Saturday, December 25, 2010

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

It tells the story of working-class artist Morgan Delt, obsessed with Karl Marx and gorillas, who tries to stop his ex-wife from remarrying. [wiki]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Vanessa Redgrave
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

I was watching it and I kept thinking: what is this??? :)) it's not a comedy, because there was nothing funny about it. It has a wacky story and a screenplay that literally goes nowhere. It doesn't have a distictive style and there's nothing about the performances to stand out. The film looks just like another excuse for the director to push forward some socialism values.
And making them political is fine with me, as long as it all makes sense and it's not just thrown in there. The love story is virtually missing and the characters are painfully underwritten. The last 15-20 minutes are almost unwatchable and it's one of the worst, pointless endings I've ever seen. :) it's not a bad movie in the Glitter kind of way and I don't hate it, but it's so confused and confusing and unjustified that it gives no pleasure to the experience.
My rating for the film: 2.5/10. "Oscar" and Vanessa's performance should not be in the same sentence.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Georgy Girl (1966)

A homely but vivacious young woman dodges the amorous attentions of her father's middle-aged employer while striving to capture some of the glamorous life of her swinging London roommate. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Actress: Lynn Redgrave
Best Supporting Actor: James Mason
Best Original Song
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

This is one of those film you just know it was cool when it was released. And a bad film it's not, it just lacks a sense of direction and some experienced, more inspired writing. I did smiled at times, especially in the first half, but it's gets just really boring and unfocused at one point.
Lynn is clearly the star and she made me laugh at least in the Italian scene. She was just a 22 year old girl when she did the film and while you can sense the lack of experience, she definitely feels fresh and what the role needed. James Mason is fine, but nothing Oscar worthy, while the very young Charlotte Rampling is very sexy, bitchy and perfecty cast.
My rating for the film: 6/10. I'm sure it's a classic for many, but for me it doesn't succeed in any genre.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Man and a Woman (1966) (3rd time)

A man and a woman meet by accident on a Sunday evening at their childrens' boarding school. Slowly they reveal themselves to each other. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Director: Claude Lelouch
Best Actress: Anouk Aimée
Best Foreign Language Film: France (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)

For many years now I've had Un homme et une femme among my top favorite 20 films of all time. When I first saw it, it blew me away because I hadn't seen anything like it before and I'm sure people from 1966 felt the same thing. Its unique qualities are the simplicity of the story and how sophisticated and well thought the execution is.
The highlight is not the acting, even though it's some of the most natural love story interaction you'll ever see on screen. It IS one of the best directed films I have EVER seen. The cinematography is fantastic, the editing is magic, the screenplay is pure and simple, the music is legendary. And then back to the directing: Claude Lelouch wasn't even 30 years old when he did this and I don't know how but he fitted the pieces perfectly creating such a balanced, marvelous, sophisticated, cool, great looking film. The last 10-15 minutes are bliss and relevant for the film's heart and emotions. The ending is superb.

I wanted to be them. I wanted to be with them.
My rating for the film: 9.5/10. More people should see this, especially if they have a weakness for well made simple romantic stuff. French movies rock.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hamlet (1948)

William Shakespeare's tale of tragedy of murder and revenge in the royal halls of medieval Denmark. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Laurence Olivier
Best Actor: Laurence Olivier (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Jean Simmons
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Costume Design (WINNER)

Last year I started pushing myself into seeing all the Best Picture winners, some for the first time, some again, in chronological order. The 21st Best Picture winner was definitely... difficult to watch or just not engaging. I didn't enjoy Hamlet and I found the incredibly long first half quite painful to sit through.
It's not the story, which I find interesting and we have the 2nd part to prove it. It's not the shakesperean dialogue, which I can get used to. It's the damn slow pace, the shaky direction in the first part and some unsatisfying acting. While watching the first hour, I was quite sure this was going to be the worst BP winner I'll ever see. Some casting choices are just crazy, but surprisingly enough it's the actress who plays Gertrude who delivers the best performance. Jean Simmons has nothing to do with any Oscar talk and Laurence Olivier... well, sometimes he's just perfect with the dialogue, other times he overplays the gay arrogant card.
On the good side, it has an efficient original score, the ghost scene is good and the last 30 minutes have a much better pace than the rest of the film. But even so: how snobbish were the Academy voters for choosing this over Treasure of Sierra Madre and Johnny Belinda, the two all-American favorites?! It's a win hard to explain.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I'm sure some adore it. I'm also sure many didn't get past the first 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) (3rd time)

The film focuses on the self-destructive relationship of history professor George and his hard-drinking wife Martha, as they invite a younger couple over for drinks. [wiki]

Nominated for 13 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Mike Nichols
Best Actor: Richard Burton
Best Actress: Elizabeth Taylor (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: George Segal
Best Supporting Actress: Sandy Dennis (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Sound

