Not At Odds #4 – Year of Positivity!

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This week on NOT AT ODDS Jandy and I talk about our journey through the year of positivity and how that has shaped our consuming and critiquing of the media. We dabble in some very strange and interesting ideas, so open your mind and get ready to be positive! Side effects may include but are not limited to: enjoyment, happiness, greater self worth, more interesting blog posts, and greater critical acumen.

 

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Carlos’ Review Round-Up

Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Watch Good Movies.

 

Timbuktu (2014)

Directed by: Abderrahmane Sissako
Country: Mauritania / France

African cinema has a fearless new voice that deserves huge accolade. Mauritanian filmmaker, Abderrahmane Sissako, directed and co-wrote (with Kessen Tall) “Timbuktu”, one of the most relevant dramas I’ve seen in a while. The film follows the misadventures of Kidane, a pacific cattle herder who does everything to protect his wife, daughter and assets, from a group of fanatic Jihadists that control Mali’s city of Timbuktu. Mr. Sissako, beyond taking aim on the invaders through a deft sneer, also shows the joyless life of the tormented inhabitants. The magnificent well-composed shots, amazed me when capturing the arid African landscapes, but also disturbed me when showed the Jihadists’ demands: women had to wear socks and gloves (poor fishwife who realizes her job is compromised), it was strictly forbidden to play soccer (a game played by youngsters, with the particularity of having no ball, has the simultaneous effect of being ludicrous and cruel), music was not allowed (one woman was condemned to 40 lashes after fill our souls with her voice), and adultery was considered the worst crime (the punishment was death by stoning). Despite of the law, forged in the name of Allah, there were those who enjoyed special immunity: Zabou, a deranged woman who was seen as a kind of sorcerer, could wander without covering her head; a religious fundamentalist was caught smoking and coveting Kidane’s wife; a teen girl was forced to get married against her will… Every senseless fanatic should watch “Timbuktu” whose objectivity and vision become essential these days. You can call it whatever you want: urgent criticism, breathtaking adventure or daring mockery… for me it’s simply an unsubmissive masterpiece, which I wouldn’t change a single thing.


Miss Julie (2014)

Directed by: Liv Ullmann
Country: UK / Ireland

Liv Ullmann, former muse of Ingmar Bergman during years in masterpieces such as “Persona”, “Autumn Sonata” or “Cries and Whispers”, directs her fourth feature film, “Miss Julie”, which was adapted from August Strindberg’s play of the same title. For this theatrical drama, Ullmann picked a trio of actors that guarantee credibility: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton. They performed with conviction and it was not because of them that “Miss Julie” didn’t have the desired influence on me. Beyond being excessively wordy, the film occasionally plays with an emotional hysteria, becoming excessively dramatic, stuffy and for several times unnatural. Set during the midsummer night of 1890, the drama follows Julie (Chastain), the spoiled daughter of the wealthy Anglo-Irish Count of Fermanagh. Bored with her daily life, she insists to seduce John (Farrell), her father’s valet, in a disrespectful way in regard to her servant, Kathleen (Morton), who was committed to him. Julie reveals an overbearing and cruel side, but ultimately her emotional fragility and solitude is uncovered. She starts playing a defiant game that is sexy and contemptuous, pushing John to the limits of his sanity, since he is unable to control his impulses but also gets mad when treated as an inferior. All these postures torment the tired and devastated Kathleen, condemned to be on her own. Among confessions, accusations and lots of changings in attitude, “Miss Julie” can never be called a romantic film. Fear, disquiet and prejudice take control of this battle of love and hate that had its funniest moment when Julie states about Kathleen: ‘a servant is a servant’, to what John promptly retaliated: ‘and a whore is a whore’. The truth hurts! Immediately, she fell in tears.


Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014)

Directed by: Andrea Di Stefano
Country: Spain / France

Italian actor Andrea di Stefano makes his directorial debut with “Escobar: Paradise Lost”, a thriller, set in 1991 Medellin, whose title mislead us to assume we are before a biopic about the unmerciful popular Colombian drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar. Instead, the film tells about a Canadian young man, Nick (John Hutchinson), who was having trouble with local thugs when trying to set up a business by the beach, in the company of his older brother, Dylan (Brady Corbet). Everything will become easier when he falls in love with the gracious Maria (Claudia Traisac), Escobar’s niece. Accepted by Escobar (Benicio del Toro) to be part of his clan, he will see the coast clear when those who demanded a payment for his business, were burned alive. A day before giving himself to the authorities in a pact with the Government, Escobar’s first concern is to protect the future of his family by concealing the fortune accumulated with years of narcotrafficking. He reserved one last special operation for the innocent Nick who was assigned to meet and kill a ‘campesino’. However, surprises come up and Nick, in panic, will have to fight for his life. As the story unfolds, it becomes too chewed in aspects it should have been more expeditious. Some good hints of tension not always usurp an annoying cheesiness felt in scenes involving Nick, unveiling superficiality and exaggeration in a story that deserved to be better handled. Di Stefano takes the wrong turn when he had everything to do it right – decent script and respected actors. The formula: ‘make it simple and raw’ would have given him better chances, together with a more astute exploration of the characters. Paradise lost… and a missed opportunity.

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Mamo #396: An Easy Lay

Mamo!

Glom Gazingo, and welcome to Oscar night 2015! Jamie “The Dew Over” Dew joins us on the couch for our annual slate of mini-podcasts recorded throughout the telecast, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out the golden trophy to the favourites among themselves. Plus, special guest stars Sasha and Max! Join us for this omnibus edition of our evening’s activities.
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2015 Oscar Winners

Welcome to part of the Third Row’s coverage of the 87th annual Academy Awards presentation! We’ll be here all night updating the winners live as they’re announced. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Surprises? Happy? Pissed? Confused? How was NPH?

