Posts Tagged ‘ 12 Years A Slave ’

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Well with February over it seems to be the end of the self congratulatory awards season for the already self congratulatory entertainment industry. Culminating-I stop short of saying climaxing- with the most prestigious of the lot, the Oscars, this year admittedly threw up a few well deserved winners spread across many notable films although if there was one overall winner on the night then Steve Mc Queen’s ’12 Years A Slave’ probably reigned supreme.
The real winners for me however were Matthew Mc Conaughey and Jared Leto for, respectively, their roles as leading and supporting actor for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ in two totally outstanding performances- Leto in particular gave the performance of a lifetime- in categories where they faced exceptionally strong competition especially in McConaughey’s case where Leonardo DiCaprio was snapping at his heels with his own winning performance in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. There was also the matter of that extremely self conscious selfie which must surely rate as one of the most glamorous and high octane of all time and thus hopefully encourage everyone else to give up this extremely vain and tiresome pursuit.
That was 2014’s winners however and in the interests of being one step ahead my attention has already turned to next years winners and am hoping that Wes Anderson’s latest all star extravaganza ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ will be worthy of a nomination next year. I will let you know as soon after I have seen it today as is possible.
Elsewhere on television this week the excellent BBC2 drama ‘Line of Duty’ took even more labyrinthine twists and turns with its plotlines until it has now reached the stage where I trust no one and believe everyone within the police force is now corrupt to some extent. Certainly the best thing on television at the moment it is surely a contender for winning several awards next year with Keeley Hawes as accused cop Lindsay Denton surely a runaway winner for best actress with an ambiguous performance of depth and emotion; one moment eliciting feelings of contempt the next winning our sympathies. It is definitely a bench mark performance and one that won’t be easily beaten.
Police corruption is certainly a theme very much of the moment with further revelations in the Stephen Lawrence case. My thoughts go out to his family who after more than twenty years are still unable to find any closure regarding his death. It seems the system is failing him in death as much as it did in his too short life.
This week I also attended the Goldfrapp event at the Cameo though inexplicably it was also taking place simultaneously at other venues around the city. Personally I feel it would have been better to concentrate the whole audience into one venue thus creating more of an event or ‘happening’ rather than spreading it around with sparser sprinklings. I am not convinced that Goldfrapp’s stature warrants several venues around a city as small as Edinburgh.
This is a minor complaint though as the show itself- a specially made film for new album ‘Tales of Us’ followed by a synced in live performance which was shown globally- was outstanding. The band’s performance and Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals were virtually pitch perfect and her talent as a live performer remains undisputed. Definitely an advert for the ‘less is more’ campaign there is no need for overt visual dynamics when charisma, style and class are all you need to carry a show.
Things to look out for in the coming weeks include an end of month gig at the Leith Franklin Rock’N’ Roll Club headlined by The Bonnevilles and featuring Geek Maggot Bingo supporting. I have been informed this is one not to miss so I intend not to. More details closer to the time.
This weekend however I intend to enjoy the first fruits of spring and try to avoid the inevitable weekend hangover as I favour a more restrained approach than usual. That is the plan but somehow I never quite manage to adhere to those!
Here to ease into the weekend is a song ‘Clay’ based on a love letter between two Second World War soldiers by Goldfrapp which was a highlight of Tuesday’s show.

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THE BAFTAS

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And so the round of award ceremonies, with their insincere heartfelt thanks and validation for those who demand more than most, begins with the Stephen Fry Show or the Baftas if you prefer to call it by its lesser known name. This year there has been a surfeit of great films-most released in the last two months in case the voters have short memories I presume- and most managed to take home a major prize thus ensuring no one film emerged as a runaway winner, although both Gravity and 12 Years A Slave triumphed several times in their nominated categories. There was even an ongoing joke about the Duke of Cambridge being Helen Mirren’s grandson-the Duke and the other Queen, Fry, made lame attempts to induce some hilarity out of this- due to a role she once memorably played. Oh, how we didn’t laugh!
However Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street missed out on its best chance of an award for Leonardo DiCaprio’s outstanding performance as Jordan Belfort and of all the major contenders was the only film to leave empty handed. I was disappointed that probably one of the most underwhelming films I have seen in the last year , Philomena, win the best adapted screenplay but was delighted to see Jennifer Lawrence win for her supporting role in American Hustle as she was my favourite character and performance in this film which had so many to choose from.
Chiwetel Ejiofor may have deservedly won for 12 Years A Slave-DiCaprio would have been my first choice-but I thought Michael Fassbender may also have walked off with best supporting actor as his performance was of such an intense and commanding nature he stole most scenes he was in. The supporting actor award however went to relative newcomer Barkhab Abdi for Captain Philips, a film I have not seen due to the fact I am a total Tom Hanks phobic and find it impossible to sit through anything he is in.
Cate Blanchett came up against stiff competition in her category –Amy Adams and Judi Dench although the least said about Sandra Bullock the better- but waltzed off with the Best Actress prize for her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
Controversy reared its head over Gravity winning the Best British Film category with it being directed by the Mexican Alfonso Cuaron and starring Bullock and George Clooney, both big Hollywood players, but it was filmed in England with a British crew and most of the post production effects were added here so it seems quite fitting it won this category. If any film in the last year has been about the effects then Gravity was it.
Usually seen as less prestigious dry run for the Oscars next month it will be interesting to see whether there is as much diversity in their choices or whether one film will dominate above all others. Personally I feel it will be a close call between 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle but as I am unaware of insider industry politics and who has been kissing the most asses over the last twelve months it is hard to predict any inevitable outcome. Lat night merely showed that quite rightly several different films need to be commended on individual achievements and as such it made more sense that with such a strong line up each received awards recognising this.
As a footnote let it be noted that the dresses were, in the main, quite awful. Brad and Angelina looked good in their matching tuxedos though. A lesson in glamour so many could learn from that might, in the future, prevent them from looking like dropped trifles.
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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Those pesky rock stars of today are at last making the news with their outlandish behaviour. Actually, referring to Justin Bieber as a rock star is a bit off the mark and pelting your neighbours with eggs can hardly be termed outlandish if you are out of nursery but there were prescription drugs involved- can’t the new form of celebrity even get that right and purloin some illegal substances? – and there was a speeding dayglo yellow car by Dinky, on every five year old’s wish list, that I wasn’t even aware he was old enough to drive. Then you discover that the drugs were given to him by his mother-perhaps for a spot of colic or the like- and the story loses even more of its insipid bite. In fact who is Justin Bieber anyway? Perhaps he should go to jail/ do community service/ pay a fine for making the news with the most un-outlandish behaviour and giving modern day celebrities an even more boring rep than they already have.
Anyway this weekend sees celebrations take place around a real ‘celebrity’ who also has a decent legacy as original Scots bad boy with ‘offstage’ behaviour which still provokes discussion today, more than two hundred years after his death. On the side he was also an extremely talented poet and has earned his place in our hearts and heritage as our national Bard. I am of course referring to Robert Burns and what appears to be an abundance of Burns night celebrations.
Certainly there seems to be more appreciation this year than usual and I am sure the independence debate has something to do with this as the poems of Burns ring with a poignancy and relevance central to the whole Scottish identity.
I Hope this is the reason however and not that it is going the way of Christmas/ Halloween-I have been invited to Burns themed nights every evening this weekend- suffering from being commercialised and taken over until the actual work and identity of the man are consumed by turning it into am elongated piss up.
However I doubt this as there seems to be a genuine belief in Burns’ poetry and his poems will still play a large part in each of the individual evenings output.
