Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You're a Big Boy Now (1966)

Post-teen virgin moves to New York City, falls for a cold-hearted beauty, then finds true love with a loyal girl. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Geraldine Page

I have seen this gradually at work, when I got some free time. For those curious, it's available on Youtube, because otherwise it's very hard to find. It's the first serious film of Francis Ford Coppola, allegedly for his master thesis at film school. It does have a beginner feel to it, but even so: he managed to gather a highly respectable cast: Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Julie Harris, Elizabeth Hartman and this is also the 1st film of Karen Black.
You're a Big Boy Now is a goofy project, an exagerated comedy with a very shaky screenplay. The key of it all stands in the direction, which is meant to surprise and look inovative. I'm sure it was cool for that era and there are small direction elements that stand out without being obvious. But for the most of it, it remains an experimental film school project, with a certain immaturity attached to it. It's easy to watch, but not fully satisfying. Julie Harris is funny and Geraldine Page memorable, even though it's hardly a deserved Oscar nomination...
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. I just hoped for a good ending and it didn't deliver.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ordinary People (1980) (2nd time)

The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Robert Redford (WINNER)
Best Actress: Mary Tyler Moore
Best Supporting Actor: Judd Hirsch
Best Supporting Actor: Timothy Hutton (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)

I hadn't seen Ordinary People in about 4-5 years. I didn't think much of it back then, even though I admited some scenes to be very well written & acted. The second time around, it felt much better. The screenplay is very good, minus the cheesy flashbacks; and what I did notice this time is how real it feels, how perfectly set are the uncomfortable scenes of human interaction.
And I had forgotten how excellent Timothy Hutton is. The acting is good all around, but he's the star (and the leading character, for that matter); a terrific performance, especially considering it's a debut role and the character could've been played in so many wrong ways. This is the closest Donald Sutherland ever came to an Oscar nomination and Mary Tyler Moore is perfectly cast as the cold mother (I'll write more next week on the other blog). Robert Redford's direction is mostly subtle, reassuring; he probably didn't deserve the win, considering competition from Polanki, Scorsese & Lynch. And I won't mention anything about the Best Picture Oscar, as I haven't checked the other major nominees in a very long time.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Because it really is a great family drama, simple and honest. And a very cool emotional ending.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gone with the Wind (1939) (5th time?)

The biggest epic movie & love story of all times, a turbulent love affair in the American south during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Nominated for 13 Oscars (+2 extra technical awards):

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Victor Fleming (WINNER)
Best Actor: Clark Gable
Best Actress: Vivien Leigh (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Olivia De Havilland
Best Supporting Actress: Hattie McDaniel (WINNER)
Best Writing, Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Music, Original Score
Best Cinematography, Color (WINNER)
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Sound
Best Special Effects

Christmas Day proved to be the perfect opportunity to revisit THE classic; seen it all at once today, the whole 4 hours... It was the most pleasant marathon :) What can you say about your favorite movie? Not much... It's so good and I have the most respect for it. I'm also aware it's a very subjective choice because it's always the most pleasant sit-through. I am not gonna search for flaws.
The direction, screenplay, technical part and especially Vivien Leigh's historical performance: all there. You need to see one of the many making of documentaries to realize how perfect Vivien's casting was. Truly one of the best female performances ever, and the juiciest role an actress could get. It's a character that had a big influence on my emotional development over the years (it's true, and I'm actually not saying it was a good influence) so I feel deeply connected to it.
In case you were wondering why no costume nomination, it's because the category didn't exist back then; cause GWTW offers some of the best costume design seen on film... those Scarlett dresses: movie magic... There no point in me talking more about it, praising it. Those who've seen it and like it, know what I mean, the charm that takes you over; it's like a secret whose full elements I'm keeping for myself.
My rating for the film: 10/10. Obviously; and it stays there as a solid no. 1 for me. This really is the biggest epic movie and also the 12th Best Picture winner. That's why it's time to recap all the Best Picture winners so far in a ranking:
Special Best Picture Ranking
You might know of my slow attempt to see (or see again) all Best Picture winners. And because now I'm done with the 20s and 30s, it's time to rank the first 12 winners before moving on:
from Best to Worst, here they are:
1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
3. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
4. It Happened One Night (1934)
5. Wings (1927-28)
6. You Can't Take It with You (1938)
7. Grand Hotel (1932)
8. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
9. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
10. The Broadway Melody (1929)
11. Cimarron (1931)
12. Cavalcade (1933)
The movies ranked from 9 to 12 are totally useless winners, a shame in Oscar's history. The winner was very easy for me, because of obvious reasons. But the next 4 movies were very hard to rank, each with scenes/elements making them unique and special: either the class acting from Mutiny, the dramatic touch of Western Front, the comedic easiness of Happened One Night or the surprisingly stunning visual of Wings. You can find my comments on these movies just by going down the page or to the labels on the right.
I will slowly drag myself through the 40s in the next months :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

La dolce vita (1960)

The film is a story of a playboy journalist's week in Rome, and his search for both happiness and love that will never come. [wiki]

Nominated for 4 Oscars: [as a 1961 film]

Best Director: Federico Fellini
Best Original Screenplay
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (WINNER)

It's always a problem when you feel like criticizing the classics. uuuuhh... Can I say something bad about a film that people think is one of the best ever?! Well: yes. It's not that it's not a special movie; it is!!! La dolce vita is very stylish and sexy and well directed, but... it's also 20-30 minutes too long and it has what i'd call fake substance. As in: no true feelings.
The first hour is a delight, but the last part is redundant and too much of the same thing, which takes away from the originality of it. All the nominations are worthy and, to a certain degree, its fame is well-deserved: cause I guess it depends a lot on the time context and La dolce vita might've really been a door opener for 1960... It's fun in the first half, but I would never adventure seeing the last hour again. The screenplay is good, but not constantly. To my knowledge I've seen just 1 (full) movie of Fellini's before this: and it was the best - La notti di Cabiria. I'll probably try to slowly get familiar with his work (and not just his reputation).
My rating for the film: 7/10. It IS overrated. But everybody needs to see it, at least for Anita's scenes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gloria (1980)

