Oscar Nominees & Predictions 2015

By Cherie Wheeler

The Academy sure doesn’t waste any time; mere days after the conclusion of the Golden Globes ceremony, the nominees for the 2015 Oscars were announced. Most of the nominations mimic the selections for the Globes fairly closely, with only the occasional addition or substitution. Here’s a rundown of the major movers and shakers, as well as my predictions for how each of the Best Picture nominees will fare (scroll to the end).

No surprises; as expected, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game dominate almost every category.

The switch up; Foxcatcher was a notable snub for Best Picture, despite receiving the equivalent nomination at the Golden Globes. Its absence makes way for Clint Eastwood’s modern war tale American Sniper. As the Globes split the most outstanding films of the year into two categories according to genre, less deserving productions, such as Into The Woods, were able to sneak in, and gain a nomination. The Oscars, on the other hand, are not forced to privilege comedies and musicals over higher calibre films, therefore the critically acclaimed Whiplash is now in the running to win Best Picture.

A preference for psychopaths; the lovely Amy Adams may have taken home Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, but the Academy has shown no such love for her portrayal of artist Margaret Keane in Big Eyes. Instead, it has recognised Rosamund Pike for her performance in Gone Girl.

Heroes before weirdos; the Globes were prepared to stand up and acknowledge Jake Gyllenhaal for his performance as an eccentric video journalist in Nightcrawler, but he has been completely overlooked by the Academy. In his place for Best Actor is Bradley Cooper for his role in American Sniper as true life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

Under appreciated; there was a lot of fuss when Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken failed to rustle up a single Golden Globe nomination, and whilst it has once again missed out in the major categories, the Academy has given the film a few nods of approval in terms of its cinematography and sound design.

 

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Golden Globe Results 2015

Images courtesy of NBC & Getty Images

By Elouise Eftos

Awards season is upon us, and what better way to start it off than with the always entertaining Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the glamorous Golden Globe awards for the third year in a row. Mixing the worlds of film and television, both foreign and domestic; the Golden Globes are second only to the Oscars in terms of prestigious Hollywood award ceremonies. In celebration of the 72nd Golden Globes this year, I have allocated my own awards to various aspects of the show.

Movie Review – The Imitation Game. 4.5 Stars

Benedict Cumberbatch is astoundingly good in his portrayal of Alan Turing in the Golden Globe nominated biopic The Imitation Game.

Review by Cherie Wheeler

The name Alan Turing is one that many associate with the invention of one of the earliest computers, but what is not so well known is the impact of his work upon the outcome of WWII, and the persecution he suffered as a result of his sexuality. In The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alex Lawther bring to life this brilliant man at varying stages of his life. The film focusses mostly upon his work in the 1940s in which he and several other British mathematicians are hired to find a way to decode Enigma; the formula used by the German military to encrypt its communication to its troops. Turing’s genius rendered him socially awkward, and this causes him to clash with his fellow mathematicians. At first his peers fail to appreciate his ideas, and his prickly personality, until the sharply intelligent Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) is recruited into the team, and manages to allay the tension between them. Game Of Thrones’ Charles Dance, and Mark Strong also star.

This film has earned itself a string of Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture Drama, and Best Actor in Drama for Cumberbatch who is easily one of the strongest competitors in this particular category. His portrayal of Turing is truly outstanding; he effortlessly balances the character’s intense obsession toward his work, his naiveté in social situations, and also his egotistical manner in relation to his incredible intelligence. In spite of Turing’s flaws, Cumberbatch ensures the character remains endearing, and you become emotionally engaged by his equally comedic and dramatic performance.

Young Alex Lawther is also remarkable in his depiction of Turing in his high school days. At one point when the character receives devastating news, director Morten Tyldum opts to stay on a close up of Lawther for the entirety of the scene, and Lawther’s presence is so powerful that this simple shot is one of the most affecting moments in the whole film. He did not receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, which is a crime considering that Keira Knightley’s fairly average performance earned her a chance at winning Best Supporting Actress. Sure, she isn’t woeful or irritating in The Imitation Game, as she is in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, but she is certainly not worthy of an award. Charles Dance and Mark Strong are both very convincing in each of their respective roles, as usual.

