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.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Film Review

3/5 stars

Unless you’ve also been trapped in Beast’s castle then you’ll know that Disney are hard at work by revisiting their animated classics in live action format. This can be traced back to the billion dollar grossing Alice in Wonderland (2010) which was followed by Maleficent in 2014. Not crediting Cinderella (2015) completely to Disney’s now traditional approach to revisiting its animated classics, however since then we’ve seen Disney take less risks with remaking its animations.

Ever since the beginning of 2015 when Emma Watson was cast as Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast, the hype has been high and audiences have been eagerly awaiting Disney’s new interpretation of it’s 1991 classic. For years I’ve been looking forward to this film, but months before once all of the promotional material was being released I had this sense that it wouldn’t be the grand and extravagant remake I was hoping for…sadly I was right.

TALE AS OLD AS TIME

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Starting with the positives I thought the film looked the part. Visually it was eye catching and I thought they captured the look and vibe of the original quite well. The characters of Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip etc. were all effortlessly integrated with the live action characters (something I felt that The Jungle Book – 2016 failed to do with its CGI animals and live action characters) and I thought those characters were fun to watch and it wasn’t a huge let down from the animated versions of these characters.

With $462 million worldwide (against a $160 million budget) at the Box Office (so far) and with a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, fans are clearly loving this film (for some reason). It is a tale that is as old as time (1991 feels like a century ago to most people) and since the animation’s release it has always been a part of people’s childhoods and it has grown up with people still retaining it’s relevant and popular appeal. My worry is that now Disney see that being unoriginal and not taking chances works, they’ll rehash it’s upcoming live action adaptations. I guess from a business point of view fair enough but where are the visionaries that want to do something exciting and new meaning that it can stand side by side with the originals and now replace them.

GASTON THE MOVIE: FEAUTRING BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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If I had to single one performance out as the most committed and most convincing it was Luke Evans as Gaston. He played the arrogant bachelor to perfection, down to his singing and characterisation it was flawless. Out of all the cast I felt Luke Evans was the only one who gave 100% and the scenes with him in were more exciting than others…and that’s saying something when you’re meant to be watching the film for the leading performances of Belle and Beast.

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Speaking of the cast; Emma Watson is a great actress (she was amazing in Perks of being a Wallflower -2012 and The Bling Ring – 2013) and on paper she IS Belle. However, there were moments (especially the first half or so) where her performance felt half hearted. I know she’s singing about how everyone are peasants and she’s superior to everyone but even the animated Belle seemed more kind to the locals and in general the animated Belle was more fun to watch. It was rise and fall with Emma’s performance; the iconic ballroom scene and when she goes back to her provincial town to rescue her father were the highlights of her performance. She wasn’t bad but I expected more from her (no offence but after watching her performance as Belle I’m happy she dropped out of La La Land – 2016 for Oscar winner Emma Stone to replace her). I would say Dan Stevens as the Beast was slightly better with his performance, but I would argue that the animation team who worked on his look did an amazing job of effortlessly blending his character with the live action characters. Overall, not exactly the most exciting leading couple that have graced our screens.

TAKE CHANCES

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I will be that person that says that the animation is far more superior than the 2017 live action remake. The original is more atmospheric, dramatic, emotional, heartwarming and grand in everything from its characters to the look of the film. In 1992 Beauty and the Beast became the first animation to be nominated an Oscar for Best Picture, I seriously doubt this new version will have anywhere near that same impact today. This is why it should have done differently so that it honours the original but offers something new to today’s audience. Scenes like when Belle runs on the hill and sings, Beast offering Belle the library, even the iconic ballroom dance scene etc. were adapted half heartedly and it almost felt like they were just there because the audience were expecting them to feature in the film. The animation did all of those scenes and more with a sense of grandeur and wonder. The danger rehashing everything from the animation is the audience knows what to expect so there’s no sense of mystery and wonder.

