Jackie: film review

“I’m not the First Lady anymore,” says Natalie Portman as she plays Jackie Kennedy to perfection in a film detailing the week following the assasination of her husband, John F. Kennedy. The film is narrated through a journalist’s interview with Jackie as she recounts her life with and without JFK, and is told in a series of non-linear flashbacks, each one revealing more intimate details about her life than the last.

Portman looks beautiful but frail and looks surprisingly like Kennedy from some angles, especially from side on, and plays her to a tee, channeling her mannerisms and Jackie’s distinctive accent. She flows effortlessly from steely determination to bereft despair and even moments of horror as she remembers trying to hold her husband’s head together in the car and as she washes the blood splatters off her face as she sobs in the mirror on Air Force One. But despite her physical and emotional fragility, she plays a woman emitting strength as she demands respect for her husband in the form of a state funeral to rival President Lincoln’s.

When riding in the ambulance with her beloved Jack’s body and her brother-in-law Bobby (played brilliantly by Peter Sarsgaard) she asks the driver and the nurse, do you know who James Garfield was? Do you know William McKinley? What did he do? Neither knew, but Jackie did: they were presidents who were assassinated in office. She asks the same of Abraham Lincoln and of course they know the answer. She wants her husband to have a legacy, to be remembered and respected like Lincoln. 

And so she sets about organising his burial and funeral, whilst mourning and battling her grief as she berates herself for being a bad mother, bad wife and bad First Lady – contrary to the opinion of many. She is wonderful with her children in a heartbreaking scene where she tells them that their father won’t be coming home. At this point she reveals that she has suffered loss in the family before, when her son Patrick died at just two days’ old. She tells the children that Daddy has gone to see Patrick in Heaven. She also lost her daughter Arabella at birth, so her life was not without grief up to this point. 

  
Portman portrays Kennedy with poise in a part she seemed born to play. In a film produced by Darren Araonofsky, who previously worked with her on her Oscar-winning Black Swan, you wonder if this film is just a vehicle for her to scoop more awards. But in fact the entire film is moving and insightful, and Portman is at the heart of it.

There are flashbacks to when Jackie presented a televised tour of the White House where director Pablo Larrain cleverly splices together real footage from the television show with shots of Portman, adding a grey grainy filter to the screen and crackly overlay to the sound, you wonder if it’s actually Portman speaking or Jackie herself, especially when JFK makes an appearance and everything fits seamlessly together. 

Jackie spent time and money redecorating the White House before filming the documentary, allowing a glimpse into some parts of the building that had never been seen by the public before. She took great pride in the history of the building and buying old artfacts that belonged to pervious Presidents, particularly Lincoln. You can tell she has a certain affinity with Mrs Lincoln as she tells the camera that Lincoln would question why she spent money on furniture and things to fill the house. But as she says to the reporter when she is accounting her story, “Things last much longer than people.” 

You get a sense of guilt from her, that she felt she never really deserved her life as first Lady. When talking of the White House she says, “It’s not my house, I never lived there,” and later confides in the priest, an excellent turn from the now late John Hurt, “I never wanted to be famous, I just married a Kennedy.” But she takes it all in her stride as she tries her best to be the First Lady she thinks people wants. And she has a sense of duty to presidential history as she goes about restoring the White House, calling it ‘the people’s house’ to camera, buying up old antiques. And of course orchestrating this grand funeral for her beloved Jack, as she calls him, in Lincoln’s image.

The score is beautiful: emotive strings, rousing horns and mourning woodwind. The music really emphasises the distress and emotion portrayed on Portman’s face. And as well as having a near-perfect soundtrack, the wardrobe is spectacular. Madeline Fontaine deserves her Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design for her recreations of Jackie’s suits, including the red two-piece she wore in the televised tour of the White House used on the film posters, and the iconic pink boucle skirt suit and pill box hat with navy trimming she wore when her husband was shot as he sat next to her.  

Portman faces tough competition in the Best Actress category this year, and has so far missed out at the Globes and the SAGs, but I think she deserves the Oscar. It is a stronger performance than Black Swan which wonher her last little gold man, and personally I think a more compelling watch than that of Emma Stone in La La Land who is the current favourite to win. The film itself is moving and insightful, if a little slow in the middle, but definitely worth a watch for Portman’s performance, the rousing score and the beautiful costumes. 

A United Kingdom: film review

I was sceptical about going to see A United Kingdom. From the trailers I thought it looked like the typical film about forbidden love with racial tensions and the tagline ‘based on a true story’ thrown in for good measure. 

But a viewing at Pinewood Studios left me pleasantly surprised: it’s a charming film that is as much about politics and the country of Botswana as it is about forbidden love – though the couple of Seretse (David Oyelowo) and Ruth (Rosamund Pike) is at the heart of the plot and the pair carry the film well.

The story begins in London where Ruth’s sister – who inexiplcably has an east-end accent when Ruth’s is very home counties (as Pike ususally is) – invites Ruth to a missionary dance. While she is there, she and Seretse catch each others’ eyes across the room. She laughs at his jokes and he sweeps her off her feet on the dancefloor – it’s love at first sight. It’s only after the second date that Ruth discovers who he really is: Seretse Khama, heir to the thrown of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), and he must return there soon as he has finished his studies in London.

During a brief period of courting, they experience abuse on the street for being a mixed race couple, and face objection from Ruth’s father. As her sister puts it: “Daddy won’t like Seretse; he’s more clever than him and he’s black.” But the pair decide that they are very much in love and want to spend the rest of their lives togther. 

So Seretse proposes to Ruth and asks her to come to Botswana with him. She accepts, of course, or there would be no story. The happy couple are not welcomed with open arms, but are instead met with disdain from the people in the Khama’s tribe. A white woman is not seen as fit to be queen of the Botswanan people, despite Ruth’s effort to integrate and learn the language. 

Seretse’s uncle in particular disapproves. But this is more than a domenstic squabble when a royal family is ivolved, it becomes a state affair. But unlike Prince Edward who chose to renounce the throne to be with Wallis Simpson, the American woman who stole his heart, Seretse loves both Ruth and his people and still wants to claim his rightful place as ruler of the Botswanan people.

