THREE FILMS AND ONLY ONE FUNERAL

The Oscars are over and the two films I thought worthy of the top prizes have won – Argo and Amour. Both films have been rightly acknowledged for their exceptional scripts and directors. However, I thought it worth mentioning three other films and particularly the actors performing in them.

THE IMPOSSIBLE

The Impossible with Naomi-WattsAn account of a family caught – along with tens of thousands of strangers – in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time. A highly convincing film based on the true story of a Spanish family who were on holiday in Thailand and caught up in the tsunami. The two stand-out factors in this movie are the tremendous performance by Naomi Watts and the incredible special effects, especially those created underwater.

With leading roles that include Mulholland Drive, The Painted Veil and Eastern Promise, Naomi Watts consistently turns in great performances. I can’t help thinking that if she’d played against a slightly less wooden performance than the one given here by Ewan McGregor, she would have been nominated in the best actress category.

Seriously good performance from the daughter of one time Pink Floyd road manager Peter Watts, who died when she was four years old. And on that note it is very sad to note the death of John ‘Kellogs’ Kalinowski – former manager of Madness, roadie to Procul Harum and all-round good guy. Someone who wore it all loose and often gave more than he got.  RIP.

HITCHCOCK

Hitchcock and castThis film has attracted a fair amount of sniffy reviews. The main thrust of complaints seems to be that the film doesn’t scour the depth of Alfred Hitchcock’s tortured personality sufficiently. I’ve seen this movie twice and it does tell you about Hitchcock’s weird character but without doing it too much.

The movie takes place at a time when Hitchcock had just finished making North by Northwest but when 20th Century Fox refused to finance the making of his next film Psycho. This is the story of how Hitchcock and his creative/business partner and wife, Alma, put their house on the line to bankroll what would become his most famous film.

Would it be the end of them or the minting of them? Of course, it’s much more than that. It’s about a highly curious man from Bermondsey in London living in 1960’s Hollywood, in what appears to be a sexless marriage with a woman he cannot live without.

This is a really entertaining movie; you could take anyone over the age of 20 to go and see. The performances are all outstanding. You would expect Hopkins and Helen Mirren to deliver and they do. Their relationship is portrayed as affectionate, cruel, loving, witty, silly, domestic, funny, tragic and exciting all at the same time.

My favourite moment is when Hopkins waits outside the entrance door in the foyer at the premier of Psycho, jumping up like a gleeful conductor every time the audience shriek during the shower scene. Also the poignant moment when Alma discovers the man she was about to possibly have an affair with is only doing it to get his script to her husband. Reminded me of John Hurt’s Richard Rich in A Man for all Seasons.

I’ll let you discover the loving and witty exchange between Mr and Mrs Hitchcock that occurs once they know Psycho is a hit. Tony Hopkins is tip top because he doesn’t over do it, but allows the other characters to highlight and emphasise his own strengths and weaknesses. Helen Mirren as the intelligent Alma is 100% believable.

But there are other lesser roles in film that are just as compelling. Scarlet Johansson is so utterly convincing as Janet Leigh – the one who cops it in the shower – that you totally forget it is Scarlet beneath the platinum hair and make-up. Toni Collett, a favourite of mine from Muriel’s Wedding and Little Miss Sunshine, gives a stylish performance as Hitch’s long-suffering secretary. Finally, Danny Huston, playing Alma’s manipulating, conniving, possible lover, is right on the money.

THE SESSIONS

The Sessions with John HawkesA man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.

That description is pretty stark. But whenever I try to describe this film, it always sounds like Ted Gets Laid – something Seth MacFarlane might make using his alter ego from Family Guy.  Wash the MacFarlane out of your mouth, think again and way out of the box.

First off, look at the actors involved. Helen Hunt whose credits include As Good as it Gets; and William H Macy (Fargo, Magnolia) as a Catholic priest and John Hawkes as the lead actor playing a totally different role to the Ozark dark character he portrayed in Winter’s Bone. Why does that film keep being mentioned? Because it’s bloody good – a small film in the same league as Michael Clayton.

The Sessions is based on the true story of poet and polio sufferer Mark O’Brien. He decided at the age of 38 that it was time he had some form of sex, despite his physical disabilities. The ensuing story, involving visits to his priest and subsequent encounters with a highly professional and intelligent sex therapist, are often funny, cringe-making and immensely moving. Sometimes you have to take someone’s word for things. Get hold of this movie and watch it. I hate to use words like life-affirming and courageous, funny and choke making but there we go.

Full frontal nudity from Helen Hunt and at 48 she still has a great body, though slight query about the forehead. John Hawkes is one to watch – the new John Cazales (remember him from The Godfather and The Deerhunter?)

Few films make we want to blub but this one did, right at the end. Well done to all who financed this and took part in bringing it to the screen.

So I’ve missed out on a few. Beasts of the Southern Wild – which was original, imaginative and groovy. Denzel Washington’s 100% authentic performance in Flight. Have not seen Life of Pi yet, nor the Katherine Bigelow film. Django Unchained has a terrific first half… What do you reckon?  Anything that fell through the Bafta or Oscar cracks? 


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