A gangster's girlfriend goes on the run with a young boy who is being hunted by the mob for information he may or may not have. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Gena Rowlands! I cannot believe it!!! wow. It's much worse than the Sharon Stone 1999 version. It did win the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor (the kid) and I must say it was the most deserved Razzie ever given. This is one of the WORST child performances ever and it also fatally damaged Gena's acting. The screenplay is so bad as it is presented, that the whole 120 minutes action could've been summed up in 25 minutes.
It just goes in circles with stupid plot holes. The direction is totally ignorable (what was Cassavetes thinking?!) and the ending is hilariously pointless. Gena Rowlands is hot and the only good (or at least decent) performance in the film. But how much can she do with a terrible screenplay and a robotic-kid as a scene partner... Too bad. She was nominated for this and not for Opening Night? Ridiculous.
My rating for the film: 2/10. It hurt.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cinderella Liberty (1973)

A lonely Navy sailor falls in love with a hooker and becomes a surrogate father figure for her son. [wiki]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actress: Marsha Mason
Best Original Score
Best Original Song

I've wanted to see this movie for a very long time! Why? Because of the spectacular Marsha Mason! :) I was right: she is terrific in this too. I'm not saying she deserved to win (hard to tell), but it's definitely a great achivement. [imo, she deserved to win in 77 and 81]. So I was excited when I finally got my hands on this.
But I was not expecting it to be a classic. And it's not. It's just well-told story, with good performances. Nothing amazing and the ending did not please me that much. James Caan gives a quiet, solid performance, but it's Marsha who, despite not being the true leading character, steals the show. The other 2 nominations are rather forgettable, as I don't remember anything from the Original Score (even though it's John Williams).
My rating for the film: 7/10. Nice effort.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Resurrection (1980)

It tells the story of a woman who survives the car accident which kills her husband, but discovers that she has the power to heal other people. [wiki]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn
Best Supporting Actress: Eva LeGallienne

What the hell happened in the last 20 minutes of it? It's true what they say: the ending can make or break a movie! I had seen half of this a year ago, and now I watched it all from the beginning for the other blog. It was going fine, until the screenplay went crazy all of the sudden: unjustified actions of the male character and a naive ending.
But it did have potential until then. Ellen Burstyn gives a strong performance, especially in the first hour and Eva LeGallienne's honorary nomination (a theatre star for more than 60 years) made sense, especially as the two actresses worked well together. It also deserved a nomination for Original Score, as the music is haunting and adequate to the film. But nothing close to Oscar wins and... wow, did it blow it away! I was actually hooked to it for the first hour.
My rating for the film: 4.5/10. Missed opportunity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stage Door (1937)

A boardinghouse full of aspiring actresses and their ambitions, dreams and disappointments. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Gregory La Cava
Best Supporting Actress: Andrea Leeds
Best Writing, Screenplay

I have accidentally seen this film; I didn't expect to, or at least not last night and not all of it at once. I planned to watch it for Andrew's Kay Hepburn blogathon. I had never seen it. I was charmed.
2 reasons to see Stage Door: Ginger Rogers and the screenplay. Ginger is excellent and very funny in the first hour of the film. Once she fades away from the screen, the movie loses a lot. Her charisma is not to be doubted and she perfectly delivers the sharp dialogue. A nomanition would've been in place. The actress who actually got an Oscar nom gave one of the worst performances of the film; uninteresting, unoriginal, useful just as a plot device. The rest of the nominations are well deserved; and the movie is way better than The Life of Emile Zola, who won.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. It lost the funny in the 2nd part. I'll probably write about Hepburn on the other blog, on Dec 11th.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) (2nd time)

Biography of Loretta Lynn, a country and western singer that came from poverty to fame. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Sissy Spacek (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Editing
Best Sound

Hmmm... biopics are hard to talk about. This one was different because (even the 2nd time around after a couple of years) I still don't know much about Loretta Lynn, so I didn't really make a comparison. Was this good or bad? I dunno. What I can say it that my face lighted everytime Beverly D'Angelo, who plays Patsy Cline appeared on screen, maybe because I obviously know who Patsy was...
Some Oscar nominations are worthy, some not. I'm sure they could've found a more interesting film to give the BP nomination to, but Coal Miner's Daughter is a well made movie. The screenplay is ok, the direction subtle but good, very nice cinematography & mostly good acting. Sissy won everything she could that year (too much if you'd ask me) and I'll write about her performance on the other blog; it's a tricky one, with a couple of great moments, but flat on many points. Tommy Lee Jones was ok and Beverly deserved a supporting nomination (very subjective opinion). However, at the end of it... what was the big story that deserved so much to be told?...
My rating for the film: 7/10. Better than most biopics and enjoyable. But again: what was so interesting?!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The biopic of the famous French writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair. [imdb]

Nominated for 10 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: William Dieterle
Best Actor: Paul Muni
Best Supporting Actor: Joseph Schildkraut (WINNER)
Best Writing, Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Writing, Original Story
Best Assistant Director
Best Music, Score
Best Art Direction
Best Sound

I had interrupted my Best Picture series for like 3 months, mainly because I knew this one was next :P It's such an unexciting movie, but I admit it was a much easier watch after 40 minutes or so. The Life of Emile Zola is the 10th Best Picture winner. And I think it's safe to say the film is far from being deserving. From the list of nominees, I could easily point out The Awful Truth, The Good Earth and especially A Star Is Born as being far more worthy of the title.
Paul Muni's performance is very confusing to me. He's awful as a young Zola, but creates a rather believable old Zola and I often forgot that it was a 40 year old man under makeup. Anyway, definitely not worthy of a win. Schildkraut gives the best performance, but his screentime is so limited that I am surprised he won the Oscar; he has very little dialogue but gives the (only) realistic portrayal of the movie. The screenplay is very thin except for the monogue in the court scene (the only entertaining scenes in the movie), the direction is ignorable and the film itself rather flat.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I noticed this movie was on a special Best Picture dvd next to Amadeus and Casablanca, and 2 others. I felt like screaming. How can you put this next to a classic like Casablanca? Ridiculous. Is this the best they could find from the 30s?!
PS: The 11th BP winner, You Can't Take It with You (1938) had already been mentioned on this blog, before I started this series. You can click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Elia Kazan (WINNER)
Best Actor: Gregory Peck
Best Actress: Dorothy McGuire
Best Supporting Actress: Celeste Holm (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Revere
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Editing

