Common sense prevails

The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker

I don’t normally pay much attention to awards ceremonies as those nominated often aren’t the ones who deserve to be so, and the winners are usually selected for commercial reasons. Like Forrest Gump winning all those Oscars when The Shawshank Redemption came out the same year.

However, I was really pleased to see that Kathryn Bigelow has just won the Directors Guild of America‘s award for feature film this year for the superb The Hurt Locker.

It was up against some real competition (worthwhile, such as Jason Reitman‘s Up In the Air and commercial, such as AvatarInglorious Basterds and Precious made up the numbers) but it was without a doubt the best film on the shortlist.

With the exception of Precious, it’s also the cheapest with a budget of around $11m, and a small gross (as of November 2009) of around $16m. Compare that to Avatar with a budget in excess of $230m (maybe as high as $480m including marketting) and a gross pushing $2b!

It just goes to show that you don’t need a stupid budget, a script ripped from Pocahantas and a bunch of stretched Smurfs to win an award. I seriously hope she goes on to get the related Oscar when those awards come up – or at least someone else as deserving.

[UPDATE: I just spotted that a week earlier, The Hurt Locker also won the equivalent award from the Producers Guild of America. Superb.]

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Thursday film round up – from last Thursday

Review: Enter 'The Hurt Locker' And Prepare Fo...
The Hurt Locker

Oops. I never did get round to posting this on time. Right, at present I get Thursdays as a “personal study day”. As I study over the weekend instead, I give myself this as a day off and make full use of my cinema card. Last week I managed to cram three films in around a quick lunch and a leisurely hour in McD’s using the free wifi.

The Hurt Locker

First up is Kathryn Bigelow‘s newest effort. I’m amazed this isn’t on in the “smaller” Cineworld cinemas such as Dundee on the basis that it has a big budget, a name director and a recognised cast. What else do you need to not be classed as a “minority interest” film? What really annoys me is that it’s bloody brilliant and fewer people are getting a chance to see it as a result.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Men in Iraq defuse booby-trap bombs. Usually. Only you don’t know when they’ll fail, regardless of the grade of actor playing them.

Bigelow has managed to shoehorn more tension into this film than in any three modern schlock horror films. There’s enough tension to make a steel cable snap.

Not just the bomb defusing scenes are taught. There’s a superb quarter hour where our main characters (plus a couple of incidentals) are pinned down by sniper fire.

Then there’s the fact that some of the events aren’t preceded by “will-he-won’t-he” moments. They just *BAM* happen.

I can’t point you at them right now, but I read quite a few comments on reviews before I saw this. A handful were from people who’d served in Iraq and Afghanistan and they heaped praise on the realism of the film.

Highly recommended if you have the nerve to sit through it.

District 9

Being “presented by” someone – even Peter Jackson – is often a death knell for a film. Or am I just thinking of how awful the Tarantino-presented Killing Zoe was? Maybe. However, Neill Blomkamp has done a decent job on this sci-fi effort although it’s still not perfect.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Aliens arrive, seemingly by mistake, and hover over Johannesburg. They end up corralled into a slum (the titular District 9) and treated like second-class beings until something goes wrong as they’re being moved away from the city.

The cast is – as far as I can tell – pretty much made up of utter unknowns. There isn’t a bad one in the bunch, though. Obviously, focus is on the central character of Wikus Van Der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), who is very good but did bring back memories of Derek from Bad Taste.

It begins  as some kind of docu-drama but rapidly becomes a mixture of this format and regular filming which does jar somewhat. Either make it all look like it’s from news camera footage or don’t bother. To offset this, the effects are simply superb. There’s a great blending of CGI and traditional “man in a rubber suit” work for the “Prawns” which works very well.

There’s no denying the “wouldn’t be more obvious if it kicked you in the crotch” allegory of people of a different appearance being kept in shanty towns in South Africa. It’s a point that sadly still needs to be made and when you consider that the film was made in that country it’s perhaps a little brave for them to basically be pointing out their own flaws.

This aside, it’s a very entertaining sci-fi flick. It wasn’t as good as I was hoping – the plot gets rather linear after the halfway point – but you do start to care more about the Prawns once this mark is reached and you learn more about them.

Worth a watch, but don’t believe the hype. I only hope they don’t go the obvious path and release District 10 but I fear it’s inevitable.

(500) Days of Summer

Yes, a rom-com. No, I’ve not gone soft. Well. No more than usual. I had a natural aversion to the film as it features Zooey Deschanel. While I’m aware that she is bloody attractive, she was also in the atrocious Hitchiker’s Guide To the Galaxy movie and thus will be tainted evermore.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl. Erm. Sort of. Only it jumps back and forth like a cross between Memento, Pulp Fiction and When Harry Met Sally.

This jumping about could have been such a headache, but it’s handled superbly well with careful use of graphic set pieces and a modicum of narration.

The story itself isn’t a hugely original one. It is, however, told in a novel way and with a great line of humour running through it. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending isn’t what you’d expect. My only problem with it was that it mirrored a very recent relationship of mine far too closely for my liking. Don’t worry, I’m not going to sue them for ripping off my life. I do believe in coincidence.

Much as I did enjoy this, more because I wasn’t expecting to, I’d still rate Bandslam as a better rom-com. And it has better music. But still – this is very entertaining and a good date movie if your other half has a sense of humour.

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