Jawbone (2017)

The sports drama is one that is consistently impressive as a sub-genre, particularly more recently with films like Foxcatcher (2015), Rush (2013), Moneyball (2011) and The Blind Side (2009). New British boxing film Jawbone certainly conforms to the sports drama sub-genre and, thankfully, continues this rule: sport dramas make impressive cinema.

Jawbone follows former youth boxing champion Jimmy McCabe, who hits rock bottom, so returns to his childhood boxing club. Set in grimy, urban South London, Jawbone is not short of violence and alcoholism. But it somehow doesn’t fall into the stereotypical urban “gritty and grey” drama; it’s a lot more subtle than that. It’s hard-hitting, powerful and explores themes of the working class, the struggle for survival and it’s focus on an older boxer (not rather dissimilar to Rocky).

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The action is never boring, as director Thomas Napper delves into Jimmy’s life (played by Johnny Harris, who also wrote the screenplay). Napper and Harris have set out to tell a matter-of-fact story of a man who loses everything and tries to get his life back on track by looking in the wrong places. They do this simply and effectively. And, although the cast is all men, it was hard not to connect with Jimmy and engage in his story.

All of Jawbone‘s performances are incredibly strong. Johnny Harris is impressive as protagonist Jimmy McCabe. Harris strikes the right balance of determined and vulnerable, as if he is still that young teenage boxer who’s lost his way, and was utterly compelling. Ray Winstone as gym-owner Bill was a pleasure to watch also, as the angel on Jimmy’s shoulder. He had a graceful, lovable air about him, yet is harsh but fair: “if I find booze in here, you’re out.” The only real smiles we see from Jimmy is when he’s with Bill, and their scenes are genuinely heart-felt.

Michael Smiley as corner-man Eddie brings candor to the boxing gym and also delivers some my favourite lines: “he’s just a bully, surrounded by other bullies. I want you to break his heart.” And if Winstone’s Bill is the angel, the devil on Jimmy’s shoulder is the temptation to fight unlicensed for large amounts of money, and that temptation comes from Ian McShane as Joe. He’s brief but memorable, and still has one of the best voices in film today.

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The boxing fighting and training sections are gripping drama. Forget “Gonna Fly Now”, Jawbone has it’s own unique soundtrack driving it forward, composed by legend Paul Weller. The fight footage is skilled and brilliant watching. There is movement as the camera sways with Jimmy; he’s not as in shape as his undefeated beast of an opponent, but will fight all the same. It’s here when you suddenly root for him, and slowly Eddie does too. Eddie’s growth from passive corner-man to supportive friend during the fight is truly moving. Jimmy finally has someone believe in him, which is, perhaps, all he ever needed.

Jimmy, Bill and Eddie’s stories are sometimes admirable ones, but we must also admire the men in real-life who put the time and energy into sports clubs like these. South East London is a place renowned for gang culture, and there are so many communities who use sport and, more specifically, boxing to pull boys off the streets, to nurture them so not be tempted to walk the wrong path.

Jawbone reminds us that even the hardest of men can be broken by life. It’s painfully frank and, at times, heart-breaking: Jawbone is definitely one I’d watch again.

Jawbone‘s premiere is screening at selected UK cinemas on 8th May. It’s official release is 12th May. Check out the trailer here:

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Foxcatcher (2014)

Even now writing this review, I am still quite shaken up by Foxcatcher. Once in a blue moon, I am left speechless by a film. Foxcatcher has had that effect on me.

Based on a true story, on the outside Foxcatcher appears to be about American wrestling but is so much more than just another sports movie. Olympic champion wrestlers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and, his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) are invited by multimillionaire and sports enthusiast John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) to join his ‘Foxcatcher’ wrestling team, compete in the Olympics and, ultimately, aim to become the best in the world. What follows this partnership though are circumstances and events that are dark and distressing, and if you don’t know the story already, go in to the cinema clueless and unknowing.

The name Foxcatcher comes from the immense family estate and farm owned by the du Pont family, but I felt the name meant more than that. The chase that ensues on securing both the Schultz brothers is like a hound hunting a fox, and du Pont did indeed get what he desired and “caught” them. In addition to his wrestling obsession, du Pont was an ornithologist and avid bird watcher. The use of bird imagery and even with his nickname “Eagle” I could certainly see the resemblance of a bird in both his tenacious manner and odd appearance. He leers over Mark and Dave, hunting and circling them both, like a bird of prey.

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Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz has taken a leap from heart throb/action star to serious actor in this film with ease and in a role that was well suited for him as a beefy wrestler. At times, Tatum really showed moments of vulnerability that weren’t hammed up, but instead subtle and understated. Mark Ruffalo was equally brilliant as Dave Schultz, the more mature and charismatic older brother. Talented, supportive and loving to his family and Mark, he was a welcome, calming presence in scenes.

This is a polar opposite of John du Pont, of course, a character who fascinated me the most. As du Pont, Steve Carell created an unnerving, uneasy atmosphere, so extreme that, at times, I found him quite difficult to watch. Unpredictable and unstable, his presence and demeanour is truly chilling and I was on edge for the entirety of the film. What I also found interesting is in several interviews I’ve read with Steve Carell (Radio Times, The Guardian etc), he’s said that his look and his whole bearing was so off-putting that people would avoid him on set, adding to that sense of separation.

