Patricia Arquette Kicks the Hornet Nest of Equality

Patricia Arquette kicked the hornet nest of equality at the Oscar ceremony during, and after her acceptance speech. Inadvertently, she also released a storm of controversy over her calls to minority and the LGBT community to join her glorious fight. This call to arms then sparked a row over just how racist the Academy Awards ceremony was on Sunday, “Did you see how many white people won?”

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J K Simmons Best Supporting Actor…Really?

J K Simmons publicity shot

It is trending right now on Facebook, “J K Simmons wins Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Whiplash.” Really? I watched that film, loved it, and when that time came around for all the critics to vote, I chose Simmons for the Best Actor award. A long discussion ensued where I explained my rationale for picking that category and initially the head of the Nevada Film Critic’s Society let me keep old J K there for the gong of BA instead of BSA.

My reasoning for popping his portrayal of Fletcher, the cruel, manipulative and driven music instructor for the top gong was simple. Without this manic and over-the-top sadist there would have been no film. In my mind, supporting actors are ones whose character’s may be quite important to the plot, but, if their roles end up on the cutting room floor, the film will still progress quite nicely, thank you very much.

With no Simmons, aka Fletcher, there was no film. Miles Teller as Andrew, may have been the studio’s choice to win Best Actor, but again, without Fletcher, the wanna-be drummer had no one to respond to.  It is obvious that the studio wanted both its actors to get a gong so Simmons was pushed into the lesser category. However, the instructor was the driving force here, not the socially inept boy who practices till his hands bleed.

I do believe that J K Simmons really deserves  the Best Actor gong for his performance in Whiplash. Best Supporting Actor does not really fit what he did with that role. Sitting in the cinema and watching the film, every single time the man showed up on screen my blood pressure rose and my heartbeat doubled.

His Fletcher was so overwhelming and brutal that he reached out into the audience and intimidated me. Even in the safety of my own seat, surrounded by other reviewers whom I count as friends, Simmons make me so uncomfortable that I was tempted to watch scenes with slightly averted eyes, through fingers.

In the film, both individuals are equally driven. Both want perfection and the two will do what ever it takes to achieve their goal. By the end of the film, I was exhausted and so tense that a cramp shot through my right leg. And as the final credits rolled, we all looked at one another in awe.

This film, with no real violence, no romance (to speak of) and no sex, had held us spellbound for the entire length of the movie. Despite the fact that neither of the two main protagonists were likable and hard to connect with, I cared what happened to both of them.

In the last scene of the film, and there is a twist oh yes, my mouth dropped open in amazement. I will not say why, but suffice to say, it was magic. Subtle and simple and marvelous. J K Simmons should have gotten the Best Actor for Whiplash and not Best Supporting Actor because in my mind he really sold the film and his character. I do know that I was not the only critic who believed that the man should have been placed in the higher category, but despite my disappointment at his “demotion” I will still say congratulations matey! You earned it.

22 February 2015

Whiplash: J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller are Intensely Gripping

Whiplash: J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller are Intensely Gripping

Watching J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller in Whiplash is an exhausting proposition, as both are gripping and intense inside their characters. Viewers of the Damien Chazelle written and directed film will, at times, be on the edge of their seat as the story unfolds. This splendidly consuming character study of not just musicians but the world of professional music and those who inhabit it is, by the time the final credits roll, tiring. The urge to slump forward in the theater seat limp with exhaustion is almost overwhelming, which is also as good a descriptive word as any to refer to this film.

Dark Skies 2013 Oh Look It’s Aliens…Again

Dark Skies Oh Look It's an Alien...Again

Despite the mendacity of the trailers, Dark Skies is not a bad film. In another case where the marketing let the film down before it even opened, it isn’t too surprising that audiences did not get too carried away with a film that has been done before. It is almost a case of “Oh look! It’s aliens…again.” And that is the real problem with Dark Skies, it has all been done before and in most cases it was done better.

The film opened to mixed/negative reviews. If we stop and just look at the trailer, it makes sense that folks were not too happy with what they watched after the trailer incorrectly built it up as more of a scary film than it actually was. Suspenseful, yes. Slow, most certainly. Scary…only once, really.

So Dark Skies, apart from being a look it’s an alien…again type of film, was good, just not great and it’s marketing really let it down before anyone actually watched it. Expectations from the trailer gave it a much creepier feel than the film, upon viewing it, did.

Written and directed by Scott Stewart and starring Keri RussellJosh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo, with a marvellous cameo by J.K. Simmons  the film delivers a not too unique look at a family plagued with what appear at first to be a sort of poltergeist activity in their home. The activity shifts gears and direction and becomes an amalgamation of odd behaviour, strange dreams, missing time and disturbing reactions from friends and neighbours.

The family’s eventual acceptance of the cause of all these disturbing occurrences is annoying. Can there really be a family in the world, even the US, who have not heard of alien visitation? Regardless of whether they believe in the reality of such things is a moot point. It defies logic to expect an audience to believe that such a family exists, especially one who uses laptop computers and has a television in most rooms of the house.

That “ignorance” combined with the misleading marketing campaign is what lets the movie down.

dark-skies-image-02

Stewart does an excellent job building up the suspense and he should be given a lot of credit for that. In a sub-genre that has definitely been done better and scarier, the fact that he could effectively build suspense is noteworthy.  But there was not one moment in the film that had me threatening to lose popcorn (because of a jump scare) or slightly averting my gaze because things were getting too scary.

The devices used in the film’s plot, were nothing new, and the obligatory “eye-opening” sequence was just that, obligatory. Someone had to figure out what was going on, hence the “let’s look this up on the internet” scene. Which, to be honest, would have been done far earlier if the events had really occurred.

But I do have to hold my hand up and admit that I did, despite all the negative things I’ve pointed out, like the film.

I liked the family, and I liked the direction the film took. It just did not scare me and, as I said above, it has been done before. Alien visitation is in the same class as “found film” horror movies. Each one has been done before and, in most cases, only one or two from each sub-genre is really noteworthy. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them. If you like chocolate ice cream, it doesn’t really matter what brand of ice cream you eat. You still enjoy it, just not as much if it is not your favourite brand.

So Dark Skies or as I like to call it, Oh Look It’s Aliens…Again, is an entertaining film. But not one that I would rush out and buy for my Blu Ray collection, and it definitely isn’t a film I would want to watch again. The movie did not “freak” me out as much as The Fourth Kind, which I don’t watch repeatedly for a different reason, but it was better than average. I give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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