Monday, 6 January 2014

An Acting And Directing Masterclass x 2

We're at that time of year beloved by regular moviegoers like us; the big Oscar hopefuls are all released over a couple of months and, like the proverbial London bus, arrive at the cinema in rapid succession. So we went to the pictures twice this weekend.

On Friday we did something almost unheard of for us and went to the cinema in the evening. Being retired we don't need to wait until 7.30 to watch a film but Nebraska is  one of those movies that won't get much of an airing in the multiplexes and when we saw that it was on at Aldeburgh Cinema we had to fit in with their evening showing. The Oscar nominations won't be announced until 16th January but I will be amazed if Bruce Dern does not get onto the best actor list for his role as Woody Grant. Woody is an old man; he's been a heavy drinker all his life and his mind is not what it used to be. One of those ambiguous prize notification junk mails arrives in the post and Woody takes the $1,000,000 winner headline as fact without reading the small print and decides to head to Lincoln Nebraska to collect his prize in person.

Saddened by his father's condition and realising that he is not  going to give up on his conviction that he is a big winner, Woody's son Davey (Will Forte) decides to drive him to Nebraska to claim his prize. Directed by the acclaimed scriptwriter and director Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways and About Schmidt ) the film has all the elements of Payne's earlier work - the road trip, the disfunctional family and a large helping of humour. The stark environment and Woody's bleak outlook are darkly emphasised by the black and white cinematography but the film is not all darkness and there is both the touching relationship between Woody and Davey and the humour of their relationship with a myriad aunts, uncles and old acquaintances who refuse to believe Davey's insistence that his dad is not going to be a millionaire.  With fine supporting performances by Bob Odenkirk and June Squibb as Davey's brother and mother, this is a wonderful film that will not disappoint.

It was another odd viewing time when we went to Cineworld in Ipswich yesterday and saw the 11 a.m screening of American Hustle. This is another film that is heavy on acting and light on stunts and special effects. Set in the 1970's it's based on real events and tells the story of con artist Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) an out of shape chancer who teams up with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a loner with no cash and big ambitions, to make money from scamming desperate people. I won't give the plot away but they become involved in something much bigger as the law gets involved and the scams spiral out of their control. Films like this don't come around very often - I can only think of The Sting and Jackie Brown (both firm favourites) by way of comparison and, in my opinion, this is superior to both. 

What impressed me most with this film was the outstanding level of performance from the entire cast. Christian Bale and Amy Adams are brilliant in the lead roles but so too is Bradley Cooper as FED agent Richie DiMaso, Jeremy Renner as Carmine Polito and Robert De Niro as a hugely convincing and scary Mafia boss. Despite all these magnificent performances Jennifer Lawrence in her role as Irving's dim, dizzy and needy wife manages once again to upstage everybody - she really is a fantastic actor and this is a dream part for her. We both loved this film and I wouldn't be surprised to see Oscar nominations for Bale as actor in a leading role and, Cooper and Lawrence in supporting roles along with script and directing nominations - and not forgetting an amazing seventies soundtrack.

It was goodbye to the Christmas decorations today and everything looks a bit bare now but I suppose it's time to move on after a lovely Christmas.

We've got lots coming up in the next couple of weeks and are looking forward to heading north for a couple of 60th birthday parties and to see my mum, Sarah and Duncan and family and Mark and Nita in Ribchester. 

Meanwhile our diet continues. I baked a pizza for a neighbour today. It was quite hard taking this round to him knowing that I had a salad waiting for me at home.