Brokeback Mountain galloping towards the Oscars


That Ang Lee knows how to please the critics. His 'gay cowboy' (a misnomer, by the way) Brokeback Mountain has been mopping up awards in America, first at the LA Film Critics Awards and today it received seven Golden Globe Nominations in New York. It's interesting to see why Lee's film is doing so well and will probably follow suit when it comes out in the UK in early January. It looks good, it's a repressed love story (the middle-classes love that) and it's got an overall 'classy' feel about it that includes the ever-so-fashionable references to Edward Hopper. But is it worth the hype? The full review is coming up soon.

Richard Pryor Remembered

It is somewhat depressing that only a short month after writing about the death of Moustapha Akkad, here I am again paying my respects to one of the world's greatest comedians.

It is impossible to do Pryor's wide and varied career the justice that it deserves in the small space here, or to really emphasise his influence on a whole new generation of comedians, which includes Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy and Will Smith - among so many others. However, as with most children of the eighties, I came to know Pryor's work through his time as an A-list actor - headlining such classic comedies as 1976's Silver Streak and, especially, 1980's Stir Crazy; both of which also featured Gene Wilder. In his autobiography entitled Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences Pryor sheds little light on this time of his life - prefering (perhaps understandably) to talk in detail about his amazing career as a stand up comedian - but he does at least reveal that, when doing Stir Crazy, he lived in low rent conditions in order to 'get into' the part of Harry Monroe, the wrongly convicted, working class drifter. Pryor would team again with Wilder for 1989's See No Evil, Hear No Evil - which he claims to have done solely for the pay cheque although the film is actually an enjoyable romp - and 1991's Another You, where his deteriorating health was all too obvious.

Pryor's other film highlights include writing the screenplay to Mel Brook's masterpiece Blazing Saddles (1974), his supporting roles in the cult hit Car Wash (1976) and the ambitious The Wiz (1978), as well as his promiment appearance in the otherwise bland sequel Superman 3 (I983).

If we're being brutally honest, the films that he choose as his starring projects were usually disappointing and certainly not suited to such a huge talent. Few laughs were to be had with failed comedies such as 1982's The Toy, 1985's thoroughly mediocre Brewster's Millions, 1987's Critical Condition and 1988's Moving. Furthermore, whilst his 1989 appearance opposite his heir apparent Eddie Murphy should have beena dream made in Hollywood, the end result was a disaster.

Even so, on the back Stir Crazy (one of the best films of the eighties. Period) and his lively, incredibly political and emotionally charged stand up appearances (the best of which is captured in his 1979 Richard Pryor, Live in Concert document) he will be forever remembered as an incredible comedy talent.

As with so many huge talents, Pryor also had his dark side - which included being raised in poverty (and a brothel) drug addiction, wife beating and his notorious attempt at suicide via lighting himself on fire. Such information makes his comical demeanour and - especially - his comparitively light hearted comedy film outings from the eighties all the harder to fully comprehend. For those who wish to attempt to do, then his aforementioned autobiography is as a good a place as anywhere to start.

In the meantime, RIP to a comic genius.

Calum Waddell


Hidden triumphs at European Oscars

Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche in Hidden
Austrian director Michael Haneke'S acclaimed French language thriller Hidden (Caché), starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, garnered five awards at the European Film Awards in Berlin on Saturday (3 December). The awards for were:

Best European Film 2005 - Caché
Best European Director 2005 - Michael Haneke
Best European Actor 2005 - Daniel Auteuil
Best European Editor 2005 - Michael Hudecek and Nadine Muse

Members of the European Film Academy judged 47 films this year. The awards, voted by the academy's 1,600 members, have been handed out since 1988 and are considered Europe's equivalent of the Oscars.
Hidden is released in the UK on 27/1/2006


Frederick Wiseman at the Tate Modern

Those of you who have never heard of Frederick Wiseman should take yourselves to the Tate Modern for the ongoing mini Wiseman festival that's taking place there in conjunction with the Jeff Wall show. Wiseman is often dubbed the greatest American documentarian and there seems to be truth in that. I saw his classic The Store (1982) yesterday and I was astounded by the intelligence that Wiseman displayed in the construction of this masterpiece. The Store is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the day-by-day at Neiman Marcus department store in Dallas. Shot on film stock, the camera is never acknowledged and never hand-held as it usually is these days, which creates the impression of this being a fiction film. Wiseman's smooth editing and visual puns manage to create a visual essay on consumerist society that is more beautiful and eerier than anything David Lynch ever made. Yes, life is stranger than fiction, especially in America. Wiseman will be present for a Q&A session on Sunday, 11/12.
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