subtext however, and The Grey is really about the way in which people deal with death, and the fact that no matter how we handle it, it’s inevitable. The wolves represent death in this context, a constantly lurking presence that is ready to strike at any time. The film looks at three ways of dealing with death – running from it, accepting it, or fighting it. We see these played out in the actions of all the characters, some of whom desperately try to escape the wolves, whilst others such as Diaz sit down and accept what is coming to them. Then we have Ottoway, who isn’t going down without a fight (it is Liam Neeson, of course). As depressing as it may be, there is no doubt that The Grey is a surprisingly deep and interesting study of the way we as human beings deal with the inevitability of death.

1 – THE TRUMAN SHOW is about BUDDHA 

TrumanshowThe Truman Show is a truly excellent 1998 film which starred Jim Carrey as the titular Truman. The film has a lot to say about the nature of reality, reality television and the whole ‘big brother’ concept, but it also draws some quite interesting parallels to the life of Buddha.

Both were raised in a life of comfort which they came to deduce was not a true reflection of real life – Buddha lived in the security and wealth of a palace whilst Truman was brought up in a manufactured ‘American Dream’ reality – which was constructed by a father or father figure. Both went on to gradually reject the environment in which they were raised, going on to pursue a path to enlightenment. It’s quite a cool idea, though it can be argued that the messages being put forward in The Truman Show are universal and can also be applied to other concepts such as Plato’s Cave Allegory.

_____________________________________________________________

I have to admit some of these are extremely grim, so to end on a happy note here is the barmy but interesting Pixar Theory, which creates a timeline which argues that ALL of the Pixar films exist within the same world. Some points are really stretching the material, but it is still a really inventive and fun theory. You can check it out below, let me know what you think in the comments section!:

Standard
Uncategorized

FILM REVIEW: BROOKLYN

Cert: 12

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen. Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent

brooklyn-movieBased on the novel by Colm Toibin, Brooklyn tells the story of Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young girl in the 1950’s who finds herself in New York seeking a better life, falling in love with Tony (Emory Cohen) in the process. She then finds herself caught between her new life in America and the draw of small town life with her family in Ireland.

The film will immediately resonate with anyone who has ever left home – and to say it resonates is an understatement. I found the film to be a real tearjerker at more than one point, probably due to the fact that I really struggled with homesickness when I first moved away for university. Despite the period setting, the conflict between wanting to make your way in the world and wishing you could stay with your family is a timeless one, and it is executed here in a way that is very believable.

The 1950’s setting is gorgeously conveyed, with the nostalgic, vintage rendering of New York City proving to be one of the films many highlights. The costumes are also beautiful, lighting up the Cony Island scenes in particular.

However, at the very heart of the films success is without a doubt the casting. Ronan and Cohen totally inhabit the roles and this is what makes you empathise with the characters so much. We feel Ellis’ pain as she struggles with homesickness, and we feel her tentative change of heart as she begins to forge a life in New York. Ronan is perfectly matched in terms of acting ability by Cohen, who provides the film with is adorable heart – you have to have a heart of stone not to smile at Tony’s reaction when Ellis agrees to go on a date with him.

The central duo are bolstered by an excellent supporting cast, including stalwarts Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent. Walters proves there is nothing wrong with her comic timing in her role, providing some real laugh out loud moments to help alleviate the sadder moments.

Brooklyn is a brilliant, understated film that proves that cinema doesn’t have to be all big explosions and unfeasible romances to be hugely effective – quite possibly one of the best films I have seen this year.

Standard