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I understand that director Bill Condon was unapologetic about honouring the 1991 animation with only the addition of a few new songs (which added nothing new to the film) and Emma Watson’s few tweaks (which were hardly revolutionary to the character) however I would have loved it if Disney took a risk and brought something new to the table. The reason why Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficent (2014) worked so well, in my opinion, was because they took a new approach to a tale that in embedded in our brains from childhood. I have no issues with remakes, only if they offer something unique and something that is worth watching again in a different format. I would have loved to see Guillermo del Toro’s version as he definitely would have bright a refreshing take of a tale so universally known and loved. Sadly he departed from the project a few years ago making way for Bill Condon to direct his unoriginal remake.

I’ve heard about a live action update for several years and I thought the decision to approach the remake in a more traditional manner was more down to the the success of Cinderella (2015) however I read that Bill Condon decided to take less chances after the success of Frozen (2013):

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“Before I arrived, they were rethinking Beauty and the Beast more radically, more like Snow White and the Huntsman. There was a lot of conversation about the War of the Austrian Succession that didn’t interest me. But then after Frozen opened, the studio saw that there was this big international audience for an old-school-musical approach. But initially they said, “We’re interested in a musical to a degree, but only half full of songs.” My interest was taking that film and doing it in this new medium — live action — as a full-on musical movie. So I backed out for a minute, and they came back and said, “No, no, no, we get it, let’s pursue it that way.” 

Even without Guillermo del Toro we could have seen a more radical and exciting version of Beauty and the Beast, because the story is far bigger than Disney itself so why not try something new?

I’ve expressed my fears for what impact the success of this film may have, however overall I would say it’s a enjoyable film which is easy and fun to watch. But it’s worrying that 26 years later Disney we’re basically seeing Disney revisit their greatest hits in the most unoriginal way possible. My advice is watch this film so you can tick it off your list, it’s not a total waste of your time, but please watch the original animation as it’s far more impactful than the 2017 version.

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.

 

And The Oscar Goes To….(Part 1)

As a self confessed film geek it’s easy to assume the Oscars are the most exciting time for film during the year. I’ve always been aware of the Oscars but it wasn’t until 2011 when I started watching the televised show (from 11:30pm until 5am the next morning in the UK). From that moment onwards I’ve been obsessed with all things Oscars and really enjoy discussing the list of nominees and debate who was deserving or more deserving of the award.

Instead of doing an in depth analysis of the 2017 Academy Award nominees I thought I would go through the past 6 years and pick out some highlights.

NATALIE PORTMAN – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role 2011 – Black Swan (2010)

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During the first year of watching the Academy Awards live I was cheering on Natalie Portman to win the Oscar for her leading role in Black Swan. I think this is her strongest performance (Jackie – 2016 showcases yet another powerful performance however) as she effortlessly portrays the complexities and emotional range of her character Nina. She gives it everything and more for a bold performance with conviction. The third act where we actually see the performance of Swan Lake is like a mini film in itself and Portman gives a impacting performance that will be talked about (at least by me) for years to come. I can’t believe it was 6 years ago since she won.

This year Portman is nominated for her third Oscar for her leading performance in Jackie (2016). I would say that with Black Swan it was the journey of her character from a mindset of a little girl into becoming a woman and with Jackie it’s showcasing Portman at more of a mature and levelled performance of a headstrong woman. I would love for her to win her second Oscar but if Emma Stone wins for La La Land (2016) instead I’ll think, “…at least Portman has won an Oscar for my favourite performance from her.”

The King’s Speech v Inception: Dawn of the 2011 Best Picture Winner

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It’s exhausting to make a list of who was snubbed or deserved to win because at the end of the day it won’t make a difference and the world moves on. However, only on certain occasions will I voice my upset at injustices that occur on Oscar night.

First of all I love The King’s Speech (2010), it deserved the critical acclaim and Oscar nominations. Yet 6 years on and I still wish that Inception (2010) had won Best Picture and any award that Christopher Nolan was up for (I can’t believe he wasn’t nominated Best Director). This film was a spectacle that had a sense of realism and depth, Nolan had made an epic blockbuster that could be taken seriously and that was pure quality on every level.

That being said, I guess at the end of the day it’s not all about the awards and Inception is still an incredible film regardless…but still.

J-Law Reigns Supreme

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You’ll be shocked to know but in 2013 I only knew Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games (2012) but knew she had been previously nominated in 2011 for Winter’s Bone (2010). Despite the fact I hadn’t seen Silver Linings Playbook (2012) I was still happy that she won because Jennifer Lawrence deserves all the Oscars in the world.

