An Oscar Double Bill

So the World Cup means watching films is on hold for a few weeks, but such is my commitment to the cause that I've managed to squeeze in a couple of viewings by cutting back on sleep to a Thatcher-like 4 hours a night, which has been fine, except for the hallucinations - I even imagined Wayne Rooney scored a goal during one particularly delusional episode. Of course, I should have actually watched these films when they were in the cinemas, but I do have a busy, fun-filled life you know. Well, a busy life. Well, a life. Well,.....let's just get on with the reviews.

Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2013) was the culmination of Matthew McConaughey's quest for world domination, bagging him a Best Actor Oscar as real-life AIDS sufferer Ron Woodruff. Woodruff was a resourceful rodeo cowboy who sourced his own medication after being given 30 days to live, before proceeding to smuggle these unapproved drugs into Texas in the 1980s, which he dispensed to fellow AIDS sufferers 'free' when they paid membership fees to his Dallas Buyer's Club. Naturally, the authorities took a dim view, but Woodruff proved hard to pin down, even as his condition worsened. It's a good story, with the homophobic, belligerent Woodruff becoming an unlikely saviour and friend to many AIDS patients. I was initially skeptical that McConaughey's well documented weight loss, coupled with a tried and tested 'brave' role, was what propelled his to award success, but in fact he is very good indeed here, with extra depth to his usual Good Ol' Southern Boy performance. Alongside him, Jared Leto bagged the Supporting Actor Oscar for a less nuanced, but similarly brave and skeletal performance, and together they elevate the film above the potentially manipulative 'disease-of-the-week' tale. I'd have liked to see a little more about the skullduggery of Big Pharma and the FDA in pushing through new AIDS medication, but maybe that would have distracted from the key focus here, which is about one man bucking the odds and refusing to go down without a fight. It's worth seeing.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2013) didn't win any Oscars, but it does star one; the excellent Oscar Isaac as the titular Llewyn Davis, a morose folk singer surfing round couches of Greenwich Village as the folk scene takes hold in 1961. Looking for a plot here is like looking for a difficult chord change in a folk song, so don't expect one. Instead, it's a freewheelin' sort of affair, which is apt enough as we accompany Llewyn on his aimless, rather self-inflicted odyssey, during which he encounters any number of people who tell him how shit he is. It's all about these characters, see, who deliver some trademark Coen moments of deadpan humour, as well as a couple of affecting moments along the way. It's a well-realised snapshot of a pivotal time in American music history, with a distinctive, slightly self-mocking soundtrack which folk fans will no doubt enjoy. Not being a massive folk fan myself, I found it good, if not amazing, but it is helped by a star-making turn from Isaac. This helped him nab a coveted role in the new Star Wars film, playing a bad guy if rumours are to believed, which should be interesting. As for the directors, p-p-p-please Mr and Mr Coen, I wanna plot next time.

Right, back to the footy. I invented the World Cup back in the 30s, after all, so I feel duty bound to fight through the tiredness to see how ea.............. ZZZzZzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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