Weekly Roundup (20/1/13)

It may have been delayed until Monday this week because of a busy and exciting Sunday evening on the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards red carpet, but the weekly roundup is here nonetheless.

Teachers

On the small screen I’m still working my way through Twin Peaks, but this week I renewed my Netflix subscription and – never one to get sidetracked – I caught up on the episodes of Misfits that I’d previously missed (mostly from Season 3) and the whole of the first series of Teachers. I don’t have an awful lot to say about them, but those very ‘of their time’ Andrew Lincoln-focused first eight episodes of Teachers reminded me just how baffling the actor’s total lack of charisma in The Walking Dead is. He plays the affable useless bastard role so well in that show, and I remember being psyched that he was the star of a mega successful U.S. show. I don’t know whether they’ve managed to address that problem as the show went on (it’s also on my list to catch up on), but from the season and a bit that I saw he was frustratingly mundane. He’s so great in the first season of Teachers that I’m tempted to stop watching the second season in which the whole thing turns into much more of an ensemble.

the-sessions-1

To the big screen, and of last week’s new releases I caught The Sessions (Fox screening room) for HeyUGuys, even though they didn’t end up needing my review of it. I’ve posted it on here instead, so that’s that one covered.

django-unchained-1

I also managed to get along to see Django Unchained (Cineworld O2, Sky Superscreen) on Saturday, which I enjoyed a whole lot yet still won’t be among my favourites come Oscar night. Speaking of which, I think Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio have every right to feel aggrieved not to have received a nomination given that their performances were both several notches above Bobby De Niro and Alan Arkin. Quentin Tarantino has a habit of that though; drawing the very best out of his actors. One can only revel in QT’s cine-literacy, his love and knowledge of film perhaps only matched by his screenwriting prowess and skill as a visual filmmaker. Some of the shots he composes are masterful, and the dialogue flows at such a perfect pace that you hardly notice how long a scene has run. It would be argued that his films are there to be appreciated, not enjoyed, if only they weren’t so much darn fun. 

Oddly, I found this to be Tarantino’s most grounded film since Jackie Brown (although it’s all relative) despite the wildly violent flourishes and a third act which plays out as almost as much of a fantasy as Inglourious Basterds did. The film does a wonderful job of teasing that enormous climax as if it the spark could ignite at the end of any scene following the introduction of Calvin Candie. That tension lends an edge-of-the-seat vitality to every word that’s spoken in the movie’s second half, not to mention the secret that Schultz and Django are trying to conceal. When the revenge angle finally kicks in it’s gloriously excessive, but I can’t help but feel the movie loses something (someone? some two?) at that point as the deftly layered piece turns into a one-note crowd-pleaser. Not that the final half hour (save for the Tarantino cameo and the dressage) isn’t marvelously entertaining, it’s just not quite as great as what came before.

What I did feel the film lacked – and this is myself as an individual responding to the film, rather than as a reviewer – was an emotional connection. I just didn’t see anything in the movie that drove home the unconditional love between Django and Broomhilda, nor did I feel as moved as I thought I would (especially after weeping at a film I’ll go on to mention) by the plight of the slaves in the movie. That’s not that certain moments in the film didn’t resonate (Broomhilda being carted away from the well and D’Artagnan’s death, for example) but on the whole I felt like Tarantino’s bravura filmmaking also acted as a barrier to investing in the plight of the slaves as individuals. QT seemed to be dealing with them in the plural, and that was a problem for me. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that watching one of his films, though. In fact, I’ve probably felt that emotionally disconnected from all of his films since Reservoir Dogs. Maybe that’s why I appreciate and enjoy his movies, but rarely fall in love with them in the way that so many seem to do. 

LINCOLN

The movie I alluded to before was this year’s other slavery-centric Oscar nominee, of course. I caught Lincoln (Charlotte Street Hotel screening room) on Tuesday and was absolutely blown away by it. I immediately tweeted out a bunch of my thoughts on it and I’ll basically just reiterate those here. For my money it’s Spielberg’s best film in a decade (since 2002’s Catch Me If You Can and Minority Report, to be precise). I know some people fell in love with Tintin, but I didn’t, and I actively disliked the majority of War Horse, which often saw Spielberg at his emotionally manipulative worst. There’s no need and no opportunity for Spielberg to do that with Lincoln though, because the emotions underpinning Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves are so raw and powerful to begin with. 

For the most part it may just depict political posturing in dark rooms, but by god if that wasn’t some of the most thrilling political posturing I’ve ever seen (and no, I haven’t seen The West Wing – shame on me). From Tommy Lee Jones down the supporting cast are just about flawless. Pace, Strathairn, Field, Gordon-Levitt, Hawkes, Goggins, Spader, Holbrook, Harris (and so on, and so on, and so on) were all pitch perfect, and it must be a delight for Spielberg to know that he can call on such a wide array of talent. But yet as good as they all are, not one manages to escape the formidable shadow that Daniel Day-Lewis casts. Is he the finest actor of his generation? Is he the finest actor of any generation? Helen O’Hara spoke on the Empire Podcast about how she had to keep reminding herself that it wasn’t the actual Abe Lincoln up there on screen, and I too had that experience. 

While Day-Lewis’ performance in There Will Be Blood is one of the best I think I’ve ever seen, that was a HUGE and dominating performance that showed just how great he was at Acting. Despite the distinctive facial hair, the obvious make-up and the slightly higher-pitched voice that he decided upon, DDL simply disappears into the role so seamlessly that it’s hard to put your finger on just how he does it. That third Oscar is his, and deservedly so. I really can’t recommend Lincoln highly enough, and I highly recommend you go see it when it hits cinemas this weekend. 

And finally, I also caught I Give It A Year (Odeon West End, Screen 1) this week, but I’ll link to my review of that once it goes live on HeyUGuys. I also did an interview for the site last week, but that too is sadly embargoed for the time being. 

Arnim Zola

So that was what I’ve been watching, now here’s the other stuff I’ve splurged onto the internet this week. First up are a whole host of interviews I did from the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards red carpet and winners room. I spoke to Helena Bonham-Carter, Toby Jones, Samantha Barks, Charlie Creed-Miles, Bart Layton, Tom Holland (twice!), Alice Lowe and Steve Oram (twice!), Mike Newell, Fady Elsayed, Sally El Hosaini, Stevie Haywood and Jack Reynor. They were all great fun, and I even managed to get a small Captain America 2 scoop from Toby Jones right at the end of the last interview of the night. Arnim Zola’s going to be back for the sequel folks!

Over on The Playlist, last week I wrote about Idris Elba and Matt Smith’s directorial debuts, some Hobbit featurettes, Dallas in Wonderland, Russell Crowe on Man of Steel, John McTiernan, I Give It A Year, Jerry Lewis, Need For Speed, The Grandmaster (again) and The Legend of Conan. And that’s just about it for last week. This week looks like it’s going to be a busy one, so get ready for another hefty post next week.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Weekly Review (27/1/13) | The Razzmatazz - January 28, 2013

    […] main new releases, and if you’d like to read my thoughts on the superlative Lincoln then read last week’s entry. Last Monday I caught The Last Stand (The Hospital), which meant I could then attend the […]

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