Saturday, 1 March 2014

Ben and Rhona's Craptacular Academy Awards Low-Down! - Part 2

It's the moment you've all been waiting for with baited breath; that's right, it's time at last to finish what we started with Ben and Rhona's Craptacular Academy Awards Low-Down! *cue cheesy game show music*

So far we've seen gay con artist computer programs in space deal with their crippling family issues and now it's on to the last of our contestants. Who will win the coveted Worst Best Picture Award? Only time, or a quick scroll to the bottom of the page, will tell. Without further ado, lets get the ball rolling:

Philomena (B)

In a Sentence: Steve Coogan and Judi Dench do a lot of driving while saying funny and quirky things, then it gets sad for a bit.

Philomena is the kind of story we lap up. You'll have seen a similar tale in the likes of Changeling and...I can't actually think of any others off the top of my head, but, yeah, those movies. Someone's child is stolen/life is ruined by evil nuns/governments/leprechauns and then some stranger, originally for their own benefit, offers to help them find out what happened, blah de blah, wee bit of a cry and cosy resolution. We like films based on human interest; they act as their own little microcosm and you can shape the story the message you're trying to give, a fact that's actually confronted head on in this movie. It's self-awareness is it's first and last innovation, however, and despite having an adorable Judi Dench saying silly things in an Irish accent in it this is typical fare at best, hardly even straining for the overly-dramatic Oscar-bait appeal usually seen in these films.

The meat of the movie comes from Coogan and Dench's relationship as they slowly grow closer to each other on their journey, but for some reason all of the major character development was kept off screen. You know that bit in a movie when the character doesn't think they should do something but then they have that moment of epiphany or they see a newspaper article that changes their mind and they run after the other person, give a heart-warming speech and say "Ok, I'll do it"? Those bits have been hacked out of Philomena, leaving parts of the movie where Coogan's character has absolutely made up his mind one minute, then we cut to a new scene and we see that he's doing exactly what he said he wouldn't do. I don't know if it was meant to come across as humorous, but to me it just felt like this guy was either painfully indecisive or the biggest pushover this side of Ross from Friends.

Pictured: Quirkiness.
Although this is meant to be inspired (inspired here meaning all of the artistic licence, ever) by a true story, the whole thing is mightily clich├ęd; there's nasty nuns who would rather straight up kill a baby than try to be decent human beings, an old lady who apparently doesn't understand how basic aspects of society function and a heartless newspaper editor out to get the perfect scoop. And the unbearable levels of cheesiness don't help matters either. This thing practically wrote itself.

So if you want to be completely underwhelmed by a movie, maybe due to having a severe heart condition that requires you to steer clear of any shock or tension whatsoever, then this is perfect for you.

The Wolf of Wall Street (R)

In a sentence: Leonardo DiCaprio takes a lot of drugs and fucks some shit up. Also Jonah Hill’s penis.

Right, where to start. As a really basic measurement of how much I’ve enjoyed a film, I think about whether I’ve checked my phone to see the time and think about how long the film has been and estimate how much longer I have to sit through. If i’ve not checked my phone, that’s a good sign. I looked at my phone a fair few times throughout Wolf of Wall Street. Guys, this is a painstakingly long movie. My god, I thought I was going to graduate, get a mortgage, get married, have kids and go to my kids’ graduation before this movie wrapped up. I felt like stumbling out the cinema screaming “what year is it?!”, sporting an impressive beard and a suit made of leaves. But alas, my ability to grow a beard is severely impaired by my female-ness, but goddamn a girl can dream. The only thing holding me back from my leaf-suit is my poor tailoring skills. Anyway, back to the film. 

