5 Biopics in which Leonardo DiCaprio should star

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As Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Aviator’

Leonardo DiCaprio is on formidable form as the ‘go-to-guy’ for cinematic biopics. We’ve just seen him unleash a side we never knew existed as rollicking, hedonist billionaire Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street and now he’s slated to play Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s take on the Apple genius.

From movie-making obsessives, to homosexual FBI directors there’s currently little DiCaprio can’t turn his hand to. So whilst’s capitalising on his true-story streak, I think he should consider these roles:

 steve-mcqueen-221. Steve McQueen:

Jeremy Renner is set to produce Portrait of An American Rebel, but as of yet isn’t signed up to play the charismatic motorcycle enthusiast. DiCaprio hasn’t played another actor before, so the meta-ness of that could be a draw and he’s frequently papped riding about on his motorcycle. Failing that, I’ve heard an Evil Canevil biopic might be happening.

frank-sinatra-4de018e8e403b2. Frank Sinatra:

Can Leonardo DiCaprio sing? Who knows? But if he can, well then he’d be a sure-fire hit to emulate the dulcet tones of the legendary Sinatra. What’s more Martin Scorcese is lined up to direct. And I’ve heard these two are pretty good at making films together…

At one stage Al Pacino was thought to be Scorsese preferred choice for the role, but with rhythm like this, how can he resist Leo?

3. Woodrow Wilson:

 The White House is a territory that has hitherto evaded DiCaprio on the big-screen. However the idealistic Wilson, elected in 1912, left behind a legacy of progressive politics, a role arguably perfect for DiCaprio, well-know for his humanitarian agenda and contributions to environmentalism.

(Warner Bros. has actually picked up the rights to develop this film, based on the biography ‘Wilson’ by A. Scott Berg and the rumour mills are churning that DiCaprio is actually attached. So this might be the most likely prediction of them all).

The 85th Academy Awards - Press Room - Los Angeles4. Theodore Roosevelt:

Failing that, if DiCaprio is still itching to get a taste of presidential power, Teddy Roosevelt might also make a suitable candidate. The Academy Awards have a history of bestowing Oscars upon wannabe-Presidents (Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, most recently) so, this could be DiCaprio’s chance to finally get his hands on that coveted golden accolade.

5. Busby Berkeley:

Warner Bros. have optioned the rights to the biography of legendary choreographer and director Busby Berkeley. Infamous for his opulent, spectacle-driven production numbers featuring lots of female leg (having dated his fair share of Victoria’s Secrets models, it’s something Leo no doubt has a good eye for), this could be a fun role to see DiCaprio in. Berkeley was also married six times, which makes for an interesting romantic subplot.

FYI, Hollywood, if any of these roles DO happen, I expect some credit in royalties. As a gesture for my omnipotence, you know….

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Review: Fruitvale Station

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DIR. Ryan Coogler. Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Dias, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray

 

Based on the true story of Oscar Grant and the tragic events that occurred at a Californian train station on New Year’s Eve 2008, Fruitvale resembles Crash in its exploration of racial tension and a Greek tragedy in it’s palpable sense of foreboding.

After wowing at both Sundance and Cannes, it was a surprise Fruitvale didn’t become a mainstay at the Oscars too and I sincerely hope this doesn’t limit its release or the attention it gets, for this is supremely effective and affecting filmmaking.

We meet Oscar (Michael B. Jordan, of The Wire fame) in bed with his girlfriend, attempting to navigate accusations of cheating. Despite his skittish, defensive and frustrated behaviour, we also see in him a doting father assuaging bedtime nightmares and a caring son remembering a birthday. The narrative goes on to continually reminds us of this good-natured streak; giving free advice in the supermarket, helping a pregnant lady find a bathroom, washing dishes with his Mum.

o-FRUITVALE-STATION-facebookHowever, there are larger, external forces that threaten individual will. Despite Oscar’s attempts at reform after a year spent in prison for drug-dealing, the film builds an uneasy foreboding to such intensity that it becomes a question of not ‘if’ things are going to kick off, but ‘when’. The only heavy-handed example of this climactic structure is a hit-and-run accident involving a dog, far too obviously suggesting an unfortunate and unnecessary death. Of course, the primer to the dramatic unfolding of events is real-life footage of policemen beating on young black men at a train station, subsequently imbuing the film with a trope of classic tragedy: inevitability.

