The MAFTAs 2014

Last night the British Academy of Film and Television Arts handed out lots of gongs to the good and great of the world of film.  Who knew Gravity was a British film? Well, Anglo-American, which is good enough for us to shout a claim on it. I wrote a review of Gravity a few months back and mentioned at the time that the movie was a welcome relief from the dross that Hollywood and Ealing Elstree Pinewood  and wherever British films are made these days, had been inflicting on their audiences for a goodly while.

But just like the good old British weather, a positive drought of decent movies has turned into a biblical flood that keeps on giving. Just eighteen months ago we were preparing for a hosepipe ban and wondering if there would actually be enough decent movies and television shows to fill an awards ceremony. Now here we are with half of England underwater and so many worthy movies it would probably take Bollywood a whole week to recreate them. And turn them into 10 series long television dramas. So I present to you, the inaugural Mexile Academy of Film and Television Awards. Otherwise known as a quick review of  what I’ve recently watched, where every film gets an award of some sort out of editorial necessity.

Best Actor

Leonardo Di Caprio, in the Wolf of Wall Street. I start this poky little awards ceremony with a disgusting little story that should be told. The story of a despicable little man who conned hard earned savings from thousands, maybe tens of thousands of normal working class folk. And squandered it as recklessly as he ‘earned’ it. It’s a long film that will work better on DVD, to allow for a break half way through. It’s a strange film in many ways, not least because it actually happened.

It’s strange because it does, and I know not whether it is deliberate or accidental, glorify the greed and immorality of the extreme end of the western financial system. It’s strange because, despite the fact that I find those qualities to be abhorent, you can’t help but get drawn in and look forward to the next excessive twist in the story line. It’s a movie version of a roller coaster, with fear replaced by loathing instead. Why do you scream for the ride to go faster, when you know full well it’s just going to make things more scary? We are a strange breed, us humans. You don’t see wild animals behaving quite like us. At least I’ve never seen a gazelle creep up on a lion, slap its backside and shout ‘tag, you’re it’, just for kicks.

It’s strange because by the end you almost pity the pond scum human specimen of life that is Jordan Belfort. Perhaps you just pity him because he is Jordan Belfort. Leo has a certain smugness which is naturally dislikeable at the best of times. Or maybe that’s just my take. But I was definitely one of those that heaved a sigh of relief when he finally went under in Titanic. He fits the role to a tee, and does it every justice. The final twist in the story? Did anyone else notice that in the final scene, the on stage presenter introducing Jordan Belfort is the real Jordan Belfort. Jeez, some people just don’t know when to keep a low profile. I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube, but here’s an interview he did with Piers Morgan instead. Wolf of Wall Street scores a solid 6.5 out of ten on the Mexile-ometer.

Best Actress

Emma Thompson, from Saving Mr Banks. Who doesn’t like Mary Poppins? It was a favourite of mine as a kid. Heck, I even liked Dick van Dyke. This awards ceremony is littered with films based around  true stories, and in each of them there is someone at the heart of the plot who you can’t help but pity. With some of them you pity their circumstance or how fate has dealt them an unkind hand. Others you pity for their dysfunctional or dislikeable personalities. With Mrs Travers, you end up pitying her for an unfortunate cocktail of both chance and persona. There is, however,  a certain charm about her as her story is revealed and the true nature of her Disneyfied characters are explained. Tom Hanks is a better Walt Disney than he is a Captain Phillips, but then how would I include the tale of Somalian pirates if I gave him an award here? Saving Mr Banks scores a decent 6.5 out of ten.

Second Best Actor

Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips. An unusual award, but where else would I fit Tom in? He is what Tom Hanks always is. Every bit as likeable and as Jordan Belfort is unlike-able. He always puts in a sterling performance and once again delivers a seamless portrayal in this flick. Captain Phillips is exactly the sort of film I expected it to be. There were no surprises. Pirates board ship. Tom is a bit of a hero, without going OTT. Pirates are…..am I going to spoil it if I say a lot of them come to a sticky end?