My own particular way of celebrating will be by attending the Neu Reekie tribute to the great man. As far as I can see they have done more to bring poetry, literature and the spoken word to Edinburgh culture in a long time and in a way that seemed unthinkable only a few years ago. Somehow they seem to have imbued it with a sense of cool. I do hope however it is cool enough to enable me to forget that I abhor whisky and have always been unable to contemplate eating haggis-the two staples of a Burns supper- although as the whisky is a special cask of their very own Neu! Reekie whisky-to be launched soon- I may force myself to partake. Out of politeness of course!
There also seems to be a rash of good films on at the cinema at the moment, as there always is in January, after a dearth during the run up to the festive season when family orientated slush and big branded outings seem to predominate. This month has already offered up 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street and, my personal favourite so far, American Hustle. However the new Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis is out today and although it is too unconventional to win any major awards this may work for it rather than against it when pitted against three obvious award winners.
Set in the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene in the early sixties before Dylan flew like an eagle into global consciousness –the central protagonist is allegedly Dave Van Ronk, one of Dylan’s earliest and staunchest supporters- it attempts to capture a scene in flux trying to find its own niche in a world about to go through many facets of social change. A review will be posted here as soon as it is viewed.
So with January nearly over and a few good nights in February already marked in the diary-Lux Lives and Rammed being at least two must attends- let’s get the last weekend of the first month of 2014 underway!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Already more than half way through the first month of 2014 and whilst certain parts of the country are suffering terrible rains followed by destructive flooding Scotland emerges relatively unscathed. Without wishing to jinx things it hasn’t even been that cold yet. I know, I know, I keep being told winter doesn’t really kick in until February but there is no denying that thus far we have been extremely lucky as regards the weather both temperature wise and in just about every other way too. After writing this I am sure we will suddenly be treated to extreme weather conditions and if this happens then feel free to blame me.
This week saw the iconic Kate Moss turn forty and typical of the Daily Mail who feel the need to attack any form of individuality or lack of conformity, like some kind of avenging and pious rottweiler , the accusations flew thick and fast that she may have committed the unforgivable sin of actually looking her actual age. As Moss herself has stated in the past, why shouldn’t she? Surely someone who has been working since she was fourteen and been at the top of her game since she was sixteen has earned the right to live her life any way she chooses to. Personally the fact she has not succumbed to our society’s obsession with remaining ever youthful but is seemingly comfortable in her own skin and body is something to be commended not scorned.
Having met Kate at a Kills gig at the Liquid Rooms I can confirm that in person she is gorgeous but more than that she is actually down to earth and on the night in question she was merely out as a girl supporting her boyfriend- Jamie Hince now her husband- and was simply out to have a good night. She appeared to be unaffected by the fuss that went on around her and I spent the bulk of the night in her company finding her entertaining, informed and in possession of the elusive qualities of charisma and instinct.
Instinct, along with hard work, is probably the quality which has afforded her longevity in a business notoriously fickle and for someone whose career involves being dressed by others in their designs it is when she appears in clothes of her own choosing that she really hits the mark. It is those outfits that others slavishly follow and adapt rather than the high fashion spreads in which she also shines. Some may argue that as she has access to such clothes then how can she possibly go wrong? The answer to that is simply very easily as so many others with the same access fail miserably.
Having lived her life thus far exactly as she wanted to is inspiring in our bland world of uniformity. In a position to choose who she hangs out with, goes out with and even who she marries these may all be fiercely debated and commented on but make no mistake at the end of the day the final decision has always rested with her. Even after she was pilloried in the press for taking drugs- model on cocaine whatever next?- she played the contrite game and came back bigger than ever even managing to secure the contracts which had dropped her in the light of the so called scandal at a higher rate than before.
Happy Birthday Kate, just keep on doing what you are doing and after your Playboy shoot I predict there will even be a resurgence in pubic hair growth. Waxing to a prepubescent state is all so outdated now. Fashion needs you and you are proof that style and verve will always outweigh fashion and its dictates.
