Tag Archive: Ford


The indirect vengeance of a non-visible villain. A villain that you never see, in his negative persona, on screen. YET, a villain who manages to torment his ex-wife, through his literary brilliance.

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals (2016) is a masterpiece of filmmaking. A great piece of Cinematic Literature. Brutally direct, unnerving at times, difficult to sit through, and a class apart. One of the most sophisticatedly directed Hollywood thrillers of this century. Tom Ford is the future of American Cinema.
This post is full of spoilers, after all, it’s a character analysis.  

Nocturnal Animals is about a well to do, but unsatisfied, art gallery owner, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who one day receives a draft of a novel, written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal); with whom she has had no contacts, for almost two decades. Slowly as she reads the novel, it becomes clear, the entire book is a conniving, vengeful, manipulative attack, on Susan. His revenge, for what he feels, she had done to him, in real life, all those years ago. Her guilt, her past memories, start to painfully gore into her psyche. The concept of ‘The Pen is mightier than the Sword’ stabs deep, in this unique blend of two storylines, one real (the reality set in the movie), and other fiction (the book written by the villain of the piece).

The Two Gyllenhaal’s  
Jake Gyllenhaal plays two characters, one is Edward Sheffield, the writer, the other Tony Hastings, the fictional character, penned down by Edward. Both are shown as lovely human beings, nice/kind/caring/sensitive. A loving husband; any woman would be lucky to be married to.

We see Edward, of the past, from Susan proposing to him, defending him, loving him, and marrying him. But their lives are not going anywhere. He is a struggling writer, with not much ambition in life, and an inferiority complex, of being considered weak. Although, Susan never calls him weak, and defends him, when her mother (Laura Linney) calls him thus. Yet, the fact Susan considers him sensitive in felt like an attack on his manhood. Edward’s ego can’t handle it. Worse, when she leaves him for a more dashing, classy, young gentleman, Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer); to whom Susan is married to, in the present; that seems like the nastiest thing she has done to him. Not really though, the worse was yet to come.

Then in comparison, and contrast, to Edward, we see Tony Hastings, the fictional character, in Edward’s novel (in fact we see Gyllenhaal as Tony Hastings, before we see him as Edward Sheffield). Like Edward, Tony, is a loving husband; and a father of a teenage girl; with a kind and caring personality. Tony sets out on a trip, with wife and daughter, in tow (played by Isla Fisher & Ellie Bamber, respectively), through the dark deserted roads cutting through America. Soon they are attacked, by a gruesome group of creepy men, headed by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). We see Tony, helpless, and unable to defend his wife and kid, from these devils (the vicious villains of the novel). We see, Tony, as a normal human being, not a superhero. Ironically, a realistic portrayal of a fictional character. What follows is a tense drama.

Amy Adams, with a copy of John Currin’s Nude in Convex Mirror, hanging behind her; in a scene from the film.

Bringing out the Invisible Villain
Amy Adams is the icing on the cake. It’s through her emotional turmoil, as she reads the book, that gives birth to the real villain of this movie. It’s Adams’ character, Susan, that brings out the villain of Gyllenhaal’s character, Edward, to light. Every word, every tragedy, in the book, is a deeply cruel allegory of what Susan had done to Edward (according to Edward), in the past.

As the tension unfolds in the book, we (the spectators), along with Susan, feel the taunting tenseness of the sequence, taking place on the road. That is a very unnerving scene, as these hooligans harass the Hastings family. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is superbly shocking, as the villain in the book, Ray Marcus. But we have to remember, that he is but a fictional villain; not a real one (real as set in the movie). At the same time, the drama of the book, like the reel reality, is so engrossing, we are drawn into this parable of realism. We sit there, watching this long uncomfortable sequence, hoping the family will be sparred from these devils in human form.

As we see, a helpless Tony Hastings, not being able to help his wife and kid; after all normal human beings aren’t superhero’s, it’s a cry of Edward’s own inferiority complex, of himself being weak willed, as Edward assumed Susan felt about him. Even towards the end of the novel, Ray, calling Tony weak, is a hint, on Susan looking down on Edward (according to Edward), even though she never felt that way. And Tony proving, with a gun, he’s not weak anymore, is a metaphor of Edward proving, with his words, that he’s not weak anymore, either.

