I liked Tom Ford’s debut film quite a bit. An adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name, the film is meticulously constructed throughout, both in terms (predictably) of the costumes and set design and the editing style. The latter probably harms the film somewhat, especially during the first few scenes in which Ford and editor Joan Sobel intercut and jump-cut all over the place. It does have a jarring impact which reduces as the film goes on, but it causes the first ten/fifteen minutes to be confrontationally creative and difficult for the audience to sink into.
The film succeeds through two components. The performances are excellent; Julianne Moore is superb but she does slightly suffer from her English accent which dives between the Queen’s and an East London trader in her closing inflections. Colin Firth though, who I’ve never been a fan of, is astounding. So easily is this the best performance of his career, that you worry that he will end up missing out on the Oscar (probably owing to Academy atonement towards Jeff Bridges) on the one occasion when he has absolutely found a synergy between his style and a character. More of that on the coming podcast.
The other thing that A Single Man does perfectly is intimacy. The relationships between all the characters are pitched just right. Firth and Moore, playing old friends and former flames – before Firth fell in love with Matthew Goode’s enchanter – manage to communicate all the years of hurt and regret which would exist between friends in which friendship is the desire for only one of the two. Moore, despite the accent issues, carries in her eyes all the years of quiet heartbreak which erupt into unintended attacks in a couple of barbed exchanges. Better though is Firth and Goode’s relationship. The two complement each other beautifully, and the scene in which the two are listening to music, huddled on a sofa and both reading, wholly captures the kind of quiet intimacy that any long-term, utterly right-for-each-other couple would have.
On Valentine’s Day weekend, in which the television screens will be bombarded by constant romantic comedies and the cinema is clogged by the shit-tacular-looking smugfest named after the day, you would be well advised to take the moments between Firth and Goode in this film as both an antidote to the saccharine crap being pushed onto you and as a touching representation of true love.
I did predict a few little while ago, but much has changed in the interim and I feel it necessary to update my prediction season for the nominees, something I will do again in early February just before the nominations are announced.
The primary change is the fall of Nine, previously considered a shoe-in for most categories, which looks likely to win absolutely nothing outside of a possible couple of technicals. Add to that the rising popularity of Inglourious Basterds and the seemingly-unstoppable attention being given to The Hurt Locker, plus the apparently disastrous The Lovely Bones, and some things have to change.
Below then are my predictions for the top few categories, with some explanation as to why and, bold as it may be, my predictions for the likely winners in each category.
Just for the sake of my own sanity and desperate need to have these written somewhere, I give you my favourite forty-two films of the past decade. There are at least fifty-six other films I would like to put onto a list, but I think I need to forcefully prevent any more decade-based listmaking as quickly as possible. So beneath is the top ten list, along with a sentence or two on each film and then thirty-two, out-of-list-order, films which I had to include.
Peter Morgan, something of a specialist at penning stories about real-life prominent British figures, often about their relationships to prominent, real-life American figures, is to make his third Tony Blair-related piece with The Special Relationship. The film, a co-production between HBO and BBC Films, will focus on the bond held between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton from the commencement of Blair’s premiership in 1997 until Clinton’s final days as President in 2000.
Michael Sheen, who played Blair in the Morgan-penned The Deal and The Queen, will reprise his role as the former Prime Minister. Dennis Quaid has reportedly won the role of Clinton, apparently beating out competition from the likes of Russell Crowe, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin and Tim Robbins. Hillary will be played by Julianne Moore. Helen McCrory, who played Cherie Blair in The Deal and The Queen, will return. The sticky (ahem) issue of Monica Lewinsky will be sidestepped through showing the intern in only archive footage, apparently included video of her closed-door testimony to Congress on the scandal.
It will mark the first time Clinton has been portrayed on film in power, having been the heavy inspiration for the subject in Primary Colors, the 1998 Mike Nichols film in which John Travolta played a thinly-veiled version of the president during the campaign season.
Interestingly, should the funding be raised, it would be Morgan’s directorial debut, having had Stephen Frears in the chair for The Deal and The Queen. That could prove a challenge for Morgan, whose scripts are often the strongest element but who does need a steadying hand to deal with the actors to prevent any sense of impression falling into the performances.
By a similar token, this will prove a real challenge for the actors, especially Quaid who will be taking on one of the most charismatic political figures in recent years and must avoid falling anywhere close to caricature.