Irish Oscar Nominations

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This year’s Oscar nominations were announced today and featured 3 nominations for Irish talent.

Ruth Negga was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Loving, and Consolata Boyle for Best Costume Design for her work on Florence Foster Jenkins. This is Boyle’s second Oscar nomination following on from her 2008 nomination for The Queen.

Also the Irish co-production The Lobster was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

The full list of nominations are here

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Cinema Review: World War Z

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DIR: Marc Forster WRI: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof PRO: Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner CAST: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Fana Mokoena, Matthew Fox, Ruth Negga

 

What’s the collective noun for critics? A pack? A coven? A murder? Watching this film I was moved to reflect that critics certainly can display a herd mentality not dissimilar to a rampaging zombie horde. The merest scent of blood in the air about a supposedly troubled film and they can swamp the resultant project in a ravenous tide that is often utterly disconnected from the quality of the final film. In the wider media, judgement is often summarily passed without even viewing the actual completed movie. For instance, last year’s John Carter seemed doomed before it was even released or seen.

Early word on WWZ had the critical masses sharpening their incisors. The gossip grapevine contended that Marc Foster was presiding over a sprawling, incoherent mess with a ballooning budget and a never-ending schedule. An apparently fractious set and extensive, expensive re-shoots seemed to confirm this film was going to be a pre-ordained turkey. It was open season and now…it’s all gone a bit quiet.

I’m as susceptible as anyone to being infected by this behaviour. Who can’t resist a sneaky kick to the torso of a stricken studio blockbuster? They fail so rarely that once one is wrestled to the ground; it’s hard not to relish dissecting the hubris of both stars and studios as gargantuan budgets are wasted on puny ideas. We all know the vitriolic slam dunk reviews are the most pleasurable to write. And probably the most fun to read too. Which by a circuitous route brings me to World War Z and I gotta say – it’s not half bad. That is a backhanded compliment in blockbuster season but bear in mind Man of Steel is half bad. Granted that horribly elongated concluding fight is not really half the movie – it just feels like it is.

World War Z certainly opens strongly as chaos grips gridlock in downtown Philadelphia. A palpable and organic sense of panic is superbly evoked and maintained as Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family are enveloped in a stampede of swarming bodies. At first, it’s spookily unclear what people are fleeing from. We’ve seen scenes like this before and it’s usually a wall of water or Godzilla.  The reveal that it’s blood thirsty commuters acting in a cannibalistic manner is deeply unnerving. This is no shuffling zombie saunter. It’s a torrent of milling indistinguishable limbs and manic propulsion.

Gerry quickly displays the resourcefulness and survival skills that suggest a past beyond suburban dad. And so it transpires – in the middle of a nationwide outbreak, Gerry gets a call from his former employer the U.N. to track down the source of the zombie virus. After some pitifully hilarious protestations that he’s not a hero, Gerry embarks on an extremely heroic world tour of zombie hotspots as he traces the evolution of the outbreak. The plot doesn’t really advance much before that really. The film moves at the now customary breathless blockbuster pace but to my mind, this project justified that pacing more than most. The world is literally being devoured. Gerry’s in an understandable hurry. So the action switches from South Korea to Jerusalem to Wales with sequences of varying effectiveness in each location.

Cleverly, the film amps up Pitt’s hero stature by populating the cast with emerging and unknown actors rather than the usual rota of reliable and recognisable character actors. Everyone acquits themselves well even if the writers push the boat out on thankless female roles by literally pushing the ostensible female lead Mireille Enos out onto a boat where she spends most of the movie looking elegantly stressed. Or ringing her husband at the exact wrong moment.

Against the odds, Marc Foster emerges with some credit. Or is it damning him with faint praise to say he doesn’t ostensibly do anything wrong. Some of the bigger scenes like the storming of Jerusalem are impressively rendered. There’s nothing as problematic as his chronic mishandling of the action in Quantum of Solace (or ‘Pond of Wood’ as Mark Kermode deliciously dubbed it). Could it be that Foster is simply on a learning curve himself where he gets to evolve and improve with each outing? He’s learning in public on a big canvas but keeping creative control of a mammoth project like this must be a head wrecker. This could have been a career wrecker but by accident or design, ‘WWZ gets there in the end.

