Tag Archives: Eddie Redmayne

Early Man

A tribe of bunny-hunting cavemen has a sudden clash with bronze-age humans a little further up the evolutionary ladder. This strikes me as very fertile ground for interesting and tragic stories despite the language difficulty, but Aardman Animations took it another way. The bronze boobs are all set to enslave the cavemen and steal their land when Dug, a plucky, dreamy caveman, proposes a deal: neanderthals vs homo sapiens in a football match for their lives.

Yeah, I mean obviously it makes no sense. But that’s it, that’s all you get in terms of story. This may be the early bronze age, but plot is in as short supply as dinosaurs in this film, who have just been demolished by a comet that seems to have spared the people, an opening sequence suggests. I love stop motion animation as a rule, and Aardman has had a string of successes, which have fooled me into thinking I might like Early Man. I didMV5BMWQ3MTVjZGItNGFhNC00NzllLWFmMjEtNjk0NjgyMWZhNTRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_ not. There is little room for imagination, and too little of the gentle humour I’ve come to expect. I suppose a lot is lost on myself, a North American dwelling in a country where soccer is the #1 sport played by children under the age of 8, and the #0 sport for all other humans and dogs. So you can imagine that a historically inaccurate (I’m guessing) origin story featuring a sport that already bores me out of my gourd is not exactly championing its cause. And I’ve actually got plenty of soccer in my life – played by a couple of 4 year olds. Their version of soccer is agonizingly slow, uncomplicated by rules, embellished with dandelion picking and popsicle breaks. And it’s still boring as shit. Thank goodness the players themselves are endearing as hell, in t-shirts down to their knees and wearing shin pads that just shout optimism, as if any of them are actually going to get near the ball, which spends most of its time looking forlorn.

And yet watching children’s soccer is still more entertaining than watching Early Man. Plus it tends to be mostly pun-free, which is something I only wish I could say about today’s movie, which was replete with the fuckers. Featuring voice talent such as Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall, and Tom Hiddleston, you’d think they would have spent at least as much time on character building as the average United player spends crying on the pitch, faking an injury. Early Man is another kind of painful, a kind that made me miss Volvo-driving soccer moms and orange slices. And you can guess how many times I’ve said that in my life.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Confession time: I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie, or read a book. Damn you Oscars for throwing this movie a nomination and forcing me to see it. And even though intellectually, I’ve known at various times that this was part of the HP universe, I’ve often confused it with with Doctor Strange, and with so many parallels between the two, it could fit just as easily in Marvel’s.

That dirty secret out of the way, spoiler alert: they’re in Eddie Redmayne’s suitcase. He plays writer and wizard-biologist of sorts, who finds himself in New York City with a suitcase full of trouble. NYC in the 1920s has a more closeted approach to wizardry than fantastic-beasts-redmayne-waterston.jpgwe’re used to, and the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is riding the barrier between magical and non-magical as well as they can. Scamander, however, believes that the beasts in his case are harmless and deserve a chance to be safe and free. This attitude puts him at odds with the MACUSA in general, and Graves (Colin Farrell) in particular. Luckily, a young woman a little lower on the chain, Tina (Katherine Waterson), takes him in, and a non-maj (non-magical person, or muggle) who’s been caught up in the whole thing as well (Jacob, Dan Fogler).

The magical community is on edge because of terrorism committed by the dark wizard Grindelwald. The non-magical community is getting riled up by fundamentalist “Second Salemers”, an anti-magic group to which Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) belongs, and spreads hatred for along with her adopted children (Ezra Miller among them).

As you can see, JK Rowling is drawing an awful lot of nifty parallels between our present maxresdefaultday world and theirs. There’s a whole subplot involving the evil things that happen when someone tries to suppress who they truly are.

Eddie Redmayne was the first and only choice for Scamander, which means you get to see an Oscar winner try to seduce a rhinoceros. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s worse. The movie is stand-alone (well, there are 4 sequels planned, but that’s another story) but still works best for those familiar with the Potter world of wizarding. Scamander was already technically a part of it, having written the text book that Harry will read some 70 years later at Hogwarts (of which Scamander is himself an alum). Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a lavish buffet, a visual feast, and it must be a delight for an HP fan to see so much more of the imagined universe come to life. For me, a novice, it was just all right, a serviceable story limited by its many plot lines that failed to cast a spell on me.

 

Testament of Youth

See Alicia Vikander before she was famous, Dominic West in his authentic accent, and Emily Watson being stellar as always in increasingly diminished roles.

Vera Brittain was a real-life independent spirit. She vied for and won a spot at Oxford and vowed “never to marry”, even if those sounded like famous last word when uttered just as a very cute boy enters the picture. Turns out, he has Testament-of-Youth_3141581ka thing for sharp and feisty young women, and the two are a love match and plan to be at Oxford at the same time (unchaperoned, even). But every great love story needs an obstacle and feminism wasn’t enough, so along came The Great War to shake things up.

