List, Music

STUDY TRACKS

Posts here have been few and far between lately as I find myself swamped with uni work in the face of ever looming exam season. I therefore decided to do something slightly different and share with you some of the tracks I listen to when I study, and in the process I hope I can provide some small comfort to any students who may be reading this and in a similar plight.

INSTRUMENTAL/CINEMA INSPIRED:

I find that listening to instrumental music can be effective when studying as it provides less of a distraction that can sometimes be the case when listening to lyrics (or maybe I’m the only one who is so easily distracted?). Some of my favourites include Brian Eno and the Twin Peaks theme song by Angelo Badlamenti. The latter is an excellent blend of uplifting and motivational and is a fantastic pick me up if you find yourself waning in the middle of an all nighter, just don’t let yourself get waylaid to the point of binge watching Twin Peaks, ok?

Being the cinephile that I believe myself to be, I often pick up songs from the films and TV I’ve been watching. This is how I came across Brian Eno, and two of my favourite tracks are from Me, Earl and the Dying Girl and Trainspotting respectively:

Some other cinema inspired study music includes the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, of which my personal favourite is the excellent Concerning Hobbits. But, yet again, I must warn you that opting for film based music comes paired with the temptation to watch the film it comes from, and to resist doing so takes some serious willpower.

Another fantastic track that I recently discovered from the Michael Caine starring Youth was Ceiling Gazing from Mark Kozelek and Jimmy Lavelle. It’s a fantastic, chilled tune which provides a perfect relaxed backdrop to study to.

Also consider checking out the soundtracks from Trainspotting, Trance (anything directed by Danny Boyle, really), The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Guardians of the Galaxy and Pulp Fiction.

MTV UNPLUGGED/ACOUSTIC:

I have already detailed in a past post just how much I love old MTV Unplugged performances, and I never listen to them more than when I am attempting to knuckle down with some work. Some of my favourites include Eric Clapton:

Nirvana:

Alice in Chains:

COUNTRY:

I grew up listening to country music, and my love of the genre endures. I love old school country such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Such artists are great to study to, and some of my favourite tracks include pretty much anything in Williams’ catalogue, as well as the following:

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a compilation album which saw a variety of artists complete songs left behind following the singers untimely death in 1953, is another one I frequently play as I work. Each song is brilliant in its own way, but my favourite is probably You Know That I Know. Sung by Jack White of The White Stripes, who perfectly encapsulates Williams’ spirit, it is a huge highlight:

Another song I really like is one by Chris Scruggs, an artist who came up and played at the Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival in my home of the Shetland Isles a few years ago. I bought his album, Anthem, and still listen to it regularly. Every track is fantastic, but my favourite by far is Old Souls Like You and Me: 

OTHER:

My taste in music is quite varied, but I find when I’m studying I tend to like grunge, acoustic, country and generally quite relaxed tunes, as I’ve detailed above. Here are some other songs that tend to find their way onto my study playlist:

What tunes do you like to study to? Let me know in the comments section, and happy studying folks! 

 

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Film, List

JANUARY IN FILM – TOP 5 MOVIE QUOTES

My top five pieces of dialogue from January’s cinema offerings. 

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The most tedious month of the year is finally over. I’ve been pretty active in my cinema-going this month and have managed to see a total of ten different films, ranging from the average to the awards-worthy. Here are my five favourite quotes that have stuck with me most from this months viewing…

“That’s the thing with old people. You can push them down the stairs and pretend it was an accident, but you can’t just shoot ’em”

– Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter John Ruth says it like it is in The Hateful Eight

“He’s so transparent in his self interest that I kinda respect him” 

– Mark Buam (Steve Carrell) assesses sleazy banker Jared Venett (Ryan Gosling) in The Big Short

“Are you four?”

– Steve Carrell gives everyone Michael Scott flashbacks in The Big Short

“They knew and they let it happen….It coulda been you, it coulda been me, it coulda been any of us!” 

– Mark Ruffalo shows why he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turn as journalist Michael Rezendes in Spotlight

“Such tremendous effort…for such modest returns” 

– Michael Caine gives his best performance in years as a retired composer in Youth

What are your top quotes for the month? Let me know in the comments section!