I found this entire film to be utterly fascinating as it covers a lot of subjects of which I have very little knowledge, including the outlaw of homosexuality, and how this was enforced. Whilst I was aware that Winston Churchill allowed a British passenger ship to be sunk by German U-Boats during the war, I did not know his reasoning behind this decision, or how this situation came about, until I saw this film. Although it deals with some rather dark subject matter at times, the film as a whole is quite uplifting. There are some heart warming moments, and many of instances of humour, which makes it a very entertaining ride.

The script is also very well structured in the way it flits between past, present and future without becoming disorganised or confusing. It is based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, which is possibly why it is so effective at moving through time, and although it is nominated for Best Screenplay at the Globes, I doubt it will win as this is a very strong category with Gone Girl, The Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood all nominated.

I do not like to give out inflated ratings, and I have almost never given a single film higher than 4 stars, but I enjoyed this film so much that I am prepared to rate it with 4.5 stars.

Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. 3.5 Stars

Peter Jackson definitely delivers in the conclusion of The Hobbit trilogy, and if this is to be his last ever romp throughout Middle Earth, then at least he has ended his journey on a high.

Review by Cherie Wheeler

In the third and final The Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies, Smaug the dragon unleashes his wrath upon a small village at the foot of the Lonely Mountain, and becomes slain by human warrior Bard (Luke Evans). The tale of the death of Smaug travels quickly throughout the realm, and before long the elves, dwarves, and orcs become engaged in a contest to seize the Mountain. In between all the carnage and chaos, a little hobbit courageously tries to negotiate peace. The leader of his Company, and his dear friend, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), has succumbed to dragon sickness, and on account of his madness, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is forced to betray him, in the hope of saving them all.

Since the first The Lord of the Rings film in 2001, audiences have come to expect a certain quality from Peter Jackson, and his latest film is no exception. Whether it be the efforts of the design department in the glamorous costumes worn by the elves, and the unique hairstyles created for each of the dwarves; or the work of the special effects team in bringing the orcs to life; or the photography of the incredible landscapes and set interiors; from start to finish the film is visually breathtaking, and you become completely engulfed by the world of Middle Earth.

I’m not much of a Tolkein fan; I have made countless attempts to read The Hobbit, but have never been able to stick with it long enough to reach the final chapters, consequently it genuinely surprised me when I found this film to be so very entertaining. The action sequences were utterly thrilling, not only in the choreography and the shot selection, but also in how the locations were incorporated into some of the fights. Most notable is the use of the ice covered lake during a one on one battle between Thorin and the leader of the orcs.

Freeman is perfect as always in his portrayal of Bilbo, and he provides some much needed comic relief in between the war scenes. Other strong performers include Armitage as Thorin, Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and Lee Pace as the elf king Thranduil. There are some definite weak links among the cast, however, such as Orlando Bloom, who always looks ridiculous when done up as Legolas the elf, and Ryan Gage really grates on the nerves as the cowardly Alfrid whose antics fail to conjure up any laughs.

Although highly engaging, there were moments that caused me to cringe, particularly when a situation became too fantastical. For example, Smaug’s booming dragon voice (which is actually the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) was more than a little silly; he was far more menacing when he did not speak, as he came across as a wild beast that could not be tamed. The majority of the dialogue was clichéd and predictable, and at times even the more seasoned actors struggled to deliver their lines convincingly.

The script is the only significant flaw, thus considering this, and how much I enjoyed the film, I am rating it with 3.5 stars.

Movie Review – The Water Diviner. 3 Stars

In recent times a lot of actors have been taking a stab at directing their own films, from Ralph Fiennes with The Invisible Woman, to Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, which will be coming to cinemas in January 2015. The latest actor to try his hand behind the camera is Australia’s Russell Crowe with the upcoming Boxing Day release The Water Diviner.

Review by Chantal Victor

Russell Crowe makes his feature film directorial debut with Australia’s latest production The Water Diviner. Based on true events, following the battle at Gallipoli, an Australian farmer (Crowe) travels to Turkey in search of his sons when they do not return from the war. In Turkey he is faced with many obstacles, including hotel keeper Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) who has a particular dislike for anyone associated with the battle.

This film is a really beautiful portrayal of how survivors of war must carry on with their lives. It demonstrates the love a father is able to maintain for his sons, even though the rest of the world has accepted the loss.

The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie (The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit) is phenomenal in the way it captures the many scenic locations, and provides the audience with authentic visuals that portray the culture of each place.