But there are not just domestic and internal rows: the British and South African governments get involved. Queen Victoria pledged to protect Botswana when Seretse’s grandfather was King, so the Brits still have a stake in the country. But bordering with South Africa, the courty has ties here too – where apartheid is currrently taking place, so obviously they are not happy with a white woman marrying the black King. 

The pair fight for their love and for Seretse’s place on the throne, while Seretse equally fights for democracy and equal rights in his country as segregration is already spreading: one Ruth’s first night in Botswana, she stays in a hotel for Whites only – Seretse is only allowed in becuase he is the Prince, but even then they have to hide out in their room, dancing to the music playing through the walls from the bar and drinking gin and giggling like teenagers hiding from their parents.

The film is well shot, with great contrast between the grey, rainy scenes of London and the rich reds and brown of Botswana. Pike looks beautiful as ever, wearing barely a scrap of makeup and a variety of colourful printed tea dresses as she tries to make a good impression with Seretse’s family and people; his aunt is particularly ferocious and hard to impress. 

Seretse and Ruth face plenty of hurdles in their relationship, and you wonder if it’s worth it. But they never give up. And become something of a symbold of hope and race relations, somthing which is commented upon at the end of the film in a quote from Nelson Mandela, stating how the Khama’s did great things for race relations.

The end of the film left me with a lump in my throat; it is a charming and moving film and it’s a shame that it hasn’t received any BAFTA nominations. It’s very much a British film – produced by BBC Film and BFI and about a period in British history. It’s scary to think that all of this racism and colonialism happened not so long ago, but it is an uplifting film nonetheless. 

Great movie couples who did it more than once

Sometimes onscreen couples have undeniable chemistry, so much so that the are cast oppostite eacch other in more than one film. With Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling receiving rave reviews for La La Land, I thought I’d take a look at them and some of my other favourite film couples who have starred together in multiple movies.

 

  
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

These two are currently the hottest duo in Hollywood thanks to their latest roles in La La Land. But this isn’t the first time they’ve appeared onscreen together. The pair first struck up an on-screen relationship in Crazy, Stupid Love where Gosling played the arrogant, but lovable Jacob, and Stone was Hannah, a law student who wanted more spark from a relationship. Little does she know, he’s teaching her newly single father how to get girls. They’re comedic pairing and chemistry was evident in the scene where Jacob takes Hannah back to his place and they try to recreate the famous Dirty Dancing lift and Hannah admires Jacob’s abs: “It’s like you’re Photoshopped!”

In Gangster Squad, she was the mol to his mobster, well actually her was a Seargent, but, you know. Oozing old school glamour, much like in La La Land, the pair worked their smouldering glares and the 1940s flick that unfortunately flopped, partly due to the cinema shoot-out ending being changed following a sad massacre in Colorado at a screening of The Dark Knight. But Gosling and Stone stood out, for all the right reasons in this film.

They are currently sweeping boards at awards ceremonies for their portrayal of a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress in La La Land, a homage to old school Hollywood. If you haven’t seen it already, what are you waiting for?!

   

 
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Speaking of old school Hollywood, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the golden couple of the golden age of film, co-starring in 10 films together, making them the biggest repeat offenders on this list.

Top Hat is probably the most famous of their films, but let’s not forget Swing Time, The Gay Divorce, Follow the Fleet, Shall We Dance, Flying Down to Rio, Roberta, Carefree, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and the Barkleys of Broadway.

Some of their dance routines have gone down in history as the best in the business: Let’s Face the Music and Dance, Swing Time, Night and Day and Cheek to Cheek top the list and can make anyone nostalgic for vintage films – even if like me you weren’t around during their inception.

Although sadly, unlike other pairings on this list who seem to have a great friendship off-screen as well, Astaire and Rogers reportedly did not have such a fine romance and were consumed by “conflict, envy and mistrust” according to The Express and books published about the pair. What a shame.

 

  

 

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Thanks mostly to David O. Russell, fan-favourites Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have had several film pairings, the first being in Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook.

Unfortunately for Cooper, Lawrence always seems to come off better for these pairings, having won two Oscars for her portrayals of Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook and for Rosalyn in American Hustle.

In Silver Linings Playbook, they both play people struggling with past relationships and mental illnesses and who come together to enter a dance competition, learning a lot about each other and themselves in the process. Their antagonistic chemistry is hilarious and their quick-fire quips make for entertaining dialogue. A must-see.

Although they were not playing a couple in American Hustle, this was another play where their comedic timings and dry sense of humour shone through, thanks again to David O. Russell’s brilliant script. Lawrence is hilarious as the inept house wife of Chrisitian Bale’s con-man who blows up a microwave while wearing couture tracksuits.

Joy was Lawrence, but Bradley Cooper shone through as Neil Walker, the man a QVC who helps Joy to bring her invention of the Wonder Mop to the nation and turn her from a struggling mother of one trying to keep her father’s business afloat to a successful businesswoman.  

One of the pair’s not-so-successful movie outings was Serena, set in Depression-era North Carolina about a forbidden love between a timber baron and his new wife, Serena. The film was met was poor reviews – perhaps the pair should stick to comedy with O. Russell.

 

  

 

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughy

Alright, alright, alright. This is a cute pairing if we ever saw one. Starting with How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughy have great chemistry. It was fun to watch the sparks fly in the rom-com that saw Hudson try to ditch McConaughy as part of a column she was writing for Composure magazine, and McConaughy try to woo her to win a bit that would let him manage a diamond account at his advertising firm. Hilarity ensues. 

They were such a popular pairing that the pair had a second, although not as successful, turn in Fool’s Gold. The film is stupid, but fun. And the scenery and the people – mainly Hudson and McConaughy- are beautiful as the exes who reunite to do some treasure hunting and go scuba diving, fly sea planes and take part in some hand to hand combat in the process. (Not so much) hilarity ensues.
  

 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

Ah, Leo and Kate. Since they first appeared opposite each other in Titanic, when everyone was rooting for the class-divided, star-crossed lovers, they have earned a place in the public’s heart.

When DiCaprio was cast in Titanic, he was already well-established as a young actor, having been nominated for awards for his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. But Kate was a relative unknown who has since said she badgered James Cameron to cast her and even sent him a rose from “His Rose”. Good job she did – she was excellent as Rose DeWhitt Bukater. Jack and Rose. It’s a shame he met such a sad fate, but no one will ever forget THAT drawing scene, nor them ‘flying’ at the helm of the Titanic. Sigh.

