In very sad news, beloved British screen icon Sir John Hurt has passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 77. Since his screen debut in 1962, Hurt has appeared in over 120 roles on film and television, including starring roles in some of the iconic films of all time.
Everyone has a different role they most fondly remember John Hurt for. Older television viewers probably remember two of his biggest breakthroughs, as Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant and Caligula in the shocking I, Claudius. As he moved into film, he gave blistering, award-winning performances in Midnight Express, The Elephant Man, and Nineteen Eighty-Four as well as an iconic supporting role in Alien (the chestburster scene is still regularly recognised as one of the greatest horror scenes of all time).
As he got older, he took supporting roles in some of the biggest films and TV series around. Many young adults will fondly remember growing up watching him as Ollivander in the Harry Potter series, or appearing as the War Doctor in Doctor Who. Never afraid to take on big budget blockbusters, Hurt gave gravitas and warmth to minor roles in everything from V for Vendetta to Hellboy to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Despite his advancing age, Hurt never stopped giving tremendous roles in smaller independent films. In the last fifteen years, he gave some of the best performances of his career in The Proposition, 44 Inch Chest and Jim Jarmusch’s wonderful Only Lovers Left Alive. It’s only fitting that the last film released before his death was the Oscar-nominated Jackie.
Of course, it’s impossible to mention Sir John Hurt without sparing a thought for his voiceover work. Whether you know him from children’s classic Watership Down or Lars Von Trier’s disturbing arthouse drama Dogville, Hurt’s voice always gave the onscreen visuals importance, no matter what he was reading. Without Hurt’s gravelly voice, would the British campaign informing viewers about the effects of AIDS have been half as successful?
To put it simply, there are very few actors as important, iconic, and consistently excellent as Sir John Hurt was. No matter the film or series, whether award-winning drama, big budget blockbuster, or beloved children’s stories, John Hurt always treated them with importance, dignity, and respect. A multiple Oscar-nominee and a member of the BAFTA fellowship, Hurt truly was one of the greatest British actors of all time. A cinema without his gravelly voice is too sad to think about.
RIP Sir John Hurt
By Harry J. Ford
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In just two films, Damien Chazelle has announced himself as one of the boldest, most unashamedly old-fashioned directors of his generation. After achieving Oscar-glory with Whiplash, a blistering thriller set in the unique world of jazz drumming, Chazelle is back with another love letter to jazz that’s sweeping the awards season. A full-blown musical, La La Land is an energised, entertaining homage to the history of Hollywood that’s struck a chord with audiences across the world, despite ultimately telling a rather familiar story.
Is there a harder emotion for actors to portray than depression? Even the most acclaimed performances tend to be over-the-top, wailing to heaven above and unleashing floods of tears to show the audience how upset they are (see: Sean Penn in Mystic River, Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball). In Kenneth Lonergan’s incredible Manchester by the Sea, Casey Affleck delivers a performance of such restraint, such deeply-repressed trauma and barely-controlled rage, that it makes even the subtlest performances look excessive in comparison. As Lee Chandler, a Boston handyman with a dark secret, he gives one of the finest performances of his generation.
With last night’s Golden Globes, the Awards Season feels like it’s underway properly. It was a mostly unsurprising night for awards, with only a few wins that felt entirely unpredictable. Let’s break down the evening:
Certainly the least surprising story from the night was just how well Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land performed. Most people predicted its win in the Best Musical or Comedy, and while I would have loved to see Sing Street win, it had no chance. It was also highly likely that both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone would take home the prizes for Best Actor and Actress in a Musical or Comedy respectively. Again, the competition wasn’t outstanding, with only Colin Farrell for The Lobster and Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins posing any kind of threat. The same can be said for Best Score and Best Original Song: almost nothing else could compete (especially seeing as how the Globes nominated songs from Sing over Sing Street).
However, Damien Chazelle took home two huge wins for Best Director and Best Screenplay. While he was a solid bet for Best Director (Barry Jenkins seemed to be his biggest threat), defeating both Jenkins and Kenneth Lonergan for Best Screenplay was hugely unexpected. Lonergan’s screenplay for drama Manchester by the Sea has taken home almost every Screenplay award so far; will this be the case at the Oscars?