In the opening scenes we see the Allies retreating from Gallipoli, and the recent completion of the battle is quickly established with shots of the  dead. The entire first act functions well to set the scene, but as the script develops, the film slowly loses its pace. I became confused as the film transitioned from the past to the present. There are certain events in the film that call for a significant outpouring of emotion, but as the relationships between the characters are not properly explored or explained, it is difficult to connect with these scenes.

Although the script had some faults, I think Russell Crowe still did an amazing job. As someone who has studied film, and put it into practice, I have seen many directors struggle to balance the act of working in front and behind the camera. Crowe plays a father figure really well, which sounds silly, but I feel some actors underestimate how difficult it is to be a convincing father on screen, such as with Matthew McConaughey’s performance in Interstellar. I felt like I was taken on the search for his sons with him, and sometimes wanted to shake him, and scream at him because of the patience he expressed. Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion, Quantum of Solace) also does a beautiful job of starring alongside Crowe; she plays her role with such ease and elegance that you become lost within her performance.

I am very picky when it comes to the writing behind a film, therefore I must lower the rating on The Water Diviner a fair bit as a result. In spite of this, it is still a touching story, with great direction from Crowe. The performances drew me into the film, even when I did not completely understand the reasoning behind the actions of their characters. Kurylenko and Crowe were the saving grace, so I am giving this film 3 stars.

Movie Review – Exodus: Gods and Kings. 3 Stars

“From the director that brought you Gladiator” is the tagline circling all marketing material for Exodus: Gods and Kings, but it seems Ridley Scott may have lost his touch lately. Exodus joins The Counselor, Prometheus and Robin Hood as recent Ridley Scott films that have failed to live up to expectations.

Review by Cherie Wheeler

Ridley Scott’s epic adventure Exodus: Gods and Kings follows the traditional biblical story of Moses (Christian Bale), and his exile from Egypt by King Rhamses (Joel Edgerton). In a similar vein to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah from earlier this year, Scott has reimagined this religious tale with a multimillion dollar budget, and flashy visual effects.

I have a genuine fondness for grand scale movies set in ancient times, and count titles such as Braveheart (1995) and Gladiator (2000) as some of my all time favourites, but these are rare examples of films that have managed to succeed in this genre. In 2014 alone, Hercules, 300: Rise Of An Empire and Pompeii have demonstrated how character development and narrative can so easily get lost to action sequences and spectacle, and whilst Exodus is certainly a much higher caliber of film than these, it sadly does not reach anywhere near the heights of the Academy Award winning films mentioned above.

Similar to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013), Exodus puts the majority of its efforts into production design, cinematography and special effects, and the result is a spectacular feast for the eyes. The sheer scale of this film is mind blowing with countless extras, multiple extreme wide shots of digitally recreated ancient Egypt, and fascinating attention to detail on costumes and set interiors. Joel Edgerton’s glamorous, jewel-encrusted, Egyptian outfits are particularly impressive.

There are hints of Scott’s innate brilliance as a director here and there, most notably in the way the plague scenes are shot and edited. One image that really stuck in my mind occurred during the parting of the sea, in which we see soldiers and horses floating lifelessly in the water from the viewpoint of the seafloor. For the most part, however, Exodus feels more like a typical Michael Bay blockbuster than a Ridley Scott film.

With the exception of Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley, who each play supporting roles in Exodus, almost every actor is completely unrecognisable due to the efforts of the hair, makeup and wardrobe departments. I love going into a film with next to no knowledge of its storyline, the creatives behind it, or other people’s opinions, as it allows me to view the film objectively without any preconceived ideas. Prior to viewing Exodus, I did not know which actors would be filling the main roles, so for the first act I kept staring at Joel Edgerton, and couldn’t stop thinking; why are you so familiar? Eventually I realised that I was looking at the face of the Aussie actor from Felony (2014) and The Great Gatsby, but honestly, it was not until his name came up on the screen in the final credits that I truly believed it was him.

Edgerton brought a ruggedness to the character, despite the fact that physically he looked quite feminine in eyeliner and sparkling jewellery, and at times he was really engaging, but then in other scenes his performance lacked credibility. I feel as though this inconsistency was apparent in all the performances, including that of Christian Bale, John Turturro, who plays Edgerton’s father, and Sigourney Weaver, who plays his mother, was the worst of all.

The most glaring weakness of the film is the convoluted script, which is far too long, and attempts to cover far too much content. The success of Gladiator stems from its well structured story, and its complex characters that are performed with excellence by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. Many of the events throughout Gladiator are emotionally moving, and then there are other scenes that are thrilling, and some that are utterly terrifying. Exodus, on the other hand, fails to engage its audience on an emotional level, and simply sits flat on the screen as an entertaining spectacle, which is why I am giving this film 3 stars.