The pair were reunited in Revolution Road, which was directed by Winslet’s then-husband, Sam Mendes. She has also since spoken of how it was awkward filming love scenes with another man in front of her husband, and even worse, having her husband give pointers! Cringe.

 

   

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks

The queen of 90s rom-coms and the king of, um, life, Tom Hanks are a great pairing. You’ve Got Mail is one of my personal favourite rom-coms with Ryan starring as Kathleen who struggles to keep her independent book store and her mother’s legacy alive when Hank’s book superstore opens up right over the road. What they don’t know is that while they despise each other in real life, the pair are falling in love over email after meeting in an anonymous chatroom as Shopgirl and NY152.

Prior to You’ve Got Mail, they coupled up in Joe Versus the Volcano, and another classic 90s film: Sleepless in Seattle. Like You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle was a film where the romantic leads didn’t actually share the screen at the same time much as recently widowed Sam (Hanks) called up a radio show, listened to by Annie (Ryan) until the pair had a romantic meeting up the top of the Empire State Building, echoing the classic film An Affair to Remember.

 

Other notable on-screen couples include: Al Pacino and Michelle Phifer, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves and John Hamm and Kirtin Wiig. Are there any that I’ve missed?

 

La La Land: Review

La La Land is simply stunning. In this cold, wet, miserable winter weather, it’s the dose of sunshine we all need. I feel like I’m just repeating all the superlatives and adjectives already used to describe this film, but it is truly spectacular, touching, uplifting and beautiful to watch.

The film is the perfect update if a Hollywood classic, right from the opening scene, ‘Shot in Cinemascope’ in a deep colour before sweeping down onto a gridlocked highway whose motorists break into song – a little High School Musical, but colourful and fun – before the main characters’ initial meet cute – though this one is not so cute as it involves honking horns and flipping the finger in a moment of road rage. 

The next meet cute between Mia, Emma Stone’s doe eyed barista/wannabe actress and striving jazz pianist Seb, played by a fast fingered Ryan Gosling is the clip that we all see in the trailers, when Mia happens upon a jazz bar and is captured by Seb’s soulful tinkling on the ivories. Though all is not as we would necessarily hope… The story of the two ingenues continues from here as they repeatedly bump into each other around Hollywood.  

  
Ryan Gosling’s jazz piano is fantastic – he reportedly did not need a hand double and learnt to play to a high standard within just three months, a fantastic feat and surely something that will help him in awards season – he’s already bagged the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, one of a record-breaking seven Globes that the film received, among Best Actress for Stone, Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Film (Comedy or Musical). 

Deep purples, romantic reds, calming hues of green – the film is a palette of opulent joy. The costumes are great, with Mia and her girls in block primary coloured dresses a stand-out as they swish their way down the street to a Hollywood party. There’s lots of shots at dusk: sunrise and sunset where the sky is the most outstanding colours, echoing the blues and purples of the film’s poster shot. 

The now iconic scene of the pair dancing on a Hollywood hill the sun rises, Mia in a yellow dress to brilliantly offset the deep purple backdrop rings true to the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And the sequence hints at Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain as Seb swings round a lamppost and something similar to the beginnings of Astaire’s ceiling dance as the couple tap their way along a bench while still seated. It’s quite a sequence, and while they are both impressive and there’s definite sparks despite the lyrics “Not a spark in sight, what a waste of a lovely night”. Yet there is something unpolished about the routine, but that helps it seem all the more authentic and charming.

  
It’s not just the visuals that are spectacular: the award-winning score is as catchy as it is enchanting. And like the unpolished dancing, the giggles and gasps and interrupted spoken words in the songs make it all the more real and likeable. Emma Stone seems like she has a mediocre voice until she sings in her final audition with such gusto and emotion that it had me welling up: it’s a beautiful belter. John Legend is a great addition to the cast as Seb’s old friend and band mate with the ‘Let’s start a fire’ set-piece sounding like it could have come straight off his latest album album.

Emma Stone’s signature doe eyes and lanky, yet elegant frame paired with Ryan Gosling’s ‘won’t eat his cereal’ brooding face and quick witted jibes are a great pairing. The two have worked together before, and like Astaire and Rogers before them, I hope they continue to do so. Emma Watson was reportedly originally cast as Mia but thy had to re-cast due to her conflicts with Beauty and the Beast. I think Stone suits the role better with her trademark goofiness adding another element of likability to Mia. 

Mia and Seb’s relationship seems to revolve around cars. They first meet in a traffic jam, they meet again at a party and Mia gets out of an awkward conversation with a writer by asking Seb to fetch her keys from the valley, which turned into a hung for the cars. Seb always blasts his horn when he arrives to collect my and… There’s more but I don’t want to leave any spoilers but the storey significantly revolves around journeys and cars. 

There’s a beautiful symmetry to the whole film, the story told in season’s, although in southern California there’s not much variation in the weather to indicate the transitions. The film comes full circle and is satisfying, although not for reasons you might expect. Look out for the final montage sequence: it is spectacular.

La La Land was enchanting and brought a tear or two to my eyes, although most the time I could simply feel myself involuntarily smiling. Not to echo the words of other critics, but it’s hard not to: it’s a feel-good homage to the golden age of Hollywood and it doesn’t disappoint. Even if you’re not a musical lover, there’s a still a good chance you will fall in love with La La Land – it’s hard to resist such a treat for the eyes and ears. Go see it now! 

What Carrie Fisher Taught Us

We were all shocked and upset on 27th December to hear the terrible news that Carrie Fisher, much loved for her role as Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars, had passed away. Her life was cut short when she still had so much to give; but we should remember what she left us: great films, books, jokes and memories and try to act on her words of wisdom.


Girls can be princesses too

Carrie was just 19 when she was cast as Princess Leia in the big budget sci-fi film Star Wars in 1977, the same age her mother Debbie Reynolds was when she got her big break in Singin’ In The Rain. Yes, she was a princess, but despite her please of “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi; you’re my only hope”, this young woman was more than a damsel in distress; she turned into a feminist icon.

