Let’s Talk About The Ending Of ‘Nocturnal Animals’ (2016)

*SPOILER ALERT*

 

Nocturnal Animals (2016) is a really interesting film directed by Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated director Tom Ford; it tells the tale of Susan (Amy Adams) receiving a book from ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) which accounts dark and violent themes which makes Susan re-evaluate her life and relationships.

It’s not a perfect film but there’s a lot I admire and respect about it. I loved seeing Amy Adams in this kind of role; she wasn’t playing a likeable character or a character finding redemption but who is living in the shadows of her regrettable actions. Another thing I admired (and had to watch again to fully understand) was how Edward’s book mirrored his relationship with Susan.

Whilst not being perfect, Nocturnal Animals still captivated me by the elegant visuals and music and the hopefulness of seeing resolve and a satisfying conclusion. However the film ends abruptly and you feel like you’ve been lured in by the film only to be dropped suddenly with no warning. At first I was frustrated which evolved into perceiving the ending as a genius move; it shows the power of the film to have an audience feel so invested and immersed in the experience.

Remove The Armour

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Sometimes the best moments are found in the most subtle moments. Over the course of the film Susan has been depicted as unhappy and full of regret, yet she is a successful art gallery owner and she feels some guilt of not feeling happy about her success. She has become a different person from the Susan that we were introduced to in the flashbacks telling the story of the early years of her relationship with Edward. One could argue that in order to mask the hurt and unhappiness from her actions in life she puts on a front looking like she has it all together.

Then there’s a great moment where she removes her lipstick, and a brief smile follows. That simple action was like she was removing the armour that she has been wearing ever since the colossal downfall of her marriage with Edward. It could be argued that she’s hoping to find happiness again by removing her wedding ring and hoping that by reconnecting with him the wrongs of her past can be rectified.

It’s a powerful shot, a dark room with only Susan’s reflection in the mirror to show. Amy Adams can do so much with no words, it’s all in the facial expressions and the lingering shots that convey how she is thinking the evening will go. Will she recapture who she was before and will she learn from her mistakes if she gets a second chance?

The Wait

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This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for: seeing Edward in present day meet up with Susan. After everything that has happened what would they say to each other? The anticipation was high and personally I was intrigued to see how they would act around each other.

Susan rocks up to the most fancy restaurant and is seated at her table, she looks to the door excited to see Edward walk through the door and reconnect. This scene is laid out to be an expected conversational scene, potentially reflecting an earlier scene when they met up for the first time in a restaurant. There’s even a moment where we hear the waitress welcome a gentlemen whilst focusing on Susan’s face, we even hear footsteps only to be let down by finding out it wasn’t Edward. Both the audience and Susan had their hopes built up only to be let down.

Alas, hope fades and reality kicks in as time passes and Edward is nowhere to be seen. From the melted ice in her drink to the fading of her smile to the striking of her bare finger where she removed her wedding ring, Susan detects that this meet up isn’t going to plan.

There Are No Words

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The music by Abel Korzeniowski only amplifies the mood of this scene, starting with some beautiful elegant music which escalates into a more intense sound conveying the rising emotions and tragedy that follows. The heightened sound calms down into the simple sounds of the piano keys, until there is music no more whilst the camera fixates on the heartbroken face of Susan.

The film score perfectly conveys all the emotions that Susan is feeling as no words are spoken. The reason why the music is so elegant and beautiful at the beginning is because there is still hope and an uncertainty of what is to follow, this develops into a more intense sound because there is a worry that there won’t be any resolve for the scene. It’s that scary moment because there may not be a chance of reconciliation, but we can’t give up hope just yet. Then the simple piano key sounds matched with Susan’s distraught face only equates into one thing: She will have to live with the mistakes she has made for the rest of her life. It’s a incredible simple yet powerful moment where the penny has dropped for Susan and she knows there is no turning back and that there’s nothing she can do to make Edward forgive her.

Because there are no spoken words we see Amy Adams give an acting masterclass of saying so much through no dialogue. From her eye glances to her many facial expressions conveying hope, sadness, regret, uncertainty etc. As an audience member you are fixated on her face as you want to try and understand everything that Susan is feeling in that moment. Amy Adams does this perfectly and with the music to support her it all equals to an emotionally powerful and delicate scene.