Movie Review – Serena. 2 stars

Riddled with inconsistencies and lacking credibility; Serena is certainly no Silver Linings Playbook.

Review by Chantal Victor

Serena, directed by Susanne Bier, falls short of what could have been a fantastic film, with a cast headed by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover). The film is based on the book of the same title by Ron Rash, which refers to the wife of timber tycoon George Pemberton (Cooper). Serena (Lawrence) does everything in her power to keep the business strong, whilst simultaneously striving to ensure that George has everything his heart desires. The pair remain united as they confront multiple threats to the business and their marriage, but it all starts to unravel when Serena learns she cannot bear an heir.

The first act opens with a beautiful wide shot of the timber forest, which is the main setting for the whole film. Throughout the film, director of photography, Morten Soborg, follows through with beautifully framed, picturesque images of Depression era North Carolina.

Although visually spectacular, the performances left a lot to be desired, particularly Jennifer Lawrence, who lacked credibility in the more emotional scenes. Lawrence plays a strong female lead really well, which is why she is suitable to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, and we do see glimpses of this sort of strength in her portrayal of Serena; mostly when she is assisting in the running of the business. At other times, however, the character behaves as a damsel in distress/a hopeless romantic who cannot survive without her man. Lawrence struggles to convey this sort of vulnerability, and her constant switching between strength and frailty was difficult to swallow. Rhys Ifans is probably the only cast member who deserves a special mention; he is fantastic in his role as Galloway, a superstitious hunter who shows undying loyalty toward Serena after she saves his life.

Lawrence and Cooper have starred together twice before in Silver Lining Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013), and continue to display their usual on screen chemistry in Serena, despite some flaws in Lawrence’s individual performance. The opening scenes in which their characters meet are very disjointed, and are mostly comprised of sex scene montages that made me question whether I was watching a romantic drama, or a preview to Fifty Shades of Grey. The film aims to present two characters that are passionately in love, but does so without including any romance. Instead, it contains multiple additional sex scenes, and repetitive dialogue in which the characters profess their love to one another with cringe-worthy, clichéd lines.

In addition to the inconsistencies in Lawrence’s character, there are also numerous plot holes in the narrative, including George Pemberton’s obsession in killing a panther said to be roaming his land that culminates in a bizarre scene in the third act. Unfortunately, I found myself constantly looking at my watch as the film progressed at a pace that failed to engage, as a result, I can only give this film 2 stars.

Movie Review – Nightcrawler. 4 Stars

It’s about bloody time someone in Hollywood came up with a truly unique and intriguing concept that doesn’t involve a superhero, a teenage romance, or strict adherence to genre conventions. Can I get an amen?

Crime thriller Nightcrawler is the directorial debut of Hollywood screenwriter Dan Gilroy (Real Steel, Bourne Legacy), and if his first film is any indication of what he will produce in future, then I am very excited to see what he decides to do next.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the emotionally crippled, and slightly unhinged Louis Bloom; an LA petty thief determined to find proper work that will inspire him, and set him up for life. He finds his calling in video journalism, covering local, violent crime, and he becomes obsessed with taking any measures necessary to be the best in the business.

Forget the perfect “Ken doll” Jake Gyllenhaal with the bright, blue eyes, the stylishly swept back dark hair, and the charming, sparkling white smile you may have seen in previous films. In Nightcrawler, the hair, makeup and wardrobe departments have made Gyllenhaal up to look like a super creepy weirdo, and he certainly brings the personality to match. Apparently Gyllenhaal also lost nearly 15 kilos for the part, which seems to be becoming an unhealthy trend among male actors (Matthew McConaughey lost nearly 20 kilos for Dallas Buyers Club, and Christian Bale apparently shed nearly 30 kilos for The Machinist in 2004). Not since the days of Donnie Darko (2001) have I ever had so much admiration for Gyllenhaal’s acting abilities. He is so convincing as Louis Bloom, it’s uncanny; it’s as if he was born to play this role. Through the character’s awkwardness, and lack of understanding of social expectations, he brings a bizarre blend of comedy to the film, and you get the sense that he is genuinely enjoying portraying this character.

