Philomena (2013)

Genre: Drama

Director: Stephen Frears

Writers: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Martin Sixsmith

Starring: Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Sophie Kennedy Clark

Rating: ★★★★½

To my surprise this somewhat under the radar film is moving, sad and quite simply brilliant. Philomena a small British film has only recently been making the headlines and dominating conversations after receiving a handful of nominations for award season including an Oscar nomination for Best Motion Picture and Best Actress. It isn’t any surprise however why these nominations were given to Philomena as for me a mixture of a well-written emotional story and great acting by Coogan and Dench really make this release as enjoyable and entertaining as any other film causing hype at the moment.

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a journalist looking for a distraction after finding himself at a loss when dismissed by the Labour Party leaving his career as a member of the BBC a mere shameful memory. When approach by a young Irish woman Martin is intrigued by the story of her mother, Philomena (Judi Dench) who is on a search for her long lost son who was taken by Nuns when she was an inmate at a strict Catholic convent. Martin agrees to help Philomena with her search and with her story he will write and publish in a magazine; however their journey and her story is more than just a magazine article. On the hunt for Philomena’s lost Anthony they find themselves in America and discovering a shameful corruption and lie within the Catholic convent. However as much as they find out about the fate of Anthony Martin and Philomena find out a lot about each other forming a close friendship which causes even their basic beliefs to be changed.

The story which is based on a true story and adapted from Martin Sixsmith’s book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” is not only well-written but emotional containing witty British comedy to tearful moments of sadness. There’s a scene which takes place in a Harvester Restaurant which immediately brings laughs to the British audience, picking up a handful of croutons in her Irish accent Philomena says to Martin “Oh I do like these little bits of toast they have”.  It was only a simple moment and simple joke yet it was so effective and free-flowing and that was the case for the comedy throughout the film. In the complete contrary there are scenes where your heart drops, no matter how Philomena discovers her long lost son Anthony is was destined to be emotional and it truly was and was executed greatly and captured by Judi Dench equally as impressive.

Although at times it was a pleasant story and had moments of heart-warming bonding and comedy it did show the harsh truth and untold stories of what young Catholic women had to obey once upon time. How young-girls were shunned upon and disowned by their parents if they got pregnant is upsetting and more so was the idea that the only options they had were to have their baby die or to have it looked after by the Catholic Church whilst you repaid your debt.  It was a topic was upsetting that was very moving and touching to see but the way that everyone involved with the making and creation of Philomena did an excellent job.

The acting was another strong highlight which complemented the excellent writing, Judi Dench an actress who’s been giving brilliant performances for many decades now and has constantly contributed to British Film shines once more. Her portrayal of Philomena is excellent, the way in which Dench can show frailty, sadness and humour in such a quick mixture is incredible and something which obviously contributed to her deserved Oscar Nomination.  Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith is also great, the humour again is a highlight but so is how Coogan deals with the serious scenes and moments. Martin is a character that stands up for Philomena and due to that the audience encourages and sides with him throughout. An honorary mention and one which is probably not as frequent as it should be, but Sophie Kennedy Clark’s performance of a younger Philomena was brilliant. Responsible for the flashback scenes which complemented Philomena’s narration when telling her story Clark’s emotion was a real highlighting aspect.

Philomena is a film that thrives mainly from its acting and strong story, although there was nothing wrong with Frears direction it wasn’t eye-catching enough to be applauded likewise with the film’s score and music. Although elements were lacking you can’t deny that Philomena is a fantastic film which has undoubtedly made a huge impact on all its viewers and has done British Film proud. Entertaining and intriguing from start to finish the experience is easily enjoyable and definitely emotional but more importantly one that is very worth-while.

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My Take on The Oscar Nominations

Oscar Nominations were released today after much wait, anticipation and speculation on which big releases could and should be accredited one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry. Here is the list of nominations with my own thoughts regarding who I think should and will take the award, applause and glory.

BEST PICTURE

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street.

12 Years a Slave should and probably will be accredited and named The Best Picture at the 86th Oscar Ceremony after stunning its audience and collecting much praise and plaudits.

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell – American Hustle, Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity, Alexander Payne – Nebraska, Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

This should be a close contest between Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave in my perspective as they were the two visual highlights out of the bunch. Cuaron behind one of the best visual experiences in cinematic history whilst McQueen refreshing and brilliant techniques captured so much in 12 Years a Slave.

