Tagged: David O Russell

Review – Joy (2015)

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Edgar Ramirez, Dianne Ladd, Elisabeth Röhm, Bradley Cooper

Joy

As stated in its opening titles, Joy, is “based on true stories of daring women.” It explores the way a tenacious woman manages to survive and eventually thrive in a world determined to put her in her place. This semi-fictionalised account of the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop makes a point of never actually using the phrase “Miracle Mop,” or even the stating the surname Mangano. Rather than presenting a traditional biopic, director David O. Russell has opted for a comically exaggerated fable celebrating the American Dream and tenacious, can-do spirit.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) was a creative young girl from whom a lot was expected but for whom things haven’t quite panned out. Seventeen years after being named high school valedictorian she is stuck in a hole, providing for her chaotic family Continue reading

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Five Oscar Nomination Surprises

Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards

Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards

Bright and early on 16th of January the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, was joined by actor Chris Hemsworth to announce the nominations for the 86th Academy Award to be held on 2nd March. A full list of the nominees can be found here. While there was plenty that we saw coming, as usual the Academy did throw us a few curve balls. This year has been heralded as quite a good year for Hollywood in a critical sense. While some years you would struggle to find five worthy nominees in each category, this year there seemed to be an abundance. As a result most of the surprises have come in the form of omissions rather than inclusions. Here are my picks for the five biggest…

1) The near complete shutout of Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen brothers have become Academy favourites in recent years and their latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis, has been a critical darling and was expected to be a serious contender. As such, it was a surprise to see it miss out on a Best Picture nomination. This is made all the more significant by the fact the Academy chose only to nominate nine films when there are ten spots available. So it didn’t miss out in favour of something else. It was simply not chosen. Not only did it miss out on a spot in the main category, it was almost completely frozen out, missing out on nominations in the directing, screenwriting and lead acting categories where it would have been considered a chance. In only receiving two nominations (for cinematography and sound editing) Inside Llewyn Davis probably trumped Saving Mr. Banks as the big loser out of the nomination announcements.

2) No Best Actor nod for Tom Hanks

Probably the biggest individual surprise omission was Tom Hanks missing out on a nomination for his performance in the title role of Captain Phillips. A two-time Best Actor winner, Hanks’ was considered by many to be the frontrunner in this category. A win would have put him alongside Daniel Day Lewis as the only men to win three Best Actor Oscars. But as it is that will have to wait for another year.

3) No Best Actor nod for Robert Redford

Robert Redford is a bone fide Hollywood legend but has never won the coveted gold statue. His performance in JC Chandor’s All is Lost, where he played the sole character in the picture, was simply remarkable and left many thinking it put him in the mix for Best Actor – in situations like this the Academy has been known to give someone an award almost as a pseudo-lifetime achievement award. But Redford failed to receive a nomination, with the suggestion being that the film’s distribution company, Roadside Attractions, didn’t campaign as hard as they could have.

4) Blackfish misses out on a Best Documentary nod

Surprises don’t tend to get noticed as much in the documentary categories simply because not as many people have seen them. But in this case, plenty of people have seen Blackfish. The doco exposing the unacceptable living conditions and treatment of the performing Orcas living in Seaworld parks was well received critically and commercially and would have been expecting a nomination.

5) David O. Russell does it again

I don’t know if you can really call this a surprise, but it is definitely historically notable. For the second consecutive year a David O. Russell film has managed to score nominations for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay and all four acting categories. It has only happened 13 times in 86 Oscars ceremonies, so to do it twice, let alone in consecutive years, is impressive to say the least. It seems if you want to get nominated for an Oscar your best bet is to get yourself in a David O. Russell film.

By Duncan McLean

Golden Globe Nominations Announced

Golden GlobesWe have arrived at the most wonderful time of the year to be a movie buff (unless you are a more high falutin cinephile who likes to think of lists and awards as being trivial and beneath them). December brings with it a flurry of top ten lists and the first round of nominations for the award season. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced its nominees for the 2014 Golden Globe awards. As always the Golden Globes only give a slight indication of how things will pan out come Oscar time, particularly as the Globes divide categories between Drama and Musical or Comedy. However, we can none the less start in earnest to speculate as to who will be in the mix when Oscar nominations are announced on 16th January 2014.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Captain Phillips
  • Gravity
  • Rush
  • Philomena

If this award were to go to anything other than 12 Years a Slave or Gravity it can be considered quite an upset. It will be interesting to see which way this goes. There was no other film that got quite the overwhelming response that Gravity did, but 12 Years a Slave is also a brilliant and important film which is a much more traditional ‘Best Picture’ type.

