Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Enchanted April (1992) (2nd time)

Four women rent a chateau on a remote Italian island to try to come to grips with their lives and relationships. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress: Joan Plowright
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Costume Design

Don't trust the poster. Quality-wise, this has nothing to do with A Room with a View or Howards End. Not that it's bad, but those 2 previously mentioned are classics of their genre. This one is just ok. Yet I'll admit this really is a hell of a poster! :D
It's a slow, simple, relaxing movie. The performances are just ok, with the exception of Miranda Richardson who's (as usual) much more than average (but how did she win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy for this?! when it really is a dramatic role). Enchanted April felt better the second time around; I've noticed some smart directorial choices and it did feel more relaxing than the 1st time.
Joan Plowright's nomination (and almost win) is one honouring her entire (mostly theatre?) career; that's how you can explain it, because it's quite unspectacular and I could give one or two names (even from her own film) who could have replaced her. The best (and only) thing about it is her voice-over work. The Adapted Screenplay nomination is acceptable and the one for Costume Design quite deserved.
My rating for the film: 7/10. If you're in the mood for a quiet British film, non-demanding and with a beautiful scenery, go for it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shampoo (1975)

Election Eve, 1968: the "adventures" of a Beverly Hills hairdresser and the women he's f*cking.

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actor: Jack Warden
Best Supporting Actress: Lee Grant (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Art Direction

Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn - what a cast, right? but what a boring movie (for the most of it, that is). I'm being a big too harsh on it, but I expected a lot. What can I say: it looks good and it's rather stylish. All the 3 leading actors are CRAZY HOT. Though Goldie Hawn is more of a supporting actress here. The hair is fabulous, the clothes are fun :D
The screenplay is much better in the 2nd half and I guess it was the runner-up for the win (Al Pacino's Dog Day Afternoon won). Warren Beatty himself was the co-writter; he can do just about anything, can't he? I'd love to see him work again. To me, his performance was one of the best 2. The other one: nominee Jack Warden, playing Julie's Christie's rich old lover and the husband of Lee Grant (Oscar), one of Warren's lovers. Complicated stuff.
Though Jack Warden was good in this honest comedic performance, his competition was very serious, so no win for him. Lee Grant was ok, but she didn't really deserve the Oscar, as she was competing agains two of the Nashville ladies (Ronee Blakley would've been my choice). I guess her win was some kind of a career thing, cause it was her 3rd nomination and the other nominees were relatively unknown. The nomination for Art Direction is rather silly. :)
My rating for the film: 6/10. I just wished for it to be funnier and for Goldie Hawn to get better lines, because her role was rather dull.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973)

Rita, a middle aged New York City homemaker, finds herself in an emotional crisis which forces her to re-examine her life. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Joanne Woodward
Best Supporting Actress: Sylvia Sidney

Another film it took me forever to find. I might have a weak spot for Joanne Woodward, as I always find her to be beautiful, even when she's 43 or 60 (Mr. and Mrs. Bridge).
There isn't much subject to the film, it's that type of soft 70s movie. It resembles an Ingmar Bergman, it's slow, with a simple (but effective) screenplay and it tries to say something about time and how individuals change. The first 20 minutes are the best, but the 2nd part is not really weak either. Acting is top class, especially Sylvia Sidney's brief (but so much fun) performance as Rita's mother. Joanne Woodward is also very good - as always. I'd also mention Martin Balsam, playing the husband, he should've received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. It's an emotional drama, surprising at times and with great performances.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Room at the Top (1959) (2nd time)

An ambitious young accountant schemes to wed a wealthy factory owner's daughter, despite falling in love with a married older woman. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Jack Clayton
Best Actor: Laurence Harvey
Best Actress: Simone Signoret (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Hermione Baddeley
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)

Lots of interesting facts about this film. And it's fair, as it is an interesting film itself. It's a rough, very British, quite non-Hollywood drama. What you notice the most upon a second viewing is probably the precise, clean, subtle direction. He knew what he was doing and how to get the best out of his actors.
The trivia I was mentioning: at about 2 minutes and 20 seconds on screen, Hermione Baddeley holds the record for the briefest Oscar nominated performance ever. But you can't miss her because it's an important small part; she's like the conscience of the film.
The real leading actor of the film is Laurence Harvey and not Simone Signoret; Room at the Top is about one man's journey and this older woman, lover of his, is just a chapter. His nomination is worthy even though I don't like the character. Also it's good to see Simone Signoret nominated and she gives a strong subtle performance, though I'm not sure she deserved to win. And it must have been a surprising win back then, as Elizabeth Taylor was the favorite for Suddenly, Last Summer.
Though the subject might sound boring, the film is actually quite catchy, so it was pleasant to watch even the second time around. It's a film with a "real" feel to it; and as I've said all the performances are good, solid, dependable and the direction smart, clean and never boring.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Definitely better than Ben-Hur. :D