Yes, she still requires some rescuing, but she grabbed blasters and took part in shoot outs with Stormtroopers, was strong with the Force and was gutsy enough to stand up to Darth Vader (damn scary) in an attempt to save her home planet. And in subsequent films, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, she turned from Princess Leia to General Leia Organa; a woman in a position of military power, directing rebel briefs and playing a vital role in leading the strategy on defeating the Empire, not just a figurehead.  

Star Wars Director, George Lucas said of Carrie Fisher: “She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colourful personality that everyone loved. In Star Wars she was our great and powerful princess – feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think.”
  
True, her character was written by Lucas so her feminist words were not strictly hers, but they came from her mouth and she delivered them and enacted the iconic character that so many girls now want to dress up as come Halloween in a white robe with the iconic buns on either side their head. Leia was a distressing damsel rather than a damsel in distress, and now people are petitioning for Disney to make her an official Disney Princess.

She truly embraced the role. She once said: “I had a lot of fun killing Jabba the Hutt. They asked me on the day if I wanted to have a stunt double kill Jabba. No! That’s the best time I ever had as an actor. And the only reason to go into acting is if you can kill a giant monster.”

It became a role that defined her career. And while she fell of the radar and suffered following her abuse of drugs during and after filming the Star Wars sequels, she became one the most iconic female characters in film. Forget your Disney princesses, this is what a real princess looks like.


Writing is a great outlet

As well as being a celebrated actress, Carrie was also a successful author, penning memoirs about her life. Not only playing a princess on-screen, she was something of Hollywood royalty, born to Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher in 1956. It’s no wonder she went into the wonderful world of showbiz – and thank goodness she did, she had so much wit, poise and wisdom to share.

Following her turn in Star Wars, she wrote Postcards From the Edge; a frank experience about her struggle with drugs at the height of her fame. The book was adapted for the big screen to the synonymous film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Streep received an Oscar nomination for her role as an aspiring actress struggling with drugs and other life dramas in the successful film.

She went on to aid in the writing of Sister Act and So I Married an Axe Murderer. In terms of literature, she also wrote further books, including her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist: which she was promoting in the UK just weeks before her death.

  

It’s ok to talk about mental illness

Something Carrie talked about quite openly in her books was her struggle with bipolar disorder and depression. Carrie often came across as mad as bag of snakes in interviews, but that was part of her charm: she never offended, just spoke her mind. Unfortunately her mind was plagued by mental illness. But at a time when it was still taboo to talk about (you could argue it still is now), she was frank and honest about how she dealt with her mental illness: “I don’t feel I’m particularly messed up… I’ve always been quite sane about being insane.”  

She became an advocate for mental illness: professing that it does not define you: ”I don’t want to be… ashamed of anything. And because generally someone who has bipolar doesn’t have just bipolar, they have bipolar and they have a life and a job and a kid and a hat and parents, so it’s not your overriding identity, it’s just something that you have, but not the only thing – even if it’s quite a big thing.”

Many praised her for her openness on the controversial topic. She helped many people identify their own troubles and encouraged people to reach out for help. “When you get [in that mental stats] it’s hard to talk. You are reaching out from such a far away place. What do you say? You don’t want to be a burden and you don’t want to seem like you feel sorry for yourself and it’s humiliating among so many other things.”

Carrie was just 19 when she was cast as Princess Leia in the big budget sci-fi film Star Wars in 1977, the same age her mother Debbie Reynolds was when she got her big break in Singin’ In The Rain. Yes, she was a princess, but despite her please of “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi; you’re my only hope”, this young woman was more than a damsel in distress; she turned into a feminist icon.
 
Yes, she still requires some rescuing, but she grabbed blasters and took part in shoot outs with Stormtroopers, was strong with the Force and was gutsy enough to stand up to Darth Vader (damn scary) in an attempt to save her home planet. And in subsequent films, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, she turned from Princess Leia to Commander Leia Organa; a woman in a position of military power, directing rebel briefs and playing a vital role in leading the strategy on defeating the Empire, not just a figurehead.  
 
Star Wars Director, George Lucas said of Carrie Fisher: “She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colourful personality that everyone loved. In Star Wars she was our great and powerful princess – feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think.”
 
True, her character was written by Lucas so her feminist words were not strictly hers, but they came from her mouth and she delivered them and enacted the iconic character that so many girls now want to dress up as come Halloween in a white robe with the iconic buns on either side their head. Leia was a distressing damsel rather than a damsel in distress, and now people are petitioning for Disney to make her an official Disney Princess.
 
She truly embraced the role. She once said: “I had a lot of fun killing Jabba the Hutt. They asked me on the day if I wanted to have a stunt double kill Jabba. No! That’s the best time I ever had as an actor. And the only reason to go into acting is if you can kill a giant monster.”
 
It became a role that defined her career. And while she fell of the radar and suffered following her abuse of drugs during and after filming the Star Wars sequels, she became one the most iconic female characters in film. Forget your Disney princesses, this is what a real princess looks like.
 
 

It’s never too late for a comeback

“The curse of Star Wars” is often talked about as many of the actors (with the exception of Harrison Ford) didn’t go on to have sparkling acting careers. While Carrie had success with her writing and had a few small roles in films such as When Harry Met Sally and cameos in television shows like The Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock and Sex and the City, her film career never really took off again.

That was until 2014 when Star Wars was rebooted and she returned to the role that made her famous. This reignited her passion for the spotlight, and she began to do press again: going on talk shows and giving interviews. She even wrote her final memoir and was filming scenes for guest starring in British sitcom Catastrophe.

She even shed light on a brief affair she had with Harrison Ford while filming The Empire Strikes Back, when Ford was married, which had remained secret for nearly 40 years. Of course the media sensationalised it: on-set affairs are always salacious gossip – even if it did happen four decades go!

Carrie has filmed scenes for the next Star Wars film, Episode VIII, but there are no questions around how Disney are going to conclude her character’s story in the final film following her early passing. In Star Wars: Rogue One, she made a brief cameo appearance as her 19-year-old self thanks to some CGI trickey. Additionally, Peter Cushing reprised his role as Grand Moff Tarkin, despite dying in 1994, by using highly detailed special effects. Perhaps they could do the same for Leia?