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Film, Reviews

FILM REVIEW: THE DANISH GIRL

Tom Hooper brings the story of Lili Elbe, one of the world’s first gender reassignment patients, to the big screen.

Director: Tom Hooper

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander

Certificate: 15

The Danish Girl is a film that has been fighting to get made for a long time, yet it has finally come along when the subject matter couldn’t be more relevant. Trans issues are finally being talked about, and 2015 was a big year with Caitlyn Jenner – love her or hate her – making the issue a household topic, whilst the likes of Laverne Cox are bringing the issues to the mainstream. It feels like the perfect backdrop to tell the story of Lili Elbe, born Einar Warner, who was one of the first patients to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Hooper fully embraces the classical film-making style, and the result is a dully beautiful 1920’s Copenhagen, as pleasing to the eye as one of Einar (Eddie Redmayne) or Gerda Warner’s (Alicia Vikander) paintings, but lacking the substance that one would expect in a film of this sort. The narrative is fairly straightforward and the paint-by-numbers biopic arguably doesn’t do the extremely interesting real-life characters justice.

Redmayne and Vikander are at the top of their game and have both received Oscar nominations for their fantastic work as the married couple at the center of the tale. They make the film watchable and their dynamic as a married couple and, above all else, as friends is what is at the heart of the story. It can be disappointing to look at the backstory of the real Einar/Lili and Gerda however, and see that Hooper has opted to take a decidedly bland version of the tale to the screen. The supporting cast are equally strong, with Mattias Schoenaerts in particular becoming a key player.

The film has proved controversial in it’s depiction of Lili, with criticisms being aimed at Redmayne’s casting and the fact that the narrative bases itself on Einar ‘learning’ to be a woman, with various scenes showing the character mimicking female gestures. This could almost be perceived as a step backwards in the representation of trans issues, but Redmayne’s performance itself is well executed. Much like his Oscar-winning turn in The Theory of Everything, the actor carried out extensive research for the role and it shines through, with the films issues instead being down to the script.

The score, whilst pleasant, is nothing special and continues the ‘by the book’ feel that blights the entire film, though the costume and set design is stunning. In his review for The Atlantic, David Sims said:

“It’s a film that’s sensitive and often touching, but not remotely compelling.” 

All the elements for a great film are there, but a story as interesting as Lili’s should not be this boring to watch. It could have been a film that broke new ground, but instead it feels like Hooper is playing it safe and gunning for the Oscar’s.

Ultimately, The Danish Girl is a story of what could have been – perhaps in the hand of a different director it may have been a very different film, but as it stands it has fallen far short of the wider cultural impact it could have had.

 

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Film, List, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: ACTING PREDICTIONS

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The nominations are in! Yesterday saw the 2016 Academy Award nominations finally be announced ahead of the ceremony next month. There were plenty of sure bets, with The Revenant leading the pack at 12 nominations, but also some welcome surprises with Mad Max: Fury Road getting 10 nominations. Now that we can all be done speculating over who would be nominated, we can get onto speculating about who will win – here are my predictions for the acting categories…

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston Trumbo (1st nomination)

Matt DamonThe Martian (3rd acting nomination)

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (6th nomination)

Michael FassbenderSteve Jobs (2nd nomination)

Eddie RedmayneThe Danish Girl (2nd nomination)

Who will win? It’s a tough call between DiCaprio and Redmayne. All hilarious jokes aside, DiCaprio probably deserves it more as it looks like his work on The Revenant was another level, but The Danish Girl is as oscar-baiting as they come and that could see DiCaprio losing out for another year.

Best Actress:

Cate BlanchettCarol (7th nomination)

Brie LarsonRoom (1st nomination)

Jennifer LawrenceJoy (4th nomination)

Charlotte Rampling 45 Years (1st nomination)

Saoirse RonanBrooklyn (2nd nomination)

Who will win? I think Blanchett probably has this in the bag, especially given the fact that Carol has been snubbed for Best Picture. That said, it’s an extremely tough category and I could see any of them winning, but my bet is on her.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale The Big Short (3rd nomination)

Tom Hardy – The Revenant (1st nomination)

Mark RuffaloSpotlight (3rd nomination)

Sylvester StalloneCreed (2nd acting nomination)

Mark RylanceBridge of Spies (1st nomination)

Who will win? I’m pretty firmly in the belief that Hardy will take this one home, as The Revenant is all but guaranteed to sweep up at the awards next month, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to see Stallone come out of nowhere to bag the prize (he did win the Golden Globe after all).

Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Jason LeighThe Hateful Eight (1st nomination)

Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl (1st nomination)

Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs (7th nomination)

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight (1st nomination)

Rooney Mara – Carol (2nd nomination)

Who will win? I’m willing to bet Vikander, who frankly should have been up in the Best Actress section for her role in The Danish Girl, which was easily equal to Redmayne’s. Like Best Actress though this is an extremely tough category where they are all deserving, and in with a decent chance, of winning.

Who do you think will take home the Academy Awards next month? Let me know in the comments section!

 

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Film, List

DECEMBER IN FILM:

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2015 is drawing to a close, and it has undoubtedly been a huge year for film – The Avengers assembled for the second time, Bond returned, Fantastic Four flopped, Mad Max: Fury Road brought action movies to the fore and Inside Out reminded us why we all fell in love with Pixar. It has been a year of heady highs and lacklustre lows, but it’s not over yet. There is still one month left of the year and plenty of exciting films to look forward to as the Oscar race heats up. The biggest cinematic event of the month is without a doubt the release of the hotly anticipated seventh instalment in the Star Wars franchise – whilst I am not myself a fan of the franchise (I’m sorry, I haven’t seen any of the films), I will probably not be able to resist joining the hype and checking out the new movie. As is always the case in December, there are a few seasonal films being released in the lead up to Christmas, and I have looked at them before moving onto the other films being released this month…

CHRISTMAS FILMS:

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE: 

download (5)Out: December 4th

Director: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Anthony Mackie

What’s it about?: The film follows three best friends – Ethan (Joseph Gordon Levitt, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), who embark on one last Christmas Eve night out together in New York City, a tradition they have upheld for the previous 14 years.

Will it be good? Director Levine’s credits include subversive slasher All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) and dramedy 50/50 (2011) (which also starred Gordon-Levitt and Rogen), as well as horror/rom-com Warm Bodies (2013), so there is no doubt that he has both range and comedic credentials. The cast is also strong – the leading trio are all promising and the trailer suggests a few big laughs. Comedy is always a hard one to read – the trailer will always contain the best moments, but these can easily turn out to be the only laughs in the film. Early reviews suggest that the film is a solid effort, though the likelihood that it will become a festive staple is pretty low.

KRAMPUS:

download (1)Out: December 4th 

Director: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Colette

What’s it about? A black comedy/horror, the film depicts a family who are stalked by Krampus, the legendary figure known for punishing children who have been bad at Christmas – “the shadow of Saint Nicholas”.

Will it be good? The film is bolstered by a strong cast – Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation fame and Toni Colette head the family – and director Michael Dougherty is known for cult hit Trick’r’Treat (2007), so the chances of this being a Christmas treat for horror fans is quite high. The marketing thus far has kept the tone relatively dark, so the jury is still out on how much of a role the comedy element will play – expect something between Black Christmas (1974) and Gremlins (1984) on the horror/comedy scale.

CHRISTMAS WITH THE COOPERS:

download (2)Out: December 1st

Director: Jessie Nelson

Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms

What’s it about? Titled Love the Coopers in the US, the film follows the four generations of the Cooper clan coming together to celebrate Christmas. Charlotte Cooper (Diane Keaton) is desperate to have the perfect Christmas, but the coming together of the family leads to a variety of misadventures and incidents.

Will it be good? It has a pretty decent cast, but it doesn’t look like anything particularly groundbreaking. The ensemble looks promising, and there are sure to be the typical dysfunctional family laughs throughout and the heartwarming ending, but I’m willing to bet you won’t remember it next Christmas.

OTHER RELEASES:

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS:

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_PosterOut: 17th December

Director: J J Abrahams

Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley

What’s it about? Set approximately 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise features new leads alongside returning characters. Plot details have been closely guarded, so we will all have to wait until December 17th to have any real idea what it’s about.