Since then I have watched Silver Linings Playbook and I’m glad to say she is deserving of the Oscar. She plays Tiffany who is bold and unapologetic yet still has insecurities and wants to be loved like everyone else, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly portrays the character which cemented her as the second youngest Oscar winner at the age of 22. She also broke records as being the youngest actress to have received 4 Oscar nominations in 2016 after being nominated for Joy (2015).

The Year I Learned To Pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Name

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2014 saw 12 Years A Slave (2013) take the Academy Awards by storm. The film won Best Motion Picture making history with director Steve McQueen being the first black director/producer to win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year. A well deserved win for its brutal and honest portrayal of one of the most horrific times in history carried by stellar performances.

Amongst the nominees was Chiwetel Ejiofor, and it was in 2014 I finally learned to pronounce his name so I could tell people who I wanted to win for Best Actor. He won the BAFTA (Matthew McConaughey wasn’t nominated a BAFTA so that’s why, but Ejoiofor still deserved to win) but lost out on the Golden Globe and Oscar to McConaughey. In all honesty I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club (2013) so I can comment on McConaughey’s performance, all I can say is that Ejiofor gave one of the most convicting performances I have ever seen. So for him to lose out on the Oscar was quite disheartening, that being said at least he was nominated which is still an achievement. Oscars aside Ejiofor’s performance is still one that I remember as being one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen.

If anything the best thing I can take out of 2014 Academy Award experience is now I can correctly pronounce his name.

It Got Real

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2015/2016 wasn’t the best time for the Academy Awards. It was the years where no person of colour was nominated in the acting categories. I think it’s definitely a conversation that needed to take place and it’s great to see diversity in this years list of nominees, however people looked at the situation in a black and white perspective (sorry for the pun).

Yes the acting category was lacking in diversity however overall it was actually not as bad as people made it out to be. Here are some examples:

  • Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu won 3 Oscars for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014).
  • Oscar winning actress Marion Coitllard was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Two days, One Night (2014) who is French and her performance is entirely in the French language (her second nomination to do so).
  • Whilst Selma (2014) was criminally overlooked it was with great pride that John Legend and Common (both black musicians and actors) took home the Oscar for Best Original Song (Glory).
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu again took home an Oscar for Best Director in 2016 for The Revenant (2015).
  • Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress, won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Danish Girl (2015).
  • Asif Kapadia, a British Indian director, won the Oscar in 2016 for Best Documentary – Feature for his work on Amy (2015).

I’m not saying that there wasn’t an issue and something to talk about however let’s not take away that special moment for these filmmakers and actors who are from diverse backgrounds. Diversity doesn’t just mean black and white but it means different walks of life being reflected. Chris Rock hosted the show in 2016 did a brilliant job at addressing the controversy. Basically he was saying how it’s interesting how now people are going mad and boycotting yet there has been harsher discrimination in the past, he also mocked the impact of Jada Pinkett Smith’s decision to boycott the Oscars and he concluded by saying basically all that needs to be done is actors of colour need to be given equal opportunities in securing roles.

That being said it’s so good to see so many great and diverse films being recognised this year: Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Loving, Lion etc. and may it long continue.

Leo’s Moment

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I loved all the memes where Leonardo DiCaprio was searching for his Oscar and of course all the jokes were based in the truth that he should have won an Oscar long ago. However, at the end of the day he is still an incredible actor; whether he is an Oscar winner or not. I would say let’s enjoy his work and appreciate it rather than focus purely on the awards, plus being nominated for 5 Oscars before The Revenant (2015) is impressive.

Then his most brutal, gruelling and committed performance was seen in 2015 with Oscar winning Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest effort The Revenant. I remember reading reports of how the film had gone over budget and how it was taking longer than it had planned to due to the visceral filming conditions so it was a relief to see that not only was it a critical success but a box office hit, grossing over $530 million worldwide against a $135 million budget.