Out at the cinema this weekend are two excellent films, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, both worthy of all the accolades they are collecting. Of the two I think American Hustle has the edge as the superb seventies styling and soundtrack are excellent and although I don’t usually advocate award ceremonies finding them to represent industry insider wheeling and dealings rather than artistic enterprise in the case of these two films I think they may have actually nailed it. Despite this the battle between these two could be thrown into disarray with the arrival of the new Coen Brothers film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, a veiled look at a fledgling Bob Dylan type, which looks like it could be another award contender and if not the only reason will be its release date in the schedules.
Out on Monday January 20th is the Fini Tribe classic Balearic anthem ‘De Testimony’ with a surfeit of remixes from the likes of Justin Robertson and Robot 84. Coming with a seal of approval from Irvine Welsh who rates them as highly influential on a scene which inspired him the single is available in an extremely limited edition-only 350 copies- 12” EP on the FFFt label although a digital download will be available a month later with a further remix by 808 State.
In support of this release The Fini Tribe crew are joining up with Rammed, a live music club experience, for two separate and different nights at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. The single launch night will take place on February 28th where the Fini Tribe Sound System will rock the night out alongside regular Rammed DJ’s The Baron and Oli Findlay in the French Quarter boasting a dance floor with flashing lights. The second outing is on April 26th in The Speakeasy which will feature a rare live appearance by the band. Both nights are not to be missed and further details will be announced nearer the time although spaces are bound to be limited due to the carefully selected intimacy of the venues’
As if to confirm that maybe Edinburgh does have a burgeoning underground music scene a pre-release copy of Opium Kitchen’s two track single ‘Hommagination’ and ‘We Will Be’ found its way into my inbox then swiftly into my heart this week. Due out on February 18th the former track is a louche piece of verbal and insistent, incessant guitar riffing played out over a solid rhythm section. The second track resembles Iggy Pop’s ‘Fall in Love with Me’ filtered through Joy Division-in a very good way- with some rumbling bass and nu-glam handclaps powered along with Robert King’s dark vocal stylings all adding up to heady mix and bubbling cauldron of dark mysterious cacophony. Sterling stuff indeed! Definitely something to look out for and there will be a full review nearer the time of release.
Here to round off today is the original mix of The Fini Tribe’s ‘De Testimony’ and remember to clear the dates 28th February and April 26th for those Rammed outings. Best clear the next days too!

American Hustle

American Hustle
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Right at the start of this superbly stylised movie directed by David O Russell we are told that it is ‘loosely based on a true story’ and this is about the last truly coherent thing this convoluted rollercoaster of a film reveals to its audience preferring instead to second guess the viewer in a similar vein to the way the films four central protagonists constantly strive to second guess and outdo each other. It certainly is an exhilarating ride which seldom lets up or comes up for air and is genuinely worthy of all the plaudits it has been garnering.
With a cast that includes a barely recognisable Christian Bale, complete with pot belly, shiny bald head and super glued toupee, as Irving Rosenfeld a con artist more than adept at charming and smarming greedy folk out of their probably not so hard earned cash with the promise of capitalising on their investment. Where his schemes really come into their own though is when he teams up with street smart Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who re-invents herself as English gentry going by the name of Lady Edith. Their however are rumbled by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who offers them immunity if they co-operate in a scheme to ensnare city officials and congressmen on the make in a bid to stop corruption and further his career.
Added to this self serving trio of miscreants is Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) whom he brilliantly describes as ‘The Picasso of passive-aggressive karate’ and who frequently unintentionally delivers a few kicks and blows which constantly threaten to undermine all their hard laboured scheming and plotting with hilarious results. Along the way Robert De Niro hitches a ride as the legal representative of some high placed mobster.
The plot is simultaneously convoluted but constantly entertaining and it is hard not to become embroiled in the fantastical story lines as they crash, collide, twist, turn and resolve themselves in a far from predictable manner. Each of the four actors plays off the other brilliantly and I can honestly say this is the first film I have ever enjoyed Bradley Cooper in.