Those pearly whites tho.
It’s difficult to pick holes in this film as it’s being hailed as Scorses’ best film in 20 years and the reviews I’ve come across haven’t dipped below four stars - and with good reason, prepare yourselves folks … I didn't hate Wolf of Wall Street. But there are a few things that I will complain about. I’m going to mention the length of the film again, but with less Jumanji references and more critiquing. I thought the length of the film was unnecessary as the film tends to wander off into strange tangents that don’t really have anything to do with anything and could easily have been chopped off with no hindrance towards the overall outcome of the film. I’m going to talk about the women in this film for a second. Unlike Ben, I will call myself a feminist and the use of women in this film, at points, made me roll my eyes in a “come on, you can do better than this” fashion; the fact that 99.9% of women in this film are nameless, dialogue-less, naked prostitutes, but I guess for the most part they were justified in their attempts to demonstrate the utterly obscene lifestyle these stockbrokers are leading - but there were a few moments concerning the women that I really enjoyed. There’s a scene towards the end where Belfort (Dicaprio) talks to a woman who worked with the company from the very start, and although she’s only seen for this one scene, I really liked the dynamic between the two characters. Belforts (second) wife, I thought, was great to watch. I've poked at non-issues long enough, let’s move on.

Captain Phillips (B/R)

In a Sentence: Tom Hanks gets up close and personal with some sweaty Somalian pirates.

Sometimes foreshadowing can go beyond passing hints to the future events of a story and step into the realm of clairvoyance. That happens in the opening scenes of Captain Phillips (which, incidentally, feels a lot like the start of Castaway if all the humour was sucked out) when Tom Hanks' Richard Phillips is preparing for a dangerous trip down the Horn of Africa with a ship full of cargo. Sure, we all know the ship is going to get hijacked, but he shouldn't; and yet we're treated to 20 minutes of Hanks looking very sombre and apprehensive as if he already knows what's going to happen. Minor issue, but I thought I'd get that little niggle out of the way to start with.

Thankfully the film doesn't spend too long on exposition and in under half an hour the pirates are on their way and the tension starts to build. And build. Shit, this is tense. Like, phew. Jeez. Guys, can we all just chill out a li- or you could point a gun at him and start shouting again. Oh god, please don't kill him. *sob* If Philomena did happen to strain your heart at all, I'd suggest you steer clear of this one.

captain phillips tom hanks beard
Be prepared for lots of sweat, beards and sweaty beards.
The pirates are truly terrifying, finding the perfect spot between ruthless criminals and frightened fishermen who don't have the first clue what they're doing; which just makes them all the more unpredictable. Sadly, the cast playing the American crew (one of which is a rather withered looking Hank Jennings) don't stand up quite as well against their sweaty foreign counterparts, coming across disappointingly flat and plain. Luckily Hanks makes up for them in bucketloads with his beautiful, beautiful beard.

I have to say, I always find films that involve a hostage situation difficult to watch. Not because of tension or anything, but just because they're endlessly frustrating to me. Why can't everyone communicate properly? Why is the bad guy always unnecessarily angry to the point of making terrible decisions? WHY CAN'T THEY LEARN ENGLISH?! Or even basic, universal gestures for simple actions like "I have my hands up and I'm holding a walkie talkie; I'm obviously here to talk, not kill you". Bloody foreigners.

The film is generally very well shot, really exacerbating the claustrophobia of the film, particularly when the action moves to an even smaller area later on. On a whole, this is simply a solidly made, exciting movie. Damn. Who would have thought an Oscar nominee would be good?

12 Years a Slave (B)

In a Sentence: A black free man gets kidnapped and persecuted by white slave owners; it's soooo 19th century.

This one was tough, real tough, both to watch and to critique. This was five quid all-you-can-eat roadside carvery leftovers tough. This movie is tougher than trying to defeat Sephiroth with nothing but a level 17 Yuffie and a bag full of eyedrops.

You really have to be American to appreciate the full brunt of the white guilt in this movie. I mean, sure, the British had their fair share of persecution but Jesus, what the fuck were you thinking, America? Everyone in this film isn't just a bastard making the most of an extremely prejudiced system, they're evil, pure and simple. The only two nice white people are Benedict Cumberbatch (who still owns slaves) and Bradd Pitt (who forgot how to act). This is a film that does what it set out to do exceptionally well; it incites outrage and really drives home the horror of what happened to these people. I personally lynched six Yanks after watching this, just to even the score a little.

