david fincher

A brave new (media) world

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In a special post published both here on Taking The Short View and also on Generation Star Wars, bloggers Andrew Lewin and John Hood discuss some of the new developments in media consumption – from binge viewing to 3D, Blu-ray to streaming media, and the effect of social media on how we watch what we watch…

Having seen your recent Facebook posts and excited tweets as you speed-watched Netflix’s first foray into original programming, it seems to me that House of Cards is a watershed in more ways than one – not least because it’s the first time that anyone has expressly created a show for people to consume all in one gulp, rather than in the measured doses that we get with broadcast networks’ weekly schedules.

Is this the way things are going to go? Will we all be binging from this point on, guzzling down entire 13-part series in one weekend as fast as we can stuff them into our eyes? Read the rest of this entry »

Oscars night 2011 – roll on up, place your bets

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So it’s Oscar night over in Hollywood, and I think that makes it mandatory for every review-inclined blog to troop out at least one post on the subject of who will win, no matter how ill-informed. Since I haven’t seen most of the pictures that have nominations, my opinion is even more ill-informed than usual – but what the heck, let’s roll into the spirit of the thing and trot out a few guesses and groundless preferences.

Best Actor seems a lock for Colin Firth. It’s one of those ‘perfect alignment’ moments, where an actor is playing the perfect role for an Oscar but also at the moment when everyone’s thinking “y’know, really he should have got it last year for A Single Man” so there’s a sense of obligation to put the situation right. It’s rather like that moment in Just a Minute where Nicholas Parsons redresses an earlier benefit of the doubt, so it would be truly shocking if Firth didn’t win for his role as King George VI in The King’s Speech. Arguably James Franco (the Oscar night co-host with Anne Hathaway) should get it for being the only man on screen in 127 Hours but then if screen time was a decisive factor then where is Ryan Reynolds for Buried, arguably a much more effective film and indeed solo performance? I rather wish Jesse Eisenberg had a shot at the award for his incredibly strong performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but he doesn’t – he’s too new and young, which makes the Academy feel uncomfortably old, so he’ll have to wait a few years and pay his dues. And having actually seen Jeff Bridges in True Grit, all I can say is that it was a decent performance no doubt, but if that’s the Oscar-winning role of the year then Hollywood really isn’t paying attention and certainly not at the level of his Crazy Heart performance that won him the Best Actor Oscar just last year.

Best Actress seems a lock right now for Natalie Portman for Black Swan, which in itself is a bit of a “Marmite” movie (love it or hate it) but at least everyone seems to agree that her performance itself is stand-out memorable and fantastic. Her closest rival is probably Annette Benning for The Kids Are All Right, but Benning seems to have slipped up with her “I don’t care about any of this” early refusal to take part in the Oscar beauty parade and may have left it too late to repair the damage, which is a shame because her performance – rather like Eisenberg as Zuckerberg – takes a hard-edged, initially unsympathetic character and makes it work against expectations. The best performance of all is probably Michelle Williams, but the way that Blue Valentine has been treated in other categories looks like the Academy isn’t particularly well disposed toward it.

I haven’t heard much chatter about Best Supporting Actor which probably means it will default to The King’s Speech nominee Geoffrey Rush, although Christian Bale’s flashy performance in The Fighter stands a chance because the Academy can’t resist an ostentatious display of overacting and some good old fashioned method weight loss. Over in Best Supporting Actress the scandal of the year has been Melissa Leo’s over-zealous self-promotion for her role in The Fighter against co-star and fellow category nominee Amy Adams. The controversy and film duplication will probably knock them both out, leaving it to Helena Bonham Carter – admittedly fabulous as the Queen Mother (to be) in The King’s Speech and frankly long overdue an Oscar; and Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit who absolutely deserves it – and at 14, she is under that age that makes Academy members jealous and instead makes them go “awww, isn’t she terrific for a kid?”, so she may pull it off. I certainly hope so, but I have to confess Bonham Carter wouldn’t be a bad choice either.

In other categories, hard to believe Toy Story 3 won’t win Best Animated Picture rather like The Return of the King got the best picture nod for The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole; I’ll be cheering Roger Deakins for his brilliant work on True Grit in Best Cinematography; I’ll be hoping the provoking, controversial and important Inside Job wins Best Documentary, and I’ll be speechless if Inception doesn’t at least win Best Visual Effects for its brilliant, fascinating dreamscapes.

Talking of Inception, the Academy has already blighted this year’s nominee list by the omission of Christopher Nolan for Best Director which is just shocking given that one of the year’s biggest and best films was such a personal project and vision and which would never have been made without him. I hope at the very least they’re embarrassed into giving him Best Original Screenplay for the film – and as for Best Adapted Screenplay, as far as I’m concerned that just has to be Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network, no question.

As for the the director award, I’d say that it’s a three-way fight between Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, David Fincher for The Social Network and the Coen Brothers for True Grit – I’d be surprised if British director Tom Hooper stood a chance for The King’s Speech, and David O. Russell will only win if we’re in the middle of a landslide evening for The Fighter. Oddly, Fincher doesn’t seem to be particularly keen on winning the Oscar for his film: as a renowned control freak he probably isn’t wild about the amount of control and attention writer Aaron Sorkin’s been getting for the film, and given that The Social Network has become a “tale of two auteurs” it’s probably not right that he should win for this and not for, say, Zodiac which was much more of an authentic “Fincher” film. I would be happy to see the Oscar go to the Coens for True Grit, but as my review a couple of days ago said, I tend to have “issues” with Coen Brothers films and so I’m not entirely sold. Instead, I have a sneaking feeling that this category is Aronofsky’s to lose.

And finally to Best Picture. The category’s been expanded to ten nominees to crank up the tension but really most of these don’t stand a chance – Inception in particular is a lame duck, unless everyone’s feeling very, very guilty about the Nolan omission indeed. Early on in 2010 this seemed like a shoe-in for The Social Network; then True Grit came along, and then the betting flirted with 127 Hours. Black Swan has rarely featured because of its divisive Marmite taste. Right now it seems like a lock for The King’s Speech. Personally I hope it defaults back to the first of those films and that Fincher/Sorkin’s collaboration walks away with the top prize, but I suspect the betting is right and that king trumps billionaire.

And now we can all sit back and see how completely wrong I am.