The Revenant was an spectacular; visually and performance wise. It may have not been the best film ever but it was more of a film that showcased the skills of Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and performances from the cast including Leonardo DiCaprio. This is the film that finally saw the legendary actor win an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role in 2016. His Oscar glory came 22 years after first being nominated for his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Many have said whilst he deserved it that really he should have won for other performances; to that I would say fair enough but if anything his performance in The Revenant showcased the level of sheer dedication and determination to fully immerse himself in a role. I don’t care what anybody else says, this was his moment and the moment the world had been waiting for. As his name was announced as the winner he received the loudest applause and a standing ovation, a touching moment showing how everyone was behind him and overjoyed for his win.

Funnily enough I never saw him as a serious actor until Inception (2010) and then discovered his work previously and have kept up to date with it since. Whatever your opinions of his relationship with the Oscars, the wait was worth it and he is a terrific actor Oscars or no Oscars.

To Be Continued

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

As I was writing this blog I realised I had a lot to say about my experience with the Oscars since I started watching them live in 2011. It won’t be in chronological order as I recount favourable or memorable moments but it will be a good overview of recognising incredible talent and interesting moments in Oscar history. Do you have any moments where you were happy or unhappy with a certain win? Feel free to post your comments and share this blog post.

 

Allied (2016) Film Review

Hello readers of Collision Film.

Sorry that it’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post but I have some exciting news. I have started writing for Creators.co which is a publishing platform for any enthusiastic and passionate writer, and their goal is to help writers build their brand and to find their audience. So I have been doing my research and finding out more about this platform. Last week I posted my first film review and want to share it with you all at Collision Film.

Here is the link to my review at Creators.co. (click on Creators.Co to be taken to my film review)

But I would like to share it with you on Collision Film as well so here is my film review of Allied (2016):

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4 STARS

Allied is a film that I have been looking forward to watch all year; it features two leads who happen to be some of my favourite actors. Back to the Future (1985) master Robert Zemeckis allies Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt to make a romantic epic that grips you and keeps you emotionally invested.

The film tells the tale of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) falling in love during their mission in Casablanca. The film chronicles their love story through the time following and audiences will see how their relationship fares given their occupations of being spies. The chemistry between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard is convincing and a joy to watch; we get to see them during the course of their relationship and yet discover them as individual characters.

Allied covers quite a lot in the narrative; the first act where they meet on their mission is almost like a mini film. Smartly paced, with a sense of mystery and anticipation of how their mission will fare, the film doesn’t try to hard as it feels effortless. Marion Cotillard exudes mystery and class as seasoned resistance fighter who has been in the game long enough to know how to work people. Brad Pitt’s character has a different approach as a man with a quite yet firm exterior, yet he manages to work well with Marianne Beausejour forming a bond that will help them get through their mission.

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After their time in Casablanca is really where the story heats up. Adapting to life in London can they truly be trusted? Because we’ve spent enough time with them during the early days of their relationship we are emotionally invested in these characters and how they can coexist together when their occupations have taught them to do otherwise. There is never a dull moment in this film because it keeps you guessing and keeps you interested to see where the story goes. There are times in the film where we’re not sure whether to trust these characters or whether to root for them; I love how Allied plays with people’s emotions and keeps the audiences interest.

There is so much to admire in the film; from the locations to the costumes. There is such an elegant feel to Allied and you can’t help but think of classics such as Casablanca (1942) of which the film references in the early stages of the film. Whilst the film is heavily stylised there is a natural feel to the film which is largely due to the lead actors performances. You’ll walk into this film thinking it’s one thing but this film is more three dimensional than you may think.

If you love Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt then definitely watch Allied. Robert Zemeckis switches it up again as we have seen him go from 80’s favourite Back to the Future (1985), to Oscar winning Forrest Gump (1994) even to The Polar Express (2004). This is definitely a film that will leave you needing a moment to compose yourself after the film has ended.

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The Light Between Oceans (2016) Film Review

4/5 Stars

Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander: two reasons why you need to see this film. I think they are incredible actors and they deliver committed performances. The Light Between Oceans tells the tale of a lighthouse keeper (Fassbender) and his wife (Vikander) who rescue a baby adrift off the coast of Western Australia. This is a film that has an engaging narrative and character development which will surprise audiences along the way.