I'm a bit ashamed I hadn't seen this Oscar winner until now! One can argue that the movie is dated, but the idea behind it, its essence is still valid. It's a movie about putting yourself in the shoes of a discriminated minority! And even though it sounds cheesy, the movie was better and more captivating than I expected.
The subject itself is the highlight of this film, so its succes is mostly due to the material. Also, good performances help: all the nominees give ok performances + John Garfield + a very very young Dean Stockwell :) Celeste Holm's Oscar win might be deserved, but I would've liked a better ending for the character's storyline. It was cut too abruptly. And Anne Revere is great and dependable playing Peck's mother. The direction is good, but a bit too subtle for my taste. The film does slow down in the last 20 minutes and risks major cheesyness with a lot of good-intended speeches, but fortunately it doesn't totally rulen the dynamic from the first part.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I would've given it more had it not been the unnecessary dinner scene between Garfield's and McGuire's characters. But a nice movie and really important for that era.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Possessed (1947)

A woman is found wandering Los Angeles, unable to say anything other than "David". Admitted to hospital she is coaxed into recounting her recent life. [wiki]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Joan Crawford

There was a funny comment on the imdb forum saying: Possessed by Van Heflin??? :)) because he wasn't the most attractive of men. In a way I agree, but he does manage to create a masculine, intriguing character. Anyway, the movie's not about him. Actually, the movie is about too many things, that's the problem.
It starts great and the first 10-15 minutes are incredibly well executed. The direction is fine throughout the film and the camera work from the beginning: creative & memorable. Even Joan does a fine job for the first half. But then the screenplay just keeps getting messier, with no way out. Until the last moment it's actually hard to understand what actually possesses her: the man, the dead woman (no spoiler) or her disease? As the 2nd part really goes down-the-hill, so does Joan's performance. She's subtle, fascinating in the beginning, but for the last moments she opts for B-movie horror type of performance, with lots of overacting and strange gestures! Is that really how schizophrenia looks like? I doubt it! A performance that will be hard to rate on my other blog (I'll have to watch it again anyway, to count the screentime).
My rating for the film: 4/10. For the stupidity of the last 30 minutes and the pathetic ending. But the direction had soooo much potential! Cliche movie that could've done more.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Whisperers (1967)

It's the story of an old lady, lonely and almost senile, living a depressing life. When it seems her luck has changed, life teaches her a lesson.

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Edith Evans

I had to write the plot line, because the one from imdb is quite deceiving. With just 181 votes on imdb, there aren't many people who've seen this movie. It's British, it's very low budget, no big names. However, Dame Edith Evans won the Golden Globe, the National Board of Review AND the New York FCC for her leading performance! At age 80, she is the second oldest Best Actress nominee, second only to Jessica Tandy.
But even with all these critics awards, I think her chances of winning the Oscar were very slim! So no shock about it! It's not that she isn't good, but the performance is sooo non-American, subtle, hard to relate to if you're under 40, with no big flashy scenes. So if Kay Hepburn wouldn't have won, it would've been Faye Dunaway or Audrey.
The film itself is too low key and it lacks... well it lacks the stakes. The story is simple - no problem with that - but it somehow doesn't take advantage of the potential to be an author film or a really moving one. It's realistic, beautifully directed, but the screenplay could've been a bit heavier. Obviously, it relies a lot on Edith Evans, who is not as brilliant as I expected (because the screenplay doesn't give her the chance), but gives an excellent performance! Her touching acting in the beginning gives you a lot to think of. And no, she's not playing herself, you can see that! And no, the movie is not about a crazy woman talking to ghosts. There's actually a lot going on for like... 20 minutes. :)
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. First I wanted 6, then 5... It would actually be a 4 if not for Edith Evans, who does miracles with it. I recommend it just to Oscar fans and Best Actress addicts.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Giant (1956) (2nd time)

An epic movie covering the life of a Texas cattle rancher and his family and associates. [imdb]

Nominated for 10 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: George Stevens (WINNER)
Best Actor: James Dean
Best Actor: Rock Hudson
Best Supporting Actress: Mercedes McCambridge
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction, Color
Best Costume Design, Color
Best Editing

It's a giant movie due to it's reputation & cast and not that epic when it comes to what's actually going on. It's a big production, but not a Ben-Hur. :) it tells the story of a family, there's lots of stuff going on in 3 hours, with some parts being more engaging that others. It's a movie event because of Liz, Rock Hudson and especially James Dean, who received his second consecutive posthumous nomination.
I read some comments that James should've been placed in the supporting category and I agree, as the he's not really the center of the film. He might steal the show, but it's not about him. I struggle with the performances: Liz is fine, but she doesn't get to do much; it's all about the boys. Mercedes gives a fine performance, but in a 3 hours movie, her role feels like a cameo. This probably is Rock's finest dramatic performance and from the 2 men, my heart went to him, because he really creates a warm believable character and his performance is fiiiiiine. But not excellent.
And then there's James; I respect the Brando style of acting, but there's something so whiny/half retarded about the character, and his performance only hunts that down, adding some drunk scenes from the same bucket. He does it well, but I'm still seeing almost the same whiny acting from East of Eden. Again: he would've probably deserved a win, but the acting was so different from anyone else's I just don't know if I loved it or found it too much for the classic-moviemaking feel of Giant. Other than that: the direction win is probably deserved, the technical part is a plus and the screenplay... well, it's good. However when the film shifted from the first part (which had a certain dynamic) to the children all grown up, the movie became less interesting. When the 3 leads were not on screen full-power, the stakes were less interesting.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. I know, I really wanted to give more, but I guess that desire comes from all the James Dean fascination and the fact that the film is eye candy. Objectively, it could've been better. P.S.: I don't know if it would've deserved a BP win, as I shamefully haven't seen any of his competitors. :P

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Written on the Wind (1956) (2nd time)

Alcoholic playboy Kyle Hadley marries the woman secretly loved by his poor but hard-working best friend, who in turn is pursued by Kyle's seductive sister. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actor: Robert Stack
Best Supporting Actress: Dorothy Malone (WINNER)
Best Original Song

I don't even know what to say about this one. It didn't get better with a second viewing; it just seemed shorter (which I guess is good). It's a typical Douglas Sirk / 1950s drama, so it has lots of soap opera, some luxurious settings and a couple of interesting performances to analyze. Interestingly enough, the focus of the film is not on the big Hollywood names, as Bacall and mostly Rock Hudson are really ignorable. The spotlight belongs to the two f&cked up brother and sister, played by Stack and Dorothy Malone.
Robert Stack (who has the screentime of a leading character) plays it too hard and his performance looks ridiculous to a modern audience. Some drunk scenes are fine, but as the screenplay gets more and more cheesy drama, he falls for the cliche and the character becomes a vehicle for unwanted humor. Dorothy Malone on the other hand has her moments of greatness. I admit I was seduced by her look (even more the 2nd time) and Sirk knew exactly how to play it. It's not an easy screenplay to read, but for the most of it: she does it justice (more about her in this month's Smackdown) and definitely brings freshness & fun everytime she's around.
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. Despite all the cliches, it's still quite watchable, with Malone being the strangely comforting element of the film.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baby Doll (1956)