Tag line: Divided by war. United by love. Did you just puke a little in your mouth?la-et-mn-testament-of-youth-review-20150605

Luckily the tagline writer was an aberration and the film itself is quite good. Vera’s mind expands and excels at Oxford, and no one is less grateful for her education than she. Women still have to prove themselves worthy of degrees and now she’s feeling left behind again, when her brother, her friends, and her love are all leaving for the front. But Vera’s not one to take a back seat – soon she’s giving up her beloved scAlicia-Vikander-as_3141524bhool to become a nurse.

Vikander (who replaced Saoirse Ronan) is every bit the revelation that Ex Machina proved she was. She’s poised and luminous, and while the movie doesn’t contribute much that is new to the war genre, Vikander makes it more than worth a look.

Her The Danish Girl co-star, Eddie Redmayne, also starred in his own WW1 eddieepic, called Birdsong (based on the Faulks of the same name). He plays a young man who goes off to war remembering the affair he had with his French (married) sweetheart. Clemence Poesy is beautiful as ever, but this one may leave you feeling faintly unsatisfied.

Savage Grace

At this year’s Oscar ceremony, Julianne Moore took home the statuette for her work in Still Alice while Eddie Redmayne won best actor for The Theory of Everything – but did you know the two savagegrace1-1295283680were once co-stars in a twisted little mother-son movie that didn’t quite make it to Matt’s list, or, I’m guessing to anyone else’s.

Let me ask you a question, straight up: have you ever seen an incestuous threesome (with Hugh Dancy in the middle!), and if not, do you want to rectify that?

Answering yes to that question is probably the only reason you should ever watch Savage Grace.

I suppose the acting’s fine, or very fine, but the subject matter is stilted and nobody quite knows 3673_10_screenshotwhat to do with it. We’re talking about the real-life story of of Barbara Daly, who married above her station to Brooks Baekeland, the dashing heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. They have exactly one child, a son, Tony, who becomes not just her son but also her replacement-husband. They become…close. Uncomfortably close, by anyon’e standards, ever. She tries to cure his homosexual tendencies by…unconventional means that are also illegal and immoral and explicitly forbidden in the Bible. Ahem.

This can’t possibly end well, can it?

Oscars 2015: Best Actor and Actress

Finally, the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress. For most of us, this is the reason we stay up late through all the speeches from people we’ve never heard of, awkward presenters, and excrutiatingly unnecessary montages.

Best ActressTwo Days, One Night

Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl

Julianne Moore- Still Alice

Reese Witherspoon- Wild

Best Actor. Best Actress. Best Picture. We wait all night for these Oscars and, once we’re finally there, it’s anti-climatic. There’s almost never any question as to who will take home the Oscar at the end of the night. “I just want to stay up to see who wins Best Actress” has become “I just want to stay up to see Julianne Moore win Best Actress”.

stillalice

All four of us here have predicted a win for Moore and so has pretty much everyone else. The inevitable may not be very exciting on live television where supposedly anything can happen but I won’t be a bit disappointed when she wins. I wrote at length about how good I thought she was in Still Alice (and in so many other things). It’s always gratifying to see the best performance be honoured, especially in cases like this where the performer has done good work for so long.

2014 may not have been a spectacular year for great roles for women but, now that I look at it, Moore’s competition isn’t half bad. I held out on commenting on this category because I was waiting for the chance to see Two Days, One Night which unfortunately didn’t come. Jay managed to see it and enjoyed the performance. I have no doub that Cotillard is amazing because she pretty much always is. She’s already won though in 2008 so the Academy won’t snub Moore to honour Cotillard a second time.

Gone Girl

I’ve seen Gone Girl twice and am still not enthusiastic about Rosamund Pike but I know a lot of people were. I know someone who boldly said that she was “guaranteed an Oscar” after seeing it for the first time. She won’t win but she deserves the nomination for getting such earnest support from so many, even if not from me. I can’t say that I’m much more excited about Felicity Jones, who did a very good job with a surprisingly good part. The Theory of Everything was almost as much about Jane Hawking as it was about Stephen but Eddie Redmayne seemed to overshadow her, probably because of the physical demands of his role.

Reese Witherspoon wasn’t quite as good in Wild as Moore was in Still Alice. Plus, she- like Cotillard- has won before. So she won’t win. But if the rules of your Oscar pool force you to pick anyone other than Moore, smart money would be on Reese. I was a big fan of this performance, even if not of Reese herself. She was believable in both working through her grief by using heroine and struggling through hiking the PCT. She never even seems concerned with looking cool while she does it.