There are many things I like about this film and there are also things I think could've been done better or adapted better for the screen. But regardless of how memorable or not you find it to be, this is a very well acted, special film. Can you believe it was the directorial debut of Mike Nichols, who was in his early 30s at that time? Looking at the film, you'd think it has years and years of experience behind it. Because, while it's mostly about the performances, it all seems well glued together and this was not an easy play to deal with.
Elizabeth, of course, delivers her all time best and maybe the performance that really brought her the acclaim from critics; strangely enough, it would also be her last important role. Sandy Dennis did deserve the win, George Segal was quite great, but I need to say something about Burton. To me, this is his best performance I've seen him do, and that means a lot. Even after watching Man for All Seasons, I don't see how Scofield won the Oscar over Burton and over Michael Caine's delicously fabulous performance in Alfie. Burton might just have the most challenging and subtle role of the film and nobody could've done it better or been able to face just as well Liz's Martha!
The cinematography win seems worthy, even though some complain about excessive close-ups; I enjoyed it, it made the film look special. But while there's nothing wrong with the Art Direction and the Costumes, these wins are ridiculous: absolutely nothing to justify them. Moreso, the following year, the Academy stopped giving separate awards for B&A and Color, probably due to these 2 unfortunate wins.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It has parts that might be too slow, but it's overall an achievement. Also, I have to admit I might've changed the twist in the ending, as I think something ever more powerful would've helped the film's believability more.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Toy Story 2 (1999)

When Woody is stolen by a toy collector, Buzz and his friends vow to rescue him, but Woody finds the idea of immortality in a museum tempting. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Song

I have continued my way through the Toy Story series and I really didn't know what to expect from the second one. Thankfully, I thought it was great!!! Even with a bit of a slower beginning, the film totally manages to rise up quality wise especially in the second part, making for another fun, smart, animated film.
The screenplay is, just like for the first Toy Story, the best in show. Some of the jokes were hilarious and the creativity of the storyline continues to impress me. Even moreso than the first film, this one has lots of heart; and it smartly kept using the funniest characters from the first part. It deserved a Screenplay nomination for sure; and had there been an Animated Feature category back then, it would've easily won.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. I'm not the biggest fan of Randy Newman, but the nominated song really is memorable and perfectly used in the film.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Toy Story (1995)

A cowboy toy is profoundly threatened and jealous when a fancy spaceman toy supplants him as top toy in a boy's room. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Musical or Comedy Score
Best Original Song
+ Special Achievement Award for Animation techniques (WINNER)

The perspective of having to see Toy Story 3 forced me into finally seeing this first film and, very soon, all trilogy. Why did I wait so long when I knew this was a revolutionary animated feature? It's because I thought it would look dated and that it would be a boring story. And, of course, I was wrong; but happy to be so.
While it doesn't blow you away like today's computer generated animation, the film WORKS and doesn't look gimmicky. It's colorful and MOST IMPORTANTLY it's very very funny and creative. I expected a simple story, but the screenplay is just great, with lots of twists and turns and always keeping humor and a sharp eye for detail. I actually think it should've won the screenplay Oscar. To me it's up there with all the newer stuff like Finding Nemo and Wall E!
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Had I seen it back then, I would've probably given it even more! But a very entertaining, smart film and what a capable, strong direction!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nell (1994)

It tells the story of an adult woman who has to face other people for the first time after being raised by her mother in an isolated cabin. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Jodie Foster

You know, Jodie Foster almost didn't take the part, because she just wanted to direct the film. I can't imagine that. Later, she said that considers this to be her best performance. While I'm saving most of my ideas on that subject matter for my next week's profile, I will say that rarely have I seen so much prejudice on a performance like in the case of Jodie Foster's Nell. All you need is a careful look at it and see that it's more than jurd weird noises. I didn't expect what I got.

Getting back to the film: of course it has some cheesy, almost predictable moments. The screenplay is no masterpiece, but the acting makes up for other flaws: all actors are doing a good job, from Liam Neeson to Jeremy Davies playing a very offending redneck. The direction is mostly ok, but what convinced me not to go for less that a 7 was the last minute of the film. I've learned so much about Nell in those 60 seconds and it was a smart choice to end it with that final shot.

My rating for the film: 7/10. It's flawed, but I was captivated and that's because of you-know-who.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little Women (1994) (2nd time)

The March sisters live and grow in post-Civil War America. Based on the well known novel. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actress: Winona Ryder
Best Original Score
Best Costume Design

I have to admit I have never seen the 1933 classic version with Katherine Hepburn and I've also never read the book(s). So this was my first contact with the story: I mention that just so people don't think I'm comparing it, when I'll start trashing it :)) kidding. :P
The thing is: we're seeing 2 movies here: there's the first part, which is joyful, easy to watch and mostly fun light entertainment. And then there's the second half, which is boring, predictable, cheesy, boring again and doesn't have Kirsten in it. The second hour reaaaaaally sucks. Other than that, Winona gives a good performance, but that's the impression left on me because of her charisma and not because she had any big aha-acting moment. More on her next week, on the other blog.
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. 1994 was responsible for some awful supporting performances, ignored by the Razzie. Christian Bale should've made the list, because he's pretty bad in this.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tron (2nd time)

A hacker is literally abducted into the world of a computer and forced to participate in gladiatorial games where his only chance of escape is with the help of a heroic security program. [imdb]
Nominated for 2 Oscars:
Best Costume Design
Best Sound
I have written before about that categories of movies that you respect more that you like; actually there's a bigger gap: while you might find them umpleasant, you still admit their certain achievement. In a way, Tron is that kind of a film for me. I think the story is silly, the screenplay is messy, but it really feels like a road opener.
And Tron became memorable because of the visuals (might look ridiculous today, but even so: they have their charm) and because of an interesting direction and some unusual special effects. The sound and sound editing are very efficient and the costumes feel inovative even through there were some execution problems. What it lacks the most is a good story, because as it is right now: it misses the suspense, the twists, all is predictable and with easy solutions at hand, which makes it quite boring at times.
My rating for the film: 5/10. I am REALLY waiting for TRON: Legacy, because I'm sure it's gonna be much much better and visually stunning.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tom & Viv (1994)

It tells the story of the troubled relationship between the American poet, T.S. Eliot, and his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Miranda Richardson
Best Supporting Actress: Rosemary Harris

Ironically enough, 2 or 3 years ago this was one of the films I was desperately trying to find, definitely in my top most wanted list. Then I downloaded it from Youtube, saw 20 minutes of it and gave up. I had sensed that it was mostly no good, and I knew there was no rush to it.
Seeing it from beginning to end kind of confirms my intuition. The film IS for the most part a waste of time. It's not really a biopic, we find out almost nothing about the poet or his work, the characters are poorly developed, the direction is shaky and, most importantly, the characters are very dislikeable. I've researched a bit, and Viv seemed to be a fascinating woman, very intelligent, very human, yet the screenplay focused mostly on the crazy side.
Willem Dafoe is awful and creates and annoying leading character, I've never disliked him so much. Miranda is unbearable in the first half, but her last scenes are quite touching, because she finally gets to act normal. The only character I liked and felt emotionally touched by, though not because of the screenplay, was the mother, played in a very dignified way by Rosemary Harris, who does so much with so little. Her nomination really makes me happy, because she's such an amazing subtle actress and that suitcase-packing scene works just because of her acting.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I'm being generous because of Rosemary and because of the asylum scenes. Other than that, one of the most boring films I ever saw.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Client (3rd time?)

A young boy who witnessed the suicide of a mafia lawyer hires an attorney to protect him when the district attorney tries to use him to take down a mob family. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Susan Sarandon

First of all, I need to say I really like the poster of this film, which is relevant, classy and just looks so damn fine. Growing up, I saw it a lot on the cover of the Grisham novel and it's a special one for me. Moving to the film itself, it does feel weaker with every viewing. My biggest problem with it is the screenplay.
Of course, The Client was meant to be a box office hit and it really was. While the screenplay is ok, there are many convenient solutions or circumstances that just kill some of the story's believability. It is entertaining and easy to watch, but it could've been taken to another level. Not to mention those mafia guys: some of the most clicheed portrayals and really bad casting.
On the good side, there's the acting of the 2 leading characters. Susan Sarandon does a fine job with what the screenplay has to offer and she feels right for the part. The revelation is of course Brad Renfro, who feels trashy enough for part, looks good enough for a child lead and always stays in character. [I wanted to write here about how this role changed his life and how he would probably still be alive, had it not been for his Hollywood career. But such things of destiny happen all the time, to everybody, every minute].
My rating for the film: 7/10. I am surprised that Mary-Louise Parker didn't receive a Razzie nomination for her embarassing performance as the mother.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Razor's Edge (1946)

An adventuresome young man goes off to find himself and loses his socialite fiancée in the process. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor: Clifton Webb
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Baxter (WINNER)
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White

I was mostly provoked by two things into seeing this film. The first one: my incresing curiosity regarding Anne Baxter's Oscar winning performance, because I've recently praised her great acting in All About Eve. The second one: Andrew's lack of hesitation when declaring Anne Baxter as one his favorite actresses and Bette Davis not. :P But this... oh, boy, it's soooo wrong!
There is something so hilarious (and mind this is NOT a comedy) about Tyrone Power going up a mountain in India to discover himself, stearing at a cardboard mountain, talking with the wise Indian guy (who happens to have a perfect English accent) and in the end becoming a very efficient faith healer... I barely helped from cracking up. RIDICULOUS! :))) just like most of the film.
Because it really goes nowhere. What was the writer thinking? What was the director doing? How could THIS get nominated for Best Picture?! The story has no highlight in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Few decent parts are due to sparks of acting coming from supporting cast, because otherwise it's a boring, pointless (!!!) film.
Anne Baxter is good, but not when you'd expect her to. I've read of quote of hers saying this is the only good performance she's ever deliver. But she's clearly wrong, as this is not half as good as her All About Eve highlights. She HAS a good scene, a very good one, shared with Gene Tierney before Sophie starts drinking again; but too often I could notice the lack of experience. Not a bad win though, especially as I'm not familiar with the competition.
Clifton Webb is very appropriate for the role and it's a worthy nomination, that could've easily tricked Oscar into a win, especially with the showy ending and all. No point in mentioning much about Tyrone's stuffed performance, but I would say that Gene Tierney gets an AWFUL character, but some pretty good acting moments. She is effective, natural, but the screenplay kills any chance for greatness. Other than that, the film seemed like a mess to me, the most disoriented film I've seen lately.
My rating for the film: 3.5/10. Enjoyable for all the wrong reasons (involuntary humor).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blue Sky (1994) (2nd time)

It tells the story of an Army officer whose outspokenness and his wife's mental illness have made him an outcast among his fellow soldiers. [wiki]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Jessica Lange (WINNER)

The trivia behind this movie might be more interesting than the film itself. Blue Sky was completed in 1991, but because of the studio's money trouble it wasn't released until 94. And how could I not ask myself: what if? Had it been released in 91 or 92, Lange probably would've gotten nominated, but wouldn't have standed a chance against Foster or Thompson for the win. And still this would've made room for Sarandon or Ryder to take the 94 gold instead!
But getting back to the film: it's a basic drama, with no big complications, I mean secrets plot-wise. In a way, I appreciated that, because it has a clear structure and doesn't get too lost along the way. I wasn't excited to see it again, but it also didn't bother/bore me as much as I expected it would. Of course, the last part is too optimistic and idealized and the ending not so good; yet again: it could've went much worse.
The element that kept my interest must be Jessica's engaging performance. It's not a brilliant one, nor a very good one, but there IS something attractive about the character and she is the spark of color in the rather dull ensemble. I think she would've easily missed the win in any other year, but considering the weak field of 94, her victory isn't/wasn't that much of a surprise.
My rating for the film: 6.5/10. It should've been a 6, but there is something comforting about the structure of the story.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Egg and I (1947)

