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Non-Review Review: Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is very clearly a sentimental life-affirming true story, very clearly pitching itself as an upbeat and hopeful account of one of the most iconic statesmen of our time. A collection of all the “greatest hits” of Mandela’s struggle against oppression and hatred, Mandela is an efficiently calculated piece of cinema. It’s a grand sweeping historical epic that never really pulls back the layers of the character it examines, instead opting (mostly) to film the legend.

And it works. After all, what other world leader in the past half-century can lay claim to such an inspirational narrative? Nelson Mandela’s journey lends itself to this sort of optimistic and inspirational adaptation, and the subject is a comfortable fit for this sort of sweeping life-affirming whirl-wind exploration of Mandela’s personal history.

Courting public opinion...

Courting public opinion…

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Pointing Eastwood: Clint Eastwood’s Moral Compass…

Clint Eastwood is a fascinating director. It’s hard to imagine, watching those early Spaghetti Westerns, that the badass cowboy would emerge as one of the great American directors. To be honest, while he wasn’t the first major actor to work behind the camera, I think that Eastwood really paved the way for established actors being taken seriously as directors. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by Eastwood’s work, even when it isn’t necessarily completely satisfying as a viewing experience. I’ve still found something interesting and compelling in most of his films, even if they aren’t brilliant in and of themselves. I think that Eastwood manages a thematic consistency that’s very rare these days, and it’s possible to see a lot of the director’s moral philosophy in his work.

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Non-Review Review: Dreams of a Life

From Irish director Carol Morley, Dreams of a Life is a fascinating and occasionally heartbreaking exploration of the death of Joyce Vincent, the young lady found dead in her flat above a London Shopping Centre. Joyce had been dead for three years before anybody noticed, her body only recovered when her landlord secured a repossession order for the small, sparsely decorated flat where she had been living. The most surreal detail of all, and one of the lingering questions at the end of the document, concerns the Christmas presents found wrapped beside her body. Who were they for? And how did their intended recipients never notice that Joyce was missing.

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Putting the “-ess” in “Sexist”: Why Do We Have a Best Actress Award?

The fact that no woman was nominated for Best Director (after Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win last year) has caused a stir at this year’s Oscars. I’m not an excessively politically correct individual (just read the blog), but I like to think I’m sensitive to issues like that. Presumably the presumptive female directing nominees would have been either Debra Granik for Winter’s Bone or Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right, and – to be honest – I don’t think either was better than any of the five existing nominees. The continued snubbing of Christopher Nolan bothers me far more.

As I thought about the complaint more and more, part of me wondered when the gender of an individual becomes important for awards like this – my gut feeling is “never.” The best is the best, why should we handicap or install quotas? Except for the fact that we do have gender quotas for certain awards. This train of thought led me wonder why we still have a Best Actress and a Best Supporting Actress category… And, to cut a long story short, I really couldn’t think of a good reason.

Are we kidding ourselves?

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Non-Review Review: Invictus

I have to admit being quite impressed with Invictus. One of the benefits of living in Europe, but also one of the burdens, is that we typically have a week or two to surf the reviews of any film about to open, as it has typically been previewed (and released) in America long before it arrives on our humble shores. On one hand, this allows us to make carefully considered film choices, but it also means that our optimism for an upcoming release can be bashed against the rocks of poor critical acclaim. Invictus didn’t secure a Best Picture nomination and it didn’t exactly blow the socks off reviewers. I know that a reviewer should go in to a darkened cinema leaving all expectations and preconceptions aside, but unfortunately this is the real world. Invictus isn’t a cinematic classic, nor the highpoint of anyone’s filmography, but it is a solidly constructed sports and politics epic with a superb leading performance and a skilled hand behind the camera.

Nelson Mandela - Nobel laureate, South African President, Springboks manager...

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