It is only a matter of time of time before someone says to me: ‘Larry Oliver, eh? Maybe they should name an awards ceremony after you.’ Actually, what they are more likely to say is, ‘are you taking that shopping trolley?’ Yes, it’s the end of 2013 when organisations whose purposes are unfamiliar (Foreign Press Association - are they bilingual?) give awards to movies that you are not likely to have heard of (FRUITVALE STATION – sounds like an aisle in the Whole Food Market). On the grounds of ‘no one is going to ask me, so I may as well do it myself’ - worked when I held a disco for one outside a portaloo off The Strand, actually I really wanted to go, but did not realise said cubicle was ‘out of order’; so was I come to think of it – I have decided in 2013 to launch the Olivers. No gift packs, though I’m pretty sure I have some party bags left over from my young ‘uns eighth birthday party. Instead awards in categories where there is one clear winner – unlike the Oscars, BAFTAs or the E3+3 talks with Iran. OK, the BAFTAs are an easy target.
Director who knows how to wear a hat
That would be Francesca Grigorini, the helmswoman of EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, a female buddy movie about a teenager (Kaya Scodelario) who takes a child minding job looking after a very unusual baby. Grigorini knows how to rock a fedora, which generally requires gentle swaying lest it be caught by the wind. She beat her main contender, Robert Rodriguez, who used his Stetson to cover up his embarrassment for MACHETE KILLS, by some distance. Rodriguez began his film with a mock trailer, MACKETE KILLS AGAIN – IN SPACE. Yes, let’s give him some. Ms Grigorini, would you like to come to the stage?
GRIGORINI: No. But I would like them to release my movie – it was due out in the States at Christmas time, what happened? It features some fine performances from Scodelario, Jessica Biel and Aneurin Barnard as Emanuel’s love interest. A killer plot twist and we filmed in a water tank. Wait, all those things are true but can’t you write me a better speech?
Most realistic car chase
We are all saddened by the passing of Paul Walker, who died in a car crash earlier this month. For that reason I cannot really support the reckless driving that takes place in the FAST AND FURIOUS series. And as for that Jason Statham cameo? Instead, I honour Laurent Cantet’s FOXFIRE, which has its protagonist Legs steal a car and attempt to escape the police. The denouement isn’t spectacular but for the few minutes in which it takes place it is gripping. The best car chases are of course the ones where we cannot predict the outcome. You can pretty much write the structure of a FAST AND FURIOUS film yourself. Only Mr Walker’s death in the passenger seat was unpredictable.
CANTET: Where’s my speech?
OLIVER: You want to speak after a pause for reflection like that?
Most realistic attack on the White House in the movies
Could anyone choose between OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN – DIE HARD set in the White House – and WHITE HOUSE DOWN – THE LAST BOY SCOUT set in the White House? Plenty of people did. OLYMPUS had it on timing. For a truly realistic attack on America’s seat of government, the award goes to THE BUTLER for Lyndon B. Johnson’s toilet scene. Man, I didn’t want to mop up after that one. Why do you think it is called THE BUTLER and not THE CLEANER. Imagine the voiceover: ‘presenting the true story of a young woman who overcame her background to clean the President’s porcelain. Meryl Streep is –‘ No, I don’t think so. Lee Daniels cannot be with us tonight, but he did want to tell American voters that the film is on DVD and Video on Demand so there is no need to request viewing discs. Oscar Campaign 2014 Weinstein-style, thank you very much.
Most convincing homage to THE WIZARD OF OZ
Like I said, there can only be one winner – IRON MAN 3. Robert Downey Jr dons a metal suit and enlists the aid of a young child to tackle a wizard-type figure who in fact puts on an act. That would make Guy Pearce the Wicked Witch. Well, you remember what he wore in THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT.
What’s wrong with OZ – THE GREAT AND POWERFUL? I did not believe Oscar Diggs (James Franco) was charismatic enough to turn Mila Kunis’s Swiss witch (she’s ‘neutral’, but not in that outfit) to evil. If THE WIZARD OF OZ is all in Dorothy’s head, how does James Franco get there? The answer is: he’s everywhere, seen this year in INTERIOR: LEATHER BAR, AS I LAY DYING, HOMEFRONT and THIS IS THE END.
