It’s that time of year again…

Yes, that most anticipated of Awards Ceremonies, The Oscars, sees all kinds of celebrities turning out in their most amazing looking threads and practising their most gracious of losing faces for this one time of year.

Of course, this year was no different, and England in particular has a lot riding on this, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, with The King’s Speech nominated in as many categories as it can possibly manage. From the Red Carpet, everyone seemed rightly excited for the close calls in this year’s nominees. Everyone has their favourites, but only one can win. I know where my money is!

James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a nice job of hosting together, but of course when you put two attractive people together like that you’re hoping to get an entertaining back and forth (especially when half-way through they come back out dressed as each other). Plus, it gives all the geeks in the audience a chance at imagining how Anne Hathaway will look when she plays Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises next year!

Best Art Direction surprisingly didn’t go to Inception but to Alice in Wonderland, which I suppose must be purely for all its CGI and imaginative creations.

Best Supporting Actress went to Melissa Leo for her performance in The Fighter, but it did mean that both Helena Bonham Carter and Hayley Steinfeld missed out (which gave Helena a reason for looking moody and gothy), which confused me as I was sure they put Hayley Steinfeld into this category so she might win since she was on the screen for 90% of the time, which would surely mean the Lead Actress in True Grit was Matt Damon…

Best Animated Feature obviously went to Toy Story 3, but being one of three films nominated it was almost to be expected. Best Adapted Screenplay must have been a very close call because 127 Hours, The Social Network and True Grit were all very well written, but the award went to The Social Network as I hoped. Best Original Screenplay brought the first Oscar to The King’s Speech, and David Seidler made a great acceptance speech for it. I couldn’t have called In a Better World for Best Foreign Language film as I think most people expected it to go to Biutiful, but there you go.

Another tough call came for Best Supporting Actor, but Christian Bale took the award away, which I’m guessing is due to the amount of weight he lost purely to perform his role in The Fighter. Inside Job took Best Documentary, but that’s probably because it exposed massive financial fraud to a nation that got hit by it!

Inception took away a total of 4 awards, including Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and surprisingly Cinematography, which I expected to go to True Grit for its scenery and settings. Best Original Score, to my huge excitement, went to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which meant I got to see the man that fronted Nine Inch Nails accepting an Oscar whilst simultaneously feeling obviously awkward about it!

Best Director, without any surprise, went to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech, even though I was rooting for David Fincher for The Social Network, but at least he made a good acceptance speech so you can’t fault him for that. Best Actress went to Natalie Portman, and again that is likely due to the amount of dance training she went through for her role in Black Swan.

No prizes for guessing that Best Actor went to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech, as well as winning Best Feature Film. That means 4 Oscars for The King’s Speech and good night for English Films!

So, until next year, we can all go away and rent all the films from tonight, and remember just why they won the awards they did. Or, alternatively, bitch continuously about how our favourites really should have won that one award that they were nominated for instead of that other which wasn’t nearly as good…

Not Advised @ The Joiners, 21/2/11

Not Advised at the Joiners

The fact that there are people queing in the cold February mist half an hour before the doors open at The Joiners for the evening is surely a testament to how quickly this show sold out. Of course, this is no surprise when you consider tonight is a showcase of mostly homegrown talent from Southampton, and the homecoming show of Southampton’s own pop-punk prodigies Not Advised.

People are still ambling their way into the main room from the misty weather when it’s time for local newcomer James McVey to open. As such he starts playing his mixture of acoustic and feel-good pop-rock to a half empty room when he opens with an acoustic cover of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. It’s a reflection of the general candy-coating of McVey’s songs and it’s a good cover to start with before his backing band, all with trendy hair styles and shirts, start off the set with Breathe. McVey does manage to make an impression on the gathering crowd with his melodic pop tunes similar to a British The Rocket Summer, and his other songs All Eyes on You and Who I Am Now enhance this familiarity. Oddly enough, he closes his set with another pop song cover, this time tackling Ke$ha’s Tik Tok. Some people might question why he opens and closes his set with cover songs, but he manages to put an indie-rock slant on the pop tune that actually turns it into a pretty good cover and gets a good audience reaction for an opening act.