Jake Gyllenhaal, in his Edward Sheffield persona; in Nocturnal Animals (2016)

The shocking scene, where Tony finds his wife and daughter, raped, murdered, and kept in a suggestive manner in the nude; is an allegory of Susan’s secret abortion of Edward’s child, unbeknownst to him. In the present Susan has an adult daughter, Samantha Morrow (India Menuez), with her current husband, Hutton Morrow. But back then, she killed their child, worse she was accompanied by her then lover, Hutton Morrow. It’s obvious that Edward had kept a grudge, for close to two decades, because of it.

In the book, Tony has help, in the form a cop, a Good Samaritan, Bobby Andes, played by Michael Shannon (another brilliant role). But in the real world, Edward seems to have managed on his own. Edward at the same time, needn’t have gone so far, as to specifically send her the unpublished draft of his novel, titled Nocturnal Animals (a nickname he had for her, as she’s a night bird, who finds it difficult to sleep), and dedicated to her; as karma, had got her already.

Susan isn’t happily married. It is hinted that her husband is unfaithful. She is mostly alone, surrounded by material objects, living in a massive box of a stylish house. A modern day, glass, fortress, she seems to have created for herself. No real human connection. Her only child lives somewhere else. She’s succeeded in life, as a career woman, but not in happiness, not in living her life to fullest. She’s filthy rich, but not a soul near her. A rich loner, unhappy, and somewhat of a recluse. Edward’s final stab, at her, and her loneliness, is at the end of the movie. Where he agrees to meet her, at a posh restaurant; but stands her up. She ends up all alone, stood by everyone she cared for. It’s Edward’s revenge, fully accomplished.

Behind the Scenes: Amy Adams & Tom Ford, on the sets, during the making of the movie.

The Aesthetics   

Nocturnal Animals is a stylish thriller; dark, neo-noir, masterpiece; brilliantly filmed. Kudos to Tom Ford for bringing out something so unique; yet so Hitchcockian. The film is pure artistry, at it’s best. The symbolic aesthetics, the spot on imagery; the likes of, the bathtub scenes, shower scenes, the dead nude wife/sleeping nude daughter, et al; are perfectly synchronised. The entire movie, is a brilliant study of the cinematic arts. A must for all film fanatics, and it ought be taught to all film students, in film schools.

PIX: ME, with Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Magenta); at Château de Versailles (a.k.a. Versailles Palace), in France (30th September 2008).

The start of the movie itself, hints on the aesthetic superiority of the film, as real life flabby nude women, are showcased in a virtual art form, at an exhibition. Also a hint on the compare and contrast of the reality and fiction, that’s to follow, in Nocturnal Animals. These massive heaving nudes, reminded me of the study of the naked monstrosity depicted in Jenny Saville paintings. Speaking of ‘’, the films itself showcases famed artworks, from more contemporary (post-post modernist) creations like, Balloon Dog by Jeff (the king of ), Nude in Convex Mirror by John Currin (pictured above), Damien Hirst’s Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, an ‘Untitled’ artwork by Mark Bradford;  to past artworks from the mid/late-20th Century, like the popular, post-modernist artist, Andy Warhol’s Shadow, Joan Mitchell’s Looking for a Needle and Alexander Calder’s 23 Snowflakes; to name some. Of course, all these artistic creations play a vital symbolic role, in the movie.

Revenge an artwork by the Art Department of Nocturnal Animals & Tom Ford, is symbolic of what the storyline of the film itself happens to be. An unnoticeable revenge. A revenge, that seems innocent; but in reality is pure torture, for the person it’s indirectly been enacted on.

Besides being a critically acclaimed masterpiece and equally visually stunning, Nocturnal Animals, is an artist’s heaven, a fashionista’s must have collectable, an interior decorator’s dream décor inspiration, and a modern architect’s ornamental wonder. A special shout out to the amazing crew of the film; especially, Abel Korzeniowski, for his haunting musical score, Seamus McGarvey, for his photographic brilliance, Christopher Brown, for his art direction, Shane Valentino, for his production design, and Meg Everest, for her art décor.