Bold

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I loved the bold ending of showing Susan to have no redemption in her character arc. You watch the whole film seeing how Susan is living a life of deep regret which prevents her from finding peace and happiness even though on paper she has her life together. I love Amy Adams, she is one of the best actors around and I loved how she played a character who wasn’t meant to be likeable. Amy Adams played a character who not only makes mistakes but will never have the chance to make things right or tragically may not find happiness because our actions have consequences. It’s bold just leaving Susan alone in that restaurant letting everything sink in.

What did you think of the ending? Did you appreciate what Tom Ford was going for or would you like to have had more of a concrete ending. Feel free to comment and share your opinions.

And The Oscar Goes To…(The 2017 Edition)

And that’s a wrap. Another year of awards season has come to a conclusion and what a conclusion it was. The 89th Academy Awards was one of the most exciting and memorable Oscar shows I have seen. I like Jimmy Kimmel and didn’t think he’d do a bad job but I didn’t realise how brilliant he’d be; he was so on point and hilarious with sharp with and really knew how to keep the audiences interest.

I’m also excited because there was quite a diverse range of films being honoured; La La Land received some big awards but so did Moonlight. Most of the winners I was so happy with and somethings it’s good for it to turn out the way you hoped but then there are some surprises which you have to go along with and are also happy about. I have to say on a less serious note I’m actually excited Suicide Squad is now an Oscar winning film, I’ll take anything for that film because I really enjoyed it.

LA LA LAND (6 WINS)

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  • Best Director (Damien Chazelle)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone)
  • Best Score (Justin Hurwitz)
  • Best Original Song “City Of Stars” (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)
  • Best Cinematography (Linus Sandgren)
  • Best Production Design (Dave Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco)

La La Land has been the front and centre during this awards season. Winning a record breaking 7 Golden Globes last month to grossing $369 million worldwide against a budget of $30 and receiving critical acclaim with score of 93% by Rotten Tomatoes, La La Land has caught people’s attention to say the least.

I am so thrilled for Emma Stone who gave such a memorable performance showcasing her hopes and dreams as well as vulnerability and bringing life to the screen. She’s a great actress in general so I’m happy she has been recognised with an Oscar win. Damien Chazelle is a visionary and created a lush and real world, it’s refreshing to see original work rewarded in this way. I loved Whiplash (2014) for which Chazelle was nominated an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay so I was happy for him to win this year. La La Land had to win Cinematography and Production Design; such a vision of a film. Colourful, vibrant, full of expression and wonder. Not to mention that stunning soundtrack; it’s head creating anything modern that can be viewed as iconic and Justin Hurwitz did just that.

Now onto the moment everyone is talking about. Warren Beatty is on my enemy list now; I was watching the moment La La Land was announced at the “winner” until Moonlight became the eventual winner and I was thinking “What on earth Warren!”. Whether it’s his fault or not I’m not sure but I’m sorry, he didn’t really seem “with it” so….I was shocked and confused. However, at the end of the day La La Land won 6 Oscars and was recognised for Leading Actress, Director and Music so it won big awards and I’m pleased for that. So it may not have won Best Picture but it was nominated at the end of the day and the film still has had a huge impact on people.

MOONLIGHT (3 WINS)

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  • Best Motion Picture of the Year (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney)

The ACTUAL Best Picture winner was a film that was made on a shoestring budget of over $1 million and now had grossed over $25 million and now is an Oscar winning film.

Personally I would have loved Dev Patel to win but I was still pleased that Mahershala won because he gave a sensitive and multi-dimensional performance as Juan. I’m so happy for Barry Jenkins as well, he may not have won Best Director but he walked away with an Oscar for bringing to life Tarell’s play and life story to the screen for Best Adapted Screenplay so I’m happy with that result. Lastly if any film was to beat La La Land it was going to be Moonlight and I’ve made my peace with the result because it was a beautifully raw and effortless film.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2 WINS)

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  • Best Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Casey Affleck)

Even though I was hoping La La Land would win Original Screenplay I think Manchester By The Sea is deserving of this award. I was so engaged and immersed with this world that you forgot that it’s not based on any previously written material but it was perfectly constructed story. Kenneth gave a delicate touch to a story of grief and loss, it wasn’t over dramatised or heightened in emotion but it was real and natural.