On their wedding night Bob informs his new bride Betty that he has bought a chicken farm. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Marjorie Main

In an evening without internet I went back to see what films I had stored here and The Egg and I was one of them. I wanted something that wasn't complicated, Oscar-connected and rather enjoyable. The Egg and I is a silly film, but with some funny moments. The last part was problematic, but overall I got what I expected.
Claudette Colbert is too old for the part, but somehow she manages to make it work and delivers a funny & sweet performance. However, the most charming performance easily comes from Marjorie Main as Ma Kettle (a role that she recreated in 7 other movies following this, I think). I don't know if it really was Oscar calibre, but she was definitely funny and very natural.
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. The last chapter is the least attractive, rather boring and spoils a bit the experience. But the film had potential.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Witness (1985)

A young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder; policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Peter Weir
Best Actor: Harrison Ford
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Art Direction

Just like in the case of Wall Street, I had seen scenes of this film before, but I'll pretend like it's the first time. I dunno why I imagined this to be relaxing; it was in a way, but just because it's so simple and unoriginal that it required no special focus. Or maybe I wanted to solve the mystery of Best Actor 1985, and now I can say that Ford, Garner and Nicholson had nothing to do with any Best line-up.
The film as a whole is disappointing, but not as much as the pieces themselves. Of course, I found some good parts, actually just one: the guy being crushed by the corn (or whatever that was), it was a beautifully shot scene. And Peter Weir does the best he can with a screenplay of suffocating mediocrity. The ending itself proves how unspecial the screenplay is and, as a somewhat screenplay-writer myself, I can guarantee that was the ending-solution of someone who had no idea how to end an uninteresting story. Peter Weir saves it by making it look more sophisticated or deep; but it wasn't.
What's more painful about the screenplay win is the terrific competition (haven't seen all, but boy do the sound interesting AND original): The Official Story, Brazil, Back to the Future, Purple Rose of Cairo. The editing Oscar is silly when put next to Out of Africa's nomination, the original music sounded like it was for a Science-Fiction, while the Art Direction nomination is... unimaginable, yet true.
I don't want anybody to think I hated it. NO, I didn't. It's just a terribly overrated film with almost nothing special compared to any OK good police flick. Ford is fine for the role, but gives his same usual ok performance, and Kelly McGillis is just good.
My rating for the film: 6/10. One of the most undeserving screenplay wins ever.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wall Street (1987)

A young stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a greedy corporate raider. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actor: Michael Douglas (WINNER)

I'm gonna act like this was the first time I was seeing Wall Street even thought I had catched scenes of it on TV before. I remembered the main plot, but definitely not the details. And, well, the film hasn't aged in a graceful manner: it is dated, but even so: there's something attractive about it, the sharpness that Michael Douglas brings to the table.
Michael Douglas won the Oscar and Daryl Hannah won the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. He didn't fully deserve it, but she did. While Michael is easily the best thing about Wall Street, those who've seen Jack Nicholson in Ironweed (yet many people haven't) might agree with me that he gave a better, more complex performance. Even so, Gordon Gekko is a delight.
Charlie Sheen is too cocky for the role, but Martin Sheen gives a very good supporting performance. I wasn't sure at first about Daryl's acting, as I thought the character might be stupid and in sleepwalking mode; then I convinced myself that the character could've actually been something had it not been played by a dummy who can't even open her mouth and say the lines. Great in Kill Bill, awful here.
My rating for the film: 6.5/10. Even if it should never go beyond a 6, the beginning and the ending feel strong. It's the middle that almost kills it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunset Blvd. (1950) (2nd time)

A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. [imdb]

Nominated for 11 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Billy Wilder
Best Actor: William Holden
Best Actress: Gloria Swanson
Best Supporting Actor: Erich von Stroheim
Best Supporting Actress: Nancy Olson
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
Best Music, Scoring (WINNER)
Best Editing
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)

Not that I don't believe All About Eve to be a better film or just more on my taste, but I am still surprised that Sunset Blvd. didn't win Best Picture and Best Director. It's a film done so well and, more importantly, in takes place right in Hollywood's backyard. It seems to be the perfect film for Academy members to vote for. I'm sure it was a close race and in any other year Sunset Blvd. would've been a sure bet.
The camera work is amazing and the film has a freshness to it, it feels new and important. The direction is brave, with one or two mistakes I've spotted, but still incredible alltogether. The screenplay is definitely worth of an Original Screenplay win and I'm just happy it didn't go up against All About Eve and both got to win for writing. Does Sunset have one of the best endings ever? That final scene is simply perfect and as a movie fan I just couldn't get enough.
The acting is good, great at times and it's a strong ensemble. I'm not saying Gloria deserved to win, but she was a fine runner-up for Best Actress and I'm sure she lost just by a couple of votes. William Holden is very effective, but I think he was even better that year in Born Yesterday. I could live without those supporting nominations, but nothing bad there. From the technical point of view, it would've deserved a Costume Design nomination, but I don't really get the win for Best Music, considering All About Eve had two legendary catchy tunes.
Sunset Blvd. remains a classic and has definitely passed the test of time. It still feels fresh and a delight for any Hollywood fan.
My rating for the film: 9/10. Even though I'm on the All About Eve side, I can still call it a must-see.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

