Films of 2014 remembered pre-Oscars

image

And the winners are….

The awards are in the cupboard for distribution on Stages floodlit and spot lit across the Globe in 2015 for works that reached us in the year just gone.

So many days of entertainment has been brought to us by the Film Industry without which the world would be more of a collective basket case than it already is.

It speaks against war,poverty, genocide, corruption and mostly our own harm on harm.
Human Harm
In a film not to go on the list ‘The English DoctorHenry Marsh tells of his career which he delftly, lyrically, philosophically, breathtakingly, heartwarmingly but last and most distinguishably honors his own skills with humility and amazing unheard insightful ness of his term as a surgeon of the brain and all that placed him there in the book his wife provided (plagurising the plagiarist himself – nothing’s new I’ll find it for you Larry Page) called Do No Harm. Hippocrates must have heard in from the Barrista or Barman at his social hut.

So already you have a Film unready for the Oven of Acclamation by the Semi-Greenhouse dwelling – LA – hothouse flowers renegades all and sundry.

Two films on Human Rights I have seen and neither makes it onto the Documentary category and one that enters my list but comes off it as few have seen it is Apples of the Golan.

Burn a list out.
My list is to be short -The Guardian listing 10 in 12/12/14 g2 do it ten down to one.

It is short because on any given day they could be in the top spot. So much film acclimation is about its timely delivery. Other times it is due to compelling world themes. Boyhood is particularly good and very good at that. So is Mr Turner, Under the Skin, The Grandmaster, Leviathan, The Imitation Game, there are more. Other film performances are battering down doors and some not having even been on General Release in the UK.
JK Simmons in a film reviewed elsewhere for instance is apparently a shoe-in for Best supporting actor – well being among the early viewers I think not.
He is limited in the role by the very nature of the part and is stereotypically the bad ass teacher with hidden gripes.

Keira Knightly is excellent and is convincing as the Turing foil which BC has in the same sphere every chance of nailing the Big one.
KK is a worthy Best Supporting Actor winner in my eyes.

I find it hard to restrict the year end list to 5 but it is a necessary task in my mind.

A Touch of Sin
Starred up
In Order of Disappearance
Ida
Two days One Night

They are however arranged in the order I table today with my favorite last.

Two Days One night is a beguiling, bewildering, belligerent and superfine edge of the nerves chilling visual narrative told with the finesse of any director you could care to name.
Marion Cotillard creates this part in the manner Fonteyn created her Fredrick Ashton roles. That is with exceptional artistic and wonderous enthrallment. In seeing this film I was literally thinking alongside the walking the movement of seeing Margot Fonteyn completely rowing us into the dance, into the path of the story and us being with her.
How could the comparison be made except through the lucidity and poetry of an exquisite serious acting performance? Only one answer sheer artistry of a performer on their game.

When you watched MF and RN but particularly the women, as all ballet of significance and importance is a homage to the body of a woman.
The waif like strength of Margot Fonteyn beholden alongside the extraordinary masculine figure of the supreme male dancer Nuryev could not be more telling.

Telling is the word. Fellow French actress Juliet Binoche who inhabited my favorite contemporary film ‘Les Amant du Pont-Nuef‘ sought to herself engage with herself and have witnessed through dance this perilous journey.

I was totally absorbed beginning to end with this film for it’s telling of our times.

It’s delicate properly respectful pride of the French people whose identity is a contested place as far as a lot of Europeans are concerned.
(Rider: a lot of this film is shot in Belguim but that’s not the point).

I love the French people though there may be one or two exceptions that spill that cannot deign to wipe it up.
The essence of the people is encapsulated, the French character, flesh and bone, not just in The mesmeric Marion Cotillard but her fellow performers who each also reach the levels of the film making intent and delivering it so extraordinarily.

For me there is no question of it every being taken off the 2014 top of the mantle pride of place. For the second year in a row a French film gets my top vote. Last year it was the quite literally incredible ‘Holy Motors.’
The beauty of film making is distinctly alive in France (..and by locale Belguim..!!)

Further up and down the see-saw are found the wonder filled Polish film, Ida which I defy anyone not to be thoroughly engaged by. It has a generosity of will and sacrifice, saviour, coming of age emotion enriched as it is treated without necessity to adjust to much for the past circumstances which are carried and refuse to leave the stage of life’s drama.

Then there is one which I do not list as it is far too close to home to be yet considered as a depiction of truth. It takes as it’s timeframe 1971, abbreviated it, ’71 and turns it into a slave of the events in Northern Ireland.
It is framed in and around the city of Belfast and uses settings configured and still standing in Sheffield as the flats.
image
I once was a colleague of Brian Anson the GLC Architect who employed his Liverpool guile to turn against London’s philistines and was THE prime saviour of London’s Covent Garden – not the Opera House (since reformed and Floral Halled keeping the stage and Main Auditorium as it’s appendage – but the Market. Now Covent Garden District is a lesson in retention of civic space. Brian Anson came to challenge and have pulled down the Division Flats featured in the seventies for their cumbersome social experimentation – ghettos satin is an equally applicable franchise. Franchise Architecture doesn’t work – Jean de Renet and Mies Van de Rohe – never related their compositions of buildings, streets in the sky or skyscraper hip Philosopy much farther than their adopted surfaces. France and USA.

