February Film Preview

By Orla Smith

February is Oscar month, and the UK is catching up just in time. Whilst we’re usually winding down to the next year of film, 2016 is very much still in focus right now, maybe because of the sheer breadth of good movies the year offered us – too many to contain within 12 months. Of course, February’s north star is the critical breakthrough ‘Moonlight’, but you won’t be seeing it on this list of the month’s 5 most anticipated because I’ve already seen it – and can say that it lives up to every ounce of hype it’s garnered. ‘The Fits’ falls into that category too, and intimate doc ‘All This Panic’ is also worth seeing. Before we move onto those chosen five, there’s plenty else probably worth seeing that just missed the cut, ones particularly worth noting being ‘Tower’, ‘Prevenge’ and ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’.

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Depicts the Horrors of War Without Restraint: Review

Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in a decade doesn’t do a whole lot for him as a storyteller of the mundane, but demonstrates a skill in action and visceral chaos unmatched by many.

By Orla Smith

Is the Academy ready to forgive Mel Gibson? This frequently posed question was answered yesterday morning when he earned a nomination for Best Director, alongside five other nominations for his film – including Best Picture. Whether the man actually deserves forgiveness is another question entirely. His apologies since the incident(s) have been frustratingly double-edged, and even despite that, surely the things he’s done have been enough to exclude him from any Oscar conversations? That being said, this is the year that Casey Affleck is a dead cert to win his award, so this shouldn’t be all that surprising.

‘Jackie’ Works Fitfully, Showcasing a Brilliant Natalie Portman: Review

Portman finds the role she was made for in Pablo LarraĆ­n odd, patchy biopic.

By Orla Smith

The term ‘divisive’ is used a lot in reference to a film’s reception, often misused in fact. ‘Jackie’ embodies that word in its true sense, in a way I was unable to fathom before laying my own eyes upon it. Both camps of love and hate seemed to have completely contradictory things to say about this single piece of art, and while film often hits people different ways – as is the nature of subjectivity – it was hard to understand how, for example, Noah Oppenheim’s script could be at once awards worthy and utter trash.

‘Split’ Proves Essential Viewing for Shymalan Fans of the Present and Past: Review

M. Night Shymalan follows up his comeback piece with another step on an upward trajectory, delivering solid thrills and a final blow worth making a fuss about.

By Orla Smith

‘Strong Female Characters’: Why We Need Them and Why We Don’t

By Orla Smith

‘Strong female character’. To quote Cate Blanchett: ‘What does that mean?’ It was Blanchett who planted this seed of questioning in my head, after her constant desire to challenge the term every time she came up against it whilst doing press for ‘Carol’. At one point, she seemed to come to a conclusion. ‘It’s become a catch-all for complex’.

We often don’t say exactly what we mean. Words can adapt and change, their meanings assumed even if their initial textbook definitions don’t reflect that meaning. We label things, but those labels can act against our intentions. Instead of the language morphing to change us, sometimes we morph to change the language.

2016 Oscar Predictions: January Edition

By Orla Smith

The time has come. On Tuesday this year’s Oscar nominations will be announced. Undoubtedly, there will be much that is expected, and a few surprises – which are always the most fun and often most excruciating to witness. Back in March, I made ridiculously early predictions in the main categories, and I recently revisited them to much shock and horror (predicting ‘Collateral Beauty’ for Best Picture was not my finest hour). Since then, my regular Oscar predictions have charted the progression of this awards race, and these are the final ones, set in stone.

The 25 Best Films of 2016

By Orla Smith

The time has come to finish looking back at 2016 and start looking forward – of course, that’s ignoring the barrage of Oscar stuff we’ll be subjected to until the end of February, but this past week I’ve been submerged in making a series of lists celebrating the best we saw in cinema last year. Here is the last one, the big one: the 25 films from 2016 that hit me the hardest, ranked in a much agonised over order.