One of the most exciting parts of the night was seeing just how unpredictable the drama categories are shaping up. In the big win of the night, Barry Jenkin’s coming-of-age drama Moonlight defeated Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea for Best Drama. Gaining a huge amount of momentum, Moonlight seems to be the only rival to La La Land at the moment. The Oscars famously love films about Hollywood and infamously don’t tend to favour black filmmakers, so it’s going to be a close call on the night.
While Casey Affleck was the favourite to win Best Actor in a Drama, almost nobody predicted Isabelle Huppert would defeat heavyweights Amy Adams and Natalie Portman to win Best Actress for her performance in the disturbing French drama Elle. Some weren’t even sure she’d get an Oscar nomination, so this has definitely gained her a lot of buzz. Even more unexpected was Aaron Taylor-Johnson winning Best Supporting Actor for Nocturnal Animals. I recently gave Taylor-Johnson the same prize, but I think almost everybody assumed the award was going to Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. It was less surprising to see Viola Davis win Best Supporting Actress for Fences; only Michelle Williams seems to stand between Davis and an Oscar now.
In the two other films awards, Zootopia deservedly won Best Animated Feature (Kubo and the Two Strings would have been a worthy winner, but wasn’t it surprising that Pixar didn’t get nominated?), while Elle somewhat unexpectedly defeated Toni Erdmann for Best Foreign Language Film. It would have been nice to see Divines win, but it was a competitive category all round.
Despite having no bearing on the Oscars, it was still interesting to see which way the Globes went in terms of TV awards. The Night Manager looks set to sweep the BAFTAs after winning the Miniseries awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, while Netflix once again achieved success with a Best Drama win for The Crown. The People vs. OJ Simpson proved to be a big hit, winning Best Miniseries and Best Actress for Sarah Paulson.
Though the Golden Globes are ultimately meaningless pap voted for by a bunch of crusty old white men who tend to nominate poor performances in order to meet celebrities, it’s still fun to see how Awards Season is shaping up. La La Land is looking unstoppable, Moonlight is looking like a feisty contender, and Casey Affleck must already be creating space on his trophy shelf. I can’t wait for February 26th.
By Harry J. Ford
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We are coming to the end of the Ford On Film Awards 2016. The major film awards have been dished out after Arrival took home the prize for Best Scene. Now, all we have time for are the odds and ends, including Best Television Series, Best Television Episode, and Worst Film, among a few others. It’s been a fantastic year for film and television. Here’s hoping 2017 is just as good.
Here are the results of the remaining Ford On Film awards for 2016:
Best Television Series:
A gripping, provocative drama that tackled the disturbing Operation Yewtree scandal with subtlety and complexity, Jack Thorne’s outstanding National Treasure saw Robbie Coltrane return to TV screens as Paul Finchley, a beloved stand-up comedian accused of rape. Was Paul innocent? That was the central mystery at the heart of National Treasure, but the outcome was unpredictable, partly down to Thorne’s superb writing, and partly due to the incredible performance from Coltrane, so easily flicking between likable and sincere to nasty and unnerving. Along with Coltrane, National Treasure saw excellent, awards-worthy work from Julie Walters as Finchley’s faithful wife and Andrea Riseborough as his drug addicted daughter. Look out for National Treasure at the BAFTAS, where it deserves a lot of success.
Best Television Episode:
Bojack Horseman – ‘That’s Too Much, Man’
At his lowest ebb, Bojack meets up with recovering junkie Sarah Lynn, and the two go on the bender to end all benders. An alarmingly frank depiction of depression and alcoholism, That’s Too Much, Man is difficult even for Bojack Horseman, a show whose main character has turned everyone in his life against him. “I wanna be an architect” was possibly the most moving line of the year.
After handing out the award for Best Director to Nicolas Winding Refn yesterday for his insane work on The Neon Demon, it’s time to hand the last official award in the Ford On Film Awards 2016 (tomorrow will be my odds and ends, including TV awards). The Best Scene award is perhaps the toughest to decide this year, as there have been some tremendous scenes. From powerful drama to awe-inspiring spectacle and comedy that made me cry laughing, it’s been stunning, and many great scenes had to be left out. Here are my choices for Best Scene of 2016:
Sloths – Zootopia
Driving the Mercedes – Divines
The runway – The Neon Demon
Pool Party – American Honey
Fond of going off on wild tangents and incidental anecdotes, American Honey’s most memorable scene involved magazine saleswoman Star (Sasha Lane) taking up three random strangers’ offer to join them at a barbecue. Featuring tequila, worms, and eventually a loaded pistol, the scene started bright and breezy before slowly descending into all-out madness.
After giving Oulaya Amamra and Adam Driver my awards for Best Actress and Best Actor yesterday, I’m today turning behind the camera, to look over the best directors of the last year. There have been some stunning filmmakers in action over the year, from those who do tremendous work with actors to those with a flair for visuals and beyond. As always, I’m looking at films released in the UK that weren’t nominated for any Academy Awards (sorry Alejandro G. Innaritu, this is one award you won’t be winning).
Without further ado, here are my picks for Best Director:
Jim Jarmusch – Paterson
Sebastien Schipper – Victoria
Taika Waiti – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Jeremy Saulnier – Green Room
Lucile Hadzihalilovic – Evolution
One of 2016’s most underseen films, Evolution was a dark, disturbing mixture of hallucinatory atmosphere and Cronenberg body horror. Only Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s second feature (and her first in a decade), her subtle storytelling and ambiguous plotting turned Evolution’s hypnotic visuals into a waking nightmare.
After yesterday’s Best Supporting Actress and Actor wins for Hayley Squires and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, I’m rounding up the acting awards today by giving out my prizes for Best Actress and Best Actor. It’s been an incredible year for performances, so let’s get started with the award for Best Actress.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead “Michelle – 10 Cloverfield Lane”
Kate Siegel “Maddie – Hush“
Michelina Olszanska “Olga Hepnarová – I, Olga Hepnarová”
Krisha Fairchild “Krisha – Krisha”
Kate Beckinsale “Lady Susan – Love & Friendship“
So often relegated to being a rom-com love interest or generic action heroine, Kate Beckinsale proved she deserves so much more with her terrifically sharp, hilarious portrayal of Lady Susan in Love & Friendship. Relishing the chance to deliver Jane Austen’s spiky dialogue, Beckinsale swept through the film with the force of a hurricane.
Following on from yesterday’s Best Film picks, here are my choices for the best supporting performances of 2016. First up, the award for Best Supporting Actress:
Bebe Cave “Violet – Tale of Tales“
Jena Malone “Ruby – The Neon Demon”
Imogen Poots “Amber – Green Room”
Lucy Boynton “Raphina – Sing Street”
Though marketed as a musical comedy, Sing Street had a lot of sadness at its heart, courtesy of Lucy Boynton’s lonely wannabe-model. Sparky and sharp but always in danger of showing her vulnerable side, Boynton’s performance underlined the music with just the right amount of melancholy.
It’s that time of the year again! The grim slog that was 2016 is over, and now we can look forward to the grim slog that will be 2017. While the news of the world looked more and more bleak, we always have cinema to look forward to. Though some of the biggest films disappointed, there were more than enough terrific films to make my picks for the top ten of the year difficult. It’s been such a great year that favourites including Swiss Army Man, I, Daniel Blake, and Zootropolis are among those nowhere to be found. As usual, there’s only two criteria for making my list:
- The film has to have been released in the UK in 2016. Sorry Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea, I’ll get to you next year.
- It can’t have been nominated for an Oscar in 2016. As much as I love Spotlight and Son of Saul, they’ve been talked about more than enough.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the ten best films released in the UK in 2016:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Everybody Wants Some!!
The Neon Demon
When John Carney followed up his wonderful cult musical Once with the bland, uninspired Begin Again, many presumed he was a one-hit wonder. Thankfully, Carney proved his critics wrong this year with the wonderful, touching Sing Street. Set in 1985, Sing Street was a deeply personal affair about a teen boy escaping the confines of his Catholic school by forming a pop band. The music was terrific, the script both moving and hilarious, and the young, mostly unknown cast were great, helped by a superb supporting turn from Jack Reynor.