She may no longer be with us, but Carrie Fisher’s legacy will live on and we can look forward to seeing her in the next Star Wars instalment and episodes of Catastrophe. Her wit and enthusiasm will be sorely missed. In the words of Carrie Fisher, “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.” RIP.

Why movies about the film industry will always win

It’s the run up to awards season, and La La Land opened to glowing reviews at the Venice Film Festival, swept the board at the Critics Choice Awards, has been nominated for seven Golden Globes and is generating plenty of Oscar buzz.
The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), a barista by day and aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist, who meet and fall in love in 1940’s Los Angeles.

The film is a feel-good homage to the golden age of Hollywood and looks set to be popular with audiences, thanks in part to the popular Stone and Gosling pairing for the romantic leads. But it is also a sure-fire hit with critics and industry efficiandos. Why? Because it’s about Hollywood.

Films about the film industry itself are often critically acclaimed and always do well when it comes to awards season. Hollywood is an insular community and likes to lavish praise on itself and keep allure around the glamourous industry.

Argo

Films where Hollywood saves the day are even better. Look at the Oscar’s 2013 Best Picture winner, Argo. Ben Affleck’s film glorified the film industry, telling the true story of a CIA operation to bring home six American embassy workers from war-torn Iran by posing as a Canadian film crew scouting locations.

The win was a surprise to many as he was up against heavyweights including Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. But the underdog prevailed as this political thriller won over viewers and critics alike.

Star turns from Alan Arkin as the veteran Hollywood Producer and John Goodman as the makeup maestro helped to cement the ‘Hollywood good guys’ personas, especially when, SPOLIER ALERT, they help to save the hostages at the last minute by answering a phone call from the Iranian border patrol to confirm the (fake) film studio’s existence.”

  

Singin’ in the Rain

New film La La Land harks back to the golden age of Hollywood, with musical numbers being shot using 50s style, wide-screen CinemaScope[1] and performed in a single take as an ode to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Indeed, that 50s style is still loved today: An American in Paris, Top Hat and Singin’ in the Rain are timeless classics. And Singin’ in the Rain is another film about Hollywood that played to the critics’ tastes.

The iconic film stars Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, a silent film star whose world is turned upside down with the introduction of talking pictures as he falls for actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) while trying to maintain the façade of a relationship with Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).

While the film didn’t win any Oscars (it received a nod for Best Music and Jean Hagen was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role) it has stood the test of time, ranking at number 1 in AFI’s ‘Greatest Movie Musicals’, and at number 5 in AFI’s ‘100 Years… 100 Movies’ list. It was among the first 25 films added to the National Film Registry for films deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

  

The Artist

Another award-winning film about Hollywood’s transition into the talkies is 2011’s The Artist. The black and white silent film about the romance between a silent film star and a rising ‘talkies’ star bagged plenty of awards. The film won Best Picture at the Oscars and BAFTAs and Best Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, Best Actor Oscar, BAFTA Golden Globe for Jean Dujardin, Best Director Oscar for Michel Hazanavicis, Best Costume Design Oscar and BAFTA and Best Score Oscar and Golden Globe. Impressive.

Some thought it was a gimmick to shoot the story as a silent film, but director Michel Hazanavicius saw the film as an opportunity to take some artistic license and visually play with the film. “People come to a silent black and white movie, they know it’s not going to be a realistic movie. It’s a transfiguration of the reality,” he told CinemaBlend. “I hoped that people will like the movie, but you never know. Yes, clearly silent movies are a universal language. Everybody can understand them.” And it worked: audiences around the world fell in love with the film.

  

Tropic Thunder

Hollywood satires can also do very well. While Singin’ in the Rain is essentially a satirical look at old Hollywood, Tropic Thunder has a no holds barred approach to the film industry.

The film follows a cast of actors who are shooting a war film in Vietnam and unwittingly get caught up in real-life warfare, with Ben Stiller’s character being captured and taken to a POW camp and Robert Downey Jr and Jack Black’s characters stumbling across a drug ring. The results are surprisingly hilarious, although at times very close to the mark.

Ben Stiller’s Tugg Speedman reminisces about his role in film ‘Simple Jack’ and wonders why it bombed at the box office when he thought it would win him awards, but he’s informed it’s because he “went full retard” for the role of disabled Jack. Mentally impaired roles such as Dustin Hoffman in Rainman or Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump win awards, but “full retard” is too much. Then there’s Robert Downey Jr in black face makeup…

Downey Jr was nominated for numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, Critics Choise Award and an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of “a white dude playing a black dude” in a satirical look at method actors where his character of Kirk Lazarus has undergone surgery to turn his skin black for this role.

The film wasn’t afraid to poke fun at actors and the industry’s thin line between what is deemed offensive and what is award-worthy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch for Downey Jr’s performance and a hilarious cameo from Tom Cruise in a bald cap and a fat suit dancing to FloRida and negotiating with terrorists.

  

If you fancy a flutter during awards season, La La Land is likely to be a safe bet. Past awards seasons have shown that films which show Hollywood in a good light, particularly those that croon for the golden age of the 40s and 50s in Los Angeles. Surely La La Land can’t fail?

What can journalists learn from Sam Smith’s Oscar acceptance speech?

Why would a musician’s Oscar acceptance speech cause an Olympic diver to trend on Twitter? Sam Smith managed to make just that happen this week, and cause quite a stir.

 Poor Sam Smith. It was one of the highlights of his career as he accepted the Oscar for Best Original Song at the weekend. He even had a heartfelt message planned for his acceptance speech.

 But as he took to the stage with his co-writer Jimmy Napes, things all went a bit wrong for the Grammy Award-winning singer as he claimed he was the first openly gay man to win an Oscar.

 In his speech, he said: “I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar.

“If this is the case – even if it isn’t the case – I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world.”

What was meant to be a dedication turned into a farce, as it turns out this wasn’t what McKellen said. In an interview with The Guardian, when McKellen was asked about the diversity debate surrounding the Oscars, he said that homophobia was just as much a problem as racism in Hollywood. He said, “Why has no openly gay man ever won the Best Actor Oscar?” Read the interview here.

So what can journalists learn from this situation? Check your sources. A journalist could be sued for misquoting. This whole kerfuffle could have been avoided if Smtih had noted the key term “best actor” in the interview.

