Tom Shone

  • THE AFTERLIFE OF BLADE RUNNER

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 1st 2015

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  • YEARNING TO BE YOUNG AGAIN

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, March 23rd 2015

    The sanctification of youth in our culture is so absolute, its centrality so assumed, that the laughter inspired by Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young”, a brisk, biting comedy about the heartbreak attendant on middle-aged infatuation with the young, has something of the explosive force of newly-liberated taboo. That gentle mooing you hear is the sound of sacred cows being led to the slaughter. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a couple fending off the encroachments of middle age in Brooklyn’s comfortable Cobble Hill. Josh is a documentary film-maker, although the documentary he has been labouring over for the last ten years defies his every attempt to explain it, let alone edit it into releasable shape. It isn’t so much a job, let alone a hobby, so much as a dark suck-zone barring him from embarking on any other activities, such as going on holidayor trying for a baby.

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  • HITCHCOCK GETS A MAKEOVER

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, March 9th 2015

    Death becomes Alfred Hitchcock. He died in 1980, but his reputation post-mortem seems to have grown only larger, looming across the room and up the walls like a Fritz Lang shadow. The centenary of his birth, in 1999, was the occasion for a small avalanche of books celebrating his work. In 2012, the annual poll of film critics conducted by those auteurist Grand Poobahs over at Sight and Sound magazine voted Hitchcock's "Vertigo" the greatest film of all time, ousting Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" from its more-than-30-year reign. Quite a feat for a film about fear of heights: Hitchcock's reputation these days induces its own form of vertigo. "One reason why the portrait of an obsession might in time overtake the portrait of an ambition," suggests the literary critic Michael Wood in his elegant, elliptical new book, "Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much", "is that we have become devoted to representations of what we can't change and can't understand, as we certainly were not in the 1950s."

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  • TOM SHONE'S OSCARS PREDICTIONS

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, February 21st 2015

    To start with, the most hotly contested categories. Best Picture is as close a race as can be between "Birdman" (above) and "Boyhood", two Davids in a field with no Goliaths. "Birdman" won all the guild awards; "Boyhood" the BAFTAs. The Academy’s preferential ballot would seem to favour Linklater's more mild-mannered "Boyhood", but its slightly fey, gentle spirit has always struck me as unlikely to close the deal with the steak-eaters—the set-builders and effects guys—who vote for films like "Braveheart". Gun to head, I’m going to go with "Birdman" riding the same you-don’t-have-to-be-mad-to-work-here spirit that helped Bob Fosse’s "All That Jazz" to its wins, making this the third Best Picture winner in a row set in the world of show business, after "Argo" and "The Artist". "Birdman" is out there for the Academy, no question, but in the absence of any film addressing the state of the nation or the way we live now, maybe they’ll settle for a baring of the showbiz soul.

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  • HOLLYWOOD'S COMPUTER PROBLEM

    At the Cinema: Michael Mann’s new film has difficulties with digital—echoing, Tom Shone argues, those of film-making as a whole

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  • SADOMASOCHISM WITHOUT THE SEX

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, February 11th 2015

    “I’ve always been good at people,” declares Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, pictured) at the start of Fifty Shades of Grey. Audiences will have to decide for themselves whether he qualifies as one himself. Businessman, multibillionaire, philanthropist, he sits behind his desk at the top of a sleek skyscraper, named after himself like Trump Tower, except that everything here is not gold but tasteful graphite. Even the bodyguards have designer stubble. “I exercise control in all things,” he tells Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who has come to interview him for her student newspaper, although the talk soon turns to personal matters. “I don’t do romance,” he tells her, staring hard at her through his eyebrows, his usual expression, narrowing his eyes still tighter when she tells a joke. He doesn't really do humour. He doesn't do much, in fact. “I don’t do the girlfriend thing,” he says. “I don’t do the dating and movies.” As Adam Ant might have interjected at this point, “Don't drink, don't smoke…what do you do?”

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  • THE OSCARS RACE HEATS UP

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, February 9th 2015

    Even before the detection of Lou Gehrig’s disease while studying cosmology at Cambridge, Eddie Redmayne (above, centre) makes us acutely conscious of Stephen Hawking’s body in “The Theory of Everything”. He inhabits it the same way small boys operate remote-controlled toys—with a mixture of offhandedness and feral concentration. His gangly frame is there to do his bidding, if he thinks about it at all. Shambling, shy and slouched of posture, hands shoved in pockets, he peers out from behind an unruly mop of hair, enunciating his words in a soft tumble, his mouth caught up in a crooked Cheshire-cat grin, as if faintly abashed by his own brilliance. Just how much of himself Redmayne brings to the role was evident from his graceful turns on the podium at the Screen Actors Guild awards (SAGs) and, last night, the BAFTAs, where he picked up Best Actor.

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  • LIKE A BLOW-UP BUSTER KEATON

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 30th 2014

    If Apple ever got its hands on Florence Nightingale it might end up with something like Baymax, the big, inflatable white blob at the centre of the new Disney animation "Big Hero 6". Baymax is a robot caregiver who asks people, “On a scale of one to ten, how much does it hurt?” in a soothing, slightly effeminate voice like that of HAL from "2001" (in actuality Scott Adsit from "30 Rock"), and who dispenses hugs that envelop you like a duvet. “It’s like spooning a marshmallow,” says one of the teen heroes of the tale, although adult viewers may find older memories prodded by Baymax’s air of roly-poly befuddlement. When his batteries are low, he lollops drunkenly across the screen like Chaplin on the deck of a rocking boat in "The Immigrant", and when he gets stuck crawling through a window—that old fat-man routine—he extricates himself by partially deflating himself with a gnat-like "peeooowwww" sound while maintaining a straight face that would be the envy of Buster Keaton. But then deadpan has always been the secret weapon of animators: keeping a straight face is so much easier when you’re nothing but a straight line to begin with.  

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  • J.C. CHANDOR'S SURGICAL PRECISION

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 24th 2015

    As Abel Morales, the oil distributor struggling to keep his business afloat in "A Most Violent Year", Oscar Isaac (above) wears a big camel-hair coat, looks people dead in the eye and speaks in the crisp, precise diction of a man who has learned that power comes with not raising your voice. “You must take the path that is most right,” he says—a lesson close to the heart of this sombre, slightly dry, urgent film about one man’s attempts not to become a gangster in the New York of 1981. Its director, J.C. Chandor, has chosen his location and period with great care. The drama stems from the fact that in the New York of 1981—a city that boasted more than 1,800 murders—there were probably more reasons for a struggling oil distributor to become a gangster than there were reasons not to. It’s a film about criminality’s slow, gravitational suck—the steady drip, drip, drip of difficulties that one day makes brushing past the law seem easier than waiting in line.   

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  • BOYHOOD: SMALL FILM, BIG CHANCE

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 15th 2015

    One hesitates to use the word “egoless” with regard to Hollywood but one of the pleasures turned up by this year’s awards season has been watching the director Richard Linklater’s Capraesque path to and from the winner’s podium. His film "Boyhood", shot over a 12-year period in the life of its teenage hero, played by the newcomer Ellar Coltrane (above), has been the unlikely frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar since October. Unlikely because nothing about Linklater’s gently indolent films—from his debut, "Slacker", to "Dazed and Confused" to the "Before Sunrise" trilogy—exactly shouted “Oscar”. They don’t shout much of anything at all, offering up small-scale epiphanies and stoner pensées in a spirit of patient pointillism not a million miles away from the films of Eric Rohmer.

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