*winners are marked in red

 
 

BEST MOTION PICTURE:
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

 

DIRECTOR:
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

 

ACTOR:
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

 

ACTRESS:
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

 
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DVD Review: Life Itself

Director: Steve James
Starring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, Errol Morris
Producers: Garrett Basch, Steve James, Zak Piper
Country: USA
Running Time: 118 min
Year: 2014
BBFC Certificate: E


When Roger Ebert died back in 2013, the movie blogosphere was awash with tributes to one of the world’s most known and loved film critics. You may have noticed I didn’t join in, but I must admit I’m not as familiar with his work as most. I knew who he was and occasionally checked reviews on his site when linked through from the IMDB, but I wasn’t a regular reader of his blog and his famous TV show with Gene Siskel didn’t air in the UK. I tended to find his reviews reliable though and all the love sent out after his death compelled me to find out more about the man, so I was very keen to watch Life Itself, Steve James’ documentary on Roger Ebert released last year. Luckily Dogwoof have given the film a DVD release in the UK and I was sent a screener to review.

A good chunk of Life Itself is made up of the typical biography/tribute style of documentary, looking into Ebert’s past and the progression of his career. We are told about his early days as the editor of his university newspaper where he wasn’t afraid to make his views known and how he didn’t actually seek out the job of film critic at the Chicago Sun Times, it was just kind of lumped on him. Ebert spent the last 11 years of his life fighting cancer so of course this is explored in the film. A lot is said about his work and relationship with Siskel too. This side of the documentary is refreshingly frank, showing how they had more than their share of ‘creative differences’. Some wonderfully acidic outtakes are shown of the two trying to record adverts for the show and throwing vicious barbs at each other. A later clip shows some more friendly banter though, so the film eventually suggests a mutual admiration between the two critics, both of whom were taken by battles against cancer.

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2015 Independent Spirit Award Winners

It’s Oscar night! Which means the Spirit Awards were last night. While The Academy Awards (Oscars) tend to get all the glory and pizzazz, this is the award show that is held in fairly high esteem around here.

Along with being a fantastic party, the Spirit Awards ceremony also brings together top talent from Hollywood and throughout independent film. Awards are presented for the year’s best achievements in independent film, with statues given for Best Feature, Best First Feature, Best Feature Made for Under $500,000 (the John Cassavetes Award) and many more.

In keeping with its Los Angeles roots, the Spirit Awards takes place each year in and around a beachfront tent in beautiful Santa Monica. Currently in its 30th year, the show remains as original as the films and filmmakers it honors.

Winners are chosen by those in the know: Film Independent Members and Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) members. Voting members receive select DVD screeners and are invited to attend free screenings of all nominated films before choosing the Spirit Award winners.

Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization. Its voting members include filmmakers, film industry leaders and film lovers. Anyone passionate about the art of film can join as a Member and vote for the winners of the Spirit Awards.

Since starting in 1984, The Spirits have had a lot of fun times at their ceremony. As part of this “rich” history, the main site has put together a list of highlights from each year over the past 29 years (including Sarah Silverman’s vagina).

*winners are marked in red

BEST FEATURE
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
Love is Strange
Selma
Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
David Zellner Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST SCREENPLAY
Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Big Eyes
J.C. Chandor, A Most Violent Year
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, Love is Strange

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Marion Cotillard – The Immigrant
Rinko Kikuchi – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Jenny Slate – Obvious Child
Tilda Swinton – Only Lovers Left Alive

BEST MALE LEAD
André Benjamin – Jimi: All Is By My Side
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
John Lithgow – Love is Strange
David Oyelowo – Selma

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year
Carmen Ejogo – Selma
Andrea Suarez Paz – Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Alfred Molina – Love is Strange
Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
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Friday One Sheet: Alex of Venice

Continuing what I call the South Korean school poster-art (idiom: a clean, polished picture of a single or pair of characters with a pleasing, but vague background) we have this one for a Mary Elizabeth Winstead starring drama, Alex of Venice. Soft and warm lighting with subtle lens flaring gives off an innocent, glowing impression. And while I’m not absolutely crazy about the dueling fonts in the actual title presentation, I will admit that it does draw the eye and adds a strong visual element to an otherwise simple design. That being said, I like simple.

I Want My Music Video Please! [music]

TOAH3-copy

It should come as no surprise that my three favorite music video directors are Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and Mark Romanek. A lot of accomplished filmmakers started out making short films, collaborating with musicians back when there was one cable channel that focused solely on the music video art form. For me, music and film are the two things I love the most when it comes to expressing a vision. So I consider the music video to be the best of both worlds. My earliest memories outside of sitting through Spielberg and Zemeckis films in the theater with my dad, often involved staying up late to watch 120 Minutes, Alternative Nation, Headbanger’s Ball, and any MTV program dedicated to binging on videos. So I decided to explore this further by presenting a weekly find, either one I’ve never seen before, or a blast from the past that I think deserves another look. You will definitely find selections from the three names mentioned above including a list of my all-time favorite videos mid-year. For now, let’s talk about the brilliance of Spike Jonze as an inventive visual stylist whom I first adored when his breakthrough Weezer video won accolades back in the mid-90s. I know he still actively makes short films, and of course I consider HER to be one of the best films of the decade so far. I used to be a huge Bjork fan but as of late I haven’t been as crazy about her output, particularly the songs on this record. But I will admit to finding “Triumph Of The Heart” to be an interesting song to say the least, featuring beatbox vocal contributions from Mike Patton of Faith No More. And besides music and movies, I also love cats. Finding this Spike Jonze gem was a welcome start to my weekend, and hope that you feel the same. I wouldn’t necessarily put it up there as one of Jonze’s best, but it’s certainly worth a look for its sheer weirdness.