With a superb cast, backing it, and pure excellence, in every cinematic element of the film, including a great storyline, and helmed by Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is amongst the best films, ever made. Truly, one of a kind.
My Rating: 10/10!!!!!
This post is my contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon 2017! A Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver ScreeningsKristina of Speakeasy and Karen of Shadows & Satin. Thank you Ruth, Kristina and Karen; for getting me involved in this blogathon. Thoroughly enjoyed being part of it.

I ended up watching this downloaded movie, twice (downloaded, ‘cause as such great films never come to cinema’s, in this aesthetically depressive country; yet it’s only just been almost a couple of months, since I first started downloading films, on the net). The first time I watched it, was last week (last Wednesday, to be more specific); which gave me the unique concept, I was hoping to find, to take part in this Blogathon; and then again, this Sunday. A special thank you, to Tom , for bringing out such a fantastic film, after all these years. Nocturnal Animals (), based on Austin Wright’s novel, Tony and Susan, is Ford’s second feature film. The first was, based on a another genius writer’s, superb novella, A Single Man, by Christopher Isherwood. This adaptation of Isherwood’s quick read, was released in 2009. Love the Ford Movie, Love the Isherwood Book. So Ford took his time, between two films, without rushing into things; and the result of which being, nothing but Excellence!!!!!  

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A Page From History –  Rewind to 1940
A look back at The 12th Annual Academy Awards, held in February 1940.
Oscar FunctionThe 87th Annual Academy Awards, will be held tonight. Really looking forward to catching the live show (tomorrow early morning out here), to see who wins what.

So, for today’s post, I’ve decided, to travel back in time, to celebrate this years Oscars, with an insight, into the 12th Annual Academy Awards, from the ‘Year 1940’.

BEST PICTURE

The civil war epic Gone with the Wind (1939), grabbed the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar that year. No doubt the Best movie to come out of the 30’s decade, Gone with the Wind, has aged well, and happens to be amongst the best loved Hollywood classics ever, from the 120 year history, of global cinema. Gone with the Wind received 13 nominations altogether, and took home 10 Academy Awards (8 from the competition, out of the 13 nominated, plus 2 Honorary awards). Among the winners, of this highest grossing film of 39’, included:-

  • The ‘Best Director’ Oscar to Victor Fleming. Although, initially, after the script went through many a revisions, it was Director George Cukor, who started working on this project. But Cukor was fired after three weeks of shooting, due to a disagreement, regarding the film’s pace and the script, between Producer David O. Selznick and Cukor. Actresses, Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland heard that Cukor was fired, while the ‘Atlanta bazaar scene’ was being filmed, the two actresses apparently went straight to Selznick’s office, in full costume, and requested him to reconsider, as the film had already been delayed by two years, due to various other problems. Then Victor Fleming, took over the reins, for most of the project. But Fleming briefly left the project due to exhaustion, and director Sam Wood, worked on the film for a couple of weeks. Soon Fleming came back to complete the picture. Thus, though Victor Fleming directed majority of the picture, about 15 to 20 percent of the direction, should be credited to Cukor and Wood, each (i.e. 30 to 40 percent of the whole film). Thus, Victor Fleming was responsible for directing about 60 odd percent of this classic film.
  • The ‘Best Actress’ Oscar to Vivien Leigh. The search for someone to play the lead character, of Scarlett O’Hara, led to 1,400 potential Scarlett O’Hara’s being interviewed. Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Arthur, Lucille Ball, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner and Paulette Goddard, were some of actresses tested for the part. None seemed to be right to play Scarlett O’Hara. When David O. Selznick watched the British flick, A Yank at Oxford (1938); an excellent film, related to sports and sportsman, starring Robert Taylor, in the lead; O. Selznick felt the British actress Vivien Leigh, was an excellent actress, but too British to play O’Hara. Yet Leigh was given a series of screen tests to do, and Voilà!! O. Selznick found his O’Hara.
Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American ever, to be nominated and, to win an Academy Award.  She bagged the Oscar for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS for her incredible performance as ‘Mammy’ in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American ever, to be nominated and, to win an Academy Award. She bagged the Oscar for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, for her incredible performance as ‘Mammy’, in Gone with the Wind (1939) NSFS

