Will Oscar smile?
Although it's very hard to tell at this stage when I haven't yet seen everything, but I'm feeling awards season may have a lighter hue this year. With impressive early showings at awards such as Gotham and the Indie Spirit, comedies such as Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and David O Russell's Silver Linings Playbook look set for Oscar nominations. One can also expect plenty of nominations for Tom Hooper's musical Les Misérables and the magical fantasy of Ang Lee's Life of Pi. With Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and Ben Affleck's correctenjoyable thriller Argo expectant, it only leaves Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master in the traditional berth of serious, adult-skewed pictures that have traditionally dominated Oscar nominations. Dustin Hoffman's Quartet and Michael Haneke's Amour may have a good chance of featuring (films with very contrasting attitudes to growing old), but this could well be an Oscars that sees the popularity of the classier franchise films such as The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall acknowledged with nominations on Oscar night.
So bad it's great
What a shame British fans of Michael Jackson will not get to see Spike Lee's terrific music documentary Bad 25 in cinemas. The film, which premiered on the big screen at the Venice film festival in September, aired in a 64-minute shortened version on American TV last week on Thanksgiving – on the ABC channel, of course (it's easy as 123 – see?). Lee himself had hopes of a theatrical release, particularly as audience figures were slightly disappointing – it looks and sounds so much better in cinemas. The film, which examines the making of the album Bad in track-by-track detail, nevertheless got its full British airing on BBC2 last night (1 December) but won't be released in the UK on a DVD just yet. Bad 25 is a treasure trove for Jackson aficionados and, indeed, any fans of 1987, a very different era of pop music.
Although the album is generally regarded as inferior to both Off the Wall and Thriller, the doc makes a decent case for a reappraisal of its status as an overall package of artistic expression and control, with Jackson involved in all aspects, from the videos, the choreography, the accompanying tour, the instrumentation and production. It has a detailed look at the making of the video for Bad, directed by Martin Scorsese and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, and starring a debutant Wesley Snipes. There are great interviews with musicians and technicians, as well as some wonderful insights into Jackson's vocal and dance techniques. There is also the first footage ever shown of Jackson's Wembley Stadium gigs, taken from the singer's own archive, images of which I hadn't seen since I attended those gigs in July 1988 (a DVD of the full concert can now be found as part of the deluxe 4 four-disc box set rerelease of the Bad album). When I told Lee this at the film's after-party in Venice, he was amazed and made me tell the story to Jackson's lawyer and his family who were with him. "Tell them the story, but tell them quick," he barked.
Still, he couldn't come up with his five favourite MJ tracks when I asked him. "That's too hard," he said. "I need some time to think about it." I'm still waiting, Spike.
The European Film awards took place last night (1 December), in Malta of all places. The peripatetic ceremony, which returns to Berlin every two years after visits to cities such as Tallinn and Essen, deserves support but consistently fails to enter the mainstream of awards-season hype. Last year, when The Artist was sweeping all before it, the EFA perversely honoured Lars von Trier's controversial Antichrist.
This year, although acknowledging Haneke's awesome Amour (and the performances of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, for whom I'll be rooting come Oscar nomination day), there were also late nods for European co-production Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and British film Shame which, although merited, feel somewhat out of step. These particular films could have done with the boost to their awards campaign this time last year. While it may be refreshing to provide some sort of classy antidote to the Globes-Bafta-Oscar frenzy, I can't help feeling EFA might raise its global profile – and consequently that of its excellent, nominated films – by exerting more influence on the Oscar race. Or maybe it just doesn't care.
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