Saturday, 27 December 2014

Odeon Screen Unseen

Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal

Take Your Chances

Odeon cinemas have started doing a Screen Unseen scheme where you attend without knowing what you’re about to see.  

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Last month my family and I saw Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, an instantly memorable movie character who will be counted alongside Travis Bickle and Michael Corleone as emblems of the corruptions of the age.

  Nightcrawler is the disturbing tale of an ambulance-chasing media hound who starts to manipulate the stories he covers.  Riz Ahmed as his intern Rick and Rene Russo as news producer Nina are equally brilliant in more tragic roles; they are characters who are equally as culpable as Bloom but are also damaged irreparably by the protagonist’s increasingly evil decisions.  
Rene Russo

Lighting and editing

In some ways Nightcrawler reminded me of a 1970s art-house film, lit like an urban noir and with editing rhythms that produced an accelerating tension.  The ending – where there is plenty of smiling and ‘pep-talk’ is as chilling as anything I’ve seen at the cinema in recent years.


This month we were lucky to see Whiplash, a film I probably wouldn’t have chosen to see but was glad it was offered to me by Screen Unseen.

Two brilliant central performances

Another terrific but disturbing film.  Starting with a black screen and the sound of a neurotic drum roll that starts as if played by a child, gradually becoming military and then turning into a sublime performance of superhuman speed, the sound acts as a metaphor of my journey with this film in the cinema – I felt innocent at first (thinking I was watching Fame, then Full Metal Jacket for drummers and finally Amadeus-meets-Drumline.  With two brilliant central performances and switches of tone that induced breathless emotional effects, I would recommend this film to anyone who admires intense acting, character-driven films or films about svengali-like teachers.  Or indeed anyone who appreciates fine percussion or jazz music.  

Academy Awards?

JK Simmons may well be nominated for an acting Oscar, though most people would want his character to be hauled before a judge and jury and sentenced to painful hard labour.  Miles Teller is horribly believable as a gauche prodigy with family issues, and an unattractive stubbornness – but he occasionally smiles with tender hope and you root for him.  Would you want to be his friend or girlfriend?  Probably not.  If I were in charge of the Academy Awards it would receive Oscars for Film Editing, Music Score and Original Screenplay.
JK Simmons and Miles Teller in brilliant performances
JK Simmons and Miles Teller will, though, I expect, be competing with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo for acting honours in the awards season.  Good luck to them all.   

Thanks, Odeon Screen Unseen for prompting me to see these two great films.