Will it be good? I honestly feel like it isn’t really my place to say, seeing as I haven’t seen any of the other six films. Popular opinion appears to suggest that the original trilogy was cinematic gold, whilst the more recent trilogy appears to get a bit of stick. However, J J Abrahams managed to bring Star Trek to a new generation, so there is no reason why he can’t work his magic on Star Wars too.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN:

Victor_Frankenstein_2015Out: December 3rd

Director: Paul McGuigan

Starring: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe

What’s it about? Based on Mary Shelly’s 1819 novel Frankenstein, the film is told from the perspective of Victor Frankenstein’s (James McAvoy) assistant Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) as he witnesses the experiments on his quest to create the famous monster.

Will it be good? The problem with any adaption of this sort is that it immediately has a lot of live up to and will draw comparisons to the wealth of other existing adaptions. The film has been met with generally negative reviews thus far, probably due to the aforementioned fact, but the fact that it has two great actors leading the film in the form of McAvoy and Radcliffe means that there is a chance for some entertainment factor.

BY THE SEA:

By_The_Sea_TeaserOut: 11th December

Director: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Starring: Angelina Jolie Pitt, Brad Pitt

What’s it about? Written, directed and starring Angelina Jolie Pitt, the film is a romantic drama set in 1970s France. Brad Pitt stars alongside his wife, and the film depicts a couple who travel the country together and stop in a seaside town.

Will it be good? This is the first film that Brangelina will star in together since Mr and Mrs Smith (2005), the film on which they met. Jolie Pitt has shown that she can be a strong director with Unbroken earlier this year, and the fact that the lead pair are together in real life suggests that they will have the chemistry necessary to pull of a romantic plot. Chances are this will be a good, if somewhat understated, piece.

SISTERS:

Sisters_movie_poster (1)Out: 18th December

Director: Jason Moore

Starring: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey

What’s it about? Two sisters – one carefree and spontaneous (Tina Fey) and the other cautious and uptight (Amy Poehler) – decide to throw one last party when their parents announce they are selling their childhood home.

Will it be good? Here’s hoping. Poehler and Fay are a double act to be reckoned with, and there is no doubt that these two can make pretty much anything hilarious. The trailer looks promising and director Moore was behind 2012 smash-hit Pitch Perfect, so this one is looking pretty promising.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA:

In_the_Heart_of_the_Sea_posterOut: 26th December 

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, Charlotte Riley

What’s it about? Based on Nathanial Philbrick’s 2000 book of the same name, which itself is an account of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820, an incident which inspired Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick (are you keeping up?), the film tells the story of the crew of the ship Essex as it is attacked by a gigantic sperm whale.

Will it be good? Directed by Ron Howard, the man behind the likes of Apollo 13 (1995), Cocoon (1985) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), hopes are high for this big sea adaption. Apollo 13 in particular showed that Howard knows how to handle a big concept, and the deep sea setting is sure to provide some stunning visuals. A lot is riding on the whale in selling the films visual appeal, and the trailer footage suggests that it won’t disappoint.

DADDY’S HOME:

Daddy's_Home_posterOut: 25th December

Director: Sean Anders

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrel

What’s it about? Brad (Ferrel) is the model step-father to his wife’s children, but finds himself battling for their affections when their infinitely cooler father Dusty (Wahlberg) returns to town.

Will it be good? It’s 50/50. Ferrel is hilarious, as is Wahlberg given the right material, so the pairing has the potential to be something pretty funny. That said, they appeared together in The Other Guys (2010), which was met with a positive reception but has since been forgotten. The two actors have appeared in what adds up to a huge number of forgettable comedies, so the odds suggest that this is the category that Daddy’s Home will fall into come the new year.

SNOOPY AND CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE:

Peanuts_2015Out: 21st December

Director: Steve Martino

Starring: Noah Schnapp, Mariel Sheets

What’s it about? The film follows Charlie Brown try to win the affections of the Little Red-Haired Girl, whilst his pooch pal Snoopy pens the story of his WW1 alter ego Flying Ace, who is on a quest to rescue his love Fifi from the Red Baron.

Will it be good? Probably not. It is really hard to adapt a feature length film out of short panel sketches, making the chances of The Peanuts Movie being appealing to anyone other than young children very unlikely. However, to give it the benefit of the doubt, The Lego Movie last year proved that even the flimsiest source material can work with enough imagination – who says the Peanuts crew can’t be the same? The film is already out the in the US and has received positive reviews, so it is probably worth a watch.