So the story works and the tone really compliments the intended message of the film; what about the less good things? One, although not necessarily bad, issue stuck out like a sore thumb and niggled all the way through the movie: the soundtrack. It's very minimalist and makes wonderful use of strings and drums, but there's something undeniably familiar about it... Oh yeah, it's from Inception.

12 years a slave michael fassbender
Plenty of exceptionally menacing confrontations
to look forward to here. And beards.
I know it's all a part of Hans Zimmer's style (looping basic chord patterns, called a passacaglia) and has its own musical merit but changing one note and calling it a new piece just seems lazy to me. Even if you think it is original enough to warrant a new name I still couldn't help seeing spinning tops and Leonardo DiCaprio getting hit by trains; I'd related this music to a different film with very different themes and it just didn't feel like it fitted right.

What else? The acting is good (aside from all of Brad Pitt and a couple of moments of over-acting), visual effects are splendid and the setting and costumes look, you know, old fashionedy... I really can't think of anything. I guess if we're going to nit-pick they could have done more with the cinematography. When you get to the stage of being a Best Picture nomination, you would expect to see some hidden meaning in shots, angles and lighting; it'll take a second viewing to check this, but the movie felt very simple in it's presentation. Mainstream, if you will. Yes, I'm complaining about a film not being difficult enough to understand because I'm that much of a wanker. I think we'll finish there; hipster away!

And The Winner Is...

The polls are in, the votes have been counted (all two of them) and it appears we have ourselves a winner. Well, two winners to be exact. That's right, for the first time in the long and esteemed history of the Worst Best Picture Award, there has been a draw between two nominees. Both of these films were chosen by Rhona and myself as finalists and despite our best efforts we couldn't decide which was the shittier of the two; so here they are, the most terrible great films of 2014, complete with back-of-the-DVD-case sized final critiques:

American Hustle

Rhona - "There aren't enough comb-overs or perms left in the world that could save this film..."

Ben - "Best watched with your eyes closed. With the sound off. In a different room."


Rhona: "Although Gravity shot for the moon it didn't land in the stars, but instead in a pile of raw space sewage."

Ben: "A film that flawlessly emulates the vast, unchanging emptiness of space; both in plot and substance."


  1. I agree with Rhona on finding Wolf of Wall Street an uncomfortable film to watch from a feminist perspective; however, it pays to bear in mind that this is a pretty accurate representation of the culture of Wall Street then (and, arguably, now) - with only a few exceptions, women are considered as trophy wives, secretaries or the sex workers they bring in. Given the film is from Belfort's perspective, it's not surprising that the vast majority of women are nameless objects defined by their role, and the moments where the film shows a glimpse of the women beyond this shallow attitude (e.g. when the story of the women who worked with Belfort early on, his wife's difficulty dealing with the world her husband moves in and eventual distress when she discovers it's extent) are sensitive and show the reality of it. It would have been cool to see the sex workers treated similarly, but overall I thought it did pretty well.

    With regards to the other reviewed films, I need to see Dallas Buyers Club because EIGHTIES.

    1. I always find it infinitely interesting to see the portrayal of groups of people in cinema when it concerns a time or place that famously discriminated against them and whether or not the director chooses to show it as it was or to attempt to make a point out of it. I think Scorsese came up with gold by deciding to put that scene with Kimmy Belzer ($3000 dollar Armani suit lady) because it really made the shitty way women were treated stand out against this one woman. If they'd made the sex workers equally as sympathetic or portrayed their distaste for Belfort's lifestyle then we would no longer have been seeing the story through his eyes (they're nothing but jizz receptacles to him) and it would have stuck out like a sore thumb, trying to force a point that's already skilfully expressed through the rest of the film and it's treatment of different members of the cast.

      With regards to the other films, yes, you do!