The 58th London Film Festival

  • BFI London Film Festival

After twelve days and two hundred and forty eight films, the London Film Festival has now sadly left us. It was a ruddy great big hoot while it lasted though and maybe my favourite London Film Festival of the last five odd years. The city may have been a wee bit grey and rain sodden for a couple of weeks, but the quality of the films on show ensured that it couldn’t dampen our movie loving spirits. But now that the celluloid dust has settled I thought I’d flex my typing fingers and write a little summary of the festival. So if you’ve spent the last few days wondering which film was my pick of the selection, which performance blew my tiny little mind and whose hair offended my very being, wonder no more…

The opening and closing Galas

If you want to have a stonking, nipple-tingling film festival you need to open and close with a couple of big hay-makers. The films in between can contain Citizen Kane, Ben Hur and The Godfather for all I care, but if they’re bookended by a couple of wet farts it’ll leave an underwhelming and unsatisfying aroma in your nostrils. Last year the London Film Festival was bookended by Mr Tom Hanks (the opening gala was Captain Philips and the closing gala was Saving Mr. Banks). Naturally, the BFI realised that there was only one viable option to compete with Tom Hanks, and that’s World War II. Obviously. So on October 8th, the 58th London Film festival opened with The Imitation Game. A biopic about Alan Turing (wonderfully played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a genius sociopath who played a key role in helping to win WWII. It was a very strong opening with a film that’ll likely by tussling for various Academy Awards next February. Twelve days later we were back with the Nazis for the closing night gala. This time the film was Fury. David Ayer’s raw and intense WWII romp featuring Brad Pitt and a band of merry men riding around Germany in a big old tank. Whilst this maybe didn’t quite hit the heights of The Imitation Game, the film was still a cracker with a couple of scenes in particular that will linger long in the memory. A strong finish to an outstanding festival despite the presence of Shia LaBeouf (buffoon).

Film of the Festival

As already eluded to, there’s been a plethora of stunning films at this years London Film Festival, many of which I’d expect to see battling it out at next years Oscars. The Imitation Game and Fury I’ve already mentioned, but in between, other festival highs have included ’71, Whiplash, Foxcatcher, The Drop, Birdman, Wild, Mr Turner and White God. But, in my eyes there can be only one winner. That winner? Whiplash. It wasn’t only the best film at this years festival, but maybe even the best film I’ve seen all year (punchy words when you consider the competition of Boyhood, Her, 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street). The film plays out like a piece of powerful and dramatic, classical music with one almighty crescendo to finish (that drew a standing ovation!). It’s also not short of a stunning performance or two (more on that shortly). For some unknown reason the odds on Whiplash to win the Best Picture at next years Oscars currently look extremely generous. I’ve slipped (sensually) in to my mystic trousers and they are telling me that those odds will come tumbling down as we near February 2015. I’ve already put my hard earned cash on it taking home the big one and fully expect to be strutting around the Caribbean in some unsightly speedos, spending my winnings next year.

The Performance of the Festival

There are several contenders for this. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, Steve Carrell steps out of his comedy trousers and goes all tragic and serious with wonderful effect in Foxcatcher (think Robin Williams in One Hour Photo). Michael Keaton and Ed Norton are supposedly magnificent in Birdman, but there can surely be only one winner here. J.K. Simmons. He’s astounding in Whiplash as an unpredictable, fairly mental music teacher. Like the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket crossed with Andrew Lloyd Weber. Lump on him for the Oscar.

British Film of the Festival

Two strong contenders in this category. Those being The Imitation Game and ’71. ’71 is a great action/horror film following the plight of Jack O’Connell as a squadie stranded in Belfast and being hunted by lots of angry Irish rascals. It’s basically Apocalypto in Belfast which turns out to be no bad thing. But I’m going to go for The Imitation Game as the best British film. A remarkable story.

The Best Scene of the Festival

I difficult category to detail without going all spoiler-tastic, but I’m going to give it a go. So, the contenders in this category are the glorious crescendo of Whiplash, the final battle in Fury, the pub scene in ’71 and the fried egg scene in Fury (again). The winner is…(drum roll)…Whiplash. Exhilarating and it’s amazing how powerful a simple smile can be.

The Biggest Disappointment

A strange one this as it is undeniably a very good movie and definitely worth a watch, but I was a tad disappointed with Foxcatcher as it didn’t live up to my sky high expectations. Despite brimming with wonderful performances I think it’s twenty or so minutes too long from being a great film. It maybe also suffered from following the mighty high of Whiplash (which I saw the previous night and as you may have guessed, quite liked).

The Most Berserk Film of the Festival

I’m going for the Hungarian film White God in this category. Imagine Planet of the Apes crossed with Lassie crossed with The Birds and you wouldn’t be a million miles away from White God. It starts off as a teenage angst movie and a touching tale about a young girls relationship with her dog and then somewhere down the line it morphs in to a rampaging dog revenge flick. It’s utterly bonkers, but also thoroughly enjoyable and also pretty thought provoking. Definitely worth a watch.

The One to Miss

Kung Fu Jungle. Great action, but it’s sadly housed in a martial arts movie by numbers. For super fans of the genre only. If you want to see an amazing kung fu movie, skip this and go and watch The Raid or The Raid 2 instead.

The One I Wish I’d Seen

With 248 films shown over twelve days, it’s basically impossible to catch them all. Therefore I had to pick and choose my films carefully and with military precision. On the whole, I’m satisfied with my choices, although the one I wish I could have seen was Birdman! It was the surprise film of the festival so was kept a secret (which was how it managed to sneak past my hawk like eyes). I’ve been excited about seeing this film for months as I’m a huge fan of the director Alejandro Gonzales Inarruti, and this film about a fading movie star is supposedly Inarruti on top of his game. I guess I’ll just have to hold tight until January.

The Single Worst Thing About the London Film Festival

Terry Gilliam’s peculiar “rat’s tail” hair style that he was sporting at the closing night party. He can count himself lucky that I wasn’t carrying a pair of barbers scissors on my person.

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