Tuesday 18 February 2014

Critical Week: Caught in the act

This week's big press screening in London was for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, which won a top award at Berlin last weekend and is far and away my favourite film of 2014 to date. It may only be February, but this is Anderson's most accomplished film yet, with a terrific ensemble including Ralph Fiennes and promising newcomer Tony Revolori and a story that's funny, scary and ultimately moving. Another pleasant discovery was Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, a dreamy horror movie starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien devouring men in Scotland - it's simply stunning.

The only other A-list film was much more problematic: A New York Winter's Tale (original title Winter's Tale) stars Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay and Russell Crowe in a magical romance that's infused with brutal violence. This week we also saw the low-key but inventive British black comedy 8 Minutes Idle, the uneven and undercooked German thriller The Passenger and the utterly charming doc A Story of Children and Film. And we saw another Berlinale entry, the oddly dull French biopic Yves Saint Laurent, worth seeing for the performances and, of course, super-stylish production design.

Sunday night in London, the British Academy Film Awards - better known as the Baftas - were held in the Royal Opera House, spreading out the trophies among the nominated films. 12 Years a Slave won best film and actor, but Gravity picked up six awards including British film and director. The host for the evening was Stephen Fry, who pretty much just recycled his knowing schtick from eight previous turns as host. It's time for fresh blood. The red carpet was awash in glamour, with Lupita Nyong'o, Amy Adams and Helen Mirren taking the fashion prizes. Mirren was the classiest winner, giving a witty, erudite speech as she accepted her Bafta Fellowship.

Screenings coming this week include the comedies Hairbrained and Southern Baptist Sissies, the offbeat Odd Thomas, the festival film Blue Ruin and something called 112 Weddings. I'm also in the midst of screenings for the upcoming London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival - full coverage of those films next month.

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