Steamy tale of two Southern rivals and a sensuous 19-year-old virgin. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Actress: Carroll Baker
Best Supporting Actress: Mildred Dunnock
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

What an unpleasant movie; it's just one of those films I'll never want to see again, except if I'm forced too. It's not as scandalous as I expected it to be. It tries to be a lot of things, but fails in a big way: it's not dramatic, not funny, the acting is ok but not excellent, the set is too stagey, the direction too slow & tries to hard, the screenplay too crowded, not emotional nor suspenseful.
So it bored me a lot. I can understand how some people might feel differently appreciating the mood and stuff like that. The most annoying thing was probably the ending, with lines that seemed so fake trying to give it a feel like the entire movie was some kind of epic or an important journey of some kind. It wasn't. I'm happy Elia Kazan didn't receive a Best Director nomination, as it's probably one of his least natural efforts. Carroll Baker is nice to look at, gives a decent performance, but I didn't see the revelation. Dunnock's performance is cartoonish, while Malden and Eli Wallach show lots of energy, but the screenplay is too theatrical.
My rating for the film: 3/10. A good dinner scene, but Baby Doll thinks it's much more than what it really is.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947)

The fictional story of Angie Evans, a nightclub singer who interrupts her career to marry struggling songwriter Ken Conway. As he discovers success, she turns into an alcoholic, gradually destroying her life.

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Susan Hayward
Best Writing, Original Story

Oh what a title, right? :) Screams cheesy soap-opera ever since the beginning! And that's half true. I didn't plan to see this movie so soon, but I somehow found free time at work during mornings and watched it on youtube for 2 days. And might I say: it was more enjoyable that expected. With such a title and subject, I expected the worst. The story is nothing new, but it doesn't suck either.

Susan's performance is clearly the highlight of the film! She's natural, sings great and plays one of the most believable drunks I've seen on screen, adding much more to the character than was supposed to. The film itself managed to surprise me once or twice, when I expected super cliches to step in (the baby dying, the evil other woman), but the film turned them around and it didn't go that far. However I would've preferred a more dramatic final scene.

My rating for the film: 6/10. Very 40s melodrama, but with a nice pace and Susan's performance really lifts it up!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Farmer's Daughter (1947)

Katie Holstrom leaves the farm to become a nurse, but is sidetracked into domestic service, romance, and politics. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Loretta Young (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Charles Bickford

The people who made this movie should've seen My Man Godfrey at least 3 times before starting to film this so-called romantic comedy. That's how you conquer this genre. I've seen worst attempts than The Farmer's Daughter. And it's actually not THAT bad: but it's too simple, predictable and not funny. I smiled once or twice, but that's it. NO comedic timing.
Loretta's win is mindblowing considering it's such a one-note & no laughter character. She tries; she really tries to do a bit more with it, but the screenplay knocks her down. I'll talk more about it in a couple of days on the other blog. Charles Bickford gives a nice grumpy performance as the butler, but again: not enough good material to highlight his talent.
My rating for the film: 3.5/10. Easy to watch, but so predictable, hardly believable and not funny.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Divorce - Italian Style (1961)

A married Sicilian baron falls in love with his cousin and vows to wed her, but with divorce illegal he must plan a crime of passion to get away with murdering his wife. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Director: Pietro Germi
Best Actor: Marcello Mastroianni
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)

Even though this is a 1961 movie, at the Oscars it competed as a 1962 film, so it was up against Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbird. And you know what? Judging by how much I enjoyed it, I actually choose it over the 2 previously mentioned! Divorce Italian Style is a killer comedy and so smartly written!
Mastroianni gives a very funny, light & believable performance! Of course, it helps that he has an excellent screenplay to work with! This Oscar win for writing is one of the most deserved this category has ever had. It's crazy sharp, just like the direction. The choices that Pietro Germi makes are impecable and the film has a very nice flow. All the nominations are worthy and I would've also given it a Best Picture nom, for sure. And the comedy: it's funny, smart, situation comedy. Not that the dialogue isn't perfect, but the story itself and the action bring the biggest laughter or appreciative smiles. And talk about the actress playing the wife: brilliant casting!
My rating for the film: 9/10. I would've gone for a different ending scene, but it's still the best film I've seen in a while. Doesn't disappoint!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)

An adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play. As an updated Greek tragedy, the film features murder, adultery, love and revenge. All taking place after the American Civil War. [wiki]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actor: Michael Redgrave
Best Actress: Rosalind Russell

This is the movie I've wanted to see the most for the past... I dunno 2, 3, 4 years! I didn't expect it to be bad or brilliant, I just needed to know what the fuss is all about. And I'm glad I finally found out. It's a strange movie experience, as I could give it a 6, an 8 or maybe a 5. Hard to tell if I liked it, as during its 160+ minutes (yes, I've seen the original unedited version I think) it had many good moments, but also bad ones.
You probably know the controversy of Rosalind Russell losing the Oscar! She was already standing up before they've announced the winner, as she was sure she'd got it. However, the winner was Loretta Young (must've been popularity vote) for the light comedy The Farmer's Daughter and so it became one of the (I'd say) top 5 Oscar shockers. Even though it's the only Best Actress nominee I've seen from 1947, I can say I understand what the surprise was all about. Great or just good, the role that Rosalind plays is highly dramatic and she's in charge of the entire film. I myself found her to be terrific at times and it's quite a nuanced performance.
Michael Redgrave acted a bit too much for my taste, but I understand the nomination and it's not a bad performance at all. A bit surprised that Katina Paxinou didn't receive a supporting actress nomination (it's the type of flashy that Oscar usually rewards) or the film an Original Score nom. As I read about it, Mourning... was apparently a box office flop that's why they cut it down. The screenplay is too theatrical and confusing at first. Actually, the whole film is theatrical and the direction is mostly missing. It's too long and while the 2nd chapted is most interesting, the 3rd one just goes for boring. Many to say about this one, but I'll stop here.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Again: 7 is chosen mostly randomly. I can see why some might love or totally ignore the film. Because a copy is not easy to find, I might consider posting it on youtube in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