The Light Between Oceans was an emotional roller coaster because it took you places you weren’t expecting or anticipating; I was an emotional wreck and I haven’t had an experience like that in a long time. I was invested in these characters and by the time they learn the true parentage of their adopted daughter you feel their pain and the moral dilemma they face.

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Bringing it back to the leading actors of the film; they were stunning. Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender portraying Tom Sherbourne, a emotionally closed off war hero who opens himself up to heartfelt local girl Isabel Graysmark played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander. They have a lot to explore with their characters as the film covers a long period of time so you see the actors play around with the different seasons their characters go through and it’s exciting to see so much depth in a character.

Oscar winner Rachel Weisz appears later on in the film changing the mood of the film allowing the film to explore other issues and themes. The dynamic between the cast is so natural and they all blend so well together it’s great to watch. The emotion they managed to evoke is incredible and so natural.

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I can’t say much about the film as I don’t want to spoil the different avenues the film explores however I will say that you need to bring your tissues as it definitely isn’t easy on the heart. That being said what I love about the film is how it has a good pace, without the film feeling rushed or dragged along. I’ll also say that the tone of the film is consistent despite the fact events happen which changes the direction of the film yet the tone never feels uneven or abrupt; everything is connected and feels justified to be in the film. The themes explored can be heavy but they are explored delicately and there is no sense of judgement of the characters’ actions. There are so many layers to the characters which creates engaging discussions about how they cannot be easily defined.

You need to watch the film to see for yourself how intricate the narrative development is and how each character is substantial and says a lot about humanity and our need to feel belonged; to be with each other and not isolated. There’s so much I want to say about specific scenes which perfectly sum up the themes explored in the film but I won’t spoil it for you; so watch the film and then take a few minutes to process what you’ve just seen.

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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) 

Doctor Strange (2016) Film Review

3/5 stars

Marvel needs no introduction. Pioneering the whole cinematic universe concept they have managed to create one of the most successful franchises of all time. Now Marvel returns with its 14th cinematic outing with Doctor Strange feating Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous character. The premise of the film is that Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who learns the ways of a sorcerer after trying to find healing. Does Doctor Strange live up to the hype? no.

I really wanted to like this film as Marvel has an impressive track record with producing quality blockbusters (with some blemishes). However the film didn’t quite have the emotional punch it needed for the audience to root for Strange and to ultimately care what happens to him over the course of the film. Speaking of Strange we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch; overall he played the part well yet there were moments where it didn’t feel authentic and at times felt forced. However by the end of the film he comes into his own and despite some rough patches in the development of his character he emerges the hero Marvel were trying to create.

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Doctor Strange boats an impressive cast: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams as well as Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen. There was controversy with the casting of Tilda Swinton with many accusing Marvel of whitewashing the character, whilst this is a problem with Hollywood at the moment I think the decision to make The Ancient One a woman was a great move. It’s refreshing to see a prominent female led character be treated equally alongside the rest of the male cast members (we’re waiting for that Black Widow movie Marvel) and of course Tilda Swinton was incredible.

Speaking of female representation in Marvel films we have to look at Rachel McAdams who was sorely underused in the role of Christine Palmer. Fresh from her Oscar nominated role in Spotlight (2015) and with more of a decade of acting under her belt she was resorted to a forgettable role which could have been played by anyone. It was also frustrating to see her portrayed as quite a weak doctor and being told what to do all the time, Rachel McAdams is capable of so much more which is why it was frustrating to see her in this role.

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The one thing I have to applaud Marvel with is making one of the most “standalone” films in quite a while, rarely relying on numerous mentions of the Avengers to keep audiences interested. Many people complain about origin stories yet I have no issue with them, however Doctor Strange at times felt rushed. We’re first introduced to Strange in the operating theatre and in all honesty he wasn’t as arrogant as other characters tried to highlight, and then in what felt like minutes later he is involved in a fatal car accident changing his destiny forever. It didn’t have the impact it should have had because it just felt like a sequence of events; then after an outburst of not getting his way he logically heads to the mountains in Nepal only to mock the concept of healing and spirit when he arrives. I won’t go on as I don’t want to spoil the film but in short, it felt very underwhelming for what it should have been.