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale – American Hustle, Bruce Dern – Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio -The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave, Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club.

12 Years a Slave’s Ejiofor should deserve to win Best Actor however with the heaps of praise and success from McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club It could be stolen away.

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams – American Hustle, Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock – Gravity, Judi Dench – Philomena, Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Amy Adams is the majority’s choice to take claim to the Best Actress award but giving the performance of her career in Gravity it would be much deserved if Sandra Bullock took the glory.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

American Hustle – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, Blue Jasmine – Written by Woody Allen, Her – Written by Spike Jonze , Nebraska – Written by Bob Nelson, Dallas Buyers Club – Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Spike Jonze’s Her, I hope will get named the Best Original Screenplay ahead of American Hustle after failing to amaze me and reach expectation.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Before Midnight – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Captain Phillips – Screenplay by Billy Ray, Philomena – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, 12 Years a Slave – Screenplay by John Ridley, The Wolf of Wall Street – Screenplay by Terence Winter

12 Years a Slave absolutely amazed me, especially with its accurate adaptation, brutal realism and factual accuracy so this would be a strong shout for this award, however Captain Phillips was truly special so I wouldn’t be surprise if it stole the show here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle, June Squibb – Nebraska, Julia Roberts – August: Osage County, Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence although only playing a minor role stood out amongst others in American Hustle and should easily be credited as Best Supporting Actress.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips, Bradley Cooper – American Hustle, Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street, Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto apparently gave a wonderful performance in Dallas Buyers Club but I can’t see anyone accept Michael Fassbneder winning and deserving this award after his performance in 12 Years a Slave.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

Frozen will most likely scoop The Best Animated Film award up after becoming a huge favourite, however I could see close competition from the great, Despicable Me 2.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners

I could see best cinematography being between Inside Llewyn Davis and Gravity but I couldn’t say which way.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Michael Wilkinson – American Hustle, William Chang Suk Ping – The Grandmaster, Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby, Michael O’Connor – The Invisible Woman, Patricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave

American Hustle really did show off its excellence in this department and it should surely be credited by picking up the Oscar for Best Costume Design.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen, Cutie and the Boxer – Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher, Dirty Wars – Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill, The Square – Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, 20 Feet from Stardom – Nominees to be determined

The Act Killing is my favourite for this category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

CaveDigger – Jeffrey Karoff, Facing Fear – Jason Cohen, Karama Has No Walls -Sara Ishaq , The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life – Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall – Edgar Barens

BEST FILM EDITING

American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten,  Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse, Dallas Buyers Club-  John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa, Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger,  12 Years a Slave –  Joe Walker

Gravity should have this one firmly in their grasp!

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium, The Great Beauty -Italy, The Hunt – Denmark, The Missing Picture – Cambodia,  Omar Palestine

It was a big surprise to not see Blue is the Warmest Colour given a nomination for this category.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Dallas Buyers Club – Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa –  Stephen Prouty, The Lone Ranger –  Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Dallas Buyers Club would be my favourite for this award however again its a surprise to see American Hustle not getting nominated.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

John Williams – The Book Thief, Steven Price –  Gravity,  William Butler and Owen Pallett –  Her,  Alexandre Desplat –  Philomena Thomas Newman – Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr Banks would be my favourite and a winner that would be much deserved.

BEST SOUND EDITING

All Is Lost – Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns,  Captain Phillips – Oliver Tarney, Gravity –  Glenn Freemantle , The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug –  Brent Burge, Lone Survivor – Wylie Stateman

Captain Phillips has amazing score but I was very impressed by Lone Survivor it would be more than deserved if they were awarded Best Sound Editing.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Captain Phillips –  Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro,  Gravity – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug –  Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson, Inside Llewyn Davis –  Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland,  Lone Survivor – Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Again this for me would be between Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Gravity – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould,  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds,  Iron Man 3 –  Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick,  The Lone Ranger – Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier, Star Trek Into Darkness – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

I would like to see The Hobbit be accredited this award after the amazing appearance of Smaug however it would be no surprise to see Gravity make way with another victory.

I did miss out a few categories however these are the Oscar Nominations, there were a few shocks and surprises but I’m sure there will be plenty more upon ceremony night! I would appreciate it if you could comment below your thoughts and your favourites for the Oscars 2014.