New for 2014: Clash’s regular film column, serving as both a companion to and an expansion of the coverage we offer in our print edition, every month. In every issue of the magazine you’ll find film reviews, features and retrospectives, some of which will transfer to Clash’s online service (you’re looking at it). And, exclusive to this web platform, is our fresh-out-the-box column, which begins as follows…
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That Was The Week In Which…
Award season momentum gathered pace towards the Oscars with the big prizes at the Screen Actors Guild Awards going to the cast of American Hustle; a now completely reinvented Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club; and Cate Blanchett for her acerbic title performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
Traditionally seen as one of the signposts of what will follow at the big one, the bookies now have McConaughey and Blanchett nailed on for Best Actor and Actress respectively, while 12 Years A Slave is the favourite for Best Picture over likely competitors American Hustle and Gravity – the latter’s technical brilliance rather hamstrung by dialogue which felt about as natural as a monkey eating peanut butter while riding a unicycle.
Still, Gravity helmer Alfonso Cuarón is favourite to take Best Director and thus inadvertently block 12 Year’s A Slave’s Steve McQueen from becoming the first black director to win the award – a sentence that in 2014 should be as anachronistic as sending messages by carrier pigeon.
Whatever happens late on March 2nd, breakfast TV will surely once again reduce the whole charade to an extended examination of who looks good, bad or indifferent in an expensive gown. And one thing is as good as certain: Cuarón and McQueen won’t be able to pull off the little back dress look.
Gravity, official trailer
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The Big Film: Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers’ tale of a folk singer desperately trying to win his big break in the early 1960s folk scene is an utter triumph in every aspect.
A brilliant lead who captures his character’s dichotomy of rambling charm and self-centred narcissism? Oscar Isaac (pictured) can do that. Great songs performed with soul and finesse? Isaac can do that too with the help of T-Bone Burnett. Cutting black humour? John Goodman brings the Coens’ visceral words to life. A ginger cat who can pave the way for film felines in the same way that The Artist’s Uggie made cinematic canines cool? Our furry friend Ulysses can do just that. A neat little nod to Bob Dylan? Blink and you’ll miss it.
Better still, there’s substance beneath the surface as it raises questions about male identity and the nature of striving for creative success in a loose, full-circle approximation of the road movie. Along the way there are mini-mysteries, semi-explained stories and a constant seesawing opinion of whether or not Davis is a character who provokes sympathy.
Elegantly observed, this is simultaneously uplifting, poignantly sad and another example of why the Coens are regarded as one of contemporary film’s most consistent and compelling talents.
Inside Llewyn Davis, official trailer
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Also Out: August: Osage County
A comedy that begins with a suicide? After the disappearance, death and funeral of her husband, pill-poppin’, chemo-weakened matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) is surrounded by her extended family: a gene pool of relationship struggles, teenage vegetarianism and general dysfunction.
Like Polanski’s Carnage, August: Osage County struggles to establish a visual aesthetic that feels separate from its roots on the stage, but it’s compensated for with some vicious dialogue. Looking scarily like Sean Penn in This Must Be The Place, Streep delivers Violet’s acid-tongued putdowns with aplomb as each victim wilts or explodes under the pressure.
The rest of the cast excels: a rambunctious Julia Roberts and a robust Chris Cooper representing the best of a stellar ensemble. Indeed, the only notable weakness is the blandly written Bill, which really limits the possibilities for Ewan McGregor to bring substance to the character.
With the screenplay rampaging through killer one-liners and – eventually – some truly surprising twists, its emotional resonance isn’t quite equal. A certain amount of poignancy is established between the three disparate and largely estranged sisters (especially with the underlying suggestion that they’ll never quite escape from their troubles), but it’s hard to convey true tenderness when an “oh no she didn’t!” zinger is lurking just around the corner.
August: Osage County, official trailer
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New Talent: Jack Reynor
Who? Jack Reynor is a young Irishman with serious acting chops and the looks to match.
What’s he been in? Reynor played the lead in indie film What Richard Did, which used a drunken mistake by a privileged teenager as a microcosmic allegory for Ireland’s recent financial foibles. You may have also noticed a supporting spot alongside Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man.
What’s coming up? The big breakthrough should come this summer with a key role in Transformers: Age Of Extinction.
They say: “He is an Irish kid that came to America with 30 bucks in his pocket. Pretty ballsy. Seriously, who does that? Anyway, I spotted him in a great little Irish movie What Richard Did. This kid is the real deal.” Transformers: Age Of Extinction director Michael Bay (link)
He says: “It's been mad. I couldn't even get an audition for network TV at home in Ireland. Now I'm talking about Vince Vaughn, Michael Bay, and Mark Wahlberg like they're my mates. F*cking crazy, man.” (Interview Magazine)
What Richard Did, official trailer
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The Glasgow Film Festival opens with the UK premiere of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and closes with Jonathan Glazer’s Scotland-set Under The Skin. (More details)
In a Reddit IAmA session, Mark Hamill revealed (SPOILER! Well, it is if you’ve never seen the Star Wars series) that he had kept the fact that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father from co-star Harrison Ford until the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back. (Link)
The Wolf Of Wall Street conquered last weekend’s UK box office with a gross of almost £4.7 million, proving that people hate the fiscal irresponsibility of bankers but are really curious as to what outlandish shenanigans they get up to. The Devil’s Due was the only other high-ranking new entry, despite receiving some horrifying reviews. And people are still going to see The Harry Hill movie. Not that I know any of them.
Finally, BAFTA EE Rising Star nominee Will Poulter is a lovely bloke. Unless you’re the Daily Mail. He tweeted: “Go *&%£ yourselves you ^£$@*^@&. You can @?*%?+ and @™$‡*%*@ for all I care. You are ∆*$@Ó(&)%**$!” (Link)
A message of the Daily Mail… Go *&%£ yourselves you ^£$@*^@&. You can @?*%?+ and @™$‡*%*@ for all I care. You are ∆*$@Ó(&)%**$!— Will Poulter (@PoulterWill) January 23, 2014
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Words: Ben Hopkins
Inside Llewyn Davis photos: Alison Rosa
Want more film content? Read our interview with Spike Jonze on the making of his new movie, Her.
And more? Read our exclusive conversation with John Goodman, star of Inside Llewyn Davis.