Posts Tagged ‘Andrea Riseborough’

The Semiotics of Murder

Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford

Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Isla Fisher, Michael Shannon, Ellie Bamber, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Retrospective Film Review

Austin Wright’s beautifully written novel Nocturnal Animals originally published in 1993 about a young couple who break up and the ex-husband Edward Morrow writes a startling graphic revenge novel to prove to his ex-wife that he is a brilliant writer came to the big screen in 2016 by stylish director Tom Ford amidst little fanfare except for some adequate recognition by the Hollywood Foreign Press and a cursory glance by the Academy Awards.

It was perhaps Tom Ford’s unconventional approach to the retelling of such a bizarre novel into a hyper-stylized film noir crime drama set in a murky Los Angeles and in the outback of Texas.

Assembling an all-star cast including Oscar nominees Amy Adams (Doubt, Junebug) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) as the pivotal couple Susan and Edward along with two brilliant performances by Michael Shannon as the tough but persistent Sheriff Bobby Andes and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Anna Karenina) as the violent rapist Ray Marcus who assault and murder Laura and India Hastings played respectively by the gorgeous actresses Isla Fisher (The Great Gatsby) and Ellie Bamber, was the key to making an extravagant and captivating film noir thriller.

From the provocative title sequence featuring naked obese ladies dancing on pulpits at an avant-garde art exhibition in Los Angeles, to the dynamic costumes designed by Arianne Phillips who also worked on such films as A Single Man and received three Oscar nominations for Costume Design for films including Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, James Mangold’s Walk the Line and Madonna’s W. E.  

Director Tom Ford skilfully uses the semiotics of colours to guide the viewer through the breakup of Edward and Susan to the inner world of the novel aptly titled Nocturnal Animals which uses garish reds and scorched earth browns to reflect a harsh and dangerous world of men who kill women and psychologically manipulate other men especially when they are most vulnerable, driving on dark rural highways in Texas miles away from civilization.

The contrast of the dangerous world of the novel to the hyper-realized art world of Los Angeles populated by bright and gritty characters, signified by the brief appearances of Carlos and Alessia extravagantly played by character actors Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen is the environment that Susan Morrow has chosen to inhabit aided by her dashing young husband Hutton Morrow played by Armie Hammer.

Although Nocturnal Animals did not receive as much critical acclaim as A Single Man, for any cineaste it is a film worth watching for its diverse colour palette filled with opulence, horror and complexity. Tom Ford beautifully combines a stylish aesthetic with a superb mix of violence and mystery to create a cinematic film which is both fascinating and repulsive.

Nocturnal Animals gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is worth seeing for its extraordinary use of semiotics by a talented film director.

SAFTA Winners in the 2017 Film Category

The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA’S) were held on March 2017 at Suncity Resort and Casino in the North West Province, South Africa

Best Film: – Sink

Best Director: Oliver Schmitz for Shepherds and Butchers starring Steve Coogan, Andrea Riseborough, Deon Lotz and Marcel van Heerden

Best Actor – Feature Film
Dann-Jaques Mouton – Noem my Skollie

Best Actress – Feature Film
Shoki Mokgape – Sink

Best Supporting Actor – Feature Film
Abdurahgmaan Adams – Noem my Skollie

Best Supporting Actress – Feature Film
Hlubi Mboya – Dora’s Peace

Best Original Screenplay: Brett Michael Innes and Nicholas Costaras – Sink

The Virginia Slims

Battle of the Sexes

Directors: Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton

Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue, Alan Cumming, Bill Pullman, Eric Christian Olsen, Wallace Langham, Austin Stowell

Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks directing duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton take on the extremely pertinent subject of gender inequality in sports in their latest film, Battle of the Sexes, a highly entertaining cinematic recreation of a historic tennis match which took place between the brash egotist and compulsive gambler Bobby Riggs and tennis women’s superstar Billie Jean King at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas in 1973.

Oscar winner Emma Stone (La La Land) plays Billie Jean King a tennis champion at the top of her game who is married yet battling with her own sexuality as she meets the provocative Californian hairdresser Marilyn Barnett wonderfully played by Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals, Birdman).

Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) plays the exuberant Bobby Riggs, the fiftyish tennis pro and self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig who is having a last gasp at his youth and decides to provoke Billie Jean King into a publicity tennis matched aptly named Battle of the Sexes. Riggs who is a sports hustler and whose lavish career is supported by his wealthy wife Priscilla Riggs superbly played against type by Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas).

Comedian Sarah Silverman stars as the outspoken Gladys Heldman who champions Billie Jean King and a collection of aspiring female tennis players to start their own female tennis match sponsored by Virginia slims cigarettes. This is in response to the chauvinism and unequal pay dispute between the women players and the exorbitant salaries that their male tennis players get which is almost ten times the amount.

The reason for this inequality, as sports commentator and organizer Jack Kramer played by Bill Pullman gives is that the tennis watching public love men’s tennis and that the male tennis players have ten times the stamina, strength and speed to sustain an exciting match unlike their less competitive female counterparts. Naturally this outdated mode of thinking has thankfully be reversed by the recent star power of such female tennis champions as Venus and Serena Williams.

Battle of the Sexes is a relevant film not only in terms of recent sexual harassment scandals which has rocked the Hollywood establishment but also in terms of LGTQ rights in sports, a controversial subject which has barely been explored in contemporary cinema.

As Billie Jean King’s husband Larry, played by Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies), says to her lover in one poignant scene, all that sponsorship of hotel rooms, flights and TV coverage would evaporate if King came out as a lesbian. Which she eventually did in the wake of the 1970’s queer rights campaign that activists like Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones fought for so vehemently, brilliantly illustrated in the Oscar winning Gus van Sant film Milk.

Battle of the Sexes is a thoroughly entertaining film about two tennis professionals who not only stake the reputations on a publicity tennis match. Battle of the Sexes is peppered with some flamboyant supporting roles including Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming as Cuthbert Tinling whilst held together by exemplary performances by Stone and Carell.

Battle of the Sexes gets a film rating of 8 out of 10, featuring wonderful seventies tennis costumes by Costume Designer Mary Zophres capturing the zeitgeist of the decade, adding to a thoroughly slick and entertaining sports film.

Performance Anxiety

Birdman

Or

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

birdman_ver3

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Lindsay Duncan

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu whose previous films include the critically acclaimed Babel, Buitiful and 21 Grams, delivers another cinematic magic realist masterpiece in the electrifying film Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance about the crazy antics which occur backstage on a Broadway production of a play adapted from a Raymond Carver story.

Birdman is comical, fantastical and brilliantly acted by a great ensemble cast but particularly by Michael Keaton as the central character Riggan, a washed up 1990’s superhero film star who is desperate to revive his acting career on Broadway.

Michael Keaton delivers a crackling performance as the erratic Riggan, an aging actor on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose alter ego the superhero film character Birdman keeps whispering in his ear that he should not be taking to the stage but rather resuscitating his failed film career. Riggan also seems to be constantly hounded by a multitude of neurotic woman throughout the film which feeds his own performance anxiety.

Joining the energetic Keaton who just won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy is an impressive ensemble cast including the hugely underrated Edward Norton as Mike Shiner a younger more precocious actor, Emma Stone as Riggan’s snappy daughter Sam, Andrea Riseborough as Riggan’s neurotic girlfriend Laura, Amy Ryan as Riggan’s ex-wife and stabilizing influence on his life, Sylvia. The Hangover star Zach Galifianakis as the exasperated bearded theatre producer Jake and Naomi Watts as a drama queen Lesley.

birdman

What makes Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance so utterly absorbing and in parts quite delirious is that Inarritu chooses to film the entire movie as one long tracking shot which keeps the momentum of this frenetic story alive and fresh. Besides the extraordinary direction, a very witty script, there is of course the superb performances by the entire cast who really excelled in a very difficult and strenuous acting stretch reminiscent of Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters In Search of an Author with a massive dash of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Magic Realism thrown in.