My tip: 12 Years a Slave

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • Nebraska
  • American Hustle
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Her

Again, this would appear to be a two horse race between American Hustle and Inside Llewyn Davis, with these two films plus the two favourites from the other best picture category likely to be the four main contenders for the Oscar. The fact that Joel Coen didn’t get a directing nomination might swing things in the favour of David O. Russell’s film.

My tip: American Hustle

Best Director

  • Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
  • Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
  • David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

Where this category is usually dominated by the directors from the best drama field there is a bit more of a mix this year with David O. Russell and Alexander Payne representing the musical or comedy category. While it is yet to be seen if voters consider Gravity to be Best Picture material, there is no doubt that it is a directorial achievement and it is not without precedent to see directors rewarded for amazing technical achievements (see Ang Lee’s Oscar win last year). In all, this is probably the strongest contested field at this year’s Golden Globes.

My tip: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Best Actor – Drama

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
  • Robert Redford (All is Lost)
  • Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

An interesting field featuring veterans (Hanks and Redford), breakout performances (Ejiofor and Elba) and someone who is slowly but surely becoming quite an impressive actor (McConaughey). For mine, Redford’s work in All is Lost is the most impressive acting I’ve seen this year, but it also feels like the kind of film that will get overlooked. Don’t be surprised if momentum builds behind Tom Hanks and he’s an unbackable favourite by the time the Oscars come around.

My tip: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (Her)

It’s great to see an old dog in Bruce Dern back in the mix and Christian Bale’s amazing fluctuating weight gets him in the frame again, but Joaquin Phoenix was so impressive in Her, performing the majority of the film only with a disembodied voice to play off, so I’d be inclined to go that way.

My tip: Joaquin Phoenix (Her)

Best Actress – Drama

  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Kate Winslet (Labor Day)

There is a bit of a usual suspects feel to this category with every nominee being a previous Golden Globe and Oscar winner. Cate Blanchett would seem hard to beat in this category unless the voters go left field for something out of left field and opt for Dench.

My tip: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)

The amazing Meryl Streep gets her obligatory nomination here, but this one will likely come down to Amy Adams and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

My tip: Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Daniel Brühl (Rush)
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

Michael Fassbender has done the best work of his career when under the direction of Steve McQueen and his performance as the violent Epps in 12 Years a Slave will likely see him edge out Brühl and Abdi for the honours.

My tip: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Lupita Nyong’o was very impressive in 12 Years a Slave, her first feature film role, and Sally Hawkins earned praise for her work opposite Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but 2013 has been Jennifer Lawrence’s year and her combination with David O. Russell should see her strike gold again.

My tip: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Best Screenplay

  • John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
  • Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
  • Eric Warren and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Jeff Pope (Philomena)
  • Spike Jonze (Her)

There are five very good screenplays nominated in this category but none is as bold as Spike Jonze’s for Her. His screenplay takes a scenario which could easily have been silly and makes it incredibly sincere and heartfelt and, as such, despite being an outsider I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he won.

My tip: Spike Jonze (Her)

Best Animated Feature

  • Frozen
  • The Croods
  • Dispicable Me 2

This has to be the least inspiring collection of animated films in recent memory. It doesn’t help that there is no contribution from Pixar or Studio Ghibli, the two most consistently excellent producers of animation in recent years. As such, Disney’s Frozen, an old-fashioned feeling Disney movie, is probably favourite be default.

My tip: Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Blue is the Warmest Color
  • The Past
  • The Hunt
  • The Wind Rises
  • The Great Beauty

This category lacks the out and out favourite it had last year in Amour, but there are a number of strong contenders. Blue is the Warmest Color, The Hunt and The Great Beauty have all made a bit of noise, winning numerous awards. It could go to any of those three, though Blue is the Warmest Color is probably the favourite at this stage.

My tip: The Hunt

The Golden Globes will be held on 12th January 2014

 

Best Picture Breakdown

This year’s Best Picture race is one of the most open in recent memory, with no film being expected to dominate proceedings and take home a swag of awards. Obviously this means that it is going to be trickier than usual to tip the winner. When it comes to tipping Oscar winners it is important to remember that you are tipping who you think will win the award, not necessarily who you think should win the award. For that reason, sometimes it is more difficult to accurately tip award winners when you have seen a number of the films, because your own tastes and opinions tend to cloud your judgement. So what follows is a simple for and against for each of the nine nominees for this year’s Best Picture award. Then you can weigh up the arguments, see which you think is the most convincing, and then blindly guess the same way you do every year.

