Top 5 movie quotes of 2015

Strong year for strong lines I say. Some stick in your head because they shocked you, some no doubt amused, confused and titillated you. Some perhaps inspired you. Here’s my top five of the year.

5. Wild
‘My mother used to say something that drove me nuts. There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.’

Reese Witherspoon here plays Cheryl Strayed, a woman who walked 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself again. An inspiring film and underrated performance.

4. Legend
‘I come here for a proper shootout. A shootout, right, is a shootout, like a Western.’

Tom Hardy plays unhinged Ronnie Kray in a scene where he undermines a gangster who’s armed himself with a bat rather than a gun for a brawl.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road
‘Oh what a lovely day!’

Nicholas Hoult’s War Boy cries through grinned teeth as he chases Charlize Theron’s Furiousa into a life-threatening storm with Tom Hardy’s ‘blood bag’ Max strapped to his car.

2. Kingsman: The Secret Service
‘Manners maketh man’

Uttered by Colin Firth’s suave spy as he teaches his young protégé Eggsy what being a Kingsman is all about, doling out justice to some local pikeys with his clever umbrella.

1. Whiplash
‘Not quite my tempo’

Somewhat of an understatement given J.K. Simmonds’ highly strung jazz teacher would be as likely to throw a cymbal at your head moments after, as he would to praise your talent.

Oscars 2015: As the dust settles

So that’s the Oscars done for another year. Were they everything you expected? Did the actors and films you’d hope get recognition actually get it? And, more importantly, does it all even matter?

In answer to the last question, probably not, but industry acclaim is often (but not always) indicative of a job well done. And who wouldn’t want a big shiny award for their efforts?

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This year it seems Grand Budapest Hotel cleaned up (production design, best score, costume design, makeup and hair). As did Birdman (picture, director, original screenplay, cinematography) and Whiplash (supporting actor, film editing, sound mixing).

Eddie Redmayne took Best Actor for The Theory of Everything and Julianne Moore Best Actress for Still Alice.

So, were these all worthy winners? Were any overlooked or snubbed?

Yes, yes and yes.

There’s always going to be unhappy people come awards season, but I think Birdman perhaps did a little too well – although it does seem typical Oscar material. Last year my film of the year was Nightcrawler, which got barely a look-in, although it got a nomination for Original Screenplay and it would have been nice to see it beat Birdman, but this was a tough category and all entries there were outstanding ones.

Talking of tough categories, Best Actress was apparently a shoo-in for Julianne Moore for Still Alice. I’ve not seen the film yet but it sounds very ‘Oscar worthy’ in terms of the material and her performance. Literally all of the other nominees could have won in my book, they all were fantastic (Rosumund Pike – Gone Girl, Reese Witherspoon – Wild, Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night).

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I’m pleased Redmayne took Best Actor. His performance was truly astonishing and a thoroughly affecting one as Stephen Hawking, edging out Keaton’s washed up actor trying to reinvent his career in Birdman. And out of a category with five nominated, two were Brits (the other being Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game) which was pleasing to see.

Given the experimental nature of Boyhood or the electric performances in Whiplash it would have been nice to see either take Best Picture, but losing out to Birdman is something I can grudgingly accept with a ‘well played, sir’.

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Best Supporting Actress went to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Now I haven’t seen the film but I’d have really liked to see Kiera Knightley take this category for her underrated performance in The Imitation Game, or perhaps Laura Dern for her tender one in Wild.

I could go on and on, but let’s stop there. To sum up, not a bad list of winners. Not too many surprises or upsets. There’s some I would have preferred to win over others, but I’m not too cut up about it all.

What was your reaction to this year’s winners and losers?

Oh, and a final note, The Lego Movie should have won for Best Original Song. In that respect, everything is not awesome.

Until next year.

Whiplash: Who knew jazz could be so brutal?

His knees weak, arms are heavy, vomit on his sweater, mom’s spaghetti… Sorry, lost myself in the moment there.

Short of a hoodie and a rap battle, there’s a lot of similarities to be drawn between Whiplash and 8 Mile. In fact, any sports movie (if you consider freestyle rapping a sport). There’s blood, sweat and tears aplenty. Not what you’d expect from jazz, but then you don’t even have to like or appreciate jazz to enjoy this film. What you do have to like – and what it comes down to – is the will to win, to succeed, to be the best whatever it takes. To really dig deep.

Beyond that it’s essentially a character study.

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We start with music student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) furiously practicing his drumming, then in walks feared and revered teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who gives him a mini grilling then leaves, clearly unimpressed, returning briefly – as Andrew’s face lights up – only to say he forgot his coat.

In this opening scene we’re introduced to the main characters, we find out who they are, their motivations and their attitude – all within a few short lines of dialogue. Great screenwriting from Damien Chazelle (who also directs this). This also sets the scene for what follows. Neiman eventually does enough to work his way into Fletcher’s sought-after studio band, but then that’s when the hard work really starts.

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If you’ve ever had a tough boss count yourself lucky. They all pale in comparison to Simmons’ ferocious Fletcher. Not since the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket have we witnessed characters be subject to such abuse. Yet Neiman comes back for more. He wants to be the best and, deep down, he knows that if he meets Fletcher’s exacting standards, he will be.

The other students in the class are scared to death of Fletcher, yet Neiman has an inner fire that sets him apart and he gives as good as he gets. As an actor, Teller is a bit of a rising star. He’s been in Rabbit Hole, Footloose and Divergent, and he’s soon to be seen in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot. He also has a musical background (as a drummer for a church youth group band), which clearly stood him in good stead for the drumming scenes, which are frenetic, frenzied and exhilarating.

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The camera circles Neiman during many of these scenes where Fletcher tests his mettle, screaming at him to drum faster. He’s soaked in sweat with blood dripping off his hands. These scenes could be at home in a boxing movie (Rocky, we’re looking at you) but in jazz it’s somehow all the more frightening.

If you had to explain this film to someone you’d probably end up doing a poor job. ‘Well it’s about jazz and drumming and a guy who wants to be a jazz drummer and, er, that’s about it.’ So plot wise it’s not too dense. But, as I said earlier, it’s a character driven film, so plot is somewhat incidental.

And as the drums roll and the sparks between student and teacher fly, all the way up to the film’s finale, you’ll be utterly hooked. You’ll come out exhausted and elated and emotionally drained – and quite possibly never look at a cymbal in the same way again. And those reactions – all of them – will be very much a good thing.