A Marine and a Nun, both shipwrecked on a Pacific Island, find solace in one another as the two wait out the war. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Deborah Kerr
Best Adapted Screenplay

Such a small, simple film. A simple story, with beautiful cinematography and an exotic landscape. Two main characters and their interactions. Robert gives a very natural performance, very likeable. Deborah is kind, gentle, it's a subtle performance that works for the most of it.
I don't feel like saying much about this movie. In a way, it just went by me. I felt like saying: so what. But at other times, I appreciated the simplicity of it. It's a slow film, with not much going on (or nothing groundbreaking), yet NOT boring. The direction is good, but the adapted screenplay nomination is mostly a category filler.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Very soon I'll see it again. Strangely, it's like I haven't even seen it. Some might appreciate it much more.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Piano (1993) (2nd time)

A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she's soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Jane Campion
Best Actress: Holly Hunter (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Paquin (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Costume Design

Yes, it's just the 2nd time I'm seeing The Piano! Can you believe it? :P Being such an essential film for bloggers and such. Really now, there are tons of worshippers around here. And I have to admit something: for a very long time I've been on the Angela Bassett team regarding the Best Actress category. Right now, I am undecided, as it's hard to compare totally different performances. But what I can say about The Piano is that is has a magnificent direction and a very good (and also very special & unique) leading performance.
If 1993 wouldn't have been all about Schindler's List, this movie would've also won Best Picture, Best Director (we would've had the first woman to win in this category!!!) and Best Cinematography (excellent! and very... careful with its showing)! I for one preferred Schindler's List, but Jane Campion really does create such a special film! The story is simple, the film is quiet, beautifully shot and depends a lot on its visuals. The screenplay is good, Oscar worthy, but not better than the film itself; this is the case for an art film, cause this is what The Piano is.
Holly Hunter does give an excellent performance and the role is tough to play, not because of how much it offers, but because it demands 100% focus & greatness by giving the actress many limitations! I don't believe in Anna Paquin's Oscar win, but it was a weak race anyway. I find it hard to love The Piano, but I'm mad about the direction. Who can forget the piano and the sea moment right before the end? Or the fantastic cinematography? But except for Holly's character I really didn't enjoy the rest of them.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Hard to talk about. And I would've also gone for less explicit nudity / sexuality. Yet still a great achievement.

In the Name of the Father (1993) (2nd time)

Based on the true story of Gerry Conlon, a Belfast man who - along with family members and friends - was wrongly convicted of bombing two pubs outside of London. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Jim Sheridan
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Supporting Actor: Pete Postlethwaite
Best Supporting Actress: Emma Thompson
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Editing

I am sometimes bothered when a true story film is not as true as it's campaigned to be. This one goes into that category, as I understand, reading some trivia, that much was changed for an easier adaptation of the subject. But beyond that, In the name... still remains an uncomfortable film and I dreaded having to see it again, because I have problems sitting through movies involving massive injustice. But surprisingly enough, the first part was much better than I remembered it to be.
This time, I had more appreciation for Jim Sheridan's sharp, clean direction and I guess the first scene justifies his Oscar nomination. Daniel Day-Lewis is also better than I remembered, and even though I'm not his biggest fan, I respect his work a lot and he really really gives a very good performance. Excellent year for Best Actor. The supporting actor nomination feels worthy and I would've wanted Emma to have more screentime. She's a nice presence, but she appears in the least interesting part of the film. Yes, the film gets boring towards the end and even the screenplay (so nicely structured in the beginning) becomes shakey, with those final trial moments hard to believe as they're shown (how can you use in a British trial a document stolen from the police files, not shown to the other side and a judge accepts it as proof?!)
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. It would've been an 8, but the ending was blah. Yet, the opening scene is really memorable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Age of Innocence (1993) (2nd time)

Tale of 19th century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman's cousin. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress: Winona Ryder
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design (WINNER)

There are many things not right with this movie. However, I find myself strangely appreciative of Martin Scorsese's direction, even though the shakeness in the story and tone are to his blame. Yet, the film has delicate, wonderful, sometimes excellent moments that suggest some great decision making. How about that beautiful montage with paintings narrating Newland & May's honeymoon? And the brilliant decision to have a voice-over during the entire storytelling (and what a voice! Joanne Woodward!). And some subtle screenplay elements, like the honeymoon cottage narration!
But as I said, much doesn't fit! I am undecided (or just didn't care) about Daniel Day-Lewis's performance; was it the right casting? How much did he help the character? Winona seemed just right for the innocent role, yet except for a scene towards the end there really wasn't that much for her to do! Michelle is fine, but she gets lost in the second part (probably why she didn't get an Oscar nomination) and in the end she doesn't get a punch to really give a shape to the performance! Plus: shouldn't the countess have been a bit younger? :P she felt like Winona's mom (a hot mom, but still) instead of her cousin.
I'm quite sure this was just votes short of getting both a Best Picture nomination and a Director one. The Costume Design win is much worthy and the Art Direction nomination really (really!) gave Schindler's List a run for its money! But in the end it still is an inconsistent film that I found hard to love, especially due to Daniel's (strange?) lack of charisma.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. A film I have much respect for (oh, that voice over!), but could never love.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wild Is the Wind (1957)

Gio marries his dead wife's sister and brings her with him to America. His obsession for the dead woman and her feisty attitude bring them trouble.

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actor: Anthony Quinn
Best Actress: Anna Magnani
Best Original Song

I am ashamed of it: this is my first Anna Magnani film! :/ Yes, I know; no The Rose Tattoo, no Rome, Open City, no Secret of Santa Vittoria. But I had heard of her huge talent and this film somehow confirmed my expectations. Yet it's also true that the role of an outspoken Italian woman fits her perfectly. The film itself starts well, with Anna in full speed drama, but the second part just can't keep up, and it was actually supposed to be the most interesting moment.
I put a bit of blame on Anthony Franciosa's lack of creativity or inspiration; he is totally boring and strange to follow in comparison with his immensely talented co-stars and their natural way of acting. So the film really gets to soapy towards the end and it's almost like you don't even have a story. What was this about?! what happened at the end... Anthony Quinn's nomination might be worthy, but the film wasn't really really about him, as Anna stole most of their scenes together.
My rating for the film: 6/10. It could be a 6.5; a simple little film, often enough too simple, but with a great pair of actors.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Firm (1993)

A young lawyer joins a prestigous law firm only to discover that it has a sinister dark side. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress: Holly Hunter
Best Original Score

There are many things wrong with this movie. It's not that it's so typical for the beginning of the 90s movies; but the film is poorly constructed, naively written and acted mostly in a mediocre way. And this is the top grossing film of 1993? Ih... I don't know about the novel, but the story couldn't have been lighter. I don't wanna seem bitchier than necessary: it works at times, but has mad plot holes for the rest of it or just simple solutions hard to believe.