To Be or Not to Be (1983)

A bad Polish actor is just trying to make a living when he's suddenly confronted with the German invasion starting World War II. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actor: Charles Durning

I never was and probably never will be a fan of Mel Brooks. It's true, I haven't seen The Producers (68), but I did get the unfortunate chance to catch Blazing Saddles and the ones with Robin Hood and Dracula on tv and probably some others that I tried often to forget. I think his humor is clumsy and he can't decide between lack of taste and standard comedy, usually choosing something flat in the middle. To Be... is a bit different.
While I didn't go crazy for his acting, the film is enjoyable. It's silly, not strong in the screenplay, not always funny, but definitely smart. Had I seen the original 1942 version, I'm quite sure I would've disliked this, but considering I hadn't yet, I found some of the screenplay twists to be quite enjoyable and surprising. Anne is good, but the funniest is Charles Durning in a very worthy Oscar nomination. He is incredibly charming and those who aren't familiar with his funny side will be surprised.
My rating for the film: 6/10. It drops the ball towards the end, but it has it's good moments. It was relaxing, which was what I was going for. I'm strangely curious what people thought of it: Did you see it?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Runaway Train (1985)

Two escaped convicts and a female railway worker find themselves trapped on a train with no brakes and nobody driving. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actor: Jon Voight
Best Supporting Actor: Eric Roberts
Best Editing

I had actually seen the first 20-30 minutes of Runaway Train a couple of years ago on tv and I was surprised back then to see that it received Oscar nominations for acting, as none of the 2 male leads impressed me in those 20 minutes. Now, I've mostly changed my mind. And the film itself was very enjoyable and quite entertaining and I feel it's a forgotten, maybe underrated film of the 80s.
The stunt work is incredible and the technical part works fine. The screenplay is far from perfect, but the direction is quite courageous and good for the material. Jon Voight delivers a very loud performance that worked perfectly for me. As I was not crazy for William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and don't understand the noms for Nicholson and Garner, I dare to say Jon Voight might've deserved an Oscar win for Best Actor. At the other end, Eric Roberts' performance looked ridiculous to me for 90% of the film and it didn't seem natural. He has some excellent 3 minutes, but other than that it's pure bad.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I was tempted to give more, as I am still a bit under the influence of the terrific ending.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy (1989) (2nd time)

It tells the story of the friendship between an old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in 1950s American South. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Actress: Jessica Tandy (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Dan Aykroyd
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Makeup (WINNER)

The film is part of a new tradition I'm trying to set to actually watch some relaxing films, because sometimes I'm too tired for heavy drama. This was the case here, and even though I didn't go crazy for Driving Miss Daisy in the past, I suspected it was going to be an enjoyable watch, mostly because it has a witty old lady as a title character. And it was fun and time flew by. Many people really dislike it, but that was a wacky year for the Oscars, starting with the nominations... I haven't seen the competition for Best Picture, but I can just say that I did enjoy this little flick and that it's definitely NOT one of the worst Best Picture winners outthere.
***trivia time: Driving Miss Daisy is one of only 3 films to win Best Picture without having a Best Director nomination. The other 2 films are... let's say... not so recent: Wings (1927-1928) and Grand Hotel (1932).***
What was strange about watching it again was that I remembered a quite different ending, at least in their final meet. But I'm glad I was wrong, because I was taken a bit by surprise. Jessica Tandy delivers a good, solid performance even though she could've used one or two more dramatic scenes. Even so, she's lots of fun and the highlight of the film (I am not opening the Best Actress 1989 topic). Morgan Freeman is very in character and it's one of his best performances, at least on the funny side.
My rating for the film: 8/10. The adapted screenplay win is much deserved.

EDITED: 26/06/2014. After seeing it for a 3rd time, I'm changing the rating to: 8.5/10. ;)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Caged (1950)

A naive nineteen year old widow is sent to a woman's prison and is exposed to hardened criminals and sadistic guards. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actress: Eleanor Parker
Best Supporting Actress: Hope Emerson
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay

I went into seeing this film with hope that I'm going to see something enjoyable, cheesy, relaxing, dated, with good performances. It's a women's prison film, so come on: I wasn't gonna take it that seriously! And in the end the film had ups and downs, but it always kept my interest, even in the bad scenes. Because, in the end: bad is better than boring.
I didn't really fall for Hope Emerson's tough performance, even though it's a character lovely to watch and the other supporting ladies were just ok. The screenplay could've been better, and the star of the film is undoubtedly Eleanor Parker. She's very good when the screenplay helps and the flaws in the performance are not really her fault. My biggest problem with the film itself were those rushed final 15 minutes, which didn't make too much sense and didn't help in fully developing the character's arc.
My rating for the film: 7/10. More on Eleanor next week, on the other blog.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Airport (1970) (2nd time)

Melodrama about a bomber on board an airplane, an airport almost closed by snow, and various personal problems of the people involved. [imdb]

Nominated for 10 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hayes (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Maureen Stapleton
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Sound