Visual clues abound along with multiple references to the 21st century super saturated media world of the 21st century. In one of the best scenes of the film Sam (superbly played by Emma Stone) tells her father Riggan that he has lost touch with the world, he does not even have a Facebook Page or a Twitter account and is rarely on social media. As Birdman progresses and in a hilarious sequence with Riggan running through New York’s Times Square dressed only in white underpants, which is naturally captured on YouTube, his digital success changes instantly.

Then after a near meltdown with a bottle of Whisky and after Riggan tells the influential theatre critic Tabitha (a superb cameo by Lindsay Duncan) that he should be taken seriously as a stage actor, the opening night of the play arrives and no one can anticipate the final reaction or the review in the New York Times theatre page entitled The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

For anyone that has studied drama or been in a stage production, Birdman is a must see film, as Inarritu expertly captures the confidence, chaos and utter lack of self-consciousness of the wild and crazy cast of this production, as they strip for scene changes, fight with their fellow actors and generally are quite debauched in all sorts of ways unique to the Theatre world.

Birdman imaginatively emphasizes that despite all the social media around especially in 21st century contemporary America, there is nothing quite as exciting as Live Theatre.

Keaton, Norton and Stone are absolutely superb and this film is highly recommended viewing, worthy of all the attention it is currently receiving, much like what every actor in the world constantly craves: rave reviews and becoming a celebrity!

 

 

 

 

 

Temple of the Infinite Gods

Oblivion

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The undeniable truth about Tom Cruise Sci-Fi movies is that he doesn’t really star in a bad film. Like the success of  the riveting 2002 Steven Spielberg film Minority Report, Oblivion is a glossy 21st century version of 2001 a Space Odyssey with gorgeous cinematography by Claudio Miranda (who won an Oscar for Life of Pi) and a very tantalizingly post-modern narrative involving Jack Harper played by Cruise and his effective team member Victoria played by Andrea Riseborough (W/E) who live in a post apocalyptic earth high above the carnage in a swish pent house resembling Bespin Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back and whose job in 2077 is to look after huge hydroelectric plants which are converting the earth’s ocean energy to be used towards the future colonization of one of Saturn’s more inhabitable moons as Earth is no longer entirely livable.

Oblivion through some stunning production designs sets up a seemingly post apocalyptic planet in which scavengers have invaded and attacked the moon causing much havoc with the world and the tidal systems, and once where there were cities lies a wasteland. Except that Jack Harper whose memory has been wiped clean of the apocalypse has flashbacks of a meeting with a mysterious woman, Julia subtly underplayed by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), at the base of the Empire State Building sixty years earlier back in 2017, pre-apocalyptic New York City. Themes of liberty and the eternal struggle of the human spirit against insurmountable odds is beautifully explored in Oblivion and as the film progresses, one gets the feeling that this is a three act Scientology inspired opera on the Infinity of Space.

As Jack and Victoria report to a distant projected screened image of Sally, their supervisor, played with a Southern drawl by Melissa Leo on the orbiting space station Tet, one gets the sense of something sinister occurring much like the omniscient spaceship computer Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Without giving away too much of the plot twists, and in Oblivion there are many, Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski’s existential version of the Odyssey is superb to watch and whilst the film is evenly paced, the last act of the film, in which many narrative threads are elegantly woven together, Oblivion clearly appears as a cinematic pastiche of all successful Sci-Fi films from the last four decades from Star Wars to The Matrix trilogy to the Mad Max movies.

Not as tightly woven as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Oblivion is a gorgeously slick odyssey to the Temple of the Infinite Gods namely in outer space with a huge amount of twists and certainly shows that Cruise at the age of nearly 51 still has what it takes to carry such an inventive and intriguing science fiction cinematic fantasy. Oblivion is worth watching especially for serious Sci-Fi fans! Also stars Morgan Freeman  as the mysterious Beech sporting a huge cigar in a sadly underwritten cameo and Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Sykes also familiar as Jamie Lannister in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

Romance of the Century

W./E.

