Saturday, 24 January 2015

Week 4: Wild

Writers: Nick Hornby & Cheryl Strayed
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Seen: Friday 23rd January
Location: Eye Cinema
Snacks: Malteasers
Mood: FREE
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I was surprised to see the limited screenings for Wild, in fact I was quite baffled by it? Only one screening per day from both the Eye and the IMC in a very early 6:30 -7.00pm time slot. As well as the early time slot it was shown in the smallest screen in the Eye… this because it didn’t gain the predicted Oscar nomination for best picture…I really couldn’t figure out the reason because this film was very good. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed who goes on a pilgrimage by taking on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995 after the early death of her mother (Laura Dern) and a slump into drug abuse and various bouts of cheating on her husband.
It’s a journey to regain her sense of self and the hardships along the way are mirrored by flashbacks of her misdemeanours.I particularly liked the way some of the flashbacks were just the merest hint of a song or a glance. The film is full of the soundtrack of her life and quotes from Walt Whitman, Robert Frost & Joni Mitchell.
The relationship and subsequent death of her mother is pinnacle in this film,they do not have the perfect relationship and in many of the flashbacks Cheryl is very critical of her mother. This imperfection though is key to what makes this film so relatable, who has the perfect relationship? Cheryl isn’t perfect herself in fact she is a very flawed character and the film doesn’t go down the easy route of trying to sugar coat what Cheryl’s life had become to make us feel sorry for her. We see Cheryl’s mistakes and hear all the criticism she dishes out to her mother and even though that might not be particularly palatable the audience can certainly identify with her. By then end of the film we feel that Cheryl is finally free of the burden of guilt.
A beautifully shot film (which really deserves to be seen in the cinema) with a great soundtrack and some compelling performances from Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Week 3: Whiplash

Writer/Director Damien Chazelle
Seen: Saturday 17th January 2015
Location: Galway IMC
Snacks eaten: Minstrels and smuggled peanuts.
Mood: Inspired
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I knew I would like Whiplash from the moment I watched the trailer and subsequently heard rumblings of brilliance from various critics etc. I hadn’t realised however how much I would enjoy it! From the minute the film started I was gripped, swept up in the jazz infused tension, the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the struggle for absolute perfection.
Perfection and the struggle for perfection is at the core of this film, what would you be willing to give up and what lengths would you be prepared to go to to become the best?
The film centres around Andrew Nieman played by Miles Teller who is studying drums at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York who gets into the band run by prestigious teacher, Terence Fletcher played by J.K. Simmons whose teaching methods are uncompromising (to say the least). Fletcher uses the tale of Charlie Parker who practised (it is said) manically after Count Basie’s drummer Jo Jones threw a cymbal at him for failing to keep tempo.Fletcher believes the path to greatness lies in pushing his pupils to the very edge. He pushes Nieman harder and harder and with every beat of the drum our protagonists desire to be renowned increases.
Needless to say the film reaches a clamorous, heart pounding crescendo and I left the film wanting to rush straight to a smoke filled jazz bar (preferably in New York!!!) to listen to so jazz. I live in Galway so this wasn’t possible BUT I certainly left feeling inspired and even after a few days the film is still rattling round my mind!
A brilliant, tense film full of wonderful performances which was definitely JUST my tempo!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Week 2: Foxcatcher

Writer E Max Frye/Dan Futterman 
Director: Bennett Miller
Seen: Saturday 10th January
Location: IMC Galway
Snacks eaten: Smoked almonds (ooooo posh) + some Lidl chocolate 
Mood: Enigmatic

Foxcatcher is based on a amazing true story. Nevertheless, here’s a little advice, the less you know about the real story the more you’ll enjoy the film. It tells the story of wrestler Mark Schultz played by Channing Tatum, and his wrestling brother Dave Schultz played by Mark Ruffalo and their relationship with the peculiar (very peculiar) millionaire John du Pont played by Steve Carell.The brother’s move onto du Pont’s estate and begin to train for the 1988 Olympics and the story unfolds. 

Carell gives a very sincere and convincing performance and I often felt uncomfortable watching him play not only serious (he is of course predominately known for comedic roles) but also a very creepy character. The real du Pont was obviously mentally unstable and maybe the tragedy of this true story was that no one did anything to help him when the signs were there, before they got worse. The reason nobody said anything? Maybe, was because of  the other main theme in the film, money and the power that comes with it. John du Pont paid the wages, supplied the great facilitates and because of this he was never questioned or challenged.

It is brilliantly directed by Bennett Miller and he is brave in his decision to linger on some scenes causing unease for the viewer.  Channing Tatum, who would be my least preferred actor of the three is equally as good as Ruffalo and Carell and he shows confidence in his role. This has been described by some people as a strange film but then again the actual true life story is just as strange. For me though it is an excellently directed and acted film and one not to be missed.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Week 1: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Writers: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander       Dinelaris and Armando Bo
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Seen: Saturday 3rd January 2015
Location: IMC Galway 
Snacks eaten: Blue M&M's
Mood: Super heroey 

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) to give it its full title is, make no mistake, a comedy albeit a very dark one. It is the story of Riggen Thomson a once significant Hollywood actor who played super hero, Birdman. We find him, having left the successful super hero franchise producing, directing and starring in a play on Broadway. 
We are invited back stage and in doing so are immersed in his world while he fights to get the play to opening night. Actors are leaving, brawling, having emotional break downs and the presence of his wayward daughter are all leading him stray from the task at hand. The film also represents a fight with Thomson’s ego, a fight to stay relevant post superhero stardom.

Performances by Michael Keaton as Thompson and Ed Norton as Mike Shiner, a difficult to manage method actor who turns up at the last minute to replace another actor and save the play, are energetic and tremendous. Undoubtedly their tasks were made a little easier as they could relate to the story of Thomson as both played superheroes themselves, Keaton was Batman and Norton the Hulk. 
There are big themes in this film, and it could be described as philosophical, but they are also many laugh out loud moments. Aesthetically it is a nice film to watch and technically wonderful, although in the first half of the film I was totally engrossed it does lose something in the latter half. Overall though an impressive, well-acted, directed and for me at least, thought provoking film.