This is what happens when you don't have internet in the evenings, after work, in a foreign country: you watch another disaster movie from your computer. Airport was not as good as I remembered it to be. Actually, it a terribly overrated film, in the sense that it's NOT what it claims to be. You cannot call yourself a disaster movie if you have just ONE victim and the whole disaster moment lasts for just 20 minutes! :)) What's even more silly is the dvd poster which shows a big airplane in flames! The airplane is NEVER on fire in the film, it just has a hole in it! :))
Getting past that, it's still not much of a film. Some deliver good performances: Burt Lancaster and Maureen Stapleton are the best. Van Heflin is also quite effective, but we must talk about Helen Hayes and one of the most infamous Oscar wins in that category! While I agree with those who say she didn't deserve it, it's not like it came out of nowhere. She consistently shows up in the film and she makes for the only FUN element of this melodrama. Her scenes are light and relaxing, she is believable in the role and the scene in which she's pretending to be crying is funny and very well executed. So, dear haters, she's definitely not the worst Best Supporting Actress winner! Try Gloria Grahame!
The story is pretty stupid, Dean Martin looks like he's sleepwalking through most of the film, but I would mention the wonderful original score from Alfred Newman, in his final film project. Had it not been for Love Story, he would've won this category posthumously.
My rating for the film: 5/10. Definitely not Best Picture material, but an easy watch with a couple of scenes acted well.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Airport '77 (1977)

Art thieves hijack a 747, hit fog and crash into the ocean, trapping the passengers under 100 feet of water. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

First of all, let me mention the Oscar nominations, because they put a smile on my face and I really need one today. :) Can you believe this competed with Star Wars for Art Direction and Costumes?? I can accept the Art Direction to a certain point (although in the end it's just an airplane under water), but costume design?! We are talking legendary Edith Head (the only element to justify the nomination), but seriously: all of the wardrobe could've been bought from the mall in half a day! Ridiculous.
And now let's name the famous actors showing up in this silly disaster movie: James Stewart, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant. It's because of such cast and because I wanted a fun disaster movie I got to watch this. And let's face it: it's a flop and the acting isn't great either. Lee Grant is doing her routine hysterical stuff trying for an Oscar nom and Miss de Havilland, though touching, hardly gets a decent scene. The underwater stuff is pretty ok, but who could believe the story???
My rating for the film: 3.5/10. I am prepared to watch soon the first Airport film, which I haven't seen in a very long time.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

All About Eve (1950) (4th time?)

An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends. [imdb]

Nominated for 14 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Joseph L. Mankievicz (WINNER)
Best Actress: Anne Baxter
Best Actress: Bette Davis
Best Supporting Actor: George Sanders (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Celeste Holm
Best Supporting Actress: Thelma Ritter
Best Writing, Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
Best Editing
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Sound (WINNER)

Many things can be said about this all time classic. It has got to be one of the best known Best Picture winners, especially here, among bloggers. The film also holds the record for most Oscar nominations: 14, a distinction shared with Titanic (1997). It's a movie about actors and actresses, it's also the only film I ever bought on VHS, which makes it even more personal. I don't remember what made me choose it, but boy was I pleased and the film itself influenced my existance, my way of thinking, because I was at such a delicate age (12? 13?).
Bette Davis gives my favorite performance ever, the screenplay is one of the best Hollywood has ever seen. You need to pay attention to fully understand the dialogue and although it's not a perfect film, All About Eve is a story so well told and very interesting for anyone who loves actors. It all fits so perfectly in the end and it was so influential and very responsible for all the back-stabbing movies from then on.
It's hard to explain why I love it, I just know I'm always fully into it. It should've had more major Oscars in its bag: for my darling Bette of course, but also, I think, for Celeste Holm who was just as fabulous in my opinion (better than her Oscar-winning performance in Gentlemen's Agreement). Thelma Ritter is as fun as always and the direction is subtle, but terrific.
My rating for the film: 9.5/10. It's probably a 9 for someone who doesn't have this much history with the film as I have. More on this when I'll talk Bette's performance on the other blog.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Born Yesterday (1950) (2nd time)

A million dollar tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: George Cukor
Best Actress: Judy Holliday (WINNER)
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

Born Yesterday is a mostly relaxing film with two interesting aspects about it, in my opinion. First, there's the acting which is top class with 3 wonderful performances. Then, there's the strange structure of the film, which goes from a silly, standard (but quite great) comedy to a moralistic drama, very talkative but less fun.
Judy Holliday's Oscar win was a bit of an infamous one even in its era considering competition from Bette Davis and critical darling and assumed winner Gloria Swanson. As time went by, the performance drew more and more fans and I myself find to be an excellent comedic demonstration. But the men are just as great: Broderick Crawford should've received a supporting actor nomination for his energetic Tony-Soprano-like performance and William Holden, I dare to say, was maybe nominated for the wrong film, as his acting here is I think better than in Sunset Blvd.
If the film would've kept the same comedy feel for the entire movie or just a bit longer than it did, it would've really been a winner for me. I understand why they shifted to drama, I just wish it hadn't been that fast as the last minutes of the film make you loose interest a bit.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Some scenes, like the Gin Rummy one, are pure gold. And also it should've won Costume Design, as it had weak competition there and fabulous dresses on-screen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bull Durham (1988) (2nd time)

A fan who has an affair with one minor-league baseball player each season meets an up-and-coming pitcher and the experienced catcher assigned to him. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Screenplay