SHANE BLACK (director, IRON MAN 3): WHITE HOUSE DOWN is nothing like THE LAST BOY SCOUT. You think the President plays ball?
Best Foreign Language
Can one really choose between Elvish and Orc-speak, as featured in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG? Actually, I choose the language of silence as featured in GRAVITY as opposed to Pat Collins’ film SILENCE which, I regret, I missed. In most American movies, there is barely a quiet moment: they are all hideously scored. No acceptance speech for this one, naturally, though my young ‘un would like to point out that he enjoys the work of Henry Jackman, John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams and that CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is judiciously under-scored. Actually, I said that last bit.
Most Telling Prop
They give awards to production design, set design, costume design, visual effects, but never for individual props, the one item that sums up a character or situation. Think the snow globe in CITIZEN KANE or ‘The King Kong Company’ patch on Travis Bickle’s jacket in TAXI DRIVER. This year’s most telling prop is the Stretch Armstrong doll as featured in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. You have to applaud Ben Stiller for including a blatant piece of product placement in a movie seen by audiences after they have bought their Christmas gifts. Then again the film was extensively previewed prior to release. Stretch Armstrong perfectly sums up the movie – plausibility is stretched to near breaking point, then the film pops right back and you think, ‘is that all it does?’
STILLER: I love Stretch Armstrong. Then again I could not imagine myself and Adam Scott fighting over a Furby. You think, leave it.
Best Animated Character
They give awards to animated features and shorts but never to the characters that sell lunchboxes, pencil cases and serious medical conditions that manifest themselves later in life. A crowded field, this one: Minions from DESPICABLE ME 2, the Principal in MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, Wreck-It Ralph from WRECK-IT RALPH (released in the UK in February 2013), that irritating snowman (so my young ‘un tells me) from FROZEN. For me, the best animated character was Smaug from THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. He’s voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is on speaking terms with Julian Assange, so we’d better not say anything bad about it. Assange might turn up as an invited virtual dinner guest – he sells these services as seen in WE STEAL SECRETS, Alex Gibney’s documentary. I could be typing a film review and up he could pop demanding food and passage out of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Well, who could blame him?
SMAUG: What have you done?
Most obscure sports movie
42 would have been a shoo-in, if only because Warner Bros chose to restrict its UK release to one cinema (back in September). However, this award goes to movies that you would not think of as about sports but they are. Example: MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEEDOM is no more about the beliefs and struggles of Nelson Mandela than it is about pumping fists (‘Amandla!’) or if you prefer, it suggests a very long charity run – 27 years he stays the course. That’s less than a mile a year, or if you prefer, the current running rate of England’s Ashes cricket team. The winner is Carlos Reygardes’ POST TENEBRAS LUX, which combines a naked devil, a critique of the Mexican middle class and rugby, lots of rugby. There’s also sex, for the international audience, and a young girl running into a herd. Mesmerising, just don’t ask me to explain it.
REYGARDES: You see, my film is –
OLIVER: Thank you, Carlos.
MICHAEL BAY: Hey, why didn’t PAIN AND GAIN win?
Most Guilty Pleasure
Finally, a category that makes sense: this is for a film that appears to have no aesthetic excellence, yet you enjoy it nevertheless. The makers of HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN, VENDETTA, WORLD OF HURT, BULLET TO THE HEAD might all wish to be nominated, if only for something to be put on the back on the DVD cover besides ‘Quite Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad – Evening Echo’. The winner is THÉRÈSE DESQUEYROUX – the title character (played by Audrey Tautou) is guilty of trying to poison her boring husband and you enjoy it nevertheless. The director Claude Miller passed away after the film was accepted as the closing night film of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. How was he going to follow AMOUR? With something that is entertaining on its own terms. Merci.
I’d like to thank all of the distributors and publicity companies for letting me see their movies in 2013 and hope I haven’t annoyed you enough to stop me doing the same in 2014. If so, there’s always my Cineworld Unlimited card...