Wednesday, 6 February 2008

"Guaranteed An Oscar"

Years ago, way back when Monkeypipe was just a little fledgling of a student and writing film reviews for his University newspaper, I went through a stage of trying to suggest that at least one person in every film that I reviewed should be nominated for an Oscar – no matter how ridiculous the performance, no matter how poor the film, at least once the line “guaranteed an Oscar” would appear. It wasn’t a slight, a suggestion that the awards are cheap and given away too freely to the most promoted film rather than the most deserving. I actually love the Oscar’s, love to play along at home every year, making a list of who I would want to win what. I try to watch all the nominees for best film at the least.

The only area that I feel is poorly represented by the awards is the Sound awards. Often what is awarded best Sound is a film that has good sound design or uses play-back (Musicals), a fact that, although by no means contain less work than other films, often make the nominee movies more deserving of Sound Editing at the least. But I digress.

Yesterday, under the misapprehension that Sweeny Todd had been nominated for a Best Picture award, and failing a decent screening time for Michael Clayton (and with There Will Be Blood still to be released) I spent the afternoon in the local cinema grinding my molars through the beautifully designed musical. I’m not a musical fan – I like music, I like songs from musicals – with the exception of Jesus Christ, Superstar – which for some reason I think I like, even though I’m certain that I’ve never actually watched it in full – I find them irksome. However, I like Tim Burton, and from the moment that the poster images were released, I’ve liked the look of the film, the cut of its jib.

Sweeny Todd never lets you forget that it’s a musical. During its crystal clear, digitally projected 116 minute running time I estimate that there are around 8 minutes during which people aren’t singing. It’s relentless. This is fine as long as Johnny Depp and Helen Bonhem Carter are on screen; he seems to be channelling David Essex via Robert Smith, she is never used her mad-woman, bobble-head doll looks to better effect – the problem arises when the secondary story, the story away from the revenger’s tragedy, the love story comes to the fore. Over-frowning pubescent actors emote at each other to little effect and it was at these points that I looked at my watch.

Back to the good stuff though. Helen Bonhem Carter is fantastic in this film, unnerving, gothic, beautifully creepy, she moves around theatrically and yet somehow makes everything she does seem totally natural. The best sequence of the film sees her dreaming of a future with Mr Todd, living somewhere by the sea, inviting people over for dinner – a wonderful fantasy plays out before us, with her love struck pie maker happily acting out her dream, all the while a totally emotionless Depp at her side. It really is the kind of performance that should have seen her guaranteed an Oscar. But it hasn’t. She hasn’t been nominated. Which is a shame, as she is the best thing in the film. Well, her and the Production Design.

Having some time to spare, I moved in to another screen and watched the short, sharp spectacle that is Cloverfield. Simple in execution, and execution is probably an apt description of what unfolds, the return of the monster movie works exceptionally well, mainly because it never tries to explain exactly what is going on, and runs by so quickly that it doesn’t give much room for you the view to actually think about why it’s happening.

Finally, a film I worked on, Freebird, was released on the 1st February. It’s the first film that I worked on as an HOD to have been released in the UK, and it’s received less than favourable reviews – which is a shame. The realist in me says this is just the nature of our world, the British low-budget industry can’t compete with big production, and as such we make smaller films that work better on smaller screens. The cynic in me says that the critics (although I think critic is a misnomer, I prefer the term “opinionater”) have gone for the throat of a small independent film that has no recourse to it being attacked (not likely to get less freebies, precious preview screening tickets and interview times with starts if you attack this one). But that’s just the cynic in me. And to be honest I haven’t sent he film – it’s not actually showing at any cinema’s local to me, so I guess I’ll have to wait on that one.

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