 In a famous libel case of Masson vs New Yorker Magazine, the Supreme Court stated: “regardless of the truth or falsity of the factual matters asserted within the quoted statement, the attribution may result in injury to reputation because the manner of expression or even the fact that the statement was made indicates a negative personal trait or an attitude the speaker does not hold.”

 In Smith’s instance, not only has he got the facts wrong and casued injury to his own reputation, but he also potentially injured McKellen’s reputation by inferring that McKellen did not know correct information about gay Oscar winners.

 In fact, McKellen’s information was accurate, as no openly gay man has ever won the Best Actor Oscar. So it was just Smith in the wrong for misquoting McKellen, although if McKellen were to take legal action, he could argue that his reputation was temporarily damaged.

 To be fair to Smith, he did say “if” in his speech, but that little word doesn’t matter to gossip mongers. It also didn’t matter to Dustin Lance Black, the winner of the 2008 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Milk, and the fiancé of British Olympic diver, Tom Daley.

 He responded to Smith’s tweet in a scathing tone, along with a link to a video of his own Oscar acceptance speech: “Hey @SamSmithWorld, if you have no idea who I am, it may be time to stop texting my fiancé. Here’s a start: [link to video]”.

 This tweet unearthed more trolls for Smith, as Lance Black inferred that the singer was texting Daley. Smith was then bombarded with tweets requesting Daley’s phone number, which in turn caused Tom Dayley to trend on Twitter.

 McKellen has since come to Smith’s defence, tweeting “I’d said no openly gay actor had received #Oscars – that doesn’t detract from @samsmithworld achievement. Congratulations to him & all others!” 

 And it’s not just Lance Black who’s represented the gay community by picking up an Oscar. Time Magazine has claimed Smith’s speech did ‘disservice’ to the LGBT community by not acknowledging former winners. Past winners also include Elton John and Stephen Sondheim, who both won for Best Original Song, as well as Disney composer Howard Ashman, and Alan Ball who won Best Original Screenplay for American Beauty.

 Smith later defended himself with another series of tweets:

 “Second openly gay man to win an oscar or third or fourth or 100th, It wasn’t my point. My point was to shine some light on the LGBT community who i love so dearly.

“Apologies for the mix up @DLanceBlack I’ll be sure to check out your films now x Belated Congrats on the Oscar x?

 Turns out he could have just dedicated the Oscar to the LGBT community without referencing McKellen’s inverview and saved himself a whole lot of trouble! In the wake of the social media storm, Smith has decided to retreat from social media while the situation cools.

 “​I’m logging off for a while. Some Martinis shaken not stirred are definitely in order.​”

 It just goes to show how things can get of hand so quickly, especially in the age of social media when everyone wants to throw their opinion into the mix. What can we learn from this? If you’re going to reference someone, be it in writing or verbally, always check exactly what they have said to avoid embarrassment for you and all others involved.

 P.S. It in fact turns out that Sam Smith and Daley are friends, after Lance Black revelaed that his tweet was partly meant in jest, but also to shed light on what Smith probably should have just said in the first place.

 “THE POINT: knowing our LGBTQ history is important. We stand on the shoulders of countless brave men and women who paved the way for us.”

“Dear Internet: @TomDaley1994 and @samsmithworld are pals. They text. Thus my surprise Sam took me for a closet case! Feel free to laugh.”

 

The most exciting prize at The Oscars 2016: Best Supporting Actor

If Leonadro DiCarprio doesn’t win Best Actor at The Oscars, something is definitely wrong. Seeing as he has swept the board this awards’ season for his role in The Revenant, it doesn’t make the opening of the envelope that exciting. Personally, I’m looking forward to Best Supporting Actor being awarded, as it’s not a sure thing.

Christian Bale: The Big Short
Christian Bale took on another transformative role with fake teeth and a glass eye as the eccentrically bright Dr Michael Burry in The Big Short. This film had a strong ensemble cast, but I’m not sure if Bale was the standout for me. He is more like a cog in a greater machine.

Bale has already been awarded for this role with a Critics’ Choice Award, for Best Actor in a Comedy. Personally, I felt Ryan Gosling’s character got more laughs in the film. Bale is held in high regard with the Academy, having previously won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in 2011’s The Fighter. Comparing his performance in The Big Short to that in The Fighter: I don’t think this is his year.

Tom Hardy: The Revenant
Tom Hardy has had quite a year, with great turns in as both Kray twins in Legend, the ten-times Oscar nominated Mad Max: Fury Road, and one of the most talked about films of the year: The Revenant, for which he is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Hardy delivers an excellent role as Leonardo DiCaprio’s nemesis, John Fitzgerald, in the film and is definitely in the running for scooping the award. But his presence, of lack there of, has been noted on The Revenant’s campaign trail. He puts it down to filming for his next project, Taboo, but he has admitted before that he is not a fan of the award circuit. “It’s like putting a wig on a dog, or a tutu on a crocodile. It doesn’t look right, it’s not fair to the animal, and inevitably someone will get bitten and hurt,” he said in an interview in October. Unfortunately, the Academy likes actors to parade themselves, so may not look kindly on the fact that Hardy has chosen to withdraw from the campaign process.

Mark Ruffalo: Spotlight
Like Bale, I think Ruffalo is an essential part of a great ensemble cast for Spotlight, but I am unsure if his performance is worthy of an Oscar. I have always admired Ruffalo, and for a long time I thought he was one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood: he always delivers amazing performances (Zodiac, The Normal Heart) and seems like a generally nice guy. But thanks to a role in The Avengers blockbusters, and critically acclaimed films like The Kids Are Alright and Foxcatcher, he is now getting the attention he deserves.
Ruffalo delivers as strong performance alongside a great cast in Spotlight, which is in strong contention for Best Film. But what sets him apart from his co-stars is the compassion that his character portrays: in a scene with a shouting match, you can really feel his anger. But is it enough to win him the coveted award: the third Oscar he’s been nominated for?
Mark Rylance: Bridge of Spies
Next up is Mark Ryalance, the stage thespian turned screen star. He bagged the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Rudolf Abel, the soviet spy in Spielberg’s Cold War epic, Bridge of Spies. Rylance first came to the fore on the small screen in Wolf Hall in 2015, where he played the shifty Thomas Cromwell with great depth. The same can be said for his turn as Abel in Bridge of Spies: he keeps his cards close to his chest opposite Tom Hanks’ lawyer. His acting is subtle, but sublime and is a stand out in the film.

