The Oscars have a bad rep and it’s getting worse. The primary problem lies in the fact that the decision makers, the Academy, are a bunch of dinosaurs who shy away from controversy by favouring schmaltzy fare over innovation and it seems real talent. Worse still, a couple of more disturbing trends have emerged in recent years.
There is a moment toward the end of James Marsh’s documentary feature, “Man on Wire,” when our high-wire impresario protagonist Philippe Petit utters the words: “Life should be lived on the edge of life” – at once so perfectly and profoundly encapsulating the very essence of this mesmerizing story of the power of dreams and the pursuit of the impossible. Upon his arrest after completing the “artistic crime of the century” by tightrope walking between the newly constructed twin towers of the World Trade Centre in August 1974, Philippe recounts how he was met with one question: “Why?” His simple retort – “Why? There is no why,” cheekily dismissing the question as “very American” – portrays a virtuous frontier spirit that is as admirable as it is foolhardy. That said, Philippe is a rare breed, and his enthusiasm for his performance is little diluted 34 years on and that in part is what makes his story so fascinating and relevant.
Where there is wheat there is inevitably chaff. And February’s cinematic harvest has produced an inordinate amount of chaff, as evidenced by the dross currently being served up at the box office. It’s a veritable graveyard out there at the moment and unfortunately it’s one that is populated by the likes of Danny Dyer, annoying kids with tambourines and Nic Cage’s flaming head.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the film industry had run out of ideas. The noughties have seen studios once again embracing sequels and trilogies as if they were going out of fashion. Even undeserving pictures such as Fantastic Four and Bruce Almighty have been afforded the follow up treatment, whilst long defunct series such as Die Hard, Rambo and Rocky have all been reinvented for 21st century audiences. Similarly, a plethora of remakes (or “reinterpretations”) have flooded the marketplace, many to critical and commercial acclaim, particularly Martin Scorcese’s award-laden The Departed (a brutal re-imagining of Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs). And it is Asian cinema in particular that industry has latched onto for inspiration, with French duo David Moreau and Xavier Palud’s The Eye following The Ring, The Grudge and Dark Water into Asian horror remake territory, with their interpretation of 2002 Pang Brothers picture.
In 1971, an audacious gang of crooks broke into the vault of the Baker Street branch of Lloyds Bank in London’s affluent Marylebone. It made off with approximately £500,000 (more than £5 million in modern terms), yet this robbery is an almost unknown footnote in the history of London’s notorious criminal past. The mystery and intrigue surrounding this robbery is exactly what director Roger Donaldson’s The Bank Job attempts to uncover, and the film’s premise is certainly salivating stuff: dodgy East End gangsters, depraved politicians, government cover-ups and Royal scandal.