The moments of superlative filmmaking however come in those downplayed; we just have to register the suspicious, hesitant glances of white folk in their encounters with the black characters to know that segregation, prejudice and racism have left an indelible mark on American society. Caught between his potential and his past, Oscar can barely avoid the expectation for him to do something wrong.

 Much of the nuance in Fruitvale Station is derived from a breakout turn from Jordan, who effortlessly shifts from masculine bravado brimming with energy, to a mama’s boy in need of some TLC.

bRO3oVDThe women in Oscar’s life are also worth more than a mention. Octavia Spencer gives a performance of strength and stoicism, excavating past potential clichés to depict an emotional and strained mother-son relationship. Whilst relative newcomer Melonie Dias as Oscar’s girlfriend Sophina gives an incredibly natural and poignant turn, as the aggrieved and then bereaved – negotiating young love and the responsibilities of parenthood.

Schmaltz is never far away, and occasionally director Ryan Coogler dips his toe in a maudlin pool. The soundtrack’s reverential tone, forcedly orchestrating emotion feels unnecessary and stylised amongst an otherwise low-key and naturalistic aesthetic.

Whilst there’s also the sense we’re not given the whole story. Perspective nor reasoning is ill-afforded the macho, aggressive, trigger-happy cops that detain Oscar and his friends at Fruitvale Station for allegedly starting a fight. And whilst that suits a narrative geared towards creating sympathy for a young life wasted, complete factual accuracy might have been compromised.

Ultimately though, Coogler delivers a mesmerising and absorbing drama, excelling most when he allows his actors moments of genuine tenderness and intimacy.

The final scene is chaotic and chilling, and as the deafening sound of a fatal mistake rings clear, the film drives home a devastating climactic irony.

Verdict: Searing, relevant and requiring of a box of tissues close by. A film that will stay with you for long after the credits roll.

Review: Short Term 12

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               DIR. Destin Cretton. Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Remi Malek

Hands down one of my favourite films of the year so far.

ImageShort Term 12 sees Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, Spectacular Now) give a raw and thoughtful performance as care-worker Grace, struggling with her own suppressed parental issues. Likened to Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout turn in Winter’s Bone, Larson too gives bare-fared-bravery-conquers-all a go, and she too shades it with vulnerability, courage and moments of understated perfection. The smiling through the cake scene is perhaps the exact moment when she won me over.

The audience are inducted into the chaotic and colourful world of the foster care institution alongside newbie Nate (Rami Malek – 24The Pacific). He’s wide-eyed, naïve and full of good intentions – ripe for mal-adjusted teenagers to rip apart. His learning curve becomes ours, as we get to know the characters in the facility and see them as more than ‘underprivileged’ kids with problems. Cleverly, the narrative divides most of its time to exploring the stories of two kids in the facility. One whom has just arrived – surly teenager Jayden, and one whom is just about to leave – budding rapper Marcus. It’s through their eyes and on their journeys to what we hope is recovery that we learn about the ups and downs of the care system.

ImageHowever, the film doesn’t just stop there. It’s allows many of the peripheral characters moments of narrative intrusion and quiet potency, giving us a rounded interpretation of the foster community. It also acknowledges the system possesses flaws – where the therapists don’t always make the best judgments, where the hierarchy can let vulnerable people fall through the cracks and where emotion or personal experience can overwhelm those who should know better.

 The theme of cyclicality is foregrounded throughout. Deployed in the comings and goings of residents, and emphasised during a symmetrical ‘frame’ scene that also gives way to the most uplifting finale I’ve seen in a while.

Moreover, it tries to explore the wider impact and offshoots of the system. Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), Grace’s boyfriend and colleague, for instance is part of an extended and loving foster care family, depicting the positive effects of human generosity in the face of adversity. Gallagher Jr. also manages to traverse the fine line between understanding boyfriend and pushover, taking all of Grace’s doubts and hesitancies in his stride. Theirs is a relationship you root for – just two people trying to overcome the obstacles life throws their way.

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Problematically, Short Term 12 does suggest there are cures for everyone’s problems and that the current care system will eventually reach out to all and encourage them to speak about their issues. And equally indulges in a few character clichés – black kid Marcus with aggressive tendencies, expresses himself through rap (though the close-up camera work and amazing lyrics during one performance are indelibly poignant and heartfelt) and smart-ass Jayden, who is rebelling against the world with kohl-rimmed eyes and sinister diary drawings. The cynic in me could call them clichés. But the performances given bring another dimension to these characters, and they become people rather than stereotypes.