Second on the bill tonight are The Holiday, who hit the stage with their bouncy pop-rock tunes and snappy suits. Their sound comes across at times like a strange mixture of Weezer and McFly, with lashings of indie thrown in. After they open with You and Me, they keep the pace of their set moving with The Weekend before finishing with a crowd sing-along.

Pegasus Bridge is the only band on tonight’s bill from outside Southampton, namely Manchester. But the fact they’re not part of the Southern crowd here tonight doesn’t mean they get less credit – in fact, Pegasus Bridge are creating quite the name for themselves. Their jaunty, synth-laced indie rock has earned them spots on Radio 1’s Introducing Stage among other recent achievements. Their song Paris gets a hefty reaction from the audience members already familiar with them, and the slow and moody melody manages to reinforce their sound, like a mixture of The Kooks and Twin Atlantic with added techno. They round off their set with their single Ribena, during which Jim Thomas from Not Advised makes his way on stage to join them much to the joy of the crowd! It definitely seems like Pegasus Bridge are going places, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear more from them in the future.

When the lights dim and the refrain from In the Hall of the Mountain King plays, it is the sign that heralds Not Advised and their homecoming show on the last night of their UK tour. With their fans feverish from both excitement and the rising heat of the packed out room, Not Advised open by diving straight into I’ll Call You A Winner, frontman Jim conducting the crowd to go accordingly crazy. Closely following this are fan favourites The A.R.K. and Jane Says Left which, as expected, gets the crowd singing along at the tops of their lungs. Not Advised have obviously been busy while touring, as they have not one but three new songs to play during their set tonight. The first, All I Need, carries on the distinct sound that Not Advised have and looks like it could bring a bright future to the band.

But this evening is not without its losses – Not Advised lay to rest one of their earlier songs A Red Light Situation, as they announce it won’t be played live anymore. As such, they make it an occasion to remember by turning it into an acoustic rendition and allow the huge crowd of the evening to sing most of it themselves. As if saying goodbye to the old, their final new song of the evening Good News ushers in a new phase of their career and is a sure sign that their upcoming album will be just as great as their EP. They round off the evening with their most recent singles, the epic anthem Right Now and the final big sing-along of the evening The Worlds Not Ready, bringing the evening to a riotous close.

If this is the future of homegrown pop-punk, then the future is very bright for Not Advised!

Paul (Contains Spoilers)

Film poster for PaulJust going to show that there is hope for the hopeless-at-love yet, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have released their latest comedic masterpiece Paul to coincide with Valentine’s Day. A deliberate stunt against a holiday made up by card companies? Perhaps, but personally I’ve been looking forward to this new film from the Spaced duo for quite a while. And I have to say right away, I was not disappointed!

Paul has been a film on the cards for quite a while, originally coming from some doodles Simon Pegg did on the set of a previous movie. The character Paul eventually developed from these doodles into the wise-cracking, foul-mouthed slacker from another planet this film centres around. Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are two man-child geeks on a dream journey around the famous UFO sighting hot-spots of the U.S. after going to Comic-Con and meeting their literary hero. Mid-way through their geeky road trip in their RV, they encounter a crashed car and have a not-so-brief encounter with a chain-smoking, cargo shorts clad alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) who crash landed in the area 60 years ago. Graeme and Clive set out on a mission to help their new slacker extra-terrestrial BFF “phone home” and get back to his own planet before the FBI take him back into captivity and cut him up to harvest his alien powers.

Ok, so it’s perhaps not the most original plot, after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz played so heavily on their twists on expectations, but it’s really the characters that make Paul what it is. Part of the brilliance of Paul is that Pegg and Frost are pretty much playing themselves – geeky yet totally lovable man-children who are secretly very creative, funny and talented at art and writing (Clive is an author and Graeme is his illustrator). Even Seth Rogen plays the same character he normally does – the foul-mouthed, weed-smoking slacker who speaks his mind with very little thought or tact behind what he’s saying. The kind of person you wouldn’t really associate with in real life (unless you were one yourself), but you love to watch to see what they’ll do next. It’s not really a far cry from his character in Pineapple Express who he normally plays, but instead of getting samey like you would think, it works in his favour in Paul.

