December 17: We All Stand Together

I said EYE was excited and that you SHOULD be, not that you WOULD be. But you should, because this song is adorable, and the animation that accompanies it even more so (if you have quarter of an hour to spare you should go and watch the full-length version). This wasn’t a Christmas number one, because in the same year it was released Band Aid and Wham’s Last Christmas occupied the number one and two slots, which seems reasonable, but it did make it to number three – and all three songs, having occupied the top of the charts in 1984, attained the peculiar feat of re-entering the charts a year later, so that Christmas 1985 sounded almost exactly like Christmas 1984, if you weren’t listening carefully. Only with extra Aled Jones. Happy last weekend before Christmas!

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December 7: Dear Santa

So much drumming. I like this one, though, because it sounds ever so slightly like the best song from the second-best* Christmas film of all, Mud’s Lonely This Christmas. This, like last week’s Little Drummer Boy, is from Ringo’s 1999 album I Wanna Be Santa Claus – an album with which I fear we will all be better-acquainted by Christmas Eve.

*The second-best Christmas film of all is of course Bernard and the Genie, which is only slightly easier to find than the best Christmas film of all, Until The Lights Come Back, which you will only be able to watch by coming over to my house on Christmas Eve (or importing it at great expense from Hong Kong).

Oscar predictions

Alice Herz-Sommers
Only tangentially relevant, but I couldn’t resist the photo. Alice Herz-Sommers, who died today.

For the third year in a row, I will be attempting to stay up as late as possible this coming Saturday night in order to adjust my body clock such that I can liveblog the Oscars for MostlyFilm, and wonder again why they can’t hold the ceremony in New York or, ideally, London, so as to make the task less arduous for us European filmwatchers. Traditionally I have enlisted the assistance of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks to keep me going, but what also helps is having an investment in the outcome and since YET AGAIN I haven’t been nominated in a single category, I am reduced to trying to beat my record for the highest number of correct predictions. And in order to stop me cheating, I am bringing you along for the ride…

Best picture

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street

This is, I’m sure, between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, and I think the latter will win because being accidentally turned into a slave in real life beats losing a fictional daughter in the heartstring-tugging stakes.

Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Matthew McConaughey ought to win; Chiwetel Ejiofor will, which I am also OK with because he is a Palace fan and we rarely win anything. (Leo, whom I love, is fantastic in WOWS, but it’s not a fantastic film and his character is so desperately unsympathetic that I don’t think he has a chance.)

Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August, Osage County)

Cate Blanchett has this nailed on, I think.

Supporting Actor

Nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Philips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

This is a really strong category. I’d be happy with a win for Abdi or Cooper, but Jared Leto‘s turn as Rayon in DBC is a career-best piece of loveliness and I hope he takes it. I would also like to point out that had Behind The Candelabra been eligible for Oscar nominations, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe would both have deserved nods in this category, as would Michael Douglas in Leading Actor.

Supporting Actress

Nominees: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), Julia Roberts (August, Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)

I didn’t love J-Law in American Hustle. Or maybe I mean I didn’t love her as much as I love her in Silver Linings Notebook or Real Life™ – but she will win this regardless.

Animated Feature

Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

From the buzz it’s generated among under-eights of my acquaintance, I’m saying Frozen.

Cinematography

Nominees: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners

I can’t imagine a world in which this won’t go to Gravity.

Costume Design

Nominees: The Grandmaster, American Hustle, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years A Slave

It should be nominated for hair and makeup but since it isn’t, I think American Hustle will take this one instead.

Director

Nominees: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)

Cuarón will lose out on Best Picture but I think he’ll pip McQueen to the winning post in this category.

Documentary Feature

Nominees: The Act Of Killing, Cutie And The Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom

I will admit to not having had the guts to watch The Act Of Killing when I had the opportunity, but everything I’ve heard and read about it makes me think it has to win out here.

Documentary Short

Nominees: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

How far ahead of the ceremony does voting happen? Only the cynic in me wants to say that since Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old holocaust survivor who is the subject of The Lady In Number 6, has just died, the already-good chances that it would win have just improved.

Film Editing

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave

Gravity is so sparse and elegant and beautiful that again, I can’t imagine it not winning here.

Foreign Language Film

Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar

Right, so, uh, I was going to predict a win for Blue Is The Warmest Colour but I’ve just noticed it hasn’t been nominated. So in the absence of any other information I will employ my traditional method of closing my eyes and stabbing at the screen, which gives me The Broken Circle Breakdown. You heard it here first.