I don't know what was I thinking when I imagined I'm gonna enjoy this more the second time around. I am blaming the film bloggers who keep saying how underrated Bull Durham is + those critics groups giving it a Screenplay win all around. I had first seen it yeeeears ago and it felt decent, but this time it was a bit painful and so boring at times.
I'm sure I'd enjoy it more, if I'd have any idea about baseball. In Europe we breathe soccer and that's it! But putting that aside (cause the film is more about the love triangle), it's still flawed and it loses even more in the second part. The actors however are pretty good: Tim Robbins is right for the part, Susan Sarandon is ok (not as incredible as some are shouting around), but the best performance comes from a young Kevin Costner, who probably delivers a career best.
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. I think Oscar did well, not getting tricked by the critics. It was a 5/10 before I changed my mind.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interiors (1978) (2nd time)

Three sisters find their lives spinning out of control in the wake of their parents' sudden, unexpected divorce. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Director: Woody Allen
Best Actress: Geraldine Page
Best Supporting Actress: Maureen Stapleton
Best Original Screenplay
Best Art Direction

There are lots of interesting details about this film, for example: Woody getting inspiration from Ingmar and Woody wanted Ingrid B to play the mother, but instead Ingrid chose to do her only film with Ingmar, both Geraldine and Ingrid got nominated and lost to Jane Fonda. Sounds confusing right? :D Unless you are a true Oscar buzzer :P and then it sound clear and familiar. I like Interiors because it's one of the most stylish films I've ever seen. Every frame is perfect, every actor great and what a wonderful homage to the great Ingmar Bergman! If only Woody would try again incredible dramas like this one!
I know many people don't enjoy Interiors, especially its lack of humor and the slow burning direction. I really enjoyed the screenplay, the acting and most of all: the direction and the cinematography! It's all so subtle, so cool, so chic and, while it would never have the depth of Autumn Sonata, it has enough style to fit my taste and keep both the style and the substance.
A wrong campaign stopped Geraldine from getting the Oscar (she is supporting and would've won in that category). Maureen Stapleton is wonderful and just like a ray of sun; she takes the film to another mood level and it's great. Maybe she deserved to win (I don't know, I haven't seen Meryl in Deer Hunter). Diane Keaton is fascinating and in any other year she could've received a Best Actress nomination and Mary Beth Hurt gives a great performance also.
This is not the typical Woody Allen film and, while it resembles Bergman, it's still different in a fascinating way and the mood of it (the direction, the editing, the cinematography) just makes me excited and passionate about Interiors and movies in general. Not perfect, but damn interesting.
My rating for the film: 9/10. One of the best final shots EVER. I need 1970s Woody Allen to come back.

P.S.: I can't believe Heaven Can Wait won Art Direction and not Interiors or any other film.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Unmarried Woman (1978) (2nd time)

A mature woman from Manhattan's Upper East Side struggles to deal with her new identity and her sexuality after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Jill Clayburgh
Best Original Screenplay

I guess we all know the feeling, right? Of respecting a film a lot, especially for what it meant and what doors it had opened, but finding it to be soooo boring at times. I have this problem with An Unmarried Woman. I respect it a lot, because it really paved the way for Sex & the City type of film/TV expression, it's well made, acted ok, but it totally lost my interest in the second part.
Watching it again didn't make it look better, maybe a bit more polished, but not in a relatable way. I like the topics discussed in the film, but I hardly cared what happened to the characters and except for 1-2 supporting ones, most of them left me cold. It's a smart film, with a pretty sharp screenplay, but not an enjoyable movie experience; even though it could've been and it was mostly promoted as one. Jill Clayburgh is good, maybe a bit overrated, but I'll write about her next week.
My rating for the film: 6/10. For someone sentimentally closer to it, it's probably a 7-8 at least. I feel guilty for just 6, because I know I've rated so many dumb movies higher, but I didn't enjoy this one, especially the last hour and I AM allowed to be subjective :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Same Time, Next Year (1978) (2nd time)

A man and woman meet by chance at a romantic inn. Although both are married to others, they find themselves in the same bed the next morning and agree to meet on the same weekend each year. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:
Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Original Song
I've seen it the first time years ago and it hasn't changed much since then. The film itself is quite dated, based on the movie making process. The cinematography is very 70s and I'm not sure it even worked in 1978, as it gave the image a strange glow.
The dialogue is fine, I'm sure it's a good play and the Adapted Screenplay works better than I remembered. Alan Alda is doing his usual overacting, which kind of works here (is it his best feature film hour?) and Ellen Burstyn is effective, but not great or as good as she could've been (she also won a Tony for the previous stage version). The direction is simple and the film itself falls, for me, in some kind of a middle category. I didn't find huge flaws (except for the image quality), but I wouldn't go crazy for it either and I'll probably never see it again.
My rating for the film: 7/10. I did like the ending and it's quite creative at times... but why was I tempted to go for 7.5?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Autumn Sonata (1978) (2nd time)

After having neglected her children for many years, world famous pianist Charlotte visits her daughter Eva in her home. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Ingrid Bergman
Best Original Screenplay

There are two things worth noticing about Autumn Sonata: it's the first time Swedish legends Ingmar Bergman and Ingrid Bergman worked together and it was, unfortunately, Ingrid Bergman's last big screen performance. But what I way to go, if I may say that: to me, from what I've seen, this is easily the best written role she's explored and probably her best performance. But more on that in a week or so, on my other blog.
The film is the emotional knock out Ingmar Bergman had gotten people used to by 1978, but even so, I didn't remember it as being THIS deep. It's probably one of his best written screenplays, at least dialogue-wise. The emotions displayed by the story make the film difficult to watch at times, yet the performances win you over because both actresses give a master class of acting. I think it should've won for both its nominations and it stands there as one of Ingmar's most respected achievements.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Ingrid would've had the win in the bag had it not been for a) the foreign language factor and b) the fact that she'd undeservedly won her 3rd Oscar 4 years before.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Little Foxes (1941) (3rd time?)

