I’ve just seen the last of the films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar (of those I intend seeing). My socks have not been explosively removed but there have been some aspects of all of them that left an impression. Those impressions are collected overleaf:
Many of my favourite films of recent years have been classified as documentaries (The Fog Of War, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Inside Job, Beware Of Mr Baker, Nostalgia for the Light, Stories We Tell….) but the one that won the Bafta in that category last year takes the genre into brave, new territory.
In The Act Of Killing, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer puts in front of the camera a handful of the gangster* paramilitaries who helped the Indonesian army torture and kill around a million ‘communists’ in 1965/66. He then encourages them to create fictionalised versions of their acts. Being still highly-regarded by the current regime, they are keen to do so and, being fans of Hollywood films, they use the language of the Western, film noir, the musical and the gangster film.
The result is a devastating, upsetting, mesmeric, often surreal, portrait of corrupted humans who are celebrated and still valued by a corrupt government. It is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and I urge you to see it.
*The label ‘gangster’ is worn as a badge of honour, as it is understood to mean ‘free man’. Hence the use of Born Free in the film.
The nominations have been collected, scrutinised, tabulated, analysed and stared at with a blank expression for half an hour; my, aren’t we an eclectic, not to say completely random, group of people? Considering that we all read the same paper and visit the same music blog, there’s an astonishing lack of unanimity on more or less every topic under the sun except for the ghastliness of the current UK government – and even there we can’t agree on which individuals deserve the greatest degree of loathing. Over fifty different albums were suggested for Record of the Year, and the five shortlisted are the only ones that received support from more than one person.
So, time for the voting. We’re keeping things simple: one vote in each category. even if you haven’t heard any of the records or seen any of the films, feel free to vote according to any other criteria you like, as it’s only a bit of fun and the more the merrier. Polls will remain open until the end of the month, and the award ceremony will take place some time in early January once I get my act together – in response to overwhelming public opposition to the idea, not on Twitter…
Ali’s photo for Earworms reminded me of two fantastic videos – The Hidden Camera’s video is so powerful it takes over the brilliant song. Based on an old comic Joel wrote – it’s been a live favourite for a while. The short film has been shown at festivals in Berlin and Canada to much acclaim. The freedom of the birds over the field at the start is rather significant.
Another film that uses the flight of birds as a metaphor for escape is Leonard Cohen’s – First We Take Manhattan, their flight is deliberately juxtaposed against the songs beat to discombobulate.
I just came across this excellent short film online, it’s worth seeing. The cities you see are LA and SF, beautifully shot, edited and to the perfect piece of music. Hit play, HD and full screen, raise the volume.
I happened to notice that today was the 69th birthday of the contemporary British composer Michael Nyman, so I thought I would take the opportunity to pay a small tribute to the great man and draw attention to a few of my favourite pieces of his music…. Continue reading →