‘71 is a depiction and a violent one. As a film it gives insight to a degree but has no insider knowledge of the huge kind which The Guildford Four had.
On which in my view was only a scratching at the truth.
I am assisted in this view with the absurd way in which Twelve Years a Slave is held in totally undeserving acclaim. It is film racial porn. Fletcher was a name used in Whiplash and that has more Fletching as integral abuse in scale.
While Fassbinder flails and assaults the scene shots of horseman in the fields is disgusting hubris given what actually went in and widely chronicled. It would have turned out to have more credibility had Sam Taylor-Wood tackled it and twice as much delivered. But there you go awards and opinion.

image

Who is the slave – the Film Industry?

John Graham

15 January 2015

Belfast

Whiplash : A Film Review

On the edge of Knowing.
image
Learning the score
This is a lucious, glorious, engaging fast flowing film. It has an endearing pupil, intimidating teacher routine which upsets and provides the grist for the mill of the musical genre that is Jazz based but that enables escape of a kind in allowing you to determine what are the drivers within creativity.
What is Jazz and as it is so much associated with free flowing fluidity of musical timbre is it so, so fixed note mathematically cadenced and hung on the detail such as the on score message of the composers design?

Listen and watch and learn more to gain a worthwhile insight to the background and for many the foreground musical array chosen to balance their auditory needs.

The cast are firstly the Oscar leaning (BSA) JK. Simmons, as Terence Fletcher tilting over the drum kit and life of the singled out for greatness pupil Andrew Neyman played by Miles Teller whose playing is very highly fixed and skilled. Never having been in a Jazz Conservatiore I have no idea of the standards already in place at the get go but if this is the standard an around them both are the whole compliment ensemble needed as a class big band all equipped to carry this dynamic film.

Dynamism is the luxuriant array of sound which from the single stick tap in to the fully accounted for end scores peppered throughout this is foreground sound in film. It is not biographical as has been the recent entry of film to the soundscape of masters too numerous to name heck.

Deliverance
It takes a musically attuned ear to pick up on the note delays, tempo thrust and the delicacy of volume control amidst the disciplined Jazz-band playing which cascades towards us along with the visually arresting array of gorgeous instruments utilised to entertain us.

To cover this film properly requires a working knowledge of how Jazz has been the immigrants song creating legendary musical influences which enter Ito the repertoire we associate with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington whose vibe was the outlet for the racial differences found into the many States of America. Soul has Jazz Funk has Jazz Pop has Jazz and as the soaks have it, Jazz has Jazz.
Story, the last thing on my mind
Where is the story to come from? Where is the earthy to come from? Where is the core moral? What is the history made or recalled? Who makes it original? Where are the truths and what is the point of Jazz?!

‘Whiplash’ is the name and it feels that way. The Jazz ‘standard’ along with ‘Caravan’ a mope familiar one describe and provide the centrality of the thread which takes us across small School based but high achieving Jazz competition episodes which act as a form of divertissement to the main score – that of the musically being drawn through Blood and Claw (a website exists!) up close and beautifully filmed – encountered which at times seem as voyeuristic torture acts. We are witness to the demands and Andrew Neyman Is equal to delivering what he has been taught.
The names are skittish. Andrews real name Miles Teller and JK Simmons aka, Terence Fletcher, the Fletch arrow tuned, chewed thoroughly.
In taped hands rest the fingertips as extensions of the human rendering the innermost on this ancient instrument the drum. There also goes Superwoman Julie Neymar as a name of the times – no connection to the film whatsoever but Native American fusion.
The only love element in the film happens to be the Rory McIlroy type.
I’ll leave that hanging. He does.

His playing (not Rory’s but close,) is figured around the classic kit.
Every beat around his circular reach is known and every measure is – and here it is massively apparent – the kit is an animal to be tamed and ever service of music is sought of it.
The fine fill of brushes matching hearts cadence while below the bass drum is everyone in the units earshot key underpinning beat.
No matter how inconsequential a note might appear the players from the trombone to the clarinet, to the soprano sax, to the strings of bass and guitar all owe their perception of what goes on to the drums.

It is never do evident when latter on several performance show that Jazz at the finest union of music delivered as a giant memorable dynamic which takes the listener into a bodily felt union with the band. It is the music of democracy and community. Played as a pure recognition of interracial and irrepressible earthly wonder.
Except in the hearing, by being in the presence of this emotive charge it is tangible while being heavens expressed.
image
Observatoire on life
It is up to you to use your observations and se how this fragile and seemingly era based music has no chance of remaining static and reflective. Every generation one after the other learn to discover its command over the classically trained and it becomes real time magic. Interpretation is famously about listening to the spaces within the sound. The estrangement of notes.
The Art never evaporates.
Recently, one CP, a fellow on Facebook identified a Nina Simone rendition, if that is what is can be loosely attributed as, of singing Feelings at the Montreaux Jazz Festival of circa. 73 in a movement almost Beckett inspired, of interrupting interpretation as it became obvious the ethereal was upon her, she became overwhelmed it is co-junction on several different levels as the listener. It was perilously close to being a Carl Andre pice of modern analysis.