  • The ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar to Hattie McDaniel. Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American ever, to be nominated and, to win an Academy Award. Olivia de Havilland, from this same epic tear jerker, too, was nominated, in this same category.
  • The ‘Best Screenplay’ Oscar to Sidney Howard. Sidney Howard died in August 1939, thus became the first person to garner a posthumous Oscar nomination and win.
  • The ‘Best Cinematography (in Colour)’ to Ernest Haller & Ray Rennahan.
  • The ‘Best Art Direction’ to Lyle Wheeler.
  • The ‘Best Film Editing’ to Hal C. Kern & James E. Newcom.
  • An ‘Honorary Award’ to William Cameron Menzies. The production designer and art director, was acknowledged for his outstanding achievement in the use of colour, for the enhancement of dramatic moods, in the production of Gone with the Wind.
  • The ‘Technical Achievement Award’ to Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures. Which was yet another ‘Honorary Award’, for pioneering in the use of coordinated equipment, in the production Gone with the Wind.

Added to these 10 trophies, Producer David O. Selznick, was also given the ‘Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award’ for his body of work, which includes this epical classic. Gone with the Wind was the highest-grossing film of all-time, back then, and remained so until, 1965, when The Sound of Music (1965), displaced Gone with the Wind, as the highest-grossing film of all-time. When adjusted for monetary inflation, it is still the most successful film in box-office history, till date. Added to which, Gone with the Wind, set records for the total number of Oscar wins, and nominations, at the time.

This, almost four hours long, timeless masterpiece was also nominated for; ‘Best Actor’ to Clark Gable, Gable lost out to Robert Donat, who won for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), a movie I haven’t watched, thus can’t judge, but Gable’s, now famed, role of Rhett Butler, is definitely Oscar worthy; ‘Best Special Effects’, but lost out to a movie called The Rains Came (1939), am bit surprised here, though I haven’t watched The Rains Came, am aware that Gone with the Wind has some exceptional visual effects for it’s time, sans modern day CGI, especially the ‘Burning of Atlanta’, the scene in which Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara escape the burning city, saving three more lives, is so realistic, that the technique used, is till date, one of the most impressive feats in film history, Gone with the Wind was actually a breakthrough in special effects, at the time, despite that, it didn’t bag the Oscar for ‘Best Special Effects’, a pity; ‘Best Original Score’, which went to Herbert Stothart for The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Wizard of Oz is a brilliantly colourful children’s movie, with marvellously rhythmic music, but again, the superb background score by Max Steiner for Gone with the Wind, is unforgettable, and one can just drift off listening to the brilliant score, thus I feel Gone with the Wind, at least deserved two more wins, for ‘Best Special Effects’ and ‘Best Original Score’; ‘Best Sound Recording’, and lost out to a love story called, When Tomorrow Comes (1939), another film I haven’t seen.

Acting Duo, Husband & Wife to be, Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh.

Acting Duo, Husband & Wife to be, Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh.

Other films nominated in the ‘Best Picture’ category, included some amazing movies, after Gone with the Wind:-

  • William Wyler’s brilliant adaptation, that was Wuthering Heights (1939), which was based on one of my favourite novels, spanning three generation, that I studied in school (Grade 8) when I was 13 years old, authored by Emily Brontë. Watched this movie, over a decade ago. Love the movie, almost as much as the book, besides the fact that a whole generation is missing in the movie. The film is still brilliant on it’s own. Nominated for 7 Oscars altogether; including for ‘Best Director’, ‘Best Actor’ to Laurence Olivier, and ‘Best Supporting Actress’ to Geraldine Fitzgerald; Wuthering Heights, won an Oscar for ‘Best Cinematography (in Black & White)’ to Gregg Toland.
  • Ninotchka (1939), a hilarious comedy, where Greta Garbo plays a very rigid Russian woman, (i.e. the Soviet Union back then, under Joseph Stalin), with a lack of sense of humour, who is sent to Paris, France, on official business and learns to laugh and what true happiness is. The tag line reads ‘Garbo Laughs’. She also falls in love with the city, the free spirited and romantic Parisian society (pre-World War -II), and of course a handsome Count (played by Melvyn Douglas). Besides for ‘Best Picture’, Ninotchka, was nominated for 4 Oscars, including a ‘Best Actress’ nomination for Greta Garbo’s hilarious performance. Ninotchka was banned in the Soviet Union, at the time. Watched this a decade ago as well.
  • The much loved children’s classic, The Wizard of Oz (1939), I watched when I was about 14. A little too late for me to enjoy, as I found it pretty childish at the time, but none the less I realised it was an excellent film for kids. Nominated for 13 awards, it won 2 Oscars, for ‘Best Original Score’ (as mentioned above) and ‘Best Original Song’ for the song ‘Over the Rainbow’. Then child actress, Judy Garland, won a special award, ‘Academy Juvenile Award’, for her exceptional performance as little Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz.
Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh at the 12th Annual Academy Awards, held on the 29th of February, 1940

Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh at the 12th Annual Academy Awards, held on the 29th of February, 1940 (They married later that year) NSFS

OTHER AWARDS & FILM NOMINATIONS

Only Angels Have Wings (1939), is a movie I got to study, back 2002, in my first semester, for the module ‘Film Analysis’ (where we analysed films of director, Howard Hawks), for my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), University of Luton, Luton, UK. Only Angels Have Wings is a very good emotional drama, though not a great movie, starring Cray Grant, Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth. This Hawks/Grant aviation classic, was nominated in only 2 categories, ‘Best Cinematography (in Black & White)’ and ‘Best Special Effects’, and won neither.

OSCARS 1940 The 12th Annual Academy Awards

OSCARS 1940
The 12th Annual Academy Awards (NSFS)

Thomas Mitchell won the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Oscar for Stagecoach (1939). A famous John Ford directed western (for which Ford was nominated), with John Wayne in the lead, that am yet to watch. Stagecoach also bagged the Oscar for ‘Best Musical Score’. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), another much loved classic, am yet to see, won an Oscar for ‘Best Original Story’. James Stewart was nominated for ‘Best Actor’, as well as Frank Capra, for ‘Best Director’, for this film.
American actor/screenwriter/film director/producer, Douglas Fairbanks, who died in December 1939, was given a posthumous ‘Honorary Award’, as well, for his contribution to the international development of the motion picture industry, as the very first President of the Academy. Douglas Fairbanks had hosted the very first Oscars Ceremony in 1929.
GWTW OscarThe 12th Annual Academy Awards, was held on the 29th of February, 1940, at a banquet, in the Coconut Grove, at The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, USA. Hosted by Bob Hope, this was the very first Academy Award function, Hope hosted. Bob Hope altogether ended up hosting the Oscars, a total of 19 times. I haven’t seen this show (obviously again as I didn’t, nor did my parents still, exist back then), but would love to check it out, some day. Yet I watched a few scenes from the show; online, on Youtube; including the celebrity guests arriving for the function, a very young Mickey Rooney presenting young Judy Garland with the special award, and Hattie McDaniel’s touching humble speech, paying credit to her ‘‘race and the motion picture industry’’, when she made history by winning the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ trophy.

GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) – Best Picture. Winner of 10 Academy Awards.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Nuwan Sen n’ the Oscars

P.S.  Also see my previous post 50 years ago – At The Oscars.

Happy 94th Birthday, to legendary actress, Maureen O’Hara.

Maureen O'Hara as Lady Godiva in 1955 (Inset) O'Hara in 1950

Maureen O’Hara as Lady Godiva in 1955
(Inset) O’Hara in 1950

Maureen O’Hara, Hollywood actress of Irish birth/roots, is the star of classics such as, Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn (1939), William Dieterle’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941), Henry King’s The Black Swan (1942), William Wellman’s Buffalo Bill (1944), George Seaton’s Miracle on 34th Street (1947), John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950) & The Quiet Man (1952), Arthur Lubin’s Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955), Walt Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961) and Andrew McLaglen’s McLintock! (1963), to name a few.

Her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, was published a decade ago, in 2004.

Wishing her all the best for her health in her old age.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense