12 January 2009

The Dark Knight Hopes for Gold

This year's oscar season will be one to watch as the two top reviewed films of the year (WALL-e and The Dark Knight) both hope to compete for Best Picture this February.

For years adaptations of comic books and animated pictures have long been ignored by the Best Picture, but this year is looking to change that with a relatively weak field in Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Frost/Nixon and so on.

09 January 2009

Consider This Dude

Absolute genius marketing. Here's hoping the Academy can find it in their hearts to nominate both Downey Jr. - er Kirk Lazarus - and Ledger for Best Supporting Actor.

(Courtesy: Dreamworks)

04 January 2009

The Year of the Anti-hero (Best Films of 2008)

Whether it is a matter of coincidence, schadenfreude or just the copycat nature of Hollywood, this year featured a great deal of morally grey characters. Films that resonated with the times surrounding us. Disconnect, war, an ever-increasing sense of paranoia have seeped into mainstream films like Frost/Nixon, Cloverfield, The Dark Knight and the like.

Maybe this darker trend should not come as a surprise while indie productions like Paramount Vantage, Warner Independent Pictures and Miramax are all closing their doors. The effect won't be felt immediately, but in three-four years, they will be missed. Though if there is any indication, the studios will pick up the slack as they have this year.

A majority of 2008's film were not "good guys". Batman, universally renown for being a hero took an antagonistic turn in Christopher Nolan's genre masterpiece. The other comic-book superhero is predominantly viewed as a playboy with a taste for danger. The whistle-blower of a Catholic Church is demonized by the victim's mother and her fellow members of faith. A personal acting highlight of the year featured an IRA activist slowly starving himself to bring attention to the government attacking his people. Characters like Colin Farrell's Ray in In Bruges don't fit the template of your standard hero and that is what made 2008 so indelible. It was so unique.

Colin's Top Ten
10. Wall-E 
9. Let the Right One In
8. Tropic Thunder
7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
6. Revolutionary Road
5. El orfanato
4. In Bruges
3. Doubt
2. Hunger
1. The Dark Knight

02 January 2009

Review: Hunger

Steve McQueen's Hunger resides in the solely physical realm. Feelings don't matter in this prison where Bobby Sands is held, bruises matter. Interactions with guards are entirely non-verbal. Beatings and forced baths take the place of negotiations and conditions.

Little background about the prisoners is offered as we enter the film: a guard bathes his bruised knuckles and proceeds to check under his car for a bomb every morning, a newly imprisoned man refuses to wear prison garb and enters his cell with little more than a blanket. Here, he enters his confined surroundings to find context smeared all over the walls.

The world's smallest war is being fought in the corridors of this prison. Chaos versus order. Food is made into mush to channel urine into the halls. Resistance is then swept away with the flick of a wrist. The innocence of a babe swaddled in cloth is instantly corrupted by the transfer of messages by any means possible. These men are fighting this war not over resources, reputation or slight. These men are fighting for recognition and they are losing that battle. They are losing their dignity. They are losing their souls.

Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), the fiercely confident leader of the movement, finds himself reaching at straws now. He knows his efforts to gain status as political prisoners are nearing futile. Margaret Thatcher is perhaps the only person more stubborn than Sands.

His nuclear option is to revisit the hunger strikes attempted earlier in his incarceration. If the Irish Republican Army is to gain back its recognition, they will have to do better than the 53 days from their first act of protest.

Very few performances manage to captivate with doing so minimal an amount of action. For a majority of Fassbender's screentime he is doing nothing more than focusing his breath, but those moments are breathtaking. A hush falls over Hunger as Sands physical transformation takes place. Fassbender actually underwent the drastic weight loss that is seen onscreen.

The moment where Bobby's true determination is captured occurs earlier than the hunger strike though. A twenty-two minute one-shot-take features Sands and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) discussing the value of life while sitting across from each other. That they are bookends in the frame designates a shifting point of Steve McQueen's directorial debut. The conversion where a film ostensibly about depicting small details of a movement shifts into a profile of one man's transcendence.

***1/2 out of ****