District 9

Posted on July 31, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , |

This one has been sitting on my shelf for far too long so I thought it was about time I sat down and watched it.

*Although there’s no explicit spoilers in here, if you haven’t yet seen the film you may want to read with caution*

The thing that struck me most about District 9 is how real it feels.  Which is no mean feat for a movie about aliens.  The documentary style  gives a realistic setting to begin with, but it’s the characterisation that drives the message home.  Director Neill Blomkamp uses unfamiliar actors so as not to fall into that trap of not being able to separate the famous face from the character, and in Sharlto Copley, who plays our leading man Wikus he has found the perfect everyman.

Our first introduction to Wikus paints him as  good-natured, if a little naive and bumbling, and the initial interviews seem more focussed on the early years of the alien settlement; but a subtle tone shift starts to build a sense of unease, as Wikus becomes more frequently referred to in past tense.  The fact that I found myself thinking, “oh no, what’s going to happen to him?” is a testament to how quickly Blomkamp grabs hold of the audience and makes them sympathise with his man.

The transformation of Wikus, aside from the physical, is wonderfully subtle and yet at the same time very striking.  He goes from a very gentle man to one who is all too familiar with violence.  We are exposed to increasingly gory images along with him, so that we almost become desensitised in a similar way.  Again the documentary style aides this kind of symbiotic relationship we have with the character, as we feel more connected, although as the film progresses the trope becomes less prominent.

It’s not enough for us to just care about Wikus though, we need to care about the aliens too.  Blomkamp could have taken the easy road by making them easier on the eye or more humanoid in appearance, but that would have undermined the theme of prejudice and fear that is what makes this movie more than just another alien flick.

The so-called “prawns” aren’t pretty to look at. Their language is unintelligible and not subtitled until the very end when both the audience and Wikus has come to understand them better.  There is no point during the film where you feel you are looking at CGI monsters, and despite the lack of comprehensible communication the early scenes of family life juxtaposed against the “eviction” process are clearly readable.

Of course it’s no secret that this film isn’t just about aliens.  The setting in Johannesburg has obvious implications, and there is a clear message about racism as well as our attitudes towards immigration.  The aliens are essentially refugees, being held against their will at the same time as being told to go home, and the insights into the inhumanity (if that is the right word) of how they are treated become increasingly worrying, hitting a deeper note when we see that neglect forced upon Wikus

It’s easy to see why District 9 had such a big impact.  It’s unlike any other science fiction movie I’ve seen in that it plays out like a history not a fantasy.  It manages to be emotional in an entirely raw and uncoerced way which can at times make it hard to watch.  It may have taken me a while to finally see it, but I’m glad I have.

 

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BAFTAs vs Oscars

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Nominations are out for two of the biggest award cermonies on each side of the pond and I’m sure the designers are already getting over excited. There’s always a few interesting differences between the choices which highlight some taste variations between us Brits and our cousins across the Atlantic so I thought it might be worth taking a look.  So far the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that all the Academy awards have ridiculously over the top names. I mean what the hell is “achievement in music written for motion picture?”  What’s wrong with Best Original Score?  That and the fact that we haven’t had some of the Oscar movies released over hear yet.
My movie hit count is appalling this year, so most of my opinions here are based on hearsay, gossip, rumour and psychic ability, just so you know 😉

Going through all the awards would take me way to long so I’m just doing the biggies. No offence to all you make up artists, editors and short film makers out there.

Best Movie

BAFTA:
Avatar
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Precious
Up in the Air

Oscar:
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (The Americans love to use that full title)
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

No surprises that Avatar, Up in the Air and Precious make it onto both lists. I’m thinking it’s a shoe in for Avatar. There’s a lot more nominees for the Academy, including Up, which interestingly makes it onto the list for Best Film as well as Best Animated. Not often that a cartoon breaks through, and it’s well deserving of it’s nomination. It wont win this category though.