So you think that (crit?) pretentious rubbish? Close to Pseuds Corner?
It is whatever you make it and the collective resources of your own thoughts may or may not embrace the extent to which we rely on the Arts to produce – not pre-curated thought processes but to unify and reveal the hidden there as simple evidence of a force which is extraordinarily contained in all of us.
Of Africa we are and of Africa so is Jazz as science and product.
How is that?! Listen widely. Jazz epiphany on 6 January.
We are late but what the hell. The two faces of January turn the year onto us.
Origins
It is a City sound unlike the prequel of Country folklore and imported narrative based songs associated with the vast rural spaces.

It’s hard to think of a Grand Canyon or Texas handle on Jazz.
Influences came into the big screen cinematic portrayals eventually via. The Gerswins, Berekley, big country music which suited the big screen. Oklahoma an instant nostalgia presented in the newly 3,000 seater cinemas and often Broadway stimulated show business.
image
Here is today’s generation displaying the art of musicianship in the form making of Jazz is an integral justification of Americas sense of self.
Both races are represented in this as the vibe. The players are youthful scholars at the fictional New York Schafer School which sucks in excellence and budding talent.
Buddy Rich the drummers big band leader supreme is the core student Andrew prime loader of studious appraisal. He is inducted into a school set up band by the industrial ferociously driven and therefore corrosive egomaniac Fletcher. Proud of his Hugh Jackman like big arms (turns out he’s a pianist!) he escorts his shine, both bald head clean shaven head, his black shod shoes into the precision of the room of the School where a band assembles. His set up and his direct tool of control. Known as the Studio, it seems this is the martial core part of the work of a Jazz semester.

America has its form of educational style which deliver greatness in awkward uninhibited professionals as dynamically American. Think Lawyers, Scientists, Medicians, Philosophers and Journalists, those last two a case apart, and compare with the spectrum educations in India, (elitist) South America (colonial) English (eclectic elitism) German (Bauhaus, Baccalaureate) and the range seems also democratic.

Unfortunately this democratic rhythm to education is in this visualisation of a musical kind brings us into the Deadman walking opprobrium that is Fletcher’s heavy homophobic, racial stereotyping, mid America hating, myosin it’s attitude which is feigned but practiced as it is in keeping with the directions Jazz in his mind congregates around.

Jazz is nothing of the sort of course. The likes of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin pursued their genius of vocal dexterity inside the macho world of large ensembles.

Andrew is faced with this acidic reckoning and the tutor Fletcher opens up implausibly – if he didn’t know of Buddy a Rich before hand he needn’t have bothered turning up but the Buddy Rich album Birdland (joe Zwaninul) my personal talisman of music, appeared to be advised! listening! As if.

I recalled the Weather Report of my own ears induction in the sound of live Jazz, then regarded as – well it was a sideline of progressive music as others would have it, – except in the band the Austrian born, Vienna born, classically trained Joe Zwaniul.

JW was not only author of Birdland but the free expressionist exponent and core influence for the likes of Miles Davis and all players surrounding, the never to be buried Jazz Gods messengers music trail. His In a Silent Way setting up another stage and level of Jazz which gave license to the likes of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis to create their own dominion.

This is the sphere of worldly Jazz Fletcher wishes Andrew to follow on from.
You can see this in every searing, humiliating frame Fletcher knows his gift is not sufficient to carry his own broad and well rendered skills. The teacher has found a protege and that is for him a fix except he almost destroys the prospect. The driving and completion, some false excruciating scenes are exercises in non modal countenance
image

Conclusion. 3+###
Making their mark is the premise. As a young actor Miles Teller excels as the encouraged and discouraged but always courageous central character. JK Simmons tries his dampest, the repertoire for him is limited to serious grimacing face pulling enraged, sometimes a tad inanimate physicality, hand conduct with the repose generated by his contained thoughtfulness delivered by a face full of Bourbon or stronger muscle depletion character.

The film is a handsome piece of film making from the first film Director
and the choice is perfect imperious winter hardship at arms length viewing.
It’s entertaining and musically interesting without fail for those risen above novice, rookie – the pupil in class and I think this has been my only spoiler and it’s believe me minimal – is a squeaker – because it opens ears to the directions of Jazz. The self same name of Bill Evans with Miles Davis collaborative double album. It comes nowhere near the Jazz fusion esoteric drumming driven out by Billy Cobham and other advanced drummers.
The jazz playing gets about a three as it is schoolyard and ‘good playing’ the higher plain jazz is instrumentally there to be found live and in all cross over platforms yours to discover.

I got a thrill out of it tapping away discretely and entering the action belonging vibe that Jazz subscribes uniquely.

Looking at others stretching themselves to get there is a very common harmonious audience player relationship and seeing all those visually expressive instruments swing together is bravo musical film making.
Enjoy but don’t destroy.
It looks like being popular and students will get a kick out of it.

John Graham

14 January 2015

Belfast

Opens at QFT Belfast on this Friday 15th January and other screens around.