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Bennett Miller has directed such a sophisticated biopic; some use of cinematography and dialogue will stay with me for days. What is also clever is his choice of shots and the use of imagery: the birds, the constant repetition of the word “Foxcatcher”, use of certain objects throughout and references back to the civil war and the farm previously being a battle field. All of these things amount to foreshadowing the shockingly tragic yet unsurprising end. The extreme lack of music too created unbalance, letting you hear everything, down to the dissonant squeaks of the wrestlers shoes on the floor. Any prominent sound came as a shock, and rang out through the cinema.

I remained incredibly tensed up throughout (so did my friend who came to see it with me), and come the end when I could finally relax and the credits began to role I actually started to cry. And I wasn’t expecting that, similar to how I wasn’t expecting anything as remotely powerful, formidable and disturbing as the story or Steve Carell as John du Pont.

The Golden Globe Awards!

I am a sucker for the award ceremonies and tonight kicks it all off with the 72nd Golden Globe Awards! Hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the third and final time, this year is going to be another exciting one, with some excellent films being nominated: Birdman (7 nominations), Boyhood (5 nominations), The Imitation Game (5 nominations), The Theory of Everything (4 nominations) and Gone Girl (4 nominations).

I think Birdman and Boyhood will very much steal the show here and set the tone for the awards season to come. But I thought I’d talk about some nominations, predictions on who will win and give my opinion on who I would want to win. Feel free to comment your own opinions too!

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Best Motion Picture, Drama
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything

Who will win? – Boyhood

Who I’d like to win? – The Imitation Game, purely because it was mesmerising

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Who will win? – Rosamund Pike for her phenomenal turn in Gone Girl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it swings to Reese Witherspoon

Who I’d like to win? – If Rosamund Pike doesn’t win, I’ll eat my sock!

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
David Oyelowo, Selma
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Who will win? – Probably the toughest Best Actor category going, but probably Steve Carell

Who I’d like to win? – Hmmm.. Benedict Cumberbatch. Although all deserve it, and Eddie Redmayne surprised me so much in The Theory of Everything. And Steve Carell: wow!

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Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Who will win? – Patricia Arquette

Who I’d like to win? – Genuinely don’t mind as long as it’s not Meryl Streep!!

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K, Simmons, Whiplash

Who will win? – Again, another tough category to be in! But probably Ethan Hawke

Who I’d like to win? – Again, I don’t really mind, I love Mark Ruffalo, but I’d like to see Ethan Hawke win it

Best Director
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Birdman
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Who will win? – Richard Linklater, purely for the whole revolutionary 12 year span of filming

Who I’d like to win? – I know he’s quite esteemed already, but David Fincher because I really loved Gone Girl

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
Alejandro González Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

Who will win? – It’s a toss up between Alejandro González Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. for Birdman or Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Who I’d like to win? – Graham Moore for The Imitation Game: Wonderfully story telling

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical        
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Pride
St. Vincent

Who will win? Birdman

Who I’d like to win? Probably Birdman. But perhaps Pride, as it would show that mainstream cinema has matured since Brokeback Mountain. But the fact that the American DVD cover has been removed of any homosexual references is possibly hinting at a no.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

Who will win? – Michael Keaton

Who I’d like to win? – Michael Keaton

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Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
Helen Mirren, The Hundred Foot Journey
Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie

Who will win? – Quvenzhané Wallis is just taking cinema by storm despite the fact she’s still only 11 years old!! But probably Julianne Moore for Maps to the Stars

Who I’d like to win? – Again, I don’t really mind. I haven’t watched Maps to the Stars, however I’m often seeing that Julianne Moore was fantastic!

Best Animated Movie 
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie

Who will win? – The Lego Movie

Who I’d like to win? – The Lego Movie. Although, Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises was significantly the best animated film this year but hasn’t been given a nod

Best Foreign film
Force Majeure (Sweden)
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (France)
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)

Who will win? – Ida, but I hear Leviathan is just as brilliant

Who I’d like to win? – Ida, but I don’t mind

Best Original Song 
“Big Eyes,” Big Eyes, Lana Del Rey
“Glory,” Selma, John Legend and Common
“Mercy Is,” Noah, Patty Smith and Lenny K
“Opportunity,” Annie
“Yellow Flicker Beat,” The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, Lorde

Who will win? – Annie

Who I’d like to win? – Considering it is a musical already, Annie should win

Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Johann Johannson, The Theory of Everything
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez, Birdman
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

Who will win? – Antonio Sanchez for Birdman

Who I’d like to win? – It’s a mainstream choice, but Hans Zimmer as the score for Interstellar was just to eerie and magical

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Overall, I don’t really mind who wins what (except if that person is Meryl Streep- sorry!) At the end of the day this has been another impressive year for cinema and I’m thoroughly impressed so far and cannot wait for what’s to come! Good luck all who are nominated and pre-congratulations to winners! (Not that any of them will see this post… A girl can dream.)

Although I love them, I struggle to watch the Globes and the Oscars because America’s Los Angeles is 8 hours behind Britain, and NBC’s coverage is difficult to access here. That being said, I always try to watch it… And always fail. Also, apologies for the so many tags, I tried to limit it to the names of films and anyone I mentioned, rather than every single name on the list.

What do you guys think about the Golden Globe Awards and my predictions/opinion?

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