How could have Sydney Pollack directed such a flawed film? It's predictable (except for when it makes no sense) and the characters are poorly constructed and strangely motivated. The best part is the little action going on in the second half that gets us out of the cliche of the project. Holly Hunter gives one of the few respectable performances, but her character is so poorly treated that I actually felt sorry for Holly for getting such a shitty role & undeserved nomination. The Original Score was way too much in my face for me to enjoy. Tom Cruise gave a good speech at the end which redeemed his performance.

My rating for the film: 3.5/10. A waste of time mostly; and somehow they won tons of money with this.

Monday, September 7, 2009

To learn more about my personal message, please click here. :)
it's on the other blog.

but no worry, I'll keep seing Oscar movies, so the posting will continue here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fearless (1993)

A man's personality is dramatically changed after surviving a major airline crash. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Rosie Perez

I'm seeing this for Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown. Otherwise, I would've probably kept on avoiding it for a couple of years. The project just didn't seem to attract me and I was right: the movie is quite disappointing. Peter Weir directed it and I can feel a touch of his magic here and there, but unfortunately he did nothing for his actors.
And I'll going str8 for the acting because it is what bothered me most. Isabella Rossellini, John Turturro and (a very young) Benicio Del Toro has nothing to do with this; the first two were just painfully bad! Really! Jeff Bridges was decent as a whole, even though he did nothing for me for 2 thirds of Fearless. Rosie Perez deserved her nomination, but the performance felt inconsistent at times. The best thing about the film is the plane crash flashback at the end; the direction is good and the effects make it look very believable. That's what kept from totally attacking this mostly boring film.
My rating for the film: 4.5/10. I am being most generous; probably one of Peter Weir's worst.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kate and Leopold (2001)

A love story between a 19th century baron and a 21st century businesswoman. Some kind of a fantasy romance.

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Song

My mother wanted to see this on tv the other night and I went along with it, without knowing it would be less charming and more boring. And it's 2 hours long, which is way too much for this type of romantic comedy. Well comedy is a stretch; I don't remember laughing once. How could one take this seriously?!

Yes, Hugh Jackman is rather charming, but so what; it doesn't help the film THAT much. Meg Ryan looks a bit too old to date him and plays her usual tricks. The screenplay is filled with gaps and somewhat predictable; that twist at the end it rather ridiculous. I'm not sure the song nomination is worthy either, because it's not that much of a tune. You might think I hated it; not really, because once it started I realized quickly I should go low expectation. That's why I'm so generous with the rating.

My rating for the film: 3/10. Well, it did introduce Hugh to the world (as a romantic figure I mean, not as Wolverine).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

The ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., famed producer of extravagant stage revues. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Best Actress: Luise Rainer (WINNER)
Best Writing, Original Story
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Dance Direction (WINNER)

The 9th Best Picture winner is a big production, Ziegfeld style. I didn't understand at first why THIS was named the best film of the year, but once the impressive musical moments started, I got an idea. The beginning of the film is boring and mostly a cliche; it goes like this for an hour or so (the film has almost 3 hours). But when A Pretty Girl is like a Melody explodes (yes, this is the word) onto the screen, magic happens. What a fascinating musical moment, and the art direction, cinematography, costume design - all goes right! fabulous!
Other than the music & dance numbers, there isn't much left to care about. To make it clear: this biopic is so far from the facts, one should be ashamed to call it that. Ziegfeld was a womanizer and not this nice guy. Anna Held was previously married and had a child and no mentioning here; it wasn't she who left Ziegfeld and so on and on and on... So the dialogue and action part is rather boring and untrue, especially in the first half. Luise Rainer won the Oscar for playing Anna Held, a star that Ziegfeld brings to America. I wasn't impressed by her acting and I think the win is just silly. William Powell is mediocre at first, but in the last half an hour his performance turns more dramatic & touching. It was nice to see the beautiful Myrna Loy, but she appears 2 hours and 15 minutes into the film, which is way too late.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Tough to rate, because I was bewitched by the musical numbers and this film probably has some of the best costumes I have ever seen on film (and that says a lot).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Love Affair (1939)

French playboy Michel and American Terry McKay fall in love aboard ship. They arrange to reunite 6 months later on the top of the Empire State Building, but destiny prepares an unfortunate surprise. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Irene Dunne
Best Supporting Actress: Maria Ouspenskaya
Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Song
Best Art Direction

I had first seen (years ago) the 1994 remake with Warren Beatty & Annette Bening; though it's considered a bad film, I remember being captivated by the plot and especially fascinated by the ending. So I said to myself: the original must be a classic! And ignoring the 1957 Cary Grant version, I went str8 for this one. A classic it is, even though it has its flaws.
My concern is with the second part, as the film slowly loses its emotional punch; until that classic ending, that is. Love Affair is a delicate movie, focused on romance and on the fantastic charisma of the two leading actors. Both of them managed to put a smile on my face: Charles Boyer is adorable and Irene Dunne is glowing. Her Oscar nomination was well deserved but she was nowhere near winning; and the songs she sings are beautiful, memorable. Maria Ouspenskaya has a short, but important role as the one to predict the love story that will follow.
I am just a bit :( by the fact that Love Affair was not even 90 minutes long; they could've added more scenes and resolve the screenplay gaps from the second half. But still: an unforgettable love story.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It was almost a 9. And I think I'm gonna post this film on youtube.

Peyton Place (1957) (2nd time)

Coming-of-age story set in a small New England town whose peaceful facade hides love and passion, scandal and hypocrisy. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Mark Robson
Best Actress: Lana Turner
Best Supporting Actor: Arthur Kennedy
Best Supporting Actor: Russ Tamblyn
Best Supporting Actress: Hope Lange
Best Supporting Actress: Diane Varsi
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography

This is one of the few films that have received 5 Oscar nomination for acting. Don't be fooled by the poster on the right; Peyton Place is an ensemble piece, with lots of stories going on and Lana Turner is the lead just by title and not by screentime. It's a very soapish film, focused on the characters' actions and not so much on deep stuff. Yeah, it's mostly superficial, but pleasant to watch.