Best Actor

Steve Carell- Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper- American Snipergame

Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton- Birdman

Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

This is exciting. For once, I have no idea what’s going to happen. Luc and I have predicted a win for Michael Keaton and Jay and Sean are betting on Eddie Redmayne. I am not sure that any of us are confident though. It’s been a good year. It would be even better if Bradley Cooper’s nomination was replaced with either David Oyelowo for Selma or Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner. Bu still. A good year.

Even Cooper shouldn’t be ruled out completely. He managed to disappear behind that beard and that accent. When his character retreats within himself after his first tour in Iraq, Cooper seems to retreat even further into character. There are moments though, especially during the pre-Iraq scenes which I wish had been cut altogether, where he’s a little less than awesome. Maybe even a little miscast. Besides, American Sniper is by far the worst of the five films and that has to count for something.

How cool is it that Steve Carell has been nominated for an Oscar? His commitment to the character is even more complete than Cooper’s.  I’ll admit that he gets lots of help from the makeup department (also nominated) but the way du Pont moves, talk, and stares is all Carell and he nails it.

Cumberbatch. The movie’s not perfect but Cumberbatch nearly is. He doesn’t have to change his voice much or do an accent or anything like that but still manages to transform into the brilliant but socially inept Alan Turing just as much as Cooper or Carell disappeared into theirs. I’m a big fan of this performance.

Birdman script

Almost anything can happen here but it looks like it’s going to be between Keaton and theory of everythingRedmayne, two performances that are so different from one another that it’s almost impossible to judge one as better than the other. Keaton doesn’t change the way he moves or speaks as much as the other nomnees but his performance may be the most honest. Both Redmayne and Keaton have won several awards this season so it’s a tough race to call. I’m putting my money on Keaton there’s just no telling this year.

 

 

The Theory of Everything

Finally a movie that answers the age-old question: Does Stephen Hawking watch Dancing with the Stars?

Okay, no, it doesn’t answer that. But go ahead and assume yes.

More like, is Stephen Hawking kind of a dick?

You go into this movie knowing that, whatever else, there will be a sure thing on your ballet for this year’s Oscar pool: Eddie Redmayne has already won. You may be less prepared for the fact that at times this movie feels like a companion piece to Interstellar (and I mean that in a good way) and that when the lights come on during the end credits, you’ll be caught in a packed theatre with tears still wet on your face.

This movie is strikingly well-lit. I loved the lighting, the glow, it felt romantic, and helped you remember that in fact this is not so much a biopic as a love story between Dr Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Eddie Redmayne was fairly forgettable in Les Miserables but absolutely claims the screen in this role, capturing expressiveness even in stillness, and showcasing joy and wit not easily conveyed. Felicity Jones, as Jane, may take a back seat on paper, but her performance stands up every bit to his. It’s a subtle portrayal, but strong and sure. Stephen Hawking, the concept, the icon, belongs to us all, but Felicity Jones reminds us that he is a man, and once, he belonged just to her. And there’s so much vulnerability and heartbreak, as a couple once deeply in love are forced into the caretaker and reluctant patient role that chafes for both of them.

I haven’t read Jane Hawking’s book upon which this movie is based. She wrote an earlier one that was much less forgiving, painting Hawking as controlling and almost dictatorish, and you can kind of pick up hints of that even in this second, gentler version, his manipulation of events, his reluctance to express gratitude.

When Stephen and Jane are still a very young couple, Hawking’s father tries to warn her away, saying that this will not be a battle but rather a defeat. He’s wrong and he’s right. Because there is a battle. Stephen outlives the projection by 50 years (and counting). But love is simply not enough. We see love grow, and then wither. And so this movie works much better as a study of love’s ability to withstand challenges than as a traditional biopic. Because I have read A Brief History of Time, and though there are touches, this movie is really “science lite”. It glosses over some pretty major milestones if the measure is the man, and not his marriage. But this is not a story about the failure of marriage because even as it crumbles, it seems a triumph that it lasted at all, and certainly as long as it did.

I wondered what Marsh would make of this movie – he won an Oscar some time ago for his documentary, Man On Wire – but would his work translate? If this was anything other than a story of real, living people, of a living legend in fact, it would be less dazzling. Certainly we’ve got a couple of knock-out performances and some very pretty things to look at, period wise, and even a few well-timed chuckles and some gorgeous gothic backdrops, but pulled together, does it make a Best Picture? It’s hard to say, because of course this isn’t just another period romance, this is the Stephen Hawking story, or at least a piece of it, and it feels incomplete for having just skirted around the outside of his genius. The thing that makes him most remarkable is remarked upon the least, and that feels a bit hollow. I still liked this movie tremendously, and was moved by it, but I suppose I also mourn for the many missing pieces.