The 70th Golden Globe Awards

So it's that time of year again - it's awards season, where the rich and famous gather to pat each other on the backs, and I can't get enough of it. We kick off the annual celebration of film and TV with The One That Isn't The Oscars, it's the Golden Globes.

Fey and Poehler were on top form.
This year marks the first time in a while that Ricky Gervais hasn't hosted the slightly trashier cousin of the Academy Awards. This year, that honour falls upon two Saturday Night Live alumni, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Unlike the previous two years where Gervais tiptoed right down the line between comedy and just pure vitriol, Fey and Poehler hosted with warmth, yet still provided many a laugh, in particular one excellent joke about Kathryn Bigelow's marriage to James Cameron being akin to torture. As for guest hosts, amongst the usual pairings of attractive Hollywood stars, Bill Clinton turned up, surprisingly, to introduce a clip for Spielberg's upcoming Lincoln. A chance passed by however, as no real risque jokes were levied at the former President, something which perhaps Gervais may have leapt at. Sacha Baron Cohen delivered an excellent segment as he pretended to be some sort of bourgeoise actor, and in a stroke of genius by the Hollywood Foreign Press, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone were the hosts for the Best Foreign Language Film award. The pair played it for laughs and mocked their notoriously dodgy accents, so fair play to them for being great sports. The highlight of the night has to go to Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig's sublime improvised segment where they took some liberty with the plots of some of the top nominated films.

Just in case you didn't watch that, let me treat you with the best part of their segment, the moment the camera panned to a decidedly unimpressed Tommy Lee Jones.

As for the actual award winners, there were no real surprises on show for the TV oriented awards, with Homeland once again sweeping most of the major categories, perhaps unfairly so on the back of an overrated second season. Then again, my rampant fanboyism for Breaking Bad could have something to do with it. Julianne Moore also picked up an award for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in Game Change, offering a chance for some banter between her and TV's other great Palin impersonator, Tina Fey.
Foster accepting the Cecil B. Demille award.
The film portion of the awards were a bit more surprising though. Perhaps the biggest shock of the evening was Ben Affleck picking up two gongs for Best Director and Best Motion Picture Drama for Argo, pipping a hotly tipped Spielberg. Affleck seemed genuinely overwhelmed by it all, considering just ten years ago he was experiencing a catastrophic career crash. Unsurprisingly however, Les Misérables dominated the categories it was nominated in, taking the awards for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Jean Valjean and to nobody's surprise, Anne Hathaway got the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her stunning performance as Fantine. Elsewhere, Daniel Day Lewis (seeing him not playing a role is bizarre) took the Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama Award for Lincoln, and Jodie Foster received a lifetime achievement award as she quits acting after a staggering 47 years in showbiz. She delivered a heartwarming speech perhaps only met by Adele's down-to-earth acceptance speech for her win in the Best Original Song in a Motion Picture award for Skyfall, to which Taylor Swift scowled most vigorously at.

All in all, it was a pretty damn good awards show, especially compared to previous years at the Golden Globes. What does it spell for the Oscars? Well, the unexpected success of Argo could mean that Lincoln and company have something to worry about come next month. Les Mis likewise is coming into the Oscars off the back of a strong Golden Globes performance, although that could perhaps be attributed to the split between drama and comedy/musicals, meaning that Hooper's French Revolution epic only had indie romcom Silver Linings Playbook to contend with. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what this spells for the coming awards shows. Next up, the BAFTAs!

- James

Full List of Winners

Best Motion Picture Drama - Argo
Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical - Les Misérables
Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama - Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical - Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture - Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture - Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Director of a Motion Picture - Ben Affleck, Argo
Best Foreign Film - Amour
Best Animated Film - Brave
Best Screenplay for a Motion Picture - Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Best Original Score - Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
Best Original Song - "Skyfall",  performed by Adele, written by Adele and Paul Epworth

Best TV Drama - Homeland
Best TV Comedy or Musical - Girls
Best Mini-Series or TV Movie - Game Change
Best Actor in a TV Drama - Damien Lewis, Homeland
Best Actress in a TV Drama - Claire Danes, Homeland
Best Actor in a TV Comedy or Musical - Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical - Lena Dunham, Girls
Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie - Kevin Costner, Hatfields and McCoys
Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie - Julianne Moore, Game Change
Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series - Ed Harris, Game Change
Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

The Cecil B. Demille Award - Jodie Foster


Les Misérables - Film Review

Do you hear the people sing?

