Friday, January 09, 2015

Into The List

It's pointless, really, to argue with award shortlists. They are what they are; no amount of complaining will change them. And actually, the right of the first three films to be on the shortlist for the 2014 BAFTA Award for Best Film are hard to argue with:

BIRDMAN Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole
BOYHOOD Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland 
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson
THE IMITATION GAME Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten

Birdman, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel are all fine, innovative films in different ways, made by directors at the top of their game, and all feature great performances. I find it hard to choose between them frankly, but The Grand Budapest Hotel just edges ahead.

But then there are the other two films on the list, both dead straight British Heritage biopics. And both biopics about scientists, which is of course A Good Thing. There aren't enough. Actually, I liked The Theory Of Everything, which framed Stephen Hawking's work with the human story of his illness and fraying marriage (it was based on a book by his first wife). You came out of it with some understanding of his work, and how he achieved it. But you can't say the same for the Turing biopic, The Imitation Game. All fictionalised stories of real lives bend the truth, but The Imitation Game bends it more than most, and while there are good performances by Keira Knightly and Benedict Cumberbatch, the latter echoes his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. The superbright outsider, bemused by mere humans, isolated by his intellect - and, in Turing's case, by his sexuality, shown here to be as crippling as Hawking's amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Both have edged out far better films, notably another biopic, Mike Leigh's Mr Turner, with its terrific central performance by Timothy Spall. Under the Skin (up there with The Grand Budapest Hotel as far as I'm concerned) and '71 would also have been good choices for Best Film, but instead are relegated to the Outstanding British Film category. And then there are The Babadook, Blue Ruin, Calvary, Locke, Maps to the Stars, Nightcrawler . . .  2014 was a pretty good year for great films. Such a shame the BAFTA list includes two disappointingly safe middle-of-the-road choices instead.


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