Marvel do have their own “comedic” style which people seem to enjoy yet in this setting it felt out of place. This is a man who has had everything wrenched from him and is at the lowest point in his life so when he arrives Kamar-Taj you’d think he’d be a bit more desperate. At times it felt that the film sacrificed emotional and deep moments in favour of “comedic” efforts, preventing it having that emotional punch. However there is one scene between The Ancient One and Doctor Strange which was my favourite scene later on during the film which showcased what the whole film could have been.

There were some standout moments which were exciting: when Doctor Strange faces off against Kaecilus (Mads Mikkelsen) for the first time and when The Ancient One showed everyone up for example. The action and spectacle was present and great to look at which made the film enjoyable, yet as much as the visual effects were impressive please stop comparing it to Inception (2010) Doctor Strange is no Inception.

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It’s no secret that despite my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe I have issues with the interweaving nature of it’s story lines and the film’s dependancy on each other. Yet Captain America: Civil War (2016) had impact in character development and narrative, so from that film to Doctor Strange was very much of a let down.

Overall whilst Doctor Strange had some flash and exciting moments with some good performances from its cast members; it didn’t delve deep enough in order for the audience to care for Doctor Strange and it felt very underwhelming in how it used some its characters and where it took the story.

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Actors Appreciation Season: BEN AFFLECK

Welcome back to Actors Appreciation Season! I’ve been figuring out which actor I should focus on next, this time I’ll be talking about the one role that caught my attention and that would be Ben Affleck in Gone Girl. Ben Affleck has had his fair share of media scrutiny and has experienced the harshness of film critics, and he has risen above by winning his second Oscar for Best Picture in 2013 for Argo. He also won Best Director in 2013 for Argo at the BAFTA’s, in which he mentioned about being thankful for his new lease of life in his career, his second act.

“This is a second act for me – you’ve given me that and I’m so grateful and proud. I want to dedicate this to anyone that’s trying to get their second act because you can do it,”

After his Oscar win for Best Writing in 1998 for Good Will Hunting (alongside Matt Damon) he has had quite an experience as an actor, starring in box office flops like Gigli and critically panned films like Daredevil (for which audiences haven’t forgotten about when he was cast as Batman in the follow up to Man of Steel) but that all changed once he took hold of his career and started doing work behind the camera with 2007’s Gone Baby Gone. He then directed The Town and his critically acclaimed Argo.

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He still hasn’t given up on acting as he delayed his next directorial effort (Live By Night) so that he could work with David Fincher on 2014’s Gone Girl. This role was perfect for him as he understood what it was like to be perceived and judged by the media as he mentions in the October 2014 edition of Empire Magazine. Ben Affleck totally commits to the role and you go on his characters crazy journey to find out the fate of his missing wife.

Ben Affleck is willing to learn as well. As the established actor and director that he is, Affleck still wants to develop his craft as a director, as he mentions one of the reasons he agreed to play in Gone Girl, “Honestly, I thought, ‘It’ll probably make me a lot of a better director, for next time,’…”* This role for Affleck is layered, it’s not just a role but it is a chance to acknowledge his past and tell audiences that he is serious about his work and his love for filmmaking. Affleck plays a character that doesn’t fit the conventions of a leading man, this gives him a chance to take on different roles and challenge audiences perceptions of him.

Not only with his character, Nick Dunne, but with the whole film itself there are developments and discoveries that will shock audiences. Gone Girl starts as a missing person drama type thriller, but evolves into a film you didn’t know you were watching.

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Let’s not kid ourselves, Gone Girl is Rosamund Pike’s film as she totally owns it. However, Ben Affleck is a great co-star that has a great on screen chemistry with Pike and they both deliver an interesting dynamic as the dysfunctional married couple (I’ve said too much already). Watch the film to see their incredible performances and see Ben Affleck like you’ve never seen him before. His performance in the film is very convincing, you believe this character and there is a genuine nature to Affleck’s approach to the role.

It’s hard to describe in full how Affleck’s performance pays off without giving away any spoilers, but I will say that Affleck brilliantly showcases different sides of the character through his acting style. Also as the audience, it could be argued that you feel like a spectator and Nick allows you to go on the journey with him so that he’s not isolated by the situations that come upon him through the course of the film.


*EMPIRE Magazine. October 2014. Page 67.