I don’t think there are many people in the world who haven’t heard of acclaimed Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. The Cambridge University graduate turned Professor has gained numerous awards through a lengthy career specializing in the theory of time and the universe and how it all began etc., whilst at the same time battling the muscle wasting neurological disorder motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has certainly become a huge inspiration to many, finding fame and achieving many things whilst battling the impossible.
So a movie of his life has been long overdue and with an Oscar nod for Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal, going into this my expectations were high. The story focuses on his latter years at Cambridge University and around the time he first began to experience the symptoms of the disease whilst also meeting and falling in love with his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones). I was surprised how quickly the movie portrays the disease. It goes from a hand not working, to falling down to being on sticks to being in a wheelchair incredibly fast, and it has to be said my emotional investment took a hit as a result. I’d expected more of a gradual deterioration which I’m sure would have been the case. Add to this a slightly unflattering turn from Felicity Jones causing Jane occasionally to seem cold and put-out rather than the loving, yet struggling spouse I’d imagine she was. Her friendship / affection for an organist at her church however does at least add some depth. So we come to Redmayne, who is nothing short of superb; his deeply affecting performance right on the nail, to the point of being uncanny, capturing much of the real man’s quirks and charm as well as his agony. It reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot.
Shortcomings aside, director James Marsh has made a very elegant and quite beautiful movie out of a difficult subject. Although glossing over much of the darker times, he delivers a gentle, yet no less moving and engrossing story that does the famed Professor a real honour.
I’ve not really taken much interest in the Academy Awards this year, as I am getting increasingly underwhelmed by award ceremonies of late where it’s always the same names and the same kinds of movies getting nominated let alone winning anything. However on taking a casual glance at this year’s winners, I feel pleasantly surprised to see some deserving names getting mentioned.
I was wanting to see Birdman for a while but haven’t yet got around to it. At first I was intrigued as it was a come back vehicle for Michael Keaton, then I heard it was directed by 21 Grams auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. So I am equally happy to report that the movie grabbed Best Picture along with a Best Director nod for Alejandro. In some of the other categories I was not surprised to see who won, such as Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawkins in The Theory Of Everything … typical Oscar fair but I hear it’s an amazing performance. I was also pleased to see J K Simmons getting Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash – not overly familiar with the movie but he has always been a very underrated actor. I was surprised to see Patricia Arquette getting Best Supporting Actress – thinking this actress, her appearance in Boardwalk Empire aside, was a bit of a has-been. So very pleased for her also. I am also a growing fan of Julianne Moore so was happy to see her get the Best Actress nod for Still Alice, even though I’m not familiar with that film.
One disappointment I did have was that once again, the Best Animated Feature Film went to a big budget Hollywood animation (Big Hero 6), and the also nominated Studio Ghibli movie The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya was snubbed – but, I haven’t seen either so that’s just a personal gripe. Yet I was happy to see that The Grand Budapest Hotel did fairly well in the production design, music and costume categories, even if I’d have loved it to get Best Picture.
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