As the Oscars approached I thought Denzel Washington may win his third Oscar but I’m actually happy that Casey won in the end. Denzel was great in Fences, but it was a very loud performance and seemed quite self indulgent for Washington (to showcase what an amazing actor he is) that I appreciated the nuanced performance from Affleck more. Affleck gave a quite yet powerful performance and after winning the Golden Globe and BAFTA for the same role it was no shock that he would win Best Actor.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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Viola Davis took away the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences. The film was filled with great performances but Viola was the standout and gave such a heartbreaking performance of a woman who had hopes and dreams but eventually gave them up for her husband who should have treated her better. She holds back when she needs to but let’s go when she needs to stand up for herself. After being nominated twice previously (Doubt – 2008 and The Help – 2011) I’m happy Davis is now an Oscar winning actress.

Zootropolis won Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, it was up against fellow Disney nominee Moana but Zootropolis had a very timely message so I know why it won the Oscar. A deserving win for an animation that is unique and fun yet throughout provoking and appealing to all ages.

 
Well that’s it for another year. Here’s to the 90th Academy Awards in 2018!

And The Oscar Goes To…(Part 2)

It became clear to me that I had more opinions than I realised about the Oscars so that’s why I’ve had to do a second Oscar related blog post. As mentioned before, at the end of the day a nomination is still an honour and there’s more to a films success than winning an Oscar, however I still love the discussions that take place surrounding the Oscars and they do give a platform to smaller films and they do celebrate achievements in the film industry. If you want a recap of my previous Oscar themed blog post click here to read.

Queen Cate Blanchett

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Blue Jasmine (2013) should have basically been entitled: The Film Where Cate Blanchett Wins An Oscar. The comedy/drama directed by Oscar winning director Woodey Allen gave Cate Blanchett the platform to give a powerhouse of a performance which in turn earned her an Oscar win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading role in 2014. Cate Blanchett is an incredible actress and gave such an authentic performance with conviction as a woman who has had her life stripped away from her and how she is coping with the choices she’s made.

Cate Blanchett has been nominated for seven Oscars and now is a two time Oscar winning actress (her first win was for her supporting role in 2004’s The Aviator). She is the only Australian actress to win two Oscars and is the only actress to be nominated twice for the same role (of Queen Elizabeth I).

In 2014 Amy Adams was nominated for her fifth Oscar (first for a leading performance) in American Hustle, a performance I loved as it showed a different side to Amy Adams and she played a complex character brilliantly. But as much as I love Amy Adams the Oscar had to go to Blanchett, Blue Jasmine wasn’t perfect and the brilliance of Blanchett’s performance was that she carried the film on her shoulders effortlessly and she kept you watching because her performance was captivating and magnetic. I was so happy for Blanchett’s Oscar win because as soon as I saw her performance in Blue Jasmine in the cinemas I thought that she had to win the Oscar, and thankfully she did.

Amazing Alice

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In 2015 Julianne Moore won her first Oscar for her leading performance in Still Alice (2014) after having been nominated previously four times (twice in 2003 for leading performance in 2002’s Far From Heaven and a supporting role in 2002’s The Hours). Did Julianne Moore deserve her Oscar win in 2015? Yes. It was an honest and raw portrayal of someone losing themselves to Alzheimer’s. This was very much Moore’s film and her moment to show her range in one film.

However, in 2014 Rosamund Pike gave a chilling performance in David Fincher’s Gone Girl for which she was nominated for first Oscar for her leading performance. Talk about range, the character of “Amazing Amy” had many layers and was a complex character. She had to be the loving wife and daughter, the best friend of her neighbour, the psychotic survivalist, she knew how to adapt and play to different people’s emotions. Rosamund Pike portrayed that brilliantly and I was so happy when she was nominated an Oscar.

Personally I would have loved to see Pike win the Oscar but I know people really wanted Moore to win as this was her moment and for what many thought a long overdue win. I’m glad Pike was nominated in any case and hope she finds another meaty role to gain further recognition as well. So in short I’m happy “Amazing Alice” had won the Oscar.

The Oscar Artist

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In 2011 a beautiful French silent film was released and took the world by storm. In one of my earlier blog posts I mentioned The Artist as one of my top 10 favourite films of all time, because it’s a breath of fresh air. At the 2012 Academy Awards The Artist won 5 Oscars; Jean Dujardin was the first French actor to win Best Actor and it was the first film to win Best Picture.

It was so good to see a film that was different and unique sweep up the Oscars and to have had a great critical and commercial response; the film grossed $133 million worldwide against a $15 million budget. I love it when the Academy gives platforms to these smaller films from other countries to bring it to the attention of audiences across the world. I was so happy to see Dujardin win for Best Actor as it was impressive to see the exuberant performance with no words, it was all through actions and facial expressions.