Ravishingly told!

Ravishingly told!

Madonna’s directorial debut focuses on the stylish romance and subsequent marriage of King Edward VIII to swanky American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936 in the period drama W/E sparking the abdication of the King in one of the most scandalous romances of the 20th century. W/E also has a concurrent narrative of a Park Avenue socialite Wally Winthrop who after leaving her job at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York falls into a loveless and cruel marriage with a heavy-drinking and bitter psychiatrist played by Richard Coyle. In both instances Wallis Simpson, played by Andrea Riseborough and the fictional character of New Yorker Wally played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish suffer abuse by their violent  first husbands, Madonna attempts to highlight more the plight of privileged woman physically abused by powerful men.

Not that W/E is just about gender violence, but more about the romance and sacrifice that both King Edward VIII, known as David, played by James D’Arcy and Wallis Simpson enjoyed and endured as their love carried them through the abdication crisis, media scrutiny and lavish exile in France. Not to mention that both Edward and Wallis, who become the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were vilified in the American and British press in the years leading up to the outbreak of World War II for apparently being Nazi sympathizers following a prolific meeting with Hitler in 1937.

Naturally W/E should be seen as a lesser companion piece to the Oscar winning Tom Hooper film The King’s Speech focusing on King George VI also know as Bertie who had to cope with the abdication of his older more articulate brother Edward along with Britain’s eventual entry into World War II in September 1939. The last five years of the 1930’s was an extremely unstable period both politically and socially with many geopolitical changes  occurring rapidly with the military expansion of Nazi Germany in Europe and the impending threat of World War. During the war years the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in the Bahamas where he was Govenor according to the fascinating life of Wallis Simpson – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallis_Simpson

Benzedrine in the Champagne

Through historical footage, Madonna shows us not only the historical aspects of this period, but of the lavish and all together captivating love affair which occurred between Edward, the then Prince of Wales and the forthright American from Baltimore Wallis Simpson, as the couple become the darlings of the international Mediterranean party scene from Cannes to Portofino. The Prince of Wales offered gorgeous gifts of custom made Cartier crosses to his love, Wallis Simpson as they frolicked in the surf in the French Riviera. The dashing and charming Edward, who felt nothing of popping Benzedrine into guests Champagne glasses at a Belgravia midnight screening and soon got the party started  with Wallis Simpson, doing a particularly zany thirties jive with pearls flying and music blasting. In this fabulous party scene that W/E depicts Wallis and Edward as the epitome of celebrity chic, the opulent couple worshiped by the established international elite made up of wealthy Americans and Britons who made the French Riviera their fashionable playground.

The Sotheby’s Auction in New York

Whilst the second narrative of Wally befriending a Russian immigrant security guard Evgeni played by Oscar Isaac at the 1998 Sotheby’s  Auction of the gorgeous possessions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in New York that is lovingly fleshed out in the second part of W/E, it is really also just as significant since Wally eventually travels to Paris to fulfil her obsession with Wallis Simpson by requesting to read the Duchess’s private letters held by Mohamed Al Fayed at the Duke and Duchess’s former Parisian chateau near the Bois du Bologne,  father of Dodi who was killed along with Diana, the Princess of Wales in the fatal 1997 car crash in Paris a year before that makes this quest on Wally’s part both liberating and poignant.

Madonna’s real talent lies in her music but her hand as a director of such an interesting subject as the love affair between Wallis and King Edward should not be discounted as she focuses more on their lavish affair which become internationally known as the Romance of the Century.

From a feminist perspective, Madonna’s lavish film W/E is more about style than substance with engaging shots of New York and Paris, yet even the relevant character sketching scenes portray both the affluent Wally in 1998 and the stylish Wallace in 1936 as emblematic of how woman throughout the centuries no matter how gorgeously attired they are, can also become victims of physical violence and social scorn. The film is adequately assisted by a heart rendering musical score by Abel Korzeniowski and stylish costumes by Arianne Phillips and will appeal to all lovers of stylish period dramas.

*

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