Best Actor
BAFTA:
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
George Clooney (Up in the Air)
Colin Firth (A Single Man)
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Andy Serkis (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll)

Oscar:
Jeff Bridges
George Clooney
Colin Firth
Morgan Freeman(Invictus)
Jeremy Renner

Poor Andy Serkis. Never gets awards from the Academy, despite being robbed outrageously at the Oscars back in 02/03. OK, so Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll isn’t out in the US. And a biopic about Ian Drury isn’t exactly going to capture the Yankee imagination but he has to win an Oscar some day!
Other than that the only difference is Invictus which is only just coming out over here. As for predictions, I’ve got my fingers crossed for Andy over here, I’m not sure about America but ‘m thinking wither Renner or Freeman.

Best Actress
BAFTA:
Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)
Audrey Tautou (Coco Before Chanel)

Oscar:
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
Carey Mulligan
Gabourey Sidibe
Meryl Streep

I think my feelings for Sandra Bullock have been made quite clear so I’m gonna gloss over that one.
I reckon Sidibe has got both here from what I’m hearing about her performance. If not possibly Mulligan over here because An Education got a lot of very positive reviews.

Supporting Actor
BAFTA:
Alec Baldwin (It’s Complicated)
Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles)
Alfred Molina (An Education)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Oscar:
Matt Damon (Invictus)
Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Stanley Tucci
Christoph Waltz

Quite a few differences here. I’m wondering if Christian McKay might win over here. Gotta say I’m shocked that Alec Bladwin is in there since everything I’ve heard about that movie is bad. I don’t think Matt damon is going to win an Oscar, but I’m not sure who is…

Supporting Actress
BAFTA:
Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy)
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
Mo’Nique (Precious)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy)

Oscar:
Penélope Cruz (Nine)
Vera Farmiga
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
Anna Kendrick
Mo’Nique

Again, I’m thinking Precious is taking this one. Two nominatons for Up in the Air from the Brits suggest one of those might get it if Mo’Nique doesn’t. Possibly an Oscar for Penelope Cruz…but I think she’s already had one right?

Best Director
BAFTA:
James Cameron (Avatar)
Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
Lone Scherfig (An Education)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)

Oscar:
James Cameron
Kathryn Bigelow
Quentin Tarantino
Lee Daniels (Precious)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

Another unsurprising list. I think James Cameron will probably get the Oscar, and is quite likely to get the BAFTA too, but he might just be pipped by someone like Blomkamp.  No BAFTA nod for Precious….

Animation
BAFTA:
Coraline
Fantastic Mr Fox
Up

Oscar:
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

The Princess and the Frog is only just coming out over here so that explains it’s absence from the BAFTA list. Although I’m not sure it’s Oscar material from the few clips I’ve seen. Probably quite good, and about time Disney had a black heroine, but maybe that’s more the reason it’s getting nominated.  I would like Up to win both.

Music
BAFTA:
Avatar (James Horner)
Crazy Heart (T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton)
Fantastic Mr Fox (Alexandre Desplat)
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Chaz Jankel)
Up (Michael Giacchino)

Oscar:
James Horner
Alexandre Desplat
The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders)
Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer)
Up

I do remember the music from Up being particularly good, and it’s taken a Globe already. Strangely, the score for Avatar left no impression on me and as someone who usually notices these kind of things that suggests it wasn’t that amazing.  Having not seen the other films I can’t comment. The nominations seem to vary quite a bit between countries, but the same few films are popping up again and again.

Cinematography
BAFTA:
Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Road

Oscar:
Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

This one really has to be Avatar. The whole point of that film is the cinematography and special effects.  Interesting choice of Harry Potter by the Academy while once again over here we give a nod to District 9 which seems so far to be missing out across the pond.

Special visual effects
BAFTA:
Avatar
District 9
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Star Trek

Oscar:
Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

Avatar has this one all tied up.  I thoguth the effects were really good in Star Trek but apparently BAFTA don’t agree with me.

And that’s all folks. Let me know your thoughts on the nominations.  I’m thinking if Avatar doesn’t sweep then we’ll be seeing big wins from Precious and The Hurt Locker in both ceremonies and Inglourious in America.

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