I don't think the Oscar nominations for Picture and Director are worthy. From the acting ones, I would say only 2 or 3 were correctly chosen, with Hope Lange (as a rape victim) and Arthur Kennedy (as the rapist stepfather) being the highlights and also offering the best storyline; Lange deserved to win the Oscar. Lana Turner is ok playing a frigid woman (yes, the poster is deceiving, I've told you), but it's a very one-note performance so it didn't wow me. Her love interest, played by whatever-his-name-is, is the most annoying thing about this film; his voice drives me mad and brings down the credibility of the romance.

My rating for the film: 6.5/10. But it can also work as a 7; it depends on the mood while watching. But don't expect greatness, just over 2 and a half hours of soap opera.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Agatha Christie tale of a man on trial for murder: a trial featuring surprise after surprise. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Billy Wilder
Best Actor: Charles Laughton
Best Supporting Actress: Elsa Lanchester
Best Editing
Best Sound

A classic I had never seen before, but I've heard this week that it has one of the trickiest twists in all movie history, so I thought of checking it out. The second reason: I wanted to see what's all about Marlene Dietrich's NOT-Oscar nominated performance and if the debate on the performance is justified. And also because Charles Laughton is easily becoming one of my favorite actors.
It's hard to talk about the film or Marlene without spoiling the plot. I, for one, did not expect the twist up until the last minute, nor that big character surprise (can't say it outloud) that's the key to the film. Both were deliciously interesting and in the pure Agatha Christie style. What I did not enjoy were the last 3-5 minutes, an ending that felt exagerated and could've functioned better.
Charles Laughton is excellent as the old lawyer and I think he deserved to win the Oscar. Elsa Lanchester won the Golden Globe (what the hell?!) and received an Oscar nomination for a pointless performance (just like her previous nomination for Come to the Stable). Tyrone Power was good and Marlene would've deserved a Best Actress nomination, but not a win, as her acting does feel a bit dated at times. I need to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai again and get familiar with 12 Angry Men to say exactly which one deserved the Best Picture win. Witness for the Prosecution is a solid, serious film, relaxing and intriguing.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Too bad for those last minutes and thank God for Charles Laughton.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (2nd time)

Fletcher Christian successfully leads a mutiny against the ruthless Captain Bligh on the HMS Bounty. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Frank Lloyd
Best Actor: Clark Gable
Best Actor: Charles Laughton
Best Actor: Franchot Tone
Best Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Editing

And so I continue my Best Picture winner odyssey with the 8th winner: Mutiny on the Bounty. I had first seen the film probably about 5-6 years ago, so watching it now I knew plot and that made it difficult to sit through the first hour. But once you get past the cruelty and first impressions, you realize this is quite a good film. It's well directed, well written and the ensemble cast is great.
As a piece of trivia: this film is considered to be the cause for introducing the Best Supporting Actor/Actress the following year, due to Franchot Tone who got a Best Actor nomination, even though his role is supporting; this resulted in 3 Best Actor nominations for the same film (still a record today), probably unacceptable, giving birth to the much needed supporting acting categories.
Charles Laughton is so cruel & mean and his casting is perfect, with him giving an Oscar worthy performance. I've even enjoyed Clark Gable, even though it's not my type of character and Franchot Tone's speech at the end of the film is dead on. The direction is smart & often difficult and the technical part is believable. I found the film to be very enjoyable, especially in the second half and I couldn't really find major flaws to it. I haven't seen its main Best Picture contender (John Ford's The Informant), but this one is a worthy winner.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. I've enjoyed it more this time around.

The Usual Suspects (1995)

A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)

Let's just say I had never seen this film before, even though I was very familiar with the subject, seen a couple of scenes and knew the ending and WHO is Keyser Soze. Did the fact that I knew the twist spoil it for me? Not really, because I don't think I would've enjoyed it anyway. Usual Suspects has a reputation of being a mystery masterpiece, with a huge fan base and an imdb rating that's through the roof.
The two scenes I enjoyed from this movie are the action-packed ones: the attack on the police car and the elevator scene. Bryan Singer really knows how to direct action shit, but the screenplay was a bit too complicated to work and the historical twist left me cold, as I thought it was just thrown there and it didn't explain many other holes from the screenplay. So, I would've given the Original Screenplay Oscar to Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite. Kevin Spacey gives a good, almost leading, performance, but I'm not sure he deserved to win. At times, he's either boring or forcing the line reading.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Some good action shit, but overrated and less spectacular than promoted.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Raintree County (1957)

A graduating poet/teacher falls in love with a Southern woman, and then the Civil War and her past create problems. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Actress: Elizabeth Taylor
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

This is the first of Elizabeth Taylor's 5 Best Actress nominations (4 of which are consecutive, starting with this one). Unfortunately the film, which is a wannabe epic Gone with the Wind style, is a huge flop and for most part a waste of time, camera work and potential. It's not an epic, but a badly acted, directed, written film lacking the fluidity it needs to put some sense into the story.
The technical nominations are worthy, I guess. Elizabeth's is not the real leading character, but the problem is that she benefits of such terrible screenplay, storyline, all cheesy, putting the fatal mark on her performance. She's not THAT bad, but her performance is replaceable & unspectacular, even though it's nice to see a pretty face onscreen. Montgomery Clift is as boring as always, but I forgive him because during the filming of this he had the infamous car accident that left him a drug addict. The direction of the film sucks, just like the Civil War scenes. And don't get me started on the screenplay...
My rating for the film: 3/10. Easy to watch, but too superficial to be taken seriously. And they've even made Eva Marie Saint seem annoying.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Apollo 13 (1995) (2nd time)

True story of the moon-bound mission that developed severe trouble and the men that rescued it with skill and dedication. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor: Ed Harris
Best Supporting Actress: Kathleen Quinlan
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Visual Effects
Best Sound (WINNER)