But will he win the Oscar? He has all the qualifications: RADA, RSC-alumni and first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe. But this doesn’t necessarily concern the Academy: look at Brie Larson, first time nominee, who (like DiCaprio) has won nearly every Best Actress award going this year. But he’s definitely in contention for Best Supporting Actor.
Sylvester Stallone: Creed
Finally, we have Sylvestor Stallone, reprising his role as Rocky Balboa for the seventh time. He was nominated for Best Actor and Best Screenplay for the original Rocky film but lost out in both categories. But since then, his films have remained a big box office draw, taking a combined total of over $1bn, proving his popularity with cinema-goers.

Stallone picked up Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes this year and even received a standing ovation: which gives a good indication of what those in the industry (and Oscar voters) think. However, the film itself, Creed, was not nominated for Best Picture, or any other awards for that matter: Stallone is its sole representative at the Oscars. The award should be judged on an actor’s performance alone, but back up from a strong cast and script always helps.

CBS are running an Oscar Poll. At present, Sylvester Stllone is in front with 34% of the votes, followed by Hardy at 26%, Rylance and Ruffalo are tied at 15%, and Christian Bale is in last place with 10%. But this doesn’t necessarily reflect the Academy’s decision. It also doesn’t entirely reflect the awards that have already been picked up.

Winners at (the big) 2016 ceremonies so far:

BAFTAs: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

SAGs: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

Golden Globes: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Critics’ Choice: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

(Best Actor in a Comedy) Critics’ Choice: Christian Bale, The Big Short

Idris Elba was notably overlooked for a nomination at this year’s Oscars amid the #OscarsSoWhite race row. It seems like he should have been in the running, after standing a good chance at the BAFTAs and Globes and scooping the SAG Award.

Going on past winners and general opinion. Stallone is the favourite to win the award. But it’s not a sure thing. He has been overlooked by the academy since the original Rocky, and Creed itself was passed over for lots of nominations this year where many thought it was worthy. It is a great comeback story, and as ever, everyone loves the underdog story that Rocky embodies. So perhaps this is Sly’s year? Let’s wait and see…

Marketing movies: is there any point?

I always make sure I get to the cinema with enough time to watch the trailers. I love seeing the compilation of what films are on the horizon, and how the studios have packaged them up to sell them to me. Movie posters always catch my eye as I take the tube to work, I take note of the starring actors and the starry ratings. Yet there is one thing that (usually) tells me whether I actually want to spend money on seeing a film at the cinema or not: reviews.

Thanks to the availability of reviews online today, we don’t have to rely on the carefully selected four and five star ratings that are inevitably splashed across film posters. Just Google a film and it will come up with a rating right next to the title, whether it’s a Rotten Tomatoes percentage, IMDB rating/ranking or its MetaCritic score. Not to mention the numerous blogs like my own where even semi/non professional film critics can weigh in.

This is great for the public, as they can get a good idea, according to general opinion, whether it is worth them spending their hard earned money on seeing a film at the cinema – an average cost of £10 these days (excluding travel/parking/popcorn/drinks) or wait until the DVD/On demand release.

But this poses a question for film studios: is there any point on splurging a massive marketing budget on films? Potential audiences can and will make up their minds based on other people’s opinion of the film’s content, not just on how good the marketing department can make it look.

A great example of this is the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, or Fant4stic as it was marketed. Superhero films were on a winning streak thanks to Marvel and DC, and the film was fronted by up-and-coming young stars like House of Cards’ Kate Mara and Whiplash’s Miles Teller. The film had gone down the darker, more serious superhero route (trail-blazed by Christopher Nolan with The Dark Knight trilogy) as opposed to the family-friendly 2005 version of Fantastic Four with Jessica Alba and Chris Evans: who has since switched comic book allegiance to play Captain America. 

The trailer looked great: slightly gritty, action-packed with break out stars. A good bit of Michael Bay-esque rumbling base line to vibrate the cinema seats and the visual effects were impressive. But there was a fatal problem: the film itself wasn’t very good. At least, the critics didn’t think it was. 

  

  
The film was rated 4.3/10 by IMDB, 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and 27% on MetaCritic. Not exactly enticing numbers. Critics described it as “dull and offbeat”, “a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great”, “A jumble of predictable but also incoherent plot turns, dreadful dialogue, and unfortunate visual choices”. The film poster didn’t even carry any words of praise or star ratings, likely because there were none above 2/5 and no positive words to be said.

I’m a big fan of awards’ season: I like to cast my opinion and I love the suspense when the envelope is being opened as much as the elated looks on the winners faces – and the gracious loser faces too. Film marketing really goes into overdrive at this time. But unlike Fantastic Four where the studio were trying to pedal a blockbuster, the films being marketed are usually held in high regard, and they films are being marketed to the boards: The Academy, The Hollywood Foreign Press et al. It’s a competition for which film has the best offering in terms of content and performance and what resonates with critics and peers.

Leonardo DiCaprio and The Revenant has been hitting the Oscar trail hard this year in a bid to let everyone know what he went through during film to deliver his performance. It reminds me of sitcom 30 Rock when comic actor Tracy Jordan turns his hand to serious acting in a bid to win the coveted EGOT with his film Hard to Watch. The films all try to be as serious and important as possible: which one should be a landmark ‘best film’ for that year. This year the trailers and film posters are telling me that Spotlight is: “A phenomenal accomplishment”, The Revenant is “A masterpiece of all in film making”, Room is “a one of a kind must see experience”.

These plaudits don’t come cheap. According to The Independent, the average cost for a campaign is $5m ($3m on advertising and marketing and $2m on entertainment and travel costs) and Stephen Follows reports the cost of a ‘Best Picture’ winning Oscar campaign is around $10 million, half of which will go on advertising.
During Oscar season, the studios aggressively pay for adverts politely reminding Academy voters of their films. Often under the phrase ‘For your consideration‘, these adverts appear in almost every area of the film industry; online, in print, on billboards and even videos. A page 1 advert in The Hollywood Reporter during Oscar season cost one Best Picture nominee $72,000.