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

Harrowing true story of a young Jewish girl who, with her family and their friends is forced to hide in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: George Stevens
Best Supporting Actor: Ed Wynn
Best Supporting Actress: Shelley Winters (WINNER)
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

2 hours and 50 minutes; boy, that felt like 5 hours. And my #1 ever is Gone with the Wind, so I generally have no problem with longer films. But this one... interesting story, good direction, but sooo boring at times (especially the so-called romantic scenes).
It's a fascinating subject and I also felt like justice wasn't done. I love fiction, but when you take on a big story like Anne Frank's, you should show respect by trying to keep it as close to what really happened. Even though it's based on a stage play, the loyalty should be towards the truth more than a good adaptation of something fictionalized. That's just my perspective.
So, i didn't like it that much. Is it also because it felt a bit too Hollywood? Probably. The Oscar wins for Art Direction and especially Cinematography are well deserved; I can't say the same thing about Best Supporting Actress. In my humble opinion, Shelley Winters was the least deserving of the 5 nominees (and I've seen them all). So I don't agree with the general hype that surrounds this performance; I don't hate it, but nothing thrilled me. Almost the same story with the Ed Wynn nomination, though this one felt a bit more deserving.
My rating for the film: 6/10. Because of the good technical part, and not so much the acting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Imitation of Life (1959) (2nd time)

A struggling young actress with a six-year-old daughter sets up housekeeping with a homeless black woman and her light-skinned eight-year-old daughter who rejects her mother by trying to pass for white. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress: Susan Kohner
Best Supporting Actress: Juanita Moore

Another film I'm seing again for Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress Sundays. I'm glad I had this opportunity because I usually don't rewatch them. Imitation of Life is a soap-like, yet solid drama, not for everyone, but I do like this type of social conflict movies. While watching it, I kept saying to myself: remember this was made back in the 50s, 8 years before Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. So the impact of the film and how believable it is relies on your capacity to put all in a fair context.
I find it difficult to write about it. I can't really say WHY I liked it much more this time around. Maybe because I was in a certain mood that almost made me cry in the second to last scene. The film has lots of drama and depends a lot on what type of viewer you are. You can laugh and find it silly and dated or look at the substance of its performances and the message it sends.
The two nominations are worthy. Juanita Moore should have actually won (she plays the black woman and Susan Kohner her light-skinned teenage daughter). It's a movie worth seing if you like typical 1950s dramas and smart films with a soap-opera touch.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I'm being a bit too generous, but it did improve from the last time I saw it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Reader (2008) (2nd viewing)

Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Stephen Daldry
Best Actress: Kate Winslet (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography

Kate Winslet as a nazi? How exciting!!! or not :(
Why didn't she win for Eternal Sunshine... or Little Children?!
As you can probably tell, I'm not a fan of this film, although it was a bit more watchable the 2nd time around. Is it because I just LOVE the book?! Is it because Hanna Schmitz (the nazi) is one of the best written characters of 20th century literature? She is fascinating in the book, but so unfortunately presented in the film.
The guy who wrote the screenplay knew shit. The story has 3 big parts, following different ages of Michael. My problem is with the 1st part. Maybe because he didn't use enough book material. Maybe because there was too much detail put on the sex. YES, this film can give you an erection, but that's not what I'm looking for in a non-porn; lots of homo-erotic stuff (though no gay characters).
Ralph Fiennes and David Kross (15 yo Michael) are ok, but not that worth mentioning. Lena Olin is excellent and should've gotten a Best Supporting Actress campaign!!! The music is beautiful, the direction is simple but not bad, the cinematography is good, but not excellent. I'll write more about Kate when I'll do her profile for Alex in Movieland (that's why I saw the film again). Kate is bad in the first part and way better in the other two. In the book, Hanna Schmitz knew how to be rough, but also how to be witty and playful; NOT in the film unfortunately.
Halfway through, The Reader gets better. But I don't really care that much by then. It's an incomplete story that doesn't do justice to the book. I'll post Kate's profile soon on the other blog.
My rating for the film: 6.5/10.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pillow Talk (1959) (2nd viewing)