Amour

Amour

Five Nominations

Notable Awards: Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, BAFTA Best Film Not in the English Language, Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film, European Film Awards Best Film, National Board of Review Best Foreign Film, National Society of Film Critics Awards USA Best Film

Why Amour will win: Amour is only the ninth foreign language film in 85 years to even get a nomination for the big award, and the fact that it has five nominations all up, including for Director (with Cannes Film Festival darling Michael Haneke making the cut ahead of the likes of Tarantino, Bigelow and Affleck) and Screenplay, two categories which usually go with a Best Picture win, suggests that the Academy sees this film as a legitimate contender, rather than just rewarding it with an also-ran nomination. And hey, a French film took home Best Picture last year. So it can happen.

Why Amour won’t win: You want to know how many times a foreign language film has won Best Picture at the Oscars? Zero. It has never happened. The closest you can get to foreign language winners are The Godfather Part II, The Last Emperor and Slumdog Millionaire which all won Best Picture and contained sequences of dialogue in Sicilian, Mandarin and Hindi respectively.

 

Argo

Argo

Seven Nominations

Notable Awards: Golden Globe Best Drama, BAFTA Best Film, DGA Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, SAG Best Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture, AFI Movies of the Year, National Board of Review Top Films

Why Argo will win: Momentum. After initial fears that Affleck missing out on a Best Director nod meant the film wasn’t really in the running, in recent weeks Argo has firmed as the favourite after taking out a number of lead up awards. Winning the Golden Globe isn’t always the best guide to picking the Oscar winner, but winning the Directors Guild of America Award is. Despite there being two best picture awards at the Golden Globes, one for drama and one for musicals or comedy, only four times in the last ten years has the winner of one of those two awards gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. On the other hand, nine out of the last ten films to pick up the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures award at the DGA awards have gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars that year (the only one to miss out was Brokeback Mountain which was pipped for the Oscar in a bit of a surprise by Crash in 2006). Hence the reason a number of eyebrows were raised when Ben Affleck won that award this year.

Why Argo won’t win: The big red flag next to Argo is the fact that Ben Affleck did not receive a nomination for Best Director. Across the previous 84 Academy Award ceremonies, only three times has a film won the top award despite its director failing to receive a best director nomination, with Driving Miss Daisy in 1990 being the only example since the early 1930s. Of course, in the last couple of years the Best Picture field has expanded from five nominees to up to ten. So whereas once it was the norm for the five Best Picture nominees to provide the five Best Director nominees, under the new system there will always be at least four or five Best Picture nominees that won’t be represented in the directing field. The temptation is to see those films which don’t also get a Director nod as the also-rans in the field.

 

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Four Nominations

Notable Awards: Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, AFI Movies of the Year, NBR Top Films

Why Beasts of the Southern Wild will win: The Beasts of the Southern Wild is the little film that could. The surprise hit of the year, it came out of nowhere to feature prominently in a number of Best Films of 2012 lists. It definitely stands out in the field as something totally different. A small budget, artistic premise, a six-year-old leading lady and a debut director (both of whom have been nominated in their respective categories). Could the Academy voters get swept up in the fairytale of it all? It’s also not unheard of for a directorial debut to win Best Picture. Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves and James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment are the most recent to have done it.

Why Beasts of the Southern Wild won’t win: Small indie films win festival awards, they don’t win Academy Awards.

 

Django Unchained1

Django Unchained

Five Nominations

Notable Awards: AFI Movies of the Year, NBR Top Films

Why Django Unchained will win: There is the feeling that Tarantino has been working his way towards Academy recognition. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the last twenty years and the Academy don’t want to find themselves in the same situation that they had with Martin Scorsese where it wasn’t until almost forty years into his career, and after helming a number of films regarded as all-time greats, that he finally won a Best Picture and Best Director award. Inglourious Basterds got close. Could Django Unchained be the film the Academy recognises (even though Tarantino himself failed to get a nomination)? Also, Django Unchained really stands out in the field for its appeal to the youth demographic. The Academy Award ceremony has been trying hard for the last couple of years to appeal to the youth demographic, to maintain relevance and combat a declining viewership. Could the same thinking enter the voting process?

