Biopics at the cinema

No illustrations – sorry!

A lot has been said and written about why suddenly the award nominations are going for films that are biographical. It isn’t hard to see why when four and a three quarters of the nominees for the Best Picture at the Oscars 2015 are just this – biopics. You might be wondering about the three quarters – I am not pulling your leg.

Birdman is a film about an actor who at one time in his career played (with phenomenal success) a super-hero called Birdman, but ever since then he (the actor) has been saddled with the character, and his career has flagged somewhat, so he tries a restart by…

the actor playing Birdman to much acclaim it must be said, is Michael Keaton, who in real life played Batman (with phenomenal success, indeed was regarded as definitively the best Batman) but whose career floundered somewhat since then, so he made a new film about an actor trying to shake off a character…ring any bells? So this is the one quarter biopic nominee.

Selma is the half, since it is not so much a biopic of Martin Luther King, as an historical film about one march – the famous Alabama March – on the long and unending road to Civil Rights and equality for African Americans. But it still fits into the general bracket by a small margin.

The other four are straightforwardly unabashed biopics: Alan Turing – The Imitation Game, Stephen Hawking – The Theory of Everything, Cheryl Strayed – Wild, Chris Kyle – American Sniper.

I haven’t seen all these films as they are not all released in the UK yet, but I have seen four of them, (three and a quarter in this scenario). Birdman was tedious, so I shall not say more on that – make up your own minds. I know some people who have walked out and some who have loved it and one who thought it was dull. I am not a “walker-out” myself, but I think if I had been…

The Imitation Game was a good film, and had many excellent features – not least the acting in many of the main parts with the notable exception of Keira Knightley (I have been beastly about her already so will not say more) and Charles Dance.

The Theory of Everything was a great film, nearly flawless. Emotionally profoundly gripping, superbly acted at every level, marvellous – quite literally in every way. It made me more sympathetic towards the author of A Brief History of Time, a book much purchased but little read. Just as I am not a quitter of the cinema, I don’t very often leave books I have started unfinished. I did read the whole book, and while I understood most of the words, I ended up not understanding what I had read…be that as it may, it left me feeling not a little out of tune with the author; the film has helped to address that.

Not that it gave me sudden insight into the science, not at all, but into the scientist and that makes all the difference. Eddie Redmayne‘s acting in this film reminds me very strongly of a much admired film from 1989, My Left Foot, with Daniel Day-Lewis (also incidentally a biopic).

Wild is a great film with some significant flaws. Great acting, Reese Witherspoon is phenomenal, and Laura Dern, who plays her mother, is quite rightly up there with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

The most epic fail is the fox! My goodness!? Who ever was responsible for that particular piece of filmic reconstruction needs help! I am sure that it was a necessary part of the story, clearly it represented a very important psychic moment for Ms Strayed, but surely in the age of CGI and superb nature filming this apparition should have been a lot better. Instead it was awful, and jarred so heavily that one snapped right out of the movie – a great shame. Someone should have shot it, or shot the shooter? (No excuses for that pun).

So what are my conclusions? These are interesting examples of the need for the cinema to draw audiences back on to the seats. There is only so much gaming and fantasy that anyone can absorb, and so many people are getting that from on-line access that the only recourse the cinema seems to have is to go back to the quasi-documentary. I am all for it, if we are going to be getting quality films like these. As I have said, Selma and American Sniper are not released in the UK yet, but once they are – expect me in the queue at the Box Office.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t been to the cinema recently, I recommend that you check these out.

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Filed under Film Review, General cinema, Travel, Uncategorized

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