A man and woman share a telephone line and despise each other, but then he has fun by romancing her with his voice disguised. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Actress: Doris Day
Best Supporting Actress: Thelma Ritter
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction

This is a film I saw again for Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress Sundays; we're doing 1959 this month. Anyway, about Pillow Talk: loved it the first time, adored it the 2nd time. It's an excellent romantic comedy from the 1950s and (I've heard) the best Rock Hudson - Doris Day film; cause they've made a lot of them.
Doris Day is very adorable & gorgeous and her nomination is well deserved. As known, she's also a great singer and right now I'm obsessed with the title song from this film, also called Pillow Talk. The Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay is no mistake and I'd say all the nominations are worthy. Thelma Ritter could do this role in her sleep, but her character & presence are very effective for the storyline and for the film in general and she always puts a smile on my face. There's also a snub for best supporting actor: Tony Randall should've been nominated; if you'll see the film, you'll understand what I mean.
I really really recommend this film. It's both funny and charming and better than most romantic junk they serve us these days.
My rating for the film: 9/10. I initially felt 8.5, but movies rarely get better at a second viewing; so, it's a 9.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

A modern-day witch likes her neighbor but despises his fiancee, so she enchants him to love her instead... only to fall in love with him for real. [imdb]
Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

I love witches and cats. And I think Kim Novak is very beautiful. These are the reasons why I chose to see this film. But it didn't work out for me. :(
James Stewart is too old for her, the screenplay seems to have lots of gaps and the supporting characters are quite annoying and don't help the film. It doesn't have enough magic, it should've been more creative & crazy.
But it's rather chic, Kim does look like a cat :P and the 2 Oscar nominations are well deserved. It's a missed opportunity and a remake IS needed.
My rating for the film: 5/10. I'm afraid I might not be a James Stewart fan.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rachel Getting Married (2008) (2nd viewing)

A young woman who has been in and out from rehab returns home for the weekend for her sister's wedding. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Anne Hathaway

My oh my. How do I start here?! First of all, I've watched it again, so that I could do the profile of Anne for the other blog (soon). I won't go into too many details right now. The film itself felt better upon a second viewing. Watching it again also allows you to notice the details in Anne's performance and the small tricks that the screenplay has (the lighted candle on the pool for example).
The screenplay is far from perfect; I can only think of how underused Debra Winger (the mother) is. But it's a strong drama, deliberately uncomfortable at moments, it has its chill scenes, some cheesy stuff, an excellent direction and strong performances. It did deserve more than one nomination, but I guess its campaign wasn't strong enough and it's also not your typical Oscar movie (you know, it has no indian kids or lots of moving images).
In my opinion, the film also deserved 2 nominations for Best Supporting Actress: Rosemarie DeWitt as Rachel (the good sister who's getting married) and Debra Winger as the mother, the most mysterious character of the film, in a very cold performance that in the end steals the show (to me, it's the most interesting character of the film; was she like this before the tragedy or is her attitude a consequence?). Also love the cinematography & soundtrack and I would probably also nominate Bill Irwin for Supporting Actor (playing the father).
My rating for the film: 8/10. I don't know why not more; I guess because I dislike Kym, the lead. Who knows, it might change. A must see anyway.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mrs. Parkington (1944)

The old and rich Mrs. Parkington remembers her life, starting with the moment when, as a poor girl, met & married her husband.

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Greer Garson
Best Supporting Actress: Agnes Moorehead

Another long-searched very rare movie posted by some wonderful people on youtube. Happy I saw it, but I must say: it's a flop. :D The screenplay is too rushed, it almost entirely lacks emotion; the performances are dry and... well... you just don't care for the film.

The appreciation for Agnes Moorehead's performance (the Oscar nomination and the Golden Globe win) is ABSURD. She does nothing for the film but to give us an embarrassing French accent and, more than that, she's not even the best supporting actress in her own film, let alone of the year. Greer Garson is not that bad, but I've seen her doing this before. Her strongest part is the last scene which saves the performance. For a third of the film Greer appears with heavy makeup (she's supposed to be like 90 years old); at first, she's not believable, but as the film progresses the old Mrs. Parkington becomes the best part of her performance.
My rating for the film: 4.5/10. It's for die hard Oscar fans only.