As can only be expected from a script written by Pegg and Frost, there are sci-fi film references a-plenty throughout Paul – everything from E.T. to Jaws, Aliens to Star Trek gets a nod in some way or another, and with cameos from Sigourney Weaver, Jane Lynch (surprisingly enough not being Sue Sylvester from Glee for once!) and Jeffrey Tambor, Paul is a veritable treasure hunt of “spot the film reference”!

I’d also like to point out that, although I didn’t get it at first and had to look it up, Agent Lorenzo Zoyle is another film reference – it’s a very old Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon film called Lorenzo’s Oil, which is why Jason Bateman does that little double-take as Pegg and Frost repeat his name together, as if he hadn’t even realised it before! It did take a bit of searching on my behalf, but because I noticed how many searches were turning up this post, I decided I should make a point of it. You’re searches are over, people! That is the answer!

The only thing that really faults Paul is that Edgar Wright wasn’t on board as director this time round. Not that Greg Mottola didn’t do a brilliant job with Paul – in fact, its amazing Pegg and Frost managed to find someone as on-the-level with them as Wright is – but I couldn’t help feeling like some bits would have benefitted from Wright’s input, such as avoiding the inevitable Hollywood ending, but it ends up working all the same.

If you were to get excited about any film this month, then Paul is definitely that film! Paul gets an intergalactic 9 out of 10 stars for its genius comedy and effort on all fronts from the cast and writers. Another triumph for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost!

Never Let Me Go (Contains Spoilers)

Perhaps to some, the idea of releasing a soppy emotional drama around the time of Valentine’s Day seems a bit clichéd by today’s standards. If anything, it would probably make more sense to release something entirely different without the hassle of being an emotional wreck as the credits roll (so yes, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I’m thanking you for Paul ahead of time!). But I think the release of Never Let Me Go around this date is more coincidental, considering there are Oscar Nominations involved.

Never Let Me Go, in a nutshell, is about an alternate version of England which, in 1952, experienced a massive medical leap forward and managed to perfect Human Cloning and allow humans to live way past 100. By the 1970’s, human clones are raised in boarding schools until they start donating their organs in their 20’s/30’s, and keep donating until they “complete” their use and die. Ethically questionable stuff, yes? Except, Never Let Me Go hardly touches on the ethical basis of the story very much, but actually focuses on the love triangle between three clones who live out their life together: Kathy H (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley).

At first, I figured Never Let Me Go had a lot of promise to deal with two different, intertwining subjects at once – that of human cloning and its ethics and the relationships between the three characters. Unfortunately, it must be said that these hopes were dropped when I realised the cloning aspect of it was actually being used as an undercurrent to these characters lives, and why their time together is so short. The cloning is dealt with in very blunt ways (i.e. the text exposition at the start, and their school teacher getting emotional and explaining their cloning very bluntly) and doesn’t get brought to the foreground much, but instead explains the naivety of the clones and why they go through the motions of life, never really aspiring to more than they are. Perhaps the source material by Kazuo Ishiguro deals with it differently, but the film seemed to drag for the most part.

The majority of Never Let Me Go is pretty slow, starting off with the characters’ lives at school and how their love triangle starts. Credit to the kids, they’re brilliant actors and made this part of the film a bit easier to sit through. Keira Knightley didn’t manage to make me change my opinion of her being a loud-mouthed stick insect too much either, but she does redeem her character when she admits to keeping Kathy and Tommy away from each other despite how much they obviously love each other, and that made her character more interesting for me. Carey Mulligan was good as her character, but it just seemed that all the characters lacked depth. But that might be intentional, considering they’re clones!

Never Let Me Go really only gets going about 30 minutes from the end, when some answers start coming to light. But by this point, the questions being answered don’t really matter much anymore, and you really just want to know what’s going to happen to the characters even though it’s been made obvious that all clones die by age 30. The real message of the film comes in Kathy’s very last line where she relates human life to a clone’s life being the same in the end, and you feel like this could have been something dealt with throughout the whole film.

Essentially, Alex Garland knows how to write a good script as the dialogue was very good, but overall the story could have progressed a lot quicker than it did and became more about emotional relationships than dealing with life. I give Never Let Me Go 5 out of 10, but mostly for the compelling last part of the film.