Ah, ‘tis the season of film awards of all stripes. What follows is a series of capsule reviews and a prediction two. Winners, will then be given the full-review treatment.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson has outdone himself, proving to be the reigning Mother of Invention in this magical production that looks (superb cinematography from Robert Yeoman; Adam Stockhausen’s production design is a marvel of colour, texture and details), sounds (yet another wide-ranging score—most notably the delectable choral elements—from Alexandre Desplat) and acts (the all-star cast will delight everyone: Tony Revolori as Lobby Boy Zero proves to be every bit as secure as his far more experienced colleagues) at a consistently high level. Filmmaking seldom comes together simultaneously on so many planes. JWR
How extraordinarily disappointing. After such a masterful job with the multithreaded Babel (cross-reference below), Iñárritu serves up a truly fanciful production that is long on characterization but woefully short in the realities of the theatre: for as much as critics love to think they have the power to make or break art, it is the public—especially in this social media age—that decides what wins and what doesn’t. (Look no further than Phantom of the Opera running in virtual perpetuity across the street from the venue that houses the play within the film.) Michael Keaton is the ideal choice as the film superhero, desperate for respect “on the boards” (er, hello there Joan Rivers, cross-reference below). His nemesis comes in two forms: seat-filling co-actor, Mike (Edward Norton who sears through his opening scenes before being relegated to the sidelines) and crotchety critic (Lindsay Duncan) whose vow to kill the show sight unseen very nearly eliminates its star instead. Still the phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” takes on new meaning here. JWR
A Most Wanted Man
John le Carré’s spy novels are amongst the most difficult in the world to successfully bring to the screen (large or small). His unerring sense of moment and brooding, psychological development are huge challenges: two productions have managed to succeed: miniseries Smiley’s People (1982 with Alex Guinness) set the standard that most others never achieved until Gary Oldman found the magical tenor and tone in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011 cross-reference below).
Alas, Corbijin’s examination (along with screenwriter Andrew Bovell) into “Why the world will never be a safe place” never gets comfortable in its skin (despite Philip Seymour Hoffman dutifully swigging scotch and puffing cigs—or perhaps because of it?). Such a great pity given the talent involved—on and off the screen. JWR
Get on Up
Despite some fine performances (notably Chadwick Boseman as the ever-energetic James Brown and Dan Aykroyd as manager and confidante Ben Bart), the writing trust (Jez and John-Henry Butterworth along with Steven Baigelman) can’t find a consistent groove to keep the narrative in sync with the music.
That said, the production numbers steal the show—as they should with such an incredibly varied and engaging body of work from which to choose—but the man-behind-the-“act” must await another treatment. Given the long career, this life seems more the stuff of a mini-series than a big-screen extravaganza. Any takers? JWR
Prediction: Take The Grand Hotel Budapest from this lot.