Tom Hooper must be grinning from ear to ear right now. Only a year after the spellbinding success of The King's Speech, he goes and directs Les Misérables and just like last year, it has Oscar nominations and widespread praise lavished upon it. Just how does the man do it? Well, the answer is with a stellar cast and some of the most impressive set and costume design ever seen in film.

To the uninitiated, Les Mis, as it's known amongst its fans, is a smash hit musical renowned for being the longest running musical in the West End, having been shown for over twenty-five years. It tells a tale of heartbreak, love and liberty set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A prisoner named Jean Valjean breaks parole and goes on to live life as an honest man whilst being pursued by the tenacious Inspector Javert. To say anymore would be to remove the emotional impact of the film's best scenes, which I'm certain those in the know are privy to. With its undying popularity, Hooper chose a guaranteed hit movie, but a movie with which he had to tread carefully, lest he offend the devoted fans of the stage show. Luckily for him, he has done no such thing.

And I'm Javert, do not forget my name!
Valjean is portrayed excellently by Hugh Jackman, who with his Broadway credentials had no difficulty in overcoming the challenge of having to sing live on set. In other screen musicals such as Grease or Hairspray the actors would mime to a pre-recorded soundtrack, but in Les Mis there are no such liberties taken. This only serves to add to the emotional intensity of each scene. Hooper pulls the camera in close for many of the songs, and the heartbreak and sorrow etched on each of the actors and actresses' faces is laid bare, allowing for a real intimacy that's lost on stage. Anne Hathaway's I Dreamed a Dream, Jackman's Bring Him Home and Eddie Redmayne's Empty Chairs for Empty Tables all work beautifully with Hooper's style. When you hear their voices break as they let out a sob and see their face contorted with raw emotion, it's difficult to maintain your composure.

Valjean's nemesis, Inspector Javert, is played by Russell Crowe. His lack of professional experience with singing is evident from the get-go, as his voice strains to reach the higher notes. Yet, the way in which he portrays the character more than makes up for this, as the dogged tenacity of Javert is evident through Crowe's excellent performance. As for the rest of the cast, each of them have their moments to shine. The dastardly innkeepers, Monsieur et Madame Thénadier are played with just the right amount of Cockney charm from Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, although some of the humour from the pair is lost in the transfer from stage to screen. Cosette, both young and old played by Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried respectively, shines in her scenes, although Seyfried is somewhat overshadowed by the mindblowing Samantha Barks as Éponine. As she sits in the rain sobbing during On My Own, the brilliance of Hooper's casting is wholly apparent. Aaron Tveit's Enjolras brings a lot of bravado to the character as he leads the student revolution, and Eddie Redmayne's Marius does not put a foot wrong in any of his scenes.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by...
Yet they are all, even Jackman, overshadowed by the brilliance of Anne Hathaway as Fantine. For the brief time she appears in the film, she shines the brightest. Her complete emotional breakdown is heartbreaking to see, as she morphs from a beautiful and vestal factory worker to a broken husk of a women sobbing through I Dreamed a Dream. Anyone who doesn't feel emotion as Hathaway's face contorts with rage and despair as she curses the world which has abandoned her and tossed her aside, anyone who feels nothing here is clearly an android, and the Blade Runners will be there to see you shortly. Even though she barely features in the film, she certainly leaves the biggest impression. If she does not win her Best Supporting Actress Oscar, then there is something very wrong with the world.

It would be ill-fitting to not talk about the stellar set and costume design. From the opening scene of Valjean and the chain gang pulling in a beached ship to harbor to the bombast and drama of the shootout at the barricade, Hooper's film delivers spectacle that the stage show simple could not provide. The costume and makeup likewise heighten the drama, be it Javert's pristine military outfit or the haggard and rugged Valjean during the chain gang scene.
Look down, look down, don't look him in the eye.

There is definitely a grandeur gained in bringing Les Mis to the silver screen, and it is a grandeur that only adds to the drama. Yet, at times it is difficult to truly appreciate the beauty of the streets of Paris because of the abundance of close-ups, but that is only a minor gripe.

Final Verdict: On the whole, Hooper has once again struck gold. He has put together a cast who all deliver grade-A performances and hold their own musically, and put them into a grandiose world full of drama and spectacle. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll smile, you'll just want to give Anne Hathaway a hug and tell her it'll all be okay. Les Misérables is certainly a emotional rollercoaster of a film, yet it's one you should definitely experience. Vive La France!


- James