She Dreamed A Dream

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Anne Hathaway is one of my favourite actresses. She had been nominated an Oscar in 2009 for her leading role in Rachel Getting Married (2008) and in 2013 she won the Oscar for Les Misérables (2012) for her supporting role as Fantine. In all honesty Les Misérables wasn’t my favourite film, however Anne Hathway gave one of the most heartbreaking and stunning performances, her I Dreamed a Dream sequence had you completely locked into her performance.

Hathaway received some of the best reviews of her career from Les Misérables,
Christopher Orr from The Atlantic wrote that:

“Hathaway gives it everything she has, beginning in quiet sorrow before building to a woebegone climax: she gasps, she weeps, she coughs. If you are blown away by the scene—as many will be—this may be the film for you.”

That close up shot which was fixated on Hathaway’s face was the standout of the film, and it shows the power of the performance that in a film running over 2 and a half hours people still talk about that one scene. From Princess of Genovia to Oscar Queen.

The Prequel To My Oscar Experience

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As mentioned in my first Oscar blog post, it was 2011 when I started watching the televised Academy Awards however I was still aware of who won in various categories the previous years, the 2009 Oscars were almost like a prequel to my Oscar viewing experience. In 2008 Angelina Jolie gave on of the most convicting and captivating performances I had ever seen in Changeling. Based on a true story, Jolie plays a mother whose son goes missing only to be returned to her convinced that the boy is not her son. The obstacles and challenges her character faces are horrifying and you truly are rooting for her character and Jolie plays the role with such power and force you feel her emotions. I wanted her to win an Oscar for her leading peformance, yes she has won for her supporting role in 2000 for Girl, Interrupted (1999) but she should have won her second Oscar in 2009.

Again, I was only partially aware of what was going on in 2009’s Award season so I didn’t realise that Kate Winslet was the favourite to win for her leading role in 2008’s The Reader. When I heard Winslet won instead of Jolie I was shocked, upset and confused. Jolie gave everything to her performance and it was such a powerful story, what more could she have done to win? In 2009 I hadn’t seen The Reader but did years later, Winslet of course is amazing in it…but more Oscar worthy than Jolie in The Changeling? Not really. I wasn’t happy with Winslet (even though it wasn’t her fault but I was young and naive).

For the record I love Kate Winslet, she is a brilliant actress who selects interesting roles and is consistent in her work. She has been nominated for 7 Oscars, 11 Golden Globes (4 wins) and 8 BAFTA’s (3 wins) over the course of her career. As time has passed on I’m happy to say that she is an Oscar winning actress, however I still can’t see how her performance in The Reader was more deserving than Jolie in Changeling.

At this moment at time I’m at peace with what happened, however there is still a part of me that would have loved to see Jolie walk up to that state and collect the Oscar for one of my favourite performances from an actress.

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Feel free to share your opinions regarding previous Oscar winners and nominees, what are you expecting for at this years Oscars? Feel free to comment below. The 89th Academy Awards are on 26th February 2017.

 

The Confessions of a Film Blogger: Foreign Language Films Edition

It’s no secret that I have watched my fair share of films; I have the film collection at home to prove it and this blog hopefully highlights my diverse taste in film. However there are still plenty of titles that I have yet to watch and I’m forever on a quest to watch films I haven’t seen before. So I thought I’d be honest with what I have seen and the many films that I need to watch. For this blog post I will be focusing on foreign language films and how I have only scratched the surface.

Foreign language films are an interesting topic because it can be quite divisive; you either love them or can’t stand reading the subtitles so you give up on them entirely. The reason why I love foreign language films is because you are given access to stories told from different cultures and your horizons are broadened in your taste in film. Just to clarify I can only speak English so films in any other language are foreign to me.

I’ll give you a rundown of the films that I have watched and loved. Now by writing this post I am not declaring myself a foreign language film expert yet an aspiring one; I hold my hands up and say I don’t watch as many as I should and hopefully that will be corrected in due course.

