My Ballot: 2014 EE BAFTA Rising Star Award

Whenever there is a publicly-voted award in the film world I will share my thoughts and vote here.

The first thing that bears saying is that I may have to mark down on my calendar other open-to-public-voting awards through the year so that I manage to post in this series more than once in a year. Regardless, here we are again at the BAFTAs this time replete with a new sponsor and another Rising Star Award race.

What I really like about this award year after year is that it’s a body-of-work award given to a young actor on the rise. However, on occasion nominees make it mainly on the strength of one performance.

Once again this is a pretty strong field and even though I am not 100% studied on all the candidates this year there are four I have something of a viewing history with. It wasn’t easy but I had a definite choice among these impressive nominees. And, importantly, it’s additional incentive to catch up on the titles making up the other candidates’ work. I have been a bit remiss in seeing some of the award-winning much ballyhooed titles of 2013 namely 12 Years a Slave, which marks one of the most acclaimed debuts in recent memory (Lupita Nyong’o), and Blue is the Warmest Color (Léa Seydoux), though I have seen quite a few Seydoux’s titles and enjoyed her work.

Dane DeHaan in Chronicle (20th Century Fox)

George Mackay is perhaps the best surprise on this list for me. I am familiar with his career as a young actor when he appeared in Peter Pan, which would’ve won a Best Youth Ensemble had it existed (he was Curly), then in the overlooked The Thief Lord, and in one of Daniel Radcliffe’s in-Potter-franchise departures The Boys Are Back. The 2013 titles are ones I have not heard of prior to this announcement, but I look forward to finding them.

Dane DeHaan, already a BAM Award nominee for Chronicle, is a close runner-up for my vote in this award. Had I caught his most recent titles that may have changed my mind, but the odds were stacked against him.

They are stacked against him because of Will Poulter. One of the myriad viewing tasks I’ve wanted to undertake was to see all of Will Poulter’s TV and film work from the UK heretofore unavailable to me. The reason that is that the first two parts I saw Poulter play, Son of Rambow and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he was not only nominated for my BAM Awards but won (for Son of Rambow Best Performance by a Child Actor and for Narnia Best Supporting Actor). I will soon, thanks to Netflix, see Wild Bill which earned Poulter a London Critics’ Circle Award nomination for Young British Performer of the Year. Son of Rambow set a precedent most young actors wouldn’t be able to live up to, but following very different paths Poulter and Milner have both proved their mettle and staying power. With his nerdy, American persona of Kenny Rossmore in We’re the Millers Poulter, introduces himself to a new audience who witness him only scratch the surface of his capabilities, and really only on the comedic end.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010, 20th Century Fox)

In my estimation, and in the estimation of those who watch more carefully, Poulter has already arrived. However, to most the appearance in We’re the Millers and the forthcoming The Maze Runner adaptation will signal his announcement as a cinematic presence for those who don’t know. He has the credentials but also defines the rising aspect of the award more so than the fellow candidates who have made a bigger, more notable splash in mass media consciousness terms. Simply because in my mind he’s already arisen selecting Poulter as Rising Star is a no-brainer to me.

The Ballot is open through February 14th, 2014. One vote per person, register via Twitter of Facebook.

Review- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Will Poulter, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes and Georgie Henley in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is in a word, though there could be many, many more; glorious. Absolutely glorious in every single, solitary respect. Not only does it work brilliantly as a standalone tale but it also closes a chapter in a series with great effect. How it functions within the series will be detailed later.

The first thing that should be commented upon is the virtuosity of the players involved. Now this tale does have a rather big obstacle to overcome as in this tale the Pevensie quartet becomes a duo, as Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are scarcely seen but worry not Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes are very strong and prodigious leads in the film. They each face their own trials and tribulations in their journey and support the film equally. Will Poulter, who broke out with his earth-shatterlingly good performance in Son of Rambow, is flawless in the part of Eustace Scrubb. He applies the affectations of an uptight, snobbish brat with great aplomb from a pitchy voice to flared nostrils and as his character mellows those layers peel back. Truly, Son of Rambow was most fortunate to have both he and the incomparable Bill Milner in the fold and The Dawn Treader would be so much less than it is without Poulter.

Lastly, and here is where we discuss this film in the context of the series, there is Ben Barnes. Ben Barnes, as Caspian, who is now a King; reprises his role but not identically to the last installment. In Prince Caspian a decision was made that the Talmarines, to differentiate themselves as men of a different nation, should be Spanish or speaking in a brogue thereof. Barnes did what he could to work with this impediment but that decision along with some in structuring made that installment a little less than it could’ve been. Therefore kudos are in store for the production team, principally the late great director Michael Apted, for deciding to rescind said decision. Ben Barnes speaking in his true voice is another actor entirely and he is a credit to this film.

This film, unlike many fantastic voyages, actually allows you to get into the character’s head a bit. In fact, that’s really what the enemy is all about: exploiting fears that each of the characters have. The characters are seen alone, the characters dream and they do battle with an enemy that knows how to defeat them. Mist or fog can be a very effective cinematic motif, as evidenced by eponymous films but you add a sentient nature to said mist and a whole other level is reached. Especially with the way it is framed and how the characters very infrequently sense its presence. I wrote recently of the jolting scares to be found in the most recent Harry Potter, well that is trumped by the ominous looming and chasing of the mist in this tale which gave me goosebumps on more than one occasion, as did some other events, CG or not.

Speaking of CG this may be an aspect of this film, which is almost taken for granted. To go through a laundry list of awe-inspiring visual achievements that the effects artists conjure up in this film would be tedious. However, it does need to be said that the work in this film is so accurate and precise that it likely goes overlooked by many. It has been short-listed for an Academy Award nomination and if it does not receive said nomination it will be one of the greatest injustices they’ve ever perpetuated [It didn’t get it, surprise, surprise].

This film is expertly edited and flows like a dream and treats time like a tinker toy. It makes the film move very briskly throughout but grinds the action nearly to a halt when things need observing in the minutest detail. If you had no notion of the time you’d swear the film is at least 20 minutes shorter than it really is, which is a testament to the pace of the tale.

You can’t have a sweeping epic story line without a sweeping epic score and this film most certainly has that as well, as there’s not much it doesn’t have. The score always matches but doesn’t overpower or over-accentuate the film and is dazzling.

The superlatives could continue to flow but I saw this film twice on the weekend so that should say something. I may see it anew to gauge the 3D quality, for the time being bear in mind that it is post-converted so buyer beware [I did end up seeing it in 3D later on and the conversion was pretty good] .

You have in this tale characters who are human therefore flawed and must struggle mightily against the darker parts of their nature to achieve their goal. You also have here in a series an ending as should the films continue different characters coming to the fore, even if this wasn’t the case the ending is quite the effective tear-jerker. This is without a doubt one of the most complete cinematic experiences I’ve had in a while, one of the best films of the year and a no questions asked must see.

10/10

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is available on DVD and Blu-Ray today.