Does a film get more American than this? That's not always a good thing, especially if you're an European watching it. Apollo 13 starts cheesy and ends cheesy, with the traditional happy ending all the way; you even get a cliffhanger every 5 minutes. The recipe is a cliche and I bet the story is not THAT faithful. But other than that: it's a good movie, done well.
The technical part is very good, not overcooked. The acting nominations are not worthy, but not bad either. Ed Harris gives a subtle unspectacular performance and Kathleen plays the wife and gets sh!t from the screenplay; but she's a nice screen presence, her eyes are expressive, yet nothing to work with. Apollo 13 did deserve a best director nomination, but not a Best Picture win. Tom Hanks is good, but he's had much much better roles. I look at what I wrote and I get the false impression I didn't like it. I enjoyed it! A lot at times! All the space scenes are impressive through their... clarity! Ron Howard kept it clean and that's great.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. An enjoyable film, less blockbuster than one might think and NOT a visual effects driven movie.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Il Postino (1994/95)

A simple Italian postman learns to love poetry while delivering mail to famous poet Pablo Neruda; he uses this to woo local beauty Beatrice. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Michael Radford
Best Actor: Massimo Troisi
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Score (WINNER)

I think this film got a reputation for 2 reasons that are actually interconnected. First: its leading actor died of a heart attack less than a day after the filming ended. And second: I still don't understand (and I bet I'm not the only one) how a small Italian film released in 1994 and in the USA in June 1995, without any big names attached to it, ignored by the Golden Globes, with an unknown director and a very slow story received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director!!! I think it's one of the most confusing Oscar nominations of its decade.

The film itself is not bad. It's just that it's sooooooo slow in the first hour. And I don't have a problem with foreign language film, I actually understand a bit of Italian. But there's nothing going on and Massimo Troisi's acting goes from bad to confusing to plain ordinary. He does get much better towards the end of the film, but I suspect the nomination can be justified just by the tragic story surrounding the actor (and the fact that the category had 2 empty seats). Not worthy. The direction is fine, again, especially in the ending, but not worthy of a nomination (not when Ang Lee, Ron Howard and Scorsese were ignored that year).

There's nothing to hate about this film, except for Troisi's acting in the first part. The last 30 minutes go from good to very good to a spectacular unexpected ending; and quite emotional. I do suspect it was the ending that got the voters. The adapted screenplay nomination is fine with me, also the win for Best Original Score (I can't decide between this music and the one from Braveheart).

My rating for the film: 7/10. Boring, slow, but with a very good last chapter. Yet, mostly overrated.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

A doctor treats a woman suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Joanne Woodward (WINNER)

I look at the poster on the right and the woman looks nothing like Joanne Woodward :D these marketing guys are terrible. Other than that, I must admit I have a thing for Joanne. It's not sexual; and I don't think it's based on her acting talent, as I've only seen 5-6 movies of hers (but she's a great actress, still). I find her face to be fascinating; her eyes are some of the most gorgeous I've ever seen. She has an exotic feel (especially in her 60s movies) and she looks like someone I'd admire and respect. Somehow, most of her characters seem to be a bit whinny, but in the sweetest & most delicious way. I just want to hug her. :D
Getting back to the film: it's like a docudrama and it's based (though I'm not sure how accurate) on real events. The film is rather short, simple, nothing that special about. Truth is Eve depends entirely on Joanne's performance; based on the story construction, it's almost a one woman show. And she delivers, even though I didn't LOVE the performance. It's a tough role to play and multiple personality is not the type of subject I enjoy. But Joanne did her best and most importantly she made it look believable. The Oscar win might be worthy. And as I think of it now... the role sounds crazy baity, but it's not THAT flashy. I must also congratulate her for making all 3 personalities look distinctive; it really is a great achievement. (My favorite one was Eve Black, the naughty :P ).
My rating for the film: 7/10. Hard to rate.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Prizzi's Honor (1985) (2nd time)

A professional hit man and a hit woman fall in love, only to discover that they have each been hired to kill the other. [imdb] This is the imdb plot; the subject is actually more complicated.

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: John Huston
Best Actor: Jack Nicholson
Best Supporting Actor: William Hickey
Best Supporting Actress: Anjelica Huston (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Costume Design
Best Editing

I don't think I've ever seen Jack Nicholson give such an AWFUL performance; why didn't I remember it the first time?! It's not just that he's too old for the part, but... he has no idea what he's doing! His face expressions are ridiculous and he's usually so good with comedy. All those critics awards he's won for this... what were they thinking?! I'm starting to understand why William Hurt won Best Actor that year; such a weak category.
Surprisingly enough, the acting was generally disappointing, with one exception: William Hickey does an excellent job as the head of the Prizzi Family - he's perfectly cast and very good, in a difficult comedic role. He probably deserved to win. The director's daughter, Anjelica Huston, a much lesser-known actress back then, won the Oscar as a tricky mafia daughter. The win is totally undeserving; you can see the lack of experience all through the performance; and when you think she won over brilliant Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple...
The film has its bad parts, mostly involving Jack Nicholson's flirting scenes from the beginning; I'm not kidding, he's THAT bad. Kathleen Turner is mediocre and the first half just doesn't work. But the second part... something delicious about it: the dark humour takes over and the last 30 minutes are energetic & very interesting.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. I'm mostly being generous, it probably deserves less.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It Happened One Night (1934)

A spoiled heiress, running away from her father, is helped by a man who's actually a reporter looking for a story. But then he falls for her... [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Frank Capra (WINNER)
Best Actor: Clark Gable (WINNER)
Best Actress: Claudette Colbert (WINNER)
Best Writing, Adaptation (WINNER)

It Happened One Night is not just the 7th film to win Best Picture, but also one of only 3 films to ever win the 5 major Oscars: picture, director, screenplay, actor & actress. And it's an interesting film, probably ahead of its time. When I first think of it, I find it to be a bit too light, too soft for a BP winner. It's a comedy, with a very simple story. But the fact that it does function so well on all levels makes it the great, memorable film it is.
I've heard it campaigned as a screwball comedy; it's not, as I don't think it's wacky enough. The film is more romantic; the comedy comes just after the middle of the film and it's good to have it there, but there's nothing hilarious in the story. I did laugh in the hitchhiking scene, which is very funny.
The films works well do to a great chemistry between Gable and Colbert. Both of them are good, especially Claudette, who's not just gorgeous (look at that perfect face!), but also super talented. The screenplay is light, but written well and the direction is simple, supporting the story and the actors. There really isn't anything bad to say about it; it's a very good film, more entertaining in the 2nd half. It probably did deserve all those Oscars.
My rating for the film: 8/10. It's smart feel good and Claudette is charming.

*** Originally an 8.5, edited to an 8 :)