Nightcrawler before and after

The writing in this film is absolutely sensational; from the creation of this intriguing antihero that you love in spite of his most unsettling quirks, to the exploration of video journalism, which is presented in a way that audiences have never really seen before. The film shows the cutthroat competitiveness between the video journalists and the news networks alike, the battle of ethics when deciding what can and can’t be aired on television, and the conflict between the cameramen and the police/emergency response teams.

It’s such a refreshing storyline, particularly the relationship that develops between Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, who plays news network producer Nina Romina. On one level they are employer and employee, and in this instance Nina has all the power, until Bloom realises he has the upper hand when he starts to deliver such a high quality product. It becomes a struggle for dominance, which is steeped in sexual tension, and is further complicated when they both come to learn that one cannot survive without the other.

The only issue I have with this film is the third act, which is unnecessarily drawn out, and lacking in content. It kind of comes across as though Gilroy built up this incredible conflict to a point where he could not figure out how to resolve or conclude the story, so the film ends on a bit of a low.

Overall, this is an oddly comical, disturbing, but exhilarating film with a killer performance from Gyllenhaal, and an awesome score that is similar to, but nowhere near as overbearing as the sound design used in Punch Drunk Love (2002). This is the most unique and unpredictable film I have seen in a very long time, which is why I am giving Nightcrawler 4 stars.

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 1. 3.5 Stars

Fans of The Hunger Games, we guarantee you will not be disappointed by The Mockingjay: Part 1.

Review by Cherie Wheeler

In the third The Hunger Games film, The Mockingjay: Part 1, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has just been rescued from the arena, and has been sent to District 13, but her fellow victor and lover, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been abandoned to the enemy in the Capitol. All the people of Panem believed that District 13 was obliterated after being bombed by the Capitol, however, the people of this district have continued to survive underground under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) who is responsible for instigating the rescue of Katniss. She and Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) wish for Katniss to lead a revolution against the Capitol, but Katniss does not wish to become the face of the war whilst Peeta remains in danger, thus she strikes a deal with Coin. Peeta shall be rescued if Katniss becomes the Mockingjay; a symbol that will unite the thirteen districts of Panem against the dictatorship of the Capitol.

Wow, that was an epic struggle. I have never found it so difficult to condense the plot of a film into a few simple sentences. My first recommendation prior to seeing this film is to make sure you either read all of the books, or at least watch the first two films, and even if you have already done this before, go back and do it again. The Mockingjay: Part 1 isn’t like Iron Man 3; you cannot watch it in isolation, as it assumes you possess sufficient knowledge of previous events in the narrative, and that you will understand certain references without the need for any explanation.

I think diehard fans of The Hunger Games series will be most pleased with this latest installment as it remains very true to the novel. At first I was extremely sceptical when I learned that the third book would be divided into two films as it is an obvious money making ploy. The seventh Harry Potter book was more than 600 pages long, so a film adaptation in two parts was somewhat justified, but all of The Hunger Games books are relatively thin, and whilst they contain a lot of detail in regards to the fictional world of Panem, they do not include a lot of content. Having said that, I felt that the film was well structured and moved at a good pace. There was a satisfying balance between scenes of high drama, and those that functioned as lulls in the action, and all of this culminated in a worthy climax.

Even though this is the third film in which Jennifer Lawrence has featured as Katniss Everdeen, I still have trouble accepting her in this role. There were moments when her character encountered some fairly graphic scenes of destruction, and her emotional response was terribly superficial. I think she was fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, but when it comes to heavy drama, she comes undone. Similarly, Josh Hutcherson was not convincing for one second, and I found myself cringing almost every time he was on screen. Kudos to the makeup team who worked on him though.

The supporting cast, on the other hand, are absolutely fabulous, and provide excellent comic relief, particularly Woody Harrelson who plays the recently sobered up Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks who reprises her role as glamour queen Effie Trinket, and Stanley Tucci who returns as the flamboyant television presenter Caesar Flickerman. Julianne Moore is the only significant new addition to the cast, and she is sheer perfection as the staunch President, and it is also lovely to see the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles.

Each of The Hunger Games films are certainly an improvement on the last, and The Mockingjay Part 1 is probably the best of the lot so far. Austrian director Francis Lawrence returns from the second film, Catching Fire, to also lead this latest film, and he is currently finalising the final film in the series. Although the narrative deals with high impact drama that naturally follows war and revolution, I do feel that the film pushes its audience too hard for an emotional reaction, and at times becomes a little melodramatic. I think Francis Lawrence really wanted to tug at people’s heartstrings, but I never found myself connecting with the material, nor was I particularly moved at any time. Even though I was not emotionally touched by the film, I still found it quite entertaining, and was more than happy to watch it from start to finish without becoming distracted, therefore I am giving The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 1 3.5 stars.