Director Destin Cretton turns in an impressive debut film, handling the content and his actors sensitively, and circumventing the mawkish or melodramatic elements of the material. What he lacks in originality, he makes up for with charm and good intention. Overall it’s a wonderfully positive film, where the light conquers the darkness. Indeed, the ending is almost too good to be true, and comes very close to saccharine where the rest of the film has managed restrain. However, I think the film suggests the story told can be fictional and true at the same time – as long as we believe in the potential for it to be true, then the film has done it’s job.

Verdict: Nuanced, powerful and mesmerising. See it for Brie alone. It’s one that will stay with you for the long term

Save The Bookstore. Save The World.

Unlike climate change, where the impact is still widely invisible (that is if you disregard the biting cold that has plagued us these last few weeks) – the disappearance of the bookstore is a phenomenon largely visible. Walking the high street in recent years and you’d often be confronted with a closing down sale sign in front of the likes of Borders, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, et al. A sight that greatly saddened me.

The beloved bookstore! How could its popularity possibly be waning? With the glorious tangibility of hundreds of shelves stacked with stories and possibility and knowledge, waiting for potential perusal.

bookstore_outsideAs they currently stand, or perhaps fall, the bookstore is a relic. They possess nostalgic charm rather than a real sense of purpose or relevance in today’s society. The weight, cost and burden of actual books becomes more and more unreasonable, as our digitalised and mobile society continues to grow. I still like the idea of having a bookshelf and being able to capture and present your reading tastes, however, besides aesthetic reasons, the book is easily usurped by the practicality of the e-book.

Publishers are increasingly aware of this and look to promote their e-books across various social media platforms, equally, if not more so than books themselves. And so booksellers and shops, must too convert to this perspective. E-books should be made available in shops or perhaps like the Apple stores have devices that enable you to browse what’s in store digitally.

There needs to be enticement or encouragement for people to visit bookstores as well, the desire to buy books isn’t enough, as online giant Amazon and websites for bookshops themselves corner the market. People have access to books in a plethora of ways that practically negates the bookstore.

Forbes recently featured an article about a man who embraced the digitisation of content by investing in The Espresso Book Machine, “a compact digital press…[that]can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line” to rival Amazon.

Owners have to seek out creative ways to engage their buyers. Events or fairs held at bookstores, authors giving talks, even acoustic gigs – anything, whether literary related or not, that draws them into the venue and thus optimises the chances of a purchase.

I was in a Barnes and Nobles in New York recently, and as well as all the fiction best-sellers, autobiographies and cookbooks they had a whole warehouse round the back, stocked full with old textbooks, second-hand novels and non-fiction finds, as well as rare or 1st edition prints. It was an emporium of bookish delight. Whilst this may only appeal to real book lovers, it added another element to the stale surface of the book store and another 40 minutes to my visit to the store.

Other ideas thrown around that you’ll quickly discover if you browse the internet, may also serve to brighten up the bookstore and once again make it a place really worth visiting.

A concept known as product bundling, which may be familiar to economic students, has long been in practice in cinema chains, wherein exhibitors purchase a bundle of films off the distributors. More often than not this includes the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster, with a few lesser known or independent films. This marketing strategy could also incorporate books, and sometimes already does with 3 for 2 offers. The aim would be to get unknown or undiscovered books off the shelves along with the bestsellers. Or perhaps with an actual book, you get a digital version of another alongside it. It’s not about devaluing the book or suggesting the only way for it to be sold is if it sells its soul to the digital devil, but simply compromising to meet the demands of the readers.

Of course, discounts and sales always to help to catch the eye of the consumers, but book stores should also be filled with specialist knowledge and people that really know their stock. That way if you have question or need a really obscure title, you’re more likely to revisit the store, because the staff were able to help you find it.

The economic market doesn’t help, what with shop rental prices sky-rocketing. However, I strongly disagree that bookstores should be relegated to a thing of the past. I consider it an imperative to strive to maintain these cultural emporiums, before internet kills the book store, as video did the radio star. I don’t suggest we cling onto their current forms, but instead mould and tailor them to new demands.

Adaptation is after all the best form of survival.