(One rule I have when I make my predictions, by the way, is that I can’t go googling for betting odds or anyone else’s views. It has to be based on my own knowledge. Which is why I am often wrong!)

Makeup and Hair

Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

I’ve only seen one of these, but Jared Leto is so breathtakingly beautiful in Dallas Buyers Club that I hope it wins. Mainly, though, I just hope Jackass doesn’t. There is a time and a place for Jackass, and the Oscars ain’t it.

Original Score

Nominees: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks

The rules are, when someone you know is nominated you have to say them. Now, nobody I know is nominated in this category, but someone I know knows someone who is, and so I’m going for Gravity (which also has a really good score).

Original Song

Nominees: Happy (Despicable Me 2), Let It Go (Frozen), The Moon Song (Her), Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom)

Yeah, I haven’t heard any of these. Also, when was Tangled? There’s a good song in that. Let’s say Frozen.

Production Design

Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her, 12 Years A Slave

Well actually this should definitely go to The Great Gatsby, but I think Gravity will win.

Animated Short

Nominees: Feral, Get A Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions, Room On The Broom

Cough. Well, Get A Horse! has the best name, right?

Live Action Short

Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo, Avant Que De Tour Perdre, Helium, Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?, The Voorman Problem

I wonder whether you tick a box or have to write in your answers, when you vote? Because nobody’s going to take the time to write out Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? by hand if they don’t have to. But it’s bound to be checkboxes, isn’t it? So let’s go with that. One day, when I grow up, I will be a person who watches the short films ahead of the Oscars (or even afterwards).

Sound Editing

Nominees: All Is Lost, Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Lone Survivor

Sound Mixing

Nominees: Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

I think Gravity will take both of these.

Visual Effects

Nominees: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

I can’t remember whether the argument over possible or desirable punctuation in the name of the latest Star Trek movie came to a conclusion, so I’m leaving it out rather than get it wrong and risk the wrath of…well, you know. Obviously this will also go to Gravity.

Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Philips, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street

Before Midnight is an adaptation? Who knew? Well, the Academy, it would appear. I’m racing through these last few categories not because I want to go to bed, although I do, but because I think there’s barely any debate to be had about most of them. 12 Years A Slave will win this.

Original Screenplay

Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska

Whether he did or whether he didn’t, Woody will take this for Blue Jasmine, although I would give it to Dallas Buyers Club. But for some reason, nobody asked me. I know!

Hooray, hooray

Cocktail

I am alive and bursting with things to write about just as soon as I get the time, but while you’re waiting here is a piece in Mostly Film where a bunch of people including me write about their favourite holiday films. Actually, I’m not certain that the one I chose is my favourite holiday film, but I had more to say about it than I did about my secret real favourite, which is Cocktail. And if you need more cheering up on this greyish Monday morning, here are the Beach Boys in all their eighties glory:

 

Oscars: the hangover

I should have posted this on Monday, but it took me two days to recover from staying up until 5.30am on Oscars night, liveblogging for Mostly Film. But I’m better now, you’ll be pleased to hear, so I’ve gone back and done the maths and I am delighted to be able to inform you that I did beat my 50% hit rate from last year, though not by much – I correctly predicted 15 of the 24 winners, which (I think, I’ve never been brilliant at sums) works out at 62.5%. The joy is tempered slightly – only slightly – by the fact that the beloved managed 19 out of 24, but I console myself with the knowledge that had I allowed myself to change my mind in the moments before some of the awards were announced, I would have done better (it was pretty obvious by halfway through the night that Jessica Chastain for actress, Lincoln for picture and Spielberg for director were all going to be off the mark, though I still wouldn’t have guessed at Ang Lee, even though I am glad he won because he’s so nice).

