Out Of The Furnace is our pick of the week…

The latest releases, news, gossip… you know how columns work, right?

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That Was The Week In Which…

One of the contenders for the Academy Award for Best Original Song was disqualified. The title song of Alone Yet Not Alone, written by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel and recorded by Joni Eareckson Tada, already stood out amongst the competition like a giraffe at a crocodile convention due to the relative low profile of both the film and the artist.  According to WND (link), the film “took Hollywood by storm” which is a rather artful way of saying, “it took approximately $130,000 during a very limited release” (link).

The Academy’s decision, “prompted by the discovery that Broughton, a former Governor and current Music Branch executive committee member, had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period,” (link) seems logical if a little harsh and leaves four remaining contenders for the prize – which a cynic could suggest amounts to little more than plenty of exposure on the night and the right to call yourself an Oscar winner for the remainder of your mortal days.

‘Let It Go’, performed by Idina Menzel, from Disney’s Frozen seems the most likely contender, although Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ (from Despicable Me 2) and – groan – U2’s ‘Ordinary Love’ (from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom) could both take the honour. Rounding out the numbers – and surely as likely to win as Liverpool are to take this year’s Premier League – is Karen O’s ‘The Moon Song’ (below) from Spike Jonze’s Her.


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The Big Film: Out Of The Furnace

Bare-knuckle boxing, prison beatings and psychotic hillbillies: Set in Pennsylvania at the height of the economic recession, Out Of The Furnace is a bleak statement on how the often-forgotten industrial towns fare during hard times.

In the back-broken town of Braddock where everything’s either rotten or rotting, there’s a feeling of constant unease and frustration that could spill over at any minute. And yet Out Of The Furnace isn’t the explosive revenge movie its trailer suggests.

Christian Bale (pictured, main) is quietly accomplished as the dutiful son and runs in sharp contrast to his brother, Casey Affleck, who is a ticking time bomb of pent-up anger and absolute aggression. The match that lights his fuse comes courtesy of a gnarled and knotted Woody Harrelson; a terrifying wheezing warlock of wanton destruction who acts as self-elected marshal of the backwoods community that sucks a naïve Affleck in.

Completing an incredibly impressive cast are Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard, all of whom offer solid performances but are all equally underused, leaving us without any deeper sense of personality or compassion for their characters and the story as a whole. Lacking the sense of action promised in the trailer, it’s a heartfelt tale of family bonds, loyalty and the self-destructive nature of youth. Words: Gareth Kolze-Jones

Out Of The Furnace, official trailer

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Also Out: Third Contact

If the January blues have left you with awkward questions about your place in the world, debutant director Simon Horrocks could be a source of inspiration. To cut a long story short, Horrocks was working as a ticker seller in a cinema when he finally decided to chase his childhood ambition: to become a film director. And so Third Contact eventually came to fruition – delivered on a budget of approximately £4,000, it premiered at the BFI IMAX last year.

Third Contact centres on David Wright (Tim Scott-Walker), a lovelorn psychotherapist whose already fragile psyche is shattered after the apparent suicides of two patients. Wright’s investigation into their fate only accentuates his existentialist crisis.

The killer question is simple: could Horrocks create an immersive experience with so few resources? The gloomy noir photography certainly has some elegant touches as he demonstrates an atmospheric eye for capturing the beauty in the mundane, but certain other scenes, mostly exteriors, feel more observational than cinematic. Horrocks’ carefully refined conceptual ideas allow his cerebral if occasionally pretentious dialogue to flourish, but the supporting cast behind the convincing Scott-Walker is frustratingly inconsistent.

Despite evident strengths, Third Contact can’t match the powers of the like-minded Shane Carruth. Yet with an abundance of ideas, Horrocks should hopefully find the financial backing to fulfil his potential next time around.

Latest screening info can be found here

Third Contact, official trailer

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New Talent: Stacy Martin

Who? A former model who makes her film debut next month, Stacy Martin’s boyfriend is musician Daniel Blumberg (Hebronix, Yuck, Cajun Dance Party).

What’s she been in? Absolutely nothing, before now.

What’s coming up? Stacy shares the role of Joe, the central character in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, with Charlotte Gainsbourg. With the role calling for constant succession of sex scenes, Stacy excels with fearless, vulnerable, vacant style.

They say: “She pulls it all off with a grace you wouldn't expect with all of the guttural rutting involved.” (Link

She says: “What scared me wasn't the nakedness but it was interacting naked. Shia [LeBeouf] was very professional but we didn't actually do anything sexual." (Link

Nymphomaniac, official trailer (maybe not entirely safe for work)

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Do you like Tarantino? Do you like Tarantino enough to really like Death Proof, too? Got a spare $40,000 burning a metaphorical hole in your online bank account? Then why not snap up Stuntman Mike’s car on eBay? You even get Mike’s costumes thrown in for free (disclaimer: you may have to pay extra to hire Kurt Russell). Check it out

Birmingham’s Flatpack Festival returns in March for its eighth programme which promises to explore the wild frontier of film. So far, that includes The Great Flood (a documentary exploring the Mississippi floods of 1927, scored by Bill Frisell) and Phono-Cinema-Théâtre (the first ever UK screening of a series of short films which were made for the 1900 Paris Exposition). More information.

Last weekend’s box office was again dominated by The Wolf Of Wall Street which grossed almost three times as much as the highest new entry, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Sadly, Universal seem unlikely to invest this minor fortune in Quaaludes and women of ill repute.

Finally, Clash film scribe Paul Weedon captured this epic moment of film advertising fail which was intended to promote the rather unappreciated (a whopping 6% at Rotten Tomatoes) I, Frankenstein…

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Words: Ben Hopkins (except where indicated)

More film content, here! 

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