But money doesn’t always equal a win. Sometimes the indy darlings prevail, such as Crash, 2005 Best Picture winner, which spent $250,000 on DVD screeners. Or The Hurt Locker, whose campaign cost just $5m, as opposed to Shakespeare in Love which spent $15m ten years before. 

So what’s the point of a marketing campaign for a film? Generally, films are made to make money, to get bums on seats. A good film needs a good trailer and enticing posters, but that often means it needs good reviews so that stars and pull quotes can be splashed across the canvas. If the marketing campaign is then geared towards winning awards, there’s certain people that need to be impressed: not just the critics and the general public. But at the end of the day, it’s down to the majority opinion: democracy wins via word of mouth, and the internet. 

The SAGs: awards’ season answer to diversity. But what’s the real problem?

#OscarsSoWhite has become the hashtag of the 2016 Oscars. The lack of racial diversity has caused something of a stir in Hollywood. Idris Elba, who was widely acclaimed for his role in Beasts of No Nation was overlooked, as was Micheal B. Jordan’s excellent performance in Creed, the latest Rocky instalment. The critically lauded Straight Outta Compton was also overlooked, bar its screenplay. There has been a public outcry for a lack of racial diversity shown by the Academy Awards, which portray the pinnacle achievement in the film industry.

This weekend saw the Screen Actors Guild Award come to town, and not only did the nominations show diversity, but so did the winners. Yes, the ‘big’ awards followed the general industry consensus, awarding Best Actor to Leonado Di Caprio, Best Actress to Brie Larson and Best Ensemble to Spotlight. But winners in other categories went against the grain.

Idris Elba, who was overlooked for a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role in Beasts of No Nation took home a SAG statuette AND bagged a second for reprising his role in Luther. Other racially diverse winners were Viola Davis for How to Get Away with Murder, Uzo Abuda for Orange is the New Black and Queen Latifah for the miniseries Bessie.

Further lack of diversity at awards season comes in the oh so often neglected female representation in any category that isn’t dedicated to women in the first place thanks to the suffix of ‘ess’. Since Katherine Bigelow won Best Director for The Hurt Locker back in 2010, the short list for all the big awards has been distinctly male.

Last year, Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to give a voice to women in the industry, calling for equal wages, which was greeted by a standing ovation lead by Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez from the front row. But it’s not just wages that are the problem. As Variety highlighted, there is generally a lack of opportunities for women. In 2014, 85% of films had no female directors, 80% had no female writers and 33% had no female producers.

The SAG Awards saw Orange is the New Black win Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series – the picture of this moment speaks a thousand words as these women stand triumphantly on the stage in their gowns, fists punching the air in triumph. It’s refreshing to see a cast of (mostly) women in a show that is penned by a woman with a strong female production team, succeed.
  
Mind you, it’s worth noting that the SAG don’t give out awards for ‘best’ performances, but for ‘outstanding performances’. Perhaps there’s something in that: not declaring that their chosen recipient is hands-down the ‘best’, but simply outstanding and wrothy of an award. I like that. Maybe it’s to do with the new thinking behind the 22-year-old SAGs, as opposed to the antiquated 88-year-old Oscars that still instil the old-school Hollywood values: discrimination, favouritism et al.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the SAGs cover the television screen as well as ‘the big screen’, so there are more awards and therefore more opportunities. The same goes for the Golden Globes (and the BAFTAs, although the Brits do divide the two into different ceremonies at different times of the year).

So what is the fuss about with the lack of diversity at other awards ceremonies? A lot of the problem is based on opportunity: it depends what films are released that year, which in turn is dependent on what scripts are written, approved by studios and given the financial backing, before they can even reach the screen and be judged for their content.

The Big Short has been held up as a mirror to the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations as it is fronted by four white men, with a supporting cast of white men with women only appearing in supporting roles as strippers and waitresses. But director and co-writer Adam McKay defended the film, saying that it is all circumstancial.

“I think we’ve had stretches where there’s been good diversity, but lately it hasn’t been great. So I think if any group on planet earth should be able to deal with protests like this, it should be filmmakers. So I support it…” He said. “The irony is, we had to make a movie about Wall Street, which is mostly white men. So it was a little frustrating for us, but that’s the truth of Wall Street, we had to do it.” And he’s right.

We wouldn’t have been having this ‘white’ Oscars debate three years ago when 12 Years a Slave scooped Best Actor, and breakout star and red carpet darling of the year Lupita Nyung’o won Best Supporting Actress, and deservedly so. Her’s was a moving performance in a powerful and important film. To boot, its director Steve McQueen was nominated for Best Director, and Chiwetel Ejiofor received a Best Actor nomination.

When it comes to a lack of female diversity, much of this is simply to do with limited opportunities for women behind the camera. The film industry is still very much as old boys club. Even in front of the camera, women struggle to find interesting roles with depth, particularly once they are past the age of thirty. There is generally a lack of leading roles for women. Famously, Angelina Jolie’s role in the spy thriller, Salt was meant to be for a man: a Tom Cruise-esque vehicle. But she proved that women can do just as good a job in a man’s role, and even brought another dimension to the role with a feminine sensibility. Not to mention, it was refreshing seeing a woman-lead action film that didn’t involve the heroine wearing lycra or a crop top – yes, Angelina, everyone remembers Tomb Raider.

It is great to see the SAG Awards honouring the underdog, however I am sure that Idris Elba won his two awards for his merit, and wants to be remembered that way: not for being a black man that the Guild took pity on/saw as an opportunity to give a finger to the Academy. Elba is a phenomenal actor, and alongside Redmayne, I believe he is one of Britain’s greatest acting exports of the moment – not forgetting two of my favourites, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren, who are still both killing it despite their age – yes, even Winslet is considered ‘old’ by industry standards now she has hit the big four-oh.

The SAGs are being hailed as the “pointed counter to [the] Oscars” – thanks Guardian. Yes, the Oscars didn’t even nominate some actors – Idrid Elba has certainly been overlooked, I’m not so sure about Will Smith. But I stand by my comment that these winners are only a product of the material that they are provided with: a role written for a white man can (in most circumstances) only be played by a white man. There needs to be a change in attitudes in the white-male dominated industry that allows minorities through the door, both behind the camera and in front of it. Maybe then we will see a more diverse nomination list come awards season.