In the third act, World War Z bucks another prevalent trend. Apparently, out of necessity but regardless of the reasons, this film reverses the blockbuster tendency to ram up the scale as the finish line approaches. Apparently, the ultra busy scribe Damon Lindelof was drafted in to construct an emergency ending and a lean, tense and unbearably claustrophobic sequence set in a lab was constructed as a band-aid remedy. Well sometimes, band-aids are needed and sometimes they work. In this case, I think the action is focused down to telling effect. While other blockbusters invariably resort to bombast and visual frenzy, WWZ distils the essence of the film down to stillness and silence. Instead of the typical ear-drum damaging souped up sound, we get unforgiving quiet. Instead of drowning in zombies, Gerry is confronted by one zombie clacking his teeth in a deeply creepy manner.

It’s not perfection by any means especially when the film has no real sense of closure: only a cocky insinuation that a sequel is going to be needed for viewers to see any more. WWZ may still fail but I don’t think it’s a failure. However in a bid to please everyone, it may please no one. Too unfaithful to the source material to please die-hard fans of the book. Too bloodless to placate gore hounds. Too internationally focused for an American audience. Too inconclusive and open ended for those seeking a rounded one-off cinematic experience. In falling between so many stools, the danger is the film is regarded as a stool of a whole other variety.

It isn’t. It’s not Grade A but it’s not Grade Z either.

 

James Phelan


115 mins

15A (see IFCO website for details)

World War Z is released on 21st June 2013

 

 

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Irish Actress Ruth Negga to Star as 007 Welsh Soul Legend Shirley Bassey in BBC Drama

Irish actress Ruth Negga will play 007 Welsh soul legend Shirley Bassey in BBC Two drama Shirley Bassey: A Very British Diva.

Looks like perfect casting to us here in Film Ireland with Ethiopian/Irish Negga looking a dead ringer for the young  Nigerian/English Bassey.  Speaking on her role Negga commented ‘I’m thrilled to be cast in the role of Shirley Bassey and it’s an absolute honour to be playing her in such an intimate story of her life.’

Negga is following in the footsteps of fellow Irish thespian Domhnall Gleeson after his terrific portrayal of singing legend Bob Geldof in another BBC 2 drama When Harvey Met Bob.

Directed by Colin Teague (Doctor Who) and co-starring Lesley Sharp (The Full Monty, Naked) as her mother Eliza the drama will broadcast this autumn.

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Issue 131 – London Calling

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Alright. You’ve had your big breaks: you were the back-end of the orange caterpillar in the latest Meteor ad and second punter from the left in the pub on Fair City. Nonetheless, it looks like the emerald isle will all too easily contain your talents. But what about our real rising stars? Does a talented actor have to leave Ireland in order to make it? Niamh Creely investigates…

Interview with Aidan Turner

When did you realise you wanted to be an actor?

When I got my first pay cheque, I think. I remember slowly coming to the realisation that people were going to pay me for what I was doing, which at the time seemed ridiculous.

Of TV, film and theatre, which do you work in most and which is the most reliable?

Over the past couple of years most of my work has been in TV. When I left drama school in 2004 I started working in theatre but there was never any master plan. I just wanted to get as much experience as I could, as quickly as I could.

What are the advantages of being in London?

I don’t think there are any ‘advantages’ to working in London as apposed to Dublin. There are more opportunities to audition for projects in the uk because there’s more happening there but then there are also more actors going for the same roles so that kind of evens things out. It depends on which country you want to work in. I wanted to live and work in the uk for a while so that made my decision an easy one.

Were you reluctant to leave Ireland?

I wasn’t reluctant to leave Ireland because it never felt like a permanent move. I was going where the jobs were taking me. But even aside from that I love London. I like spending time there.

How easy is it for Irish actors to find work in London?

I can’t answer that one. Every actor who makes the move has a completely different experience to the next one. Some find it easier than others and find work quickly. Others have to wait a while. Such is the nature of the game.

Have you felt the impact of the recession?

In the sense that a lot of projects have been put on hold or scrapped because of funding issues due to the recession. I’ve been quite lucky, though. The last two years have been busy for me.

Would you ever consider moving to the US or back to Ireland?

The next job for me could be in either one of those places. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a flight.

The full article (including interviews with Andrew Scott, Eva Birthistle, Katie McGrath, Kerry Condon, Peter McDonald and Ruth Negga) is printed in Film Ireland 131.

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