Anyway, that’s enough of that. On to the dresses! It wasn’t a standout year, I think. There was less beige than usual, but it was mostly replaced by bridal white (click on images to enlarge):

Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Lawrence and Anna Hathaway, Charlize Theron
Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway, Charlize Theron

Vampy black:

Rebecca Miller and husband, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Sandra Bullock
Rebecca Miller and some guy, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Sandra Bullock

Or a combination of the two:

Helena Bonham Carter, Kelly Rowland and Zoe Saldana
Helena Bonham Carter, Kelly Rowland and Zoe Saldana

Also popular were metallics:

Catherine Zeta Jones, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman
Catherine Zeta Jones, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman

…so popular, in fact, that Halle Berry and Stacy Keibler, wearer of my favourite dress from last year by miles, wore his’n’hers versions of the same dress:

Halle Berry and Stacy Keibler

All of which made anyone who turned up in a bright colour look very daring, although it’s far to say that Jane Fonda’s choice was, in fact, pretty daring:

Jane Fonda in canary yellow
This actually hurts my eyes

I had two favourites in the end. Jenna Dewan-Tatum is clearly one of those women who looks even better pregnant – look at her literally glowing in that picture at the top of the page! – and I love her dress, even though it’s the same as everyone else’s. But for me the very best combination of dress, hair, makeup and all-out movie-starry stunningness came from Jessica Chastain:

Jessica Chastain
How can you turn up looking like this and not win a prize?

In a non-vintage year not just for frocks but for both the ceremony and the winners too, it’s good to know that there are still nominees who can turn up and knock it out of the park, even if they don’t go home with the prize.

Next year, though, I might take two days off work afterwards.

Advent song for December 24: Auld Lang Syne, Scotland/Bedford Falls

I know it’s really a New Year song, but I couldn’t resist the chance to include a clip from the best Christmas film of all, and if they can sing it on Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls, then so can we. Also, I visited Scotland for the first time as an adult this year and fell in love with it, so it feels entirely appropriate to finish up with a little bit of Burns.

If you haven’t seen It’s A Wonderful Life then cancel your plans for the rest of the day and go and watch it immediately. If you have, remember that the following clip will make you cry, so don’t watch it on the train or at the office (and what are you still doing at the office? Go home!).

<A pause while you recompose yourself>

Together, all these songs provide about an hour of music, which as it happens is about how long you’ll need to eat the main course of your Christmas lunch, so as a Christmas present to you, here is a Spotify playlist of them all. Sadly Song’s song from Korea isn’t on Spotify (at least, it probably is, but I have no idea what it’s called so I can’t check), so in its place England finally gets a look-in with the King’s singers rendition of Adam Lay Ybounden. The clip from It’s A Wonderful Life is a bit longer and I’ve had to use different versions of one or two of the songs, but otherwise it’s largely the list you’ve already seen and heard here. Happy Christmas!

(If the embedded version doesn’t work for you, here’s a boring old link.)

Fairytales of New York

Image

I’ve just got back from New York, the city where every street has a song named after it, and every vista is a still from a movie. So since I am yet to get over the jet lag and I took so many photos that I am overwhelmed at the thought of uploading them, here as a lazy alternative to a real blog post is a list of my favourite New York films. What are yours?

1. Annie Hall

I could have had any of about eight Woody Allen films, but Annie Hall is the best of them and one of the New Yorkiest, and Annie is the New Yorkiest heroine ever, despite being from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Also, it features my favourite ever line from a film, if I had to choose – you know, the one about the eggs*.

(Actually, I did have to choose my favourite line from a film recently, for work, but I thought the one about the eggs would make me look a little weird and neurotic, and I’ve only been there three months and I don’t need them to know that already. So I went for Sloane Peterson’s “Sooner or later, everybody goes to the zoo” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which sounds profound but, I think, isn’t.)

2. Ghostbusters

Like Annie Hall, would probably make the list of my favourite films ever (actually, so would about half of this list). After nearly thirty years (I know!), still perfect. And really a love poem to New York City, as implicit in its luscious locations as it is explicit in Winston Zeddemore’s “I love this town!”.

3. The Taking of Pelham 123

A proper thriller, set mostly in the bowels of Manhattan’s subway system, with occasional glimpses above ground, where the steam jets that shoot out at street level echo the spikes of tension that increase as the film goes on. If you haven’t seen it, rent it today (I am, in case you’re unsure, talking about the 1970s version and not the recent remake, which I have not seen).

4. King Kong

The 1933 version. Not entirely a New York film, but it makes the cut for that incredible final scene. I also quite liked the 1970s version, and even the Naomi Watts version was OK. It’s just a really really great story. But the Empire State Building was only two years old when they made the original, which adds an extra frisson to the battle between nature and mankind that lies at the heart of the film.