So there you have it, the lowdown on all the films that people will be talking about this December. I suggest you get yourself a Cineworld card and join me in watching, dissecting and discussing them all! Let me know what you think of these upcoming releases in the comments section. I am leaving you with an excellent 2015 salute to cinema by Ben Zuk, featuring a staggering 164 films. Enjoy!

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Film, Lists, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: ACTING NOMINEE PREDICTIONS:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!:

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Film, Reviews

FILM REVIEW: STEVE JOBS

Dir: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet

Cert: 15

“How come ten times in a day I hear Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?”

20-fall-preview-movies-steve-jobs-michael-stuhlbarg-michael-fassbender-kate-winslet.w750.h560.2xSteve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) poses this question to the titular Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in the trailer of Danny Boyle’s latest film, written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), making it immediately clear that this is not going to be anything like the celebratory Apple advertisement it could have been.

What Boyle and Sorkin have done is provide a deep character study of Jobs – who died in 2011 – without mentioning Pixar, cancer,the iPhone or his widow Laurene Powell. Sorkin has stated that the avoidance of the typical ‘greatest hits’ biopic structure was a conscious decision, and a good one it was too. The film instead takes on more of a theatrical structure, essentially consisting of three real-time acts with a few brief deviations, all taking place in the run up to a notable product launch. It is this that makes Steve Jobs stand out from the wealth of other material that has been produced on the Apple co-founder, particularly the 2013 film Jobs, which starred Ashton Kutcher in the central role. The structure also allows you to immediately do away with the notion of the film as a biopic and thus at the same time stepping away from all the normal expectations that would come with watching a biopic, one of which is the ‘facts’. I personally feel this is a film that should be taken very much as artistic interpretation, based of course on fact but not to be taken as concrete fact in itself.

steve_jobsThe film is an intense character study – it’s Fassbender’s film through and through, and whilst he doesn’t look particularly like Jobs, but also isn’t unlike him enough to be distracting – and there is no doubt that Jobs was an interesting character. The film explores many interesting themes through the character, notably ambition. The film is incredibly brave in tackling the mythological status that has descended upon Jobs, especially following his death. Jobs is shown to be stubborn, difficult and at times incredibly harsh. He is also shown to be relentless in his drive and ambition for success, and it is the different aspects of Jobs’ character as presented in the film that makes it so much more interesting than any biopic could ever be.

Whilst Jobs is without a doubt the main character, the supporting cast also do a stellar job. Kate Winslet is strong, in spite of a wobbly European accent, as marketing executive and Jobs’ longtime friend Joanna Hoffman. Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Scully is also worthy of mention – the dynamic between him and Fassbender provides one of the most electric portions of the film. One of the highlights however comes in the form of Rogen’s Wozniak, who acts as the voice of reason or moral compass in a sense, highlighting some of the main themes in his dialogue.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-01-at-11.45.08-AMThere is no doubt that the film is going to draw endless comparisons to The Social Network, but whilst both films are interesting studies of the men behind tech phenomenons, there aren’t many comparisons to be held. Whilst David Fincher’s film is a relatively dark study, Steve Jobs has an abundance of energy. Boyle puts his stamp all over this film, which is visually impressive in a way that has come to be an expectation of the director, who’s unique style has been showcased in every film since his debut Shallow Grave (1994). The grand venues for  each launch provide a perfect setting for these distinct visuals, and they do not disappoint.

Another staple of Boyle’s films has always been music, and this is another strong entry in that area. The pulsing beats are essential in creating and maintaining the mood of the film, and it also effectively communicates the time periods – 1984, 1988 and 1998 without sounding overtly ‘retro’.

Steve Jobs hasn’t performed particularly well in the US Box Office, though this may be because after Jobs (2013) proving relatively disastrous people feel like they have seen it all when it comes to the man. Yet here is a film with a wealth of talent behind it, that offers something entirely new. It’s not a biopic – its much more than that, and its strong critical reception has kept it well and truly in the awards race.

Steve Jobs is out in cinemas across the UK now.

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