The stylisation of the movie is impeccable with hair pieces, cool shades and curlers fighting for screen space alongside Adams’ seemingly never ending collection of plunging necklines slashed to the navel. The soundtrack is also well crafted with Bowie, Steely Dan, America’s ‘Horse with No Name’, The Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington all adding to the vibe. At one juncture there is a dance off between Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love and ‘Delilah’ by Tom Jones taking place on the same night at the same time in two different places.
Already the recipient of several major awards at the Golden Globes-including the mighty Best Picture- ‘American Hustle’ now looks set to do the same at the Oscars in two months time with its nearest competition being Steve Mc Queen’s outstanding ’12 Years A Slave’. Whatever the outcome on the night and regardless of awards-which don’t always reflect quality but the prejudices and influence of industry insiders- both films definitely deserve the plaudits they are receiving and both are very much worth seeing.

12 YEARS A SLAVE

12 Years A Slave
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Cynicism might dictate that slavery is the new hot topic in American film-Djangop Unchained and Lincoln both dealt with the subject in radically different ways last year- and ensure at the very least an Oscar nomination if not a winner. This latest offering by Steve Mc Queen who far from abandoning his art house credentials- Shame and Hunger- has merely deployed them to excellent use is a definite contender in this years round of award ceremonies and unlike the three hour snooze Lincoln, which swept the board last year, deserves every accolade it attains.
This is in no short part down to the excellent performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, a demented Michael Fassbender and an understated but pivotal role for Brad Pitt but most essentially Chiwitel Ejiofor as the films central character Solomon Northup. Seldom off the screen during the films duration Eijofor’s commanding performance is one of extreme depth and compassion which is simply engrossing. Some may argue that the film is racist in its caricature depiction of whites but that is inconsequential as this is a story which needs to be told and to the catalyst at the heart of this story it is the truth which he has to deal with even if his eventual salvation comes courtesy of a white man.
When we first encounter Solomon it is as a free man in New York where he lives a comfortable life with his wife and children and lives a comparatively affluent life due to his remarkable talents as a violin player. This all changes however when he is introduced to two men masquerading as promoters of a travelling show who then get him inebriated to the point of unconsciousness. When he awakes he finds himself shackled and chained and it then becomes clear the promoters were simply kidnappers who specialise in selling blacks to southern whites as slaves.
The helplessness of Solomon’s situation immediately becomes apparent in the harshness of the beating which accompanies his protestations that he is a free man. He learns early on that keeping quiet is perhaps his only chance of survival although after he is sold to a relatively benevolent owner Ford-Cumberbatch- inevitably the finer points of his breeding become apparent and this earns him the resentment of one of Ford’s plantation managers-a crazed with power Paul Dano- who feeling threatened by someone superior in both mental and physical capacities tries to undermine him at every available opportunity. This leads to an inevitably brutal outcome with Solomon, who has now been renamed Platt, finding himself the victim of an attempted lynching and although he is rescued at the last minute he is left hanging for several minutes before he is eventually safe.
To ensure his safety Ford is obliged to sell him to another plantation owner Epps- Fassbender- and his equally malodorous wife where his talents are not quite so appreciated and regular beatings are inevitable, usually on a misguided or precautious whim. A first attempt at escape via a letter is thwarted but the arrival of a sympathiser to the civil rights movement in the form of Bass- Pitt- offers Solomon a chance of getting his story across and seeking rescue from this life which is surely going to end him prematurely.
McQueen does an excellent job with this film. Moving out of the art house has not damaged his credentials or credibility in the slightest and he has brought his unwavering gaze through a camera eye to this film in the way that it disturbed and confronted in his previous works. It is not a film for the faint hearted as some of its scenes are brutally extreme- the one where Solomon is forced into whipping a fellow female slave as the others watch on is particularly harrowing- but such scenes are essential if the true horror of this time are to be laid bare. Although it is obviously an award laden movie this does not detract in any way from its power and any accolades it wins are deserved.

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