Movie Review – Rock The Casbah. 3 stars.

Filled with tragedy and comedy, Moroccan film Rock The Casbah transcends race and religion in its portrayal of the bonds between family.

Review by Cherie Wheeler

Written and directed by emerging female filmmaker, Laila Marrakchi, newly released drama Rock The Casbah revolves around the gathering of a large and dysfunctional French/Moroccan family following the death of its patriarch, Moulay Hassan (Omar Sharif). Moulay’s wife Aicha (Hiam Abbass), his daughters Sofia (Morjana Alaoui), Miriam (Nadine Labaki) and Kenza (Lubna Azabal), and his longstanding head servant Yacout (Raouia) are among those that partake in the traditional three day funeral ceremony at his luxurious home in Morocco, which culminates in the reading of his will, and the dispersing of his hefty estate on the final day. Relationships are tested, and old grievances rise to the surface during this time of emotional upheaval in which the family is forced to endure one another’s company for the entirety of the funeral ceremony. During this time, dark family secrets are thrust into the limelight to the shock and horror of all, and one particular revelation threatens to damage the family beyond repair.

My above synopsis paints a fairly grim picture, however, Rock The Casbah is actually a very sweet and heartwarming film. On a scale of one to Wes Anderson, it probably rates at a 5 or a 6 in terms of its quirkiness and black humour. Despite its offbeat nature, the film is still very much grounded in reality, with credible characters, and dramatic events that could conceivably occur within any family, from any background.

Most of the film is comprised of dialogue heavy scenes in which various combinations of family members interact, and through these conversations, the viewer is gradually made aware of multiple unresolved conflicts between each of the daughters and their parents. The majority of the friction between them stems from the fact that Miriam and Kenza have always adhered to the rigid roles that women are expected to fulfill in their culture, whereas Sofia, and a fourth sister (who is often mentioned, but never appears) have rebelled against this, and have instead led independent lives in the US and UK respectively.

All of the relationships between each of the characters are presented with a raw sincerity that causes you to forget that you are watching an ensemble of actors, and instead you feel like a fly on the wall observing a real family. I do not believe that any other filmmaker could have breathed this kind of life into this film and these characters. Marrakchi was born and bred in Casablanca, Morroco, thus she possesses an insider’s experience, and a unique understanding of this nation’s culture. Rock The Casbah is her second feature film, her first being the controversial romantic drama Marock, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 and also stars Morjana Alaoui. The film follows a Muslim woman and a Jewish man who fall in love, and from this sentence alone, I’m sure you can understand why the film created a lot of contention.

I have a fondness and a high appreciation for foreign films that submerge its audience in a particular culture that is often overlooked by the Western world, much like the Saudi Arabian film from earlier this year Wadjda. It is always an eye-opening experience to see how other parts of the world operate, and if it were not for films such as Rock The Casbah then first world audiences would most likely be completely ignorant to many of the lesser known cultures. I for one was completely clueless to the fact that both Arabic and French are spoken in Morocco, which are the predominant languages used throughout the film, in addition to a small amount of English. I was also utterly oblivious to many of the traditions upheld in Morocco, especially the concept of a three day funeral, so on this level, I found the film to be very educational. Even though elements of the culture expressed in the film were totally alien to me, the film was still very relatable due to the well developed relationships between the characters, and the dynamic of the family during such an emotionally stressful time.

Omar Sharif is absolutely gorgeous in this film, and without saying too much, although the film is based around his character’s death, he remains included in the narrative, similar to how Mary Alice Young continues to feature in the television series Desperate Housewives despite her suicide in the first episode. All of the performances from the rest of the cast are very strong, but a special mention must go to the more mature female actors; Hiam Abbass and Raouia. The script is extremely well written in the way that it seamlessly reveals snippets of information in a sort of trail of breadcrumbs that is easy to follow, and allows you to gradually learn of the many skeletons hiding in the family’s closet. At no point does the film condescend its audience in the way it presents this information, and even though much of this exposition is expressed through the dialogue, the speech always comes across as very natural.

Overall, I found this film to be quite enjoyable and consequently I am rating it with 3 stars.