Why Django Unchained won’t win: Tarantino’s eighth feature film seemed to be firming as a real Oscar contender until the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened. It changed the story. After that event rather than slavery or spaghetti westerns Tarantino found himself, once again, forced to talk about excessive violence in his cinema. He then failed to receive a Best Director nomination, and unlike Argo and Zero Dark Thirty which have maintained their relevance in this race despite missing Director nominations, Django Unchained seems to have fallen by the wayside. You could also argue that Django Unchained isn’t as good as Inglourious Basterds was and it is competing in a stronger field. So if the Academy wasn’t willing to favour Tarantino in 2010 it doesn’t look like they will in 2013.

 

Les Miserables Poster

Les Misérables

Eight Nominations

Notable Awards: Golden Globe Best Musical or Comedy, AFI Movies of the Year, NBR Top Films

Why Les Misérables will win: Les Misérables seems like an obvious contender. You have one of the most popular stage musicals in history being finally brought to the screen with an all-star cast (two of whom have been recognised with acting nominations) by an Oscar-winning director. Tom Hooper followed up his surprise success with The King’s Speech by opting for this very ambitious project. It is a significant upping of scale from his previous films and could help with the perception of him progressing and evolving from his previous success. The other X-factor for the film was the unconventional approach to shooting the musical numbers, with the actors singing live on set rather than lip-synching to pre-recorded songs. Could this experimental approach, which allows much more performative freedom to the actors, be deemed as worthy of recognition from the Academy?

Why Les Misérables won’t win: In the 1960s there were four musicals that walked away with the Best Picture award: West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Oliver! In the 44 years since Oliver! won only one musical has the award, Chicago in 2002. That is a roundabout way of saying that musicals don’t tend to fare well in recent times. And Les Misérables isn’t even just a musical, it’s practically an opera. Also, Russell Crowe.

 

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Eleven Nominations

Notable Awards: AFI Movies of the Year

Why Life of Pi will win: Ang Lee, an Academy favourite, has taken a much-loved book which many thought was unfilmable and brought it to life, at the same time as showing the industry the potential of digital and 3D technologies. Life of Pi is tipped to be a major player in the Visual Effects and Cinematography fields, but the fact that the film also received nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director suggests it is seen as more than just a technically impressive film. For a film which is at best being talked about as an outside chance, it is worth noting that Life of Pi has earned more nominations than any film other than Lincoln.

Why Life of Pi won’t win: With the film being tipped to do so well in the technical categories, there is the danger Academy voters will see Life of Pi’s primary achievement being technical, that it is first and foremost a beautiful looking film. Very rarely do films come out on top in the Best Picture category on the grounds of being amazing technical achievements. Titanic ? Maybe Lord of the Rings?

Lincoln

Lincoln

Twelve Nominations

Notable Awards: AFI Movies of the Year, NBR Top Films

Why Lincoln will win: Do I have to spell it out for you? A period drama about America’s most worshiped president, directed by the world’s biggest director, with an all-star cast led by arguably the finest actor of his, or any, generation. How could it not win?

Why Lincoln won’t win: For all the above reasons, Lincoln feels almost too good to be true. In the eyes of many people it just smells like Oscar bait, and sometimes the Academy reacts against that. Also, this film more than any other in the category had to deal with the weight of serious expectation when it came out. It is a fantastic film, but everyone expected it to be. Has it done enough to exceed people’s expectations and win voters over, or will the high expectations it had to deal with mean it gets overlooked in favour of one of the more “surprising” films.

 

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Eight Nominations

Notable Awards: NBR Top Films

Why Silver Linings Playbook will win: While it’s eight nominations is not the most by any candidate this year, it is the categories they came in which is significant. Usually we talk in terms of the ‘Big Five’ categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and one of the Screenplay categories). In also getting nominations in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories, Silver Linings Playbook is the first film in 32 years (since Warren Beatty’s Reds in 1981) to get nominations in the Big Seven categories. It suggests that the Academy sees this as being an excellent achievement across the board. It also should be noted that the last three films to receive nominations in the big five categories (Million Dollar Baby, American Beauty, The English Patient) all went on to win Best Picture.