5. Laura

Not just because we have the same name, but because this is the sexiest, dreamiest, most elegant piece of noir you’ll ever see and because it offers a glimpse of high society in 1940s New York, which might just be the most glamorous time and place that ever was. As it happens, Laura is showing at the BFI on the Southbank until the end of next week, so if you live in or near London, do try to go.

6. Dog Day Afternoon

There are films which I think are exemplary, one-off pieces of film-making and which I might watch every couple of years (2001, Badlands) and films which I watch at every opportunity because I love them like you love your slippers, and most of all I love the characters (Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and then there are films which are both, and Dog Day Afternoon is one of them. Set on a hot, steamy day in Brooklyn, it tells a short but brilliant story which is laden with atmosphere, and it’s one of the films I always immediately lend to people who haven’t seen it, because it is a film everyone should see, today if possible.

7. Crocodile Dundee

There’s a dispoportionate number of 80s films in this list, but that’s because the 80s were an exciting time to be in New York City. When I first saw Crocodile Dundee I was half-entranced, half-terrified by the androgynous, highly-hairsprayed characters making up some of the supporting cast, but as an adult I just find them impossibly alluring, and it breaks my heart a little bit that I will never go clubbing in New York in the 1980s.

8. Coming to America

Like Crocodile Dundee, this film is better now than it was when it first came out, because it speaks so elequently and appealingly of a particular New York that doesn’t really exist any more. Plus, the mean Queens apartment that Prince Akeem rents now looks like a palace compared to the eggbox-sized spaces that people really live in. And, well, it’s just still funny.

9. Q: The Winged Serpent

Monster! In New York! I can’t tell you precisely why this is so good; you just have to watch it.

10. Splash

Slash was in competition with Big and Arthur for the tenth spot, because like those films it shows you the New York we all grew up with; the fantasy version of the city that we knew before we ever went there. But it wins because when I saw it I, too, thought “Madison” was a beautiful name for a girl, and couldn’t understand why Tom Hanks didn’t agree.

Not making the cut are films I love which use New York as their backdrop, but which aren’t really about New York (Synecdoche New York, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rope, The Apartment, Rear Window, West Side Story) and films which make New York look like the worst place in the world (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets). I also haven’t made room for Goodfellas, which would have been eleventh if I had been making a longer list.

*  “I thought of that old joke, y’know… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because most of us… need the eggs.”

Oscars: the aftermath

The Hangover

This, I promise, is my last Oscars post for 2012. It’s the one where I compare my predictions to the results, although I can already tell you that I wouldn’t have won the million. The calculations are complicated by the fact that I made two sets of predictions, so I’m only counting the newer ones where I was specific, and not the one where I said “Hugo will win a load of technical categories”. On that basis, I accurately predicted the winners of eleven of the 24 categories, although if I wanted to be generous I could award myself an extra point for saying of the VFX category that I thought Hugo would win if the opening shot counted as a visual effect, and since awarding myself an extra point would give me a 50% hit rate, I think I’ll go ahead.

(Although I was so adamant that Woody wouldn’t win Original Screenplay that I almost think I should deduct another half-point.)

How did you do? Anyone win a million?

Full predictions and results in this attractive table, if you really don’t have anything better to do:

Category

I said

Then I said

They gave it to

Picture Hugo The Artist The Artist
Director Malick Hazanavicius Hazanavicius
Actor Clooney Dujardin Dujardin
Actress Streep Streep Streep
Supporting actor Plummer Plummer Plummer
Supporting actress Bejo Bejo Spencer
Animated feature Chico and Rita Chico and Rita Rango
Art direction The Artist The Artist Hugo
Cinematography Tree of Life Hugo Hugo
Costume design The Artist The Artist The Artist
Documentary feature Pina Pina Undefeated
Documentary short The Barber of Birmingham The Barber of Birmingham Saving Face
Film editing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Foreign language A Separation A Separation A Separation
Make up Harry Potter Harry Potter The Iron Lady
Original score War Horse War Horse The Artist
Original song The Muppets The Muppets The Muppets
Animated short La Luna La Luna The Fantastic Flying Books of Mister Morris Lessmore
Live action short Raju Raju The Shore
Sound editing Transformers Transformers Hugo
Sound mixing Transformers Transformers Hugo
Visual effects Harry Potter Harry Potter Hugo
Adapted screenplay The Descendants The Descendants The Descendants
Original screenplay The Artist The Artist Midnight in Paris