That’s en­ter­tain­ment

Hol­ly­wood may not think so, but you Ticket read­ers have good mem­o­ries and great taste, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET AWARDS 2014 -

Let us first ad­dress the bor­ing sub­ject of re­lease sched­ules. The win­ner of this year’s Ticket Award for best film, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, was first screened in Au­gust, 2013 at the Tel­luride Film Fes­ti­val. It is a full nine months since it won best pic­ture at the Os­cars. Yet there it sits.

Thank the ma­jor stu­dios’ ob­ses­sion with un­leash­ing cer­tain classes of film at par­tic­u­lar points in the year. If a film looks likely to fig­ure in the Os­car race then – be­cause el­derly vot­ers are pre­sumed to have poor mem­o­ries – it will re­ceive a limited US re­lease at Christ­mas be­fore even­tu­ally flop­ping in front of Euro­pean au­di­ences early the fol­low­ing year.

So, film­go­ers are idiots. Right? They can’t re­mem­ber any­thing that hap­pened ear­lier than break­fast. Well, Ticket read­ers cer­tainly seem to have de­cent mem­o­ries. Although it failed to beat 12 Years by just a tiny hand­ful (I hope you and your mum voted, Wes An­der­son), The Grand Bu­dapest Ho­tel emerged across the world in the first week of March. That film also ran away with the vote for best screen­play. Our third placed film, Richard Lin­klater’s Boy­hood, was re­leased plumb in the mid­dle of the year.

Hap­pyre­sult

Let us sit back and savour that happy re­sult. The three most popular films on our list were an an­gu­lar tale of slav­ery by an awk­ward video artist, a sump­tu­ous mid­dle-Euro­pean com­edy in­spired by the writ­ings of Ste­fan Zweig, and a qui­etly ex­per­i­men­tal, largely plot-free ex­am­i­na­tion of an ado­les­cent life from a mikado of in­de­pen­dent film.

The most fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful film on our ex­panded list, Luc Bes­son’s hi­lar­i­ous, ram­pag­ing Lucy, came in the bot­tom three. Ob­vi­ously, we are deal­ing with an un­usu­ally rarefied de­mo­graphic here – the cin­e­matic equiv­a­lent of the Col­lege of Car­di­nals – but it is still nice to see such odd­balls tri­umph­ing.

The awards also recog­nised an un­likely tri­umph in do­mes­tic cin­e­mas. Lenny Abra­ham­son’s won­der­ful Frank has won huge plau­dits and de­cent fig­ures all over the world, but Aoife Kelle­her’s One Mil­lion Dublin­ers com­fort­ably beat that fine project to best Ir­ish film. This may have sur­prised those who didn’t catch this fine study of Glas­nevin Ceme­tery in the cin­ema. A glance at the crowds flow­ing to the movie in late au­tumn will, how­ever, have con­firmed that older au­di­ences will at­tend the cin­ema if of­fered the right sort of movie. One imag­ines that, had the pro­duc­ers been aware of the film’s com­mer­cial po­ten­tial, they might have left a longer gap be­tween its the­atri­cal re­lease and its ap­pear­ance on na­tional tele­vi­sion.

Docu­d­ra­mas

The vote for best doc­u­men­tary may have re­vealed truths about the dif­fi­cul­ties in sell­ing non-fic­tion films. Ci­ti­zen­four and The Case Against 8 are both cur­rently in the frame for best doc at the Os­cars, but nei­ther came close to com­pet­ing in our own gymkhana. Demon­strat­ing that it’s of­ten the sub­ject, rather than the piz­zazz of the film-mak­ing, that mat­ters here, Tony Benn: Will and Tes­ta­ment tri­umphed with read­ers. That stands as some trib­ute to a politi­cian first elected to the UK par­lia­ment in 1950. Will any of next year’s MPs still seem as rel­e­vant in 2080?

Speak­ing of elec­tions, the doc­u­men­tary race saw an in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of . . . Well, we won’t say “bal­lot stuff­ing”, but there was cer­tainly a psepho­log­i­cal ir­reg­u­lar­ity at work. A film that had played in no com­mer­cial cin­e­mas, had ap­peared at no ma­jor fes­ti­vals and was yet to play on TV re­ceived a sub­stan­tial num­ber of votes as (to use the lan­guage of US pol­i­tics) a “write-in” can­di­date. Nice try, chaps. It didn’t re­ceive any­thing like enough men­tions to place and, un­seen by the pay­ing pub­lic, was in­el­i­gi­ble any­way, but we ac­knowl­edge your sub­ter­ranean ef­forts.

So, what else does the poll tell us? Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch marches tri­umphantly on­wards. A Worst Film “vic­tory” for Na­tiv­ity 3 – each of whose parts has fig­ured in this race – prob­a­bly only guar­an­tees a fourth episode. The Lego Movie, mas­sive vic­tor in Best An­i­ma­tion, re­mains one of the year’s least likely crit­i­cal smashes.

Next year, pon­der­ing cur­rent films such as Bird­man and Fox­catcher (both due in early Jan­uary), we may still be hav­ing the same con­ver­sa­tion about re­lease dates. Boy­hood does, how­ever, seem like an odds-on favourite for the Os­car and Grand Bu­dapest Ho­tel should also fig­ure in that jam­boree.

So, Hol­ly­wood may even­tu­ally get over its sea­sonal bias. Let’s see where we are in 2018.

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