Why Silver Linings Playbook won’t win: While it feels unfair to pigeonhole Silver Linings Playbook as a romantic comedy, when it boils down to it that is what it is, a brilliantly written romantic comedy. And unfortunately for David O. Russell, comedies don’t traditionally fare well in this category. In the last thirty years the only two films which could be described as comedies to have won Best Picture are Shakespeare in Love in 1998 and The Artist in 2012. Also, despite scoring nominations across the big seven categories, it is really only Jennifer Lawrence who is considered among the favourites. So it is entirely possible that Silver Linings Playbook could be staring down a shutout.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

Five Nominations

Notable Awards: NBR Best Film, AFI Movies of the Year

Why Zero Dark Thirty will win: Before it had even been released, Zero Dark Thirty had already won the New York Film Critics film of the year award, and early on it was seen as Lincoln’s primary competition for the Best Picture Oscar. In recent times its momentum has plateaued a bit, particularly with Bigelow failing to receive a Best Director nomination, but still remains among the serious contenders. The film is a harsh and unimpassioned look at the hunt for bin Laden and, as such, has an immediate political significance. As yet we haven’t seen an Oscar go to a film dealing directly with the events of 9/11 and its aftermath, but none of them have been as good as this one and perhaps the closure to the story that comes from the death of bin Laden means voters are ready.

Why Zero Dark Thirty won’t win: While Zero Dark Thirty is seen as one of the real contenders it has had to deal with some controversy surrounding the perceived messages it sends about the use of torture as an interrogation method. Is the film pro-torture? The Oscars are not a ceremony that tends to court controversy. There is nothing particularly edgy about the Academy. The hint of something being divisive could frighten off the voters.

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So with all that in mind, I think the nominees can be broken up into four categories…

The Contenders: Argo, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty

The Potential Dark Horses: Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook

The Outsiders: Amour, Django Unchained

Thanks for Coming: Beasts of the Southern WildLes Misérables

by Duncan McLean

Silver Linings Playbook Featurette

Found this great half-hour featurette on Silver Linings Playbook. Among other things it touches on David O. Russell’s personal connection to the material, the film’s important message about mental illness, and the brilliant performances from the ensemble cast. Well worth a look if, like me, you loved the movie.

 

Review – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker

Silver Linings PlaybookIt’s not often that you encounter something truly original at the movies these days, particularly not in the ‘boy meets girl,’ romantic comedy genre, one of Hollywood’s most generic forms. But originality is exactly what we get from David O. Russell (director of Three Kings and The Fighter) in his latest film Silver Linings Playbook.

The originality starts with our unconventional, but incredibly engaging romantic pairing, Pat and Tiffany. Pat is bipolar and has just been released from a court ordered stint in an institution after he beat up a man he caught in the shower with his wife. He has moved back in with his parents and is determined to win back his wife, Nicki. Pat’s time in treatment has left him with a new outlook on life. He is all about positivity, “excelsior,” and finding the silver lining to the dark cloud that he is working through. Tiffany is a damages soul like Pat, though her scars are emotional rather than physiological, after losing her husband in a car accident. Both characters are frustrated, struggling to live with a support network that doesn’t understand them and a society that doesn’t trust them. But they understand each other, and they become friends.

We have never seen these characters before on the big screen, at least not presented in the way they are here. One of the great achievements of Silver Linings Playbook is that it removes the ‘otherness’ from mental illness. Through their characterisation, and some of the directorial choices of David O. Russell, the film encourages us to identify with Pat and Tiffany, rather than to identify with the other characters trying to deal with Pat and Tiffany – we empathise with them rather than merely sympathising. And in siding with the two supposedly “crazy” characters we start to see the insanity of the regular world. We notice the quirks, foibles and obsessions in other characters – some minor, some not so minor – which are deemed socially acceptable in a way that Pat’s and Tiffany’s are not.

Russell’s beautiful screenplay is brought to life by a series of really strong performances. In fact, Silver Linings Playbook became the first film in 31 years, since Warren Beatty’s Reds in 1982, to receive an Oscar nomination in all four acting categories.

Bradley Cooper is the real surprise. Cooper has been a movie star for a while now but has seldom been required to do much more than be charming and look handsome. His performance as Pat, a man struggling to deal with the unknown in himself, is a revelation, showing us something of his talent that I doubt many knew was there. Bipolar is all about extreme ups and downs, highs and lows. Pat alludes to the fact that even before he had been diagnosed, his mood swings had been something that had troubled and frustrated his wife. Cooper imbues Pat with a manic intensity, which makes his positivity every bit as intimidating as his moments of aggression. But the really impressive part of his performance is the way he, with the help of the director, manages to get you to switch between emotional responses very quickly. Pat doesn’t have a filter when he talks – as Tiffany notes, he says more inappropriate things than appropriate things – and this is the source of much comedy. But on a number of occasions you find yourself laughing at Pat and then, in a heartbeat, feeling really sorry for him, or defensive for him, or afraid of him.

Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat (Bradley Cooper)

Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat (Bradley Cooper)

As Cooper’s foil, Jennifer Lawrence is every bit as impressive as Tiffany. The film really comes to life the moment that we are introduced to her. Pat and Tiffany’s meeting at an awkward dinner hosted by her sister is a fantastic scene and a preview of what is to come as the writer/director has fun with these two characters not bound by social conventions. As I said above, Tiffany’s scars are emotional rather than physiological, and as a result she is not as confused as Pat, but she is much angrier. She contrasts a real strength and willingness to stand up for herself with an extreme vulnerability. She is a sharp and abrasive, but at the same time likeable character. Lawrence burst onto the scene in 2010 when she earned an Oscar nomination for her work in Winter’s Bone. In the couple of years since she has done some more popcorn-style movies with a supporting role in X-Men: First Class and, of course, her leading role in The Hunger Games. But this performance in Silver Linings Playbook really cements her standing as one of the best young actresses out there, and of the four Oscar nominated performers in the film, for mine it is Lawrence that is most likely to take home a statue.

Robert De Niro as Pat Sr.

Robert De Niro as Pat Sr.

But the real treat for me was the performance of Robert De Niro. One of the absolute greats of the American cinema, it seems like decades since we have seen De Niro in a film which is worthy of his prodigious talent – you probably have to go all the way back to the mid-1990s when he did Heat, Casino and Jackie Brown. In recent times he has been reduced to playing caricatures of his own persona, often in reasonably uninspiring comedies: there was the gangster in therapy in Analyze This and Analyze That, psychotic retired CIA agent in the Meet the Parents series and, the lowest point of all, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, where his role as Fearless Leader saw him spoof his own legendary “Are you talkin’ to me?” monologue from Taxi Driver. Finally, in the role of Pat Sr, De Niro has not only been given something he can really sink his teeth into, he has been given the chance to do something different. Pat Sr. is a bookmaker who is devoted above all to his favourite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. He is superstitious to the point of being obsessive compulsive. He is willing to do anything within his power to not disrupt his Eagles’ juju, whether it is making sure the remotes are facing the right direction or making sure he has his lucky handkerchief. He is a loves his son, but lacks the knowledge of how to engage with him outside of the time they spend together watching football. It is a fun character, but not lacking in depth, and you can sense that De Niro is really engaged by in a way that he hasn’t been for some time.

I’ll admit I even really enjoyed Chris Tucker’s work in this movie, and that is quite a leap to make.

I referred to Silver Linings Playbook above as a romantic comedy, but I feel that kind of pigeon-holing really undermines the complexity and depth of this film. It is wickedly funny and at its centre is a relationship between a man and a woman, but it is also at different moments sad, uplifting, concerning, charming and poignant. It has been a while since I’ve loved a new film as much as I did this one. It is a beautifully crafted film that will really stay with you.

Rating – ★★★★★

Review by Duncan McLean

AFI’s Top Ten of 2012

As the end of the year draws closer the top ten lists from different critics, magazines and institutions are coming thick and fast. Today the American Film Institute named its top ten for the year and there were a couple of surprises. The list was unranked, and looks like this:

Argo (Ben Affleck)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)

Les Misérables (Tom Hooper)

The Life of Pi (Ang Lee)

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

The Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)

There are two major surprises for mine, one an inclusion and one an exclusion. The Dark Knight Rises making the list was a bit of a shock. It was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and most ambitious films of the year, but it didn’t quite reach the heights a lot of people were hoping for and has been absent from most of the other top tens that I’ve seen.

The big absence is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. An intensely interesting film, whose links to Scientology guaranteed a level of controversy and exposure a film of this kind would not otherwise have received, The Master has been a bit of a critical darling. It won gongs at the Venice Film Festival (Best Director for Anderson and shared Best Actor between Juaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and is talked about as a big time Oscar contender, and has appeared in a lot of top ten lists already, including topping that of the prestigious British film journal Sight and Sound. So it’s failure to rate a mention from the AFI is notable.

The other thing about this list that is exciting for myself and other movie lovers on this side of the world is that so many of these films haven’t come out yet. With Django Unchained, Les Misérables, The Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty all due to hit screens in the next couple of months, we have a quality summer of movies to look forward to.