Mobi’s Moscars (Part 3) – 11th January, 2015

Mobi’s Moscars  (Part 3)

Mike Lee is one of my favourite directors and Timothy Spall is one of my all-time favourite actors.

These two recently collaborated in the bio-pic, “Mr Turner” which resulted in the best actor award for Spall at the Cannes Film festival and has received unanimous, rapturous acclaim from the entire contingent of European film critics.

I admit that I have yet to see this film, but I will eat my hat if I don’t agree with the critics on this one. Amazingly – the film has been almost totally ignored by the BAFTA awards committee who announced their nominations yesterday.

What makes it worse is that the BAFTA nominations are dominated by films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, Boyhood and The Imitation Game.

 I have yet to see The Imitation Game, but I have seen The Theory  of everything and Grand Budapest and while they were both ‘not too bad’, as far as this reviewer is concerned, they both fell short of being BAFTA or Oscar material – and certainly not worthy of being one of Mobi’s Moscars candidates.

First off….

The Grand Budapest Hotel

For many film buffs, Wes Anderson is a brilliant director who can do no wrong. For me, his films may be full of technical marvels and are very clever, but for all that, they leave me cold.

For many, his films are hilarious. For me, some of his so-called comedic episodes may raise the odd smile but for the most part, his attempts at humour are too calculated and come across as completely unspontaneous – the very antithesis of how comedy should appear to be.

For many, his films are a rich and rewarding experiences. For me, they lack emotion and passion, and any real drama. One cares not one iota about the fate of the principal players and one sheds not a tear when things go bad.

It is all contrived and utterly sterile.

I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel. Maybe I am just too old to appreciate this apparent genius of 21st century cinema, whose latest flick has so far garnered 4 Golden Globe nominations, (best film, best director, best actor, best screenplay), and 10 BAFTA nominations, (best film, best actor, best screenplay, best cinematography and many more).

Indeed, I had to trawl through many pages of ten star user reviews before I found one that said the film ‘lacks substance and interesting characters’ and another, which was entitled: “Can I have my money back?”

Well, I really wouldn’t go that far – not that I pay for my movies anyway.

The story concerns a concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars that is crumbling and has seen better days, and a lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The theft and recovery of a priceless painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune are at the heart of the action

To be fair, it was a vaguely amusing movie – very quirky and visually provocative – which sort of held my interest, without in any way drawing me in or making me thirst for more.

The two lead actors: Ralph Fiennes as the concierge and Tony Revolori as the lobby boy do more than justice to their roles, as do all the large number of ‘name’ actors who take on cameo roles – not that I recognised most of them…

But the film is a piece of fluff and for some reason it brings to mind that other piece of highly over-rated mediocrity, “Lost in translation” which garnered a feast of awards a decade ago.

I’m sorry – I get Mike Lee, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Spike lee, Ethan Cohen, Quentin Tarantino and a whole gamut of quirky, off the wall directors, but I really don’t get Wes Anderson.

Maybe it’s just me….

So in the interests of fairness, let me conclude this review by reprinting the closing paragraph of the Guardian’s review:

“With its signature zooms, satirical tableaux, and fiercely ordered visual palette (architecture is everything, from  the hairstyles to the shot compositions) this is Anderson-world writ large: a hermetically sealed environment in which reality is something you only read about in books, and the upheavals of the interwar years provide tonal rather than political background. What slices the surface is the rapier-sharp wit, with Fiennes on point at all times, a dashing foil for his director’s comedic cut and thrust.”

There… now you know.


The Theory of Everything

Now this is altogether a different kettle of fish.

The film is a biopic of Steven Hawking and concentrates on his personal relationships from his undergraduate days, right up to the present day, although this is never made entirely clear.

I have an inbuilt aversion to biopics, (even Boyhood was a sort of fictionalised bio-pic which was another reason I didn’t like it very much), so it will take a very good one to get me going and hold my attention.

I suppose I can say that this one sort of succeeds, as we are spared the usual tricks – whereby we are expected to accept that the actors have all aged, by the clever application of make up, prosthetics, different hair-styles, older clothing and so on.

In its place we watch as the admirable Eddie Redmayne, who plays Hawking, slowly becomes physically afflicted by the crippling motor neurone disease, without visibly ageing. His wife, Felicity Jones, barely ages at all, and I suppose we should be thankful for that.

It really is a tour de force by Redmayne, and his co-star, Jones who is not only very pleasing to the eye, but is also very believable as his loving and long suffering wife. The leading pair act their hearts out.

I have to say that for me, there is more emotion in five minutes of ‘Theory’ than there is the entire 100 minutes of ‘Budapest Hotel’. There are even moments in the movie that I admit brought tears to my eyes and for the most part I remained immersed in this utterly touching love story.

It is the story of one the world’s greatest geniuses being struck down in his teen age years by a fatal disease – which for most, would have  meant a life expectancy of two years; and of his gallant wife, who insists on marrying him, and tries to stick by him, no matter what.

We see how Hawking is undeterred by his terrible disease and becomes a  world famous genius and celebrity, and how in the end, it all becomes too much for his wife, who was eventually ‘replaced’ by one of his adoring carers.

It is a good movie and it taught me a few things about the great man that I had not previously known, and it also told me a great deal about his struggles in his personal life.

Yet, I wasn’t 100% sold by this admittedly superior bio-pic.

When all’s said and done, it’s still a bio-pic and generally speaking, I believe that it is difficult for a film that sits squarely in this genre to rise to movie greatness.

It could just as easily have been made for the History Channel, and would quite possibly been all the better for it, as the details of the story would not have been compromised to achieve dramatic effect. (see below).

There was an annoying, unanswered question that stuck with me throughout the movie. Why is Hawking still alive in his 70’s when most sufferers of this disease die some two years after onset? The question was never asked or the subject discussed  in any way, yet I imagine in the real life, everyone would be asking such a question. How is it that he continues to live? 

After much Google research I eventually found an explanation – but I shouldn’t have had to do all that… I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one who was puzzled by this glaring background omission.

Even more annoying was the parts of his life story that were, deliberately omitted and which I didn’t become aware of until I read Hawking’s Wikipedia page, once I had finished watching the movie.

There is much startling detail there that is not included in the movie, including the need for a team of nurses to provide round the clock care to Hawking from a very young age.

We didn’t see so much as a single nurse in the entire movie – except when he was in hospital. We were left very much with the impression that his wife provided all the care, single-handed, although quite how she did it, with her need to bring up 3 children and studying for a degree was never explained.

Even worse, was the omission of his relationship with one of his carers that turned so bad that there was a strong suspicion that he was being abused. This resulted in police intervention and for a few years, he became seriously estranged from his ex-wife and children. 

There is much more in his private life that is not mentioned and although the film deals sensitively in the breakdown of Hawking’s first marriage, all the nasty, unpleasant stuff is well and truly swept under the carpet.

Talk about sanitising the truth! If it is a bio-pic – then at least tell it the way it was – warts an’all – or don’t do it all.

So on many counts, I do not think this movie, which has been nominated in all the major categories by both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAS, should win any awards – save possibly one – for best actor, although I am not even too sure about that.

More film reviews next week and in the meantime – happy movie going.


 MAB mini pic

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