It shows a post-Civil War southern community where nothing is more important than money and power to Regina Giddens. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: William Wyler
Best Actress: Bette Davis
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Collinge
Best Supporting Actress: Teresa Wright
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Music, Scoring
Best Editing
Best Art Direction

I was so desperate to see this film for the first time years ago, that I actually saw it dubbed in Spanish :)) How lame was that. Of course, I understood 75% of it, but even so. I love Bette Davis in this, it's a character truly worth her persona - maybe the best character she's ever played, next to Margo Channing of course. Bette plays Regina Giddens (in Romanian, and it other languages as well I'm sure, regina means Queen; so what could be more adequate than this) and despite limited screentime (it's an ensemble film), she delivers one of her best performances.
The movie itself is quite good, stagy due to the theatre background, but effective in many ways. It's not much of a complicated story, it just allows the actors to shine. They're all GREAT, wonderful performances all around. Patricia Collinge is good as a victim of the family, Herbert Marshall is great as Regina's weak husband, but next to Bette (LOVE LOVE LOVE) I was quite impressed with Teresa Wright's performance. She plays the innocent daughter and what a wonderful fresh full of energy performance does she deliver is her debut role. This Oscar loss definitely forced voters to reward her the following year for Mrs. Miniver (where she wasn't half as good as here).
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It's a film that every Oscar fan should see and a must for a Bette Davis admirer.

***EDITED March 30, 2014***: Just wanted to add I've seen it again for the other blog and LOVED IT. I am updating  the rating to 8.5/10. Great film.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Three WWII veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: William Wyler (WINNER)
Best Actor: Fredric March (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Harold Russell (WINNER)
Best Writing, Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Sound
+ Honorary Award for Harold Russell, for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives.

I've continued my slow-burning Best Picture winner odyssey with the 19th film to reach this honor. I had never seen Best Years... and expected something big and important, considering it was war-related, had lots of Hollywood stars and it brought William Wyler his 2nd Oscar. What I did get was something important, but not pleasant to watch, nothing to get really excited about.

I understand the importance of the film and from that point of view, it IS rather dated for a modern audience. I imagine seeing it after a long suffering war is not the same as seeing it in a 2010 context (a war still going on, but of a different size). And it's strange in a way, it might be the screenplay's fault: you might remember me praising Mrs. Miniver for the encouragement given in times of trouble, but I just didn't feel the same about Best Years... To me, this film lacks a sparkle of something special.

Fredric March clearly gives the best performance. As I'm not familiar with the competition in any of the main categories, I'll hold myself from decisive judgment. But I can tell when something looks like a winner, and this film doesn't to me; it has the ingredients, but I wouldn't vote for it. Neither for Supporting Actor Harold Russell, even if he does give an effective performance. The win for Best Director is up for debate; except for Dana Andrews's scene in the airplane reliving a war experience (terrific scene), there's hardly any big directorial challenge. Lots of coaster wins for the film (Stinkylulu invented the term, meaning going along with the flow).

My rating for the film: 6.5/10. Important, just that I found it slow and it didn't always catch my interest.

The next on the list, the 20th winner, is Gentleman's Agreement. I got familiar with it last year, and enjoyed it, for my Best Actress series. You can click HERE.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chapter Two (1979)

Author George Schneider meets Jennie Malone, and somehow they hit it off. And just when things are moving along, the memory of his first wife comes between them. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Marsha Mason

I can't believe it's been almost 2 weeks since I've seen a film. That's kind of sad, but I was busy and also doing stuff for the other blog. So, I finally got around to see Chapter Two, because you might know by now I kind of love Marsha Mason, when she's good. This was the only one of her 4 Best Actress nominations I still had not seen.
In my opinion, she should at least receive an Honorary Oscar and soon, because they stole the win from her for Goodbye Girl and maybe even for Only When I Laugh. But this one is not one of her best performances, and definitely not one of her best films. She does the best she can with a strangely uninteresting role and she's definitely the highlight (and the only charming element) of Chapter Two. But not the level of an Oscar win.
The problem is in the screenplay and in the strangely motivated character James Caan gets to play. The film feels unimportant and don't believe the Golden Globes categorization: this is a drama, NOT a comedy! It was the 2nd of 3 Oscar nominated roles husband Neil Simon delivered for his wife, but it has to be the weakest writing of them all.
My rating for the film: 5/10. Marsha is good and that's about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Last Station (2009)

A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Helen Mirren
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

I had few expectations about this film and for me it didn't shine or surprise me in any way. It's an empty film and I hardly enjoyed the presence of some of the actors. To start with the best: Christopher Plummer gives a very good, warm, believable performance. That scene in the forest is truly remarkable and it really is an Oscar worthy performance.
Dame Helen is ok, but nothing more for me, because I couldn't connect to her character and the screenplay doesn't do her much justice, except setting some traps of broken dishes and throwing herself into the pond. But even mediocre Helen Mirren is better then others' best. As much as I love Atonement, it's not because of James McAvoy (but it is his best performace) and I must admit I find him distracting in a film. He has the leading role here and... well... I'm subjective in the sense that his face and screen persona tell me nothing. It almost irritates me seeing him in this film, especially in combination with another actor I respect but who annoys the sh*t out of me: Paul Giamatti.
The screenplay is mediocre, trