Even the actors who set out to tell the story of prolific screenwriter and former Communist Dalton Trumbo weren’t entirely aware of the scope of his story when they signed on to the project. Blacklisted for his beliefs and forced to churn out schlocky scripts under a series of pseudonyms to keep his family fed, he eventually won two Academy Awards he couldn’t collect until the mid ‘70s. His family business—Trumbo’s wife and three children all play key roles in transporting illicit scripts under cover of night—is highly reminiscent of Cranston’s most notorious role on Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, and the zippy pacing and editing liken the film to recent gangster dramas more than the typical biopic. Ultimately, the film’s smooth blend of ‘50s and modern sensibilities keep Trumbo both relevant and unfashionably (in the best possible sense) fun.
Rather than try to tackle the decades of history leading up to the British government’s granting of limited voting rights for women in 1918, Suffragette collages a particularly tumultuous eighteen-month period of violence and retaliation in a real and present way. Avoiding broad strokes, director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan paint each character with detailed grit and infectious idealism, and the prestigious cast, gravitating around an excellent lead performance by the quietly brilliant Carey Mulligan, lends each historical event an uncanny familiarity. The film sells a world-gone-by while also tapping into the never-more-relevant zeitgeist of radical feminism, reminding audiences that the work towards equality is far from done.
One of the most high-profile biopics of the year, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs seems like one of the ‘sure things’ of this year’s awards cycle. Featuring a bevy of Oscar-friendly performances, a snappy and funny screenplay with some key highlight reel Big Quotes, the newest account of the divisive tech figurehead is bound to feature in many of the major award categories. Yet, there is also something missing at the core of Steve Jobs. While individual parts of the film are rarely less than good and quite often excellent, it doesn’t really coalesce into anything particularly moving. For Apple geeks, this detailed if mythologised look at the rocky history of some of the company’s products accomplishes just that, but for everyone else, it’s an effective prestige piece that is never quite the sum of its parts.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the cinema, cookie dough ice-cream in hand, for Straight Outta Compton. This time around, I broke my usual rule of going in completely uninformed, as I had read a fair bit about the film during its breakout success in the States. I was intrigued, hesitant, and, full disclosure, am not much of a gangster rap aficionado (though my brother has certainly tried his best to help me foster an appreciation for the genre). All this said, I left the film certain of one thing: Straight Outta Compton is a film constructed to perfectly mirror the musical revolution it sets out to catalogue, coupling explosive energy with sequences pregnant with fear and distrust. It is both a thrilling tribute to a game-changing period in music history and a confident and well-crafted piece on race in America, tying together many echoes of contemporary injustice to the context that catalysed N.W.A. in the first place.
With the conclusion of Marvel’s ‘Phase Two’, we thought it appropriate to all sit down and share our man-giggles and squeeing over the new Avengers: Age of Ultron. It being such a massive film with so many moving parts, the best way to tackle it seemed to just have a conversation. SPOILERS ahead, so if you haven’t seen the film, do.
I’ve been a fan of Aardman from my earliest years. I remember watching the opening sequence of Wallace and Gromit’s ‘A Close Shave’ again and again as I fell in love with their lively animation style and hilarious characters. Though inconsistent in quality, their films have never lost their aesthetic charm and wide-eyed innocence. Their latest effort, The Shaun the Sheep Movie, proves to be another worthy addition to the Aardman collection, but falls short of their best on account of its stop-and-start action and rather clunky feel.
Now we’re officially at the end of the beginning of 2015, I figured now would be a good a time as any to share my favourite films of the last year. The Oscars still haven’t happened, so this is still relevant I promise. No, I haven’t procrastinated this piece since December. Shut up.
2014 was, unquestionably, a remarkable year for filmmaking with record-breaking box office turnouts and, more importantly, an absolute cavalcade of top-notch films. It was also an especially exciting year for me personally in the world of film, as Jack and I attended the London Film Festival in October and then followed it up with a number of screenings around London in the months preceding Awards Season.
Because we here at Watching Between the Lines are on the ball, we’ve put together our predicted Oscar nominations a whole few minutes ahead of the actual announcement ceremony. Some categories have their runaway winners such as Julianne Moore for Best Actress, but others, like both Screenplay categories, are still at least a three way tie. It’s been an excellent year for cinema, and almost anything mentioned here will absolutely be a worthy nominee or winner.
UPDATE: Not bad. We nailed Original Screenplay, but we were met with some bizarre choices this year. In addition to the LEGO Movie snubbed (bullshit), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) got the Best Actor nomination instead of David Oyelowo (Selma), meaning that there are precisely twenty white faces of the twenty nominated actors and actresses. Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman lead with nine nominations each, Imitation Game earns eight, and Boyhood and American Sniper trail with six apiece. A lot of disappointment with Selma and Nightcrawler’s lack of presence this year.
With her first widely released directorial debut, Angelina Jolie tells the All-American story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic-runner turned bombardier made castaway and prisoner of war. After purchasing the rights to his story, Universal went through decades of production hell to bring it to the screen. Tony Curtis of Some Like it Hot fame was originally in talks to portray the Olympian, illustrating truly how long this film has been in the works. Universal pictures finally green-lit the production after Jolie took the helm as a team of screenwriters (including the Coen Brothers) ironed out the structure. After telling such a remarkable story of perseverance, it seems fitting that the film also had its own trials. Unfortunately, perhaps because of all those involved in finally getting to tell Louis Zamperini’s story, the film lacks character, both in content and execution. A reverent salute to the man who suffered so much for his country, Unbroken has a big heart but not nearly enough spirit.
Birdman, the latest effort from distinctive director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárittu, is a particularly bold film. Not only is it very technically impressive, but it deals with risky themes like the differentiation between pop culture and art and the inherent impotence of critics, which when handled poorly can make a film look self-conscious and above reproach. Luckily for both the movie and the audience, Birdman negotiates these incredibly complex and substantial themes deftly and with a sense of scope and proportion, touching on modern pop-culture, egomania, self-delusion, and the fundamental purpose of art; no small order for a film so immediately accessible. Beautifully written and performed, with a striking and unique soundtrack alongside genuinely breath-taking cinematography, Birdman is a strong contender for the best film of 2014.