The problem with this film is the same problem I have with Tom Hanks. He’s been around too long, starred in too many career defining roles. He is Tom Hanks. No surprises has become his middle name. Nonetheless, with that said, the film is still a thrill, the cinematography is excellent, and the storyline kept up with enough twists, turns and uncertain moments of high tension to keep me glued to the screen. Even though I knew what the final result was going to be. How many points out of ten does Captain Phillips merit? An honourable 6 on the Mexile Scale.

Best Special Effects

Gravity, which I’ve already reviewed here. Best special effects is an easy one to fling in the direction of this flick. It’s in space, there are explosions. What more does an old Sci Fi fan like me want? Other than Klingons or to see how the Kessel Run can be done in just 12 parsecs. Or for those who are into the sci but not so much the fi, 3.7028131 × 1017 metres. A jolly decent 7 out of 10 points for Gravity

Best Television Show

This World, by the BBC. This is Auntie Beeb at her finest, with an eclectic mix of hour long shows, documentaries and talks. I could point to the episode on Mexico’s Drug War, which would fit the Mexican-ish theme of my blog. But that was broadcast in 2010. So it’s a bit old for a 2014 award show. So perhaps the Truth About Population fits better. I always enjoy anything Simon Reeve does, and his two recent episodes following the tea and coffee trade were both top notch.

But to return to a land a bit nearer home, Mexico, I give you Reeve’s 2013 episode that was titled, Cuba. He provided a more balanced and up to date account of this last stand of Communism than you normally get. That is to say, an account which does more that simply declare Communism = Evil, or Castro = Saviour of the People. Both accounts usually fail to cover any middle ground, and it is the middle ground that the masses usually occupy. This World is always 10 out of 10 stuff.

Best Story

Philomena, again by Auntie Beeb. Judi Dench, ahem, Dame Judi Dench, excels. You’d expect nothing less of her. Steve Coogan is not, perhaps, so brilliant as Martin Sixsmith. Too much bumbling, not enough hard nose. I don’t know Martin Sixsmith too well, but I’d associate him with a lot more of the latter and much less of the former. But still, Coogan is likeable and doesn’t detract from the film. Indeed, at times, his style of British humour lends itself well to the film.

The plot is not depressing enough to warrant competition for the winner of that award (see below), but it certainly has a melancholic feel to it. It’s another true story. Which is just as well, because were it fiction, you’d write it off as unbelievable. Well, certainly as far as the sting in the tale is concerned. It sums up all that is wrong with religious extremism, but for once it is extremism of the cuddly sort, wrapped in an innocent cloth of a nun’s habit rather than the TNT laden vest of a misguided and soon to be departed Islamic suicide bomber. It is also, sadly, pretty much what we’ve com to expect from the Catholic Church. A hardy 7 out of 10 for Philomena.

Most Depressing Film

12 Years A Slave. Watched just last night. It really is not a jolly film. Not a pick-me-up to switch on to lighten your mood after a hard day at the office. It’s gritty. It’s full of vile characters. It’s man at, or at least close to, his worst. It’s depressing and necessarily so. There are countless performances of utter excellence in the film, as the sorry story of a free man cum slave is depicted in glorious technicolour in front of your eyes. Although black and red are the dominant colours, as dark skins are whipped raw. This is a story that absolutely must be told. There are far too many people commenting on life in the 21st century who seem to have either skipped history lessons or have simply forgotten how we’ve gotten where we are. A commendable seven and a half  out of ten for 12 Years a Slave.

Best Film

Dallas Buyers Club. I tip my hat to the superb Matthew McConnaughy who went the full stretch to pull off one of the most convincing portrayals in recent cinematic history. I’m sure he’s got those stretch marks in his flesh still to prove it. Any situation that pits a raging Texan homophobic cowboy and a gay transvestite first against each other, then dependant on each other, must contain a story worth telling.

The film doesn’t have a weak point. The plot is harrowing. The cast are as talented as they are diverse. There are comedic interludes. And there is hope. Light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s all true. Well, in a Hollywood sort of way. It merits the highest score I’ve awarded a film today, a lofty 8 out of 10 points.

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