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(Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless – 1960)

Out of the foreign language films I have seen the most popular language I have listened to is French. There’s no specific reason why this is but I have to say I love the French language but I also enjoy watching American or British films set in France (which defeats the whole “aiming to watch more foreign language films than English spoken films but it still counts, kind of). I remember in Sixth Form we learned about the French New Wave which really fascinated me and was very enlightening learning about prominent directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The movement was a rejection of period pieces or literary adaptations and instead focused on more current issues, this was very unconventional at the time and the films were inspired by the works of Hollywood greats such as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin etc. after their works had been banned in France during WW2.

The films I studied were The 400 Blows (1959), Breathless (1960) and Shoot the Piano Player (1960). I loved studying and watching these films as it’s an interesting part of cinematic history. I remember watching The 400 Blows and not connecting with it straight away but after learning it was inspired by François Truffaut’s upbringing it had more meaning and made the film more personal; he broke away from traditional filmmaking and focused on youth and growing up whilst finding your identity.

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(Marion Cotillard in her Oscar winning role for La Vie en Rose – 2007)

Two of my favourite French films are Love Me If You Dare (2003) and La Vie en Rose (2007) both starring Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard (becoming the only actor to win the Academy Award for a performance in the French language for La Vie en Rose). Love Me If You Dare boasts terrific performances from Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard, having a dynamic chemistry and brilliantly exploring their characters over the course of many years. It’s a fun yet dangerous game they play which makes it an exciting watch for the audience. La Vie en Rose is a very different type of film, depicting the tragic life of Édith Piaf. Marion Cotillard gives everything and more to portray Édith Piaf honestly and with conviction; you buy into her performance.

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I’ve also watched Amélie (2001) years ago (in all honesty I should watch it again to refresh my memory) but it’s a film I had heard about for a long time and needed to see. It also has the iconic poster of the eponymous character looking rather ambiguously to the audience. I even managed to visit Café des 2 Moulins in Paris where Amélie works which was a cool experience. I’ve always had an interest in foreign language films and I’m so glad that I’ve never limited myself in what I watch otherwise I wouldn’t have experienced this classic…which didn’t win me over completely but at least I gave it a chance.

The Artist (2011) can be included in the discussion of films produced in other countries because whilst no words are uttered it is a French production with prominent French actors featured within the film. I love how successful it was at the box office and during the awards season, Jean Dujrdin became the first French actor to win an Oscar and the film was the first French film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Whilst this focused on the age of silent films in Hollywood I love how it was another country that produced this film.

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(Marion Cotillard in her Oscar nominated performance for Two Days, One Night – 2014)

Referring back to Marion Cotillard, she also gives a raw and vulnerable performance in Two Days, One Night (2014) a Belgium film that isn’t flashy but is an honest depiction of a woman’s pursuit to save her job whilst at risk of being voted out so that her colleagues can earn more money for their bonuses. Marion’s performance keeps you watching as you root for her character and even though yes the majority of the film is herself knocking on doors begging to keep her job, you don’t feel that it’s repetitive or mundane as it shows the true strength of her character. I love how Marion Cotillard can effortlessly go from huge blockbusters to low budget foreign language films.

Recently I watched Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) by Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro. It won three out of six Oscar nominations (including a nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: Mexico”) and opened to critical acclaim. I love how original this film is and how Guillermo Del Toro was inspired by fairy tales but creating his own stories set in the backdrop of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Ivana Baquero (Ofelia) would have been 12 when the film was released and she holds the weight of the film on her shoulders with ease. Fairy tales at their essence can be dark and twisted and I love how Guillermo has fully embraced that; I would have never experienced this is I limited myself to only English spoken films.

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(Pan’s Labyrinth – 2006)

I’ve never had an issue with having to read English subtitles;  yes I am aware of them at first but in time that awareness almost fades away and I’m completely immersed in the story being told. Subtitles do not prevent me from enjoying or being invested in a foreign language film. Also the benefit of watching a film produced from another country is gaining an insight into other stories being told and yet what may surprise people is how universal and relevant the themes are to all audiences.

Despite the fact I have watched quite a few films not in the English language I still have plenty of foreign language films to watch; I have a long road ahead of me but I’m excited for the challenge. Some titles that I have had my eye on but never watched are Son of Saul (2015), Rust and Bone (2012), The Hunt (2012), A Royal Affair (2012) and the list goes on. If you’ve never really given foreign language films a chance I would encourage you to try a few titles and see how you find them; I know I need to grow my knowledge of what stories are out there being produced by other countries. It will help us get out of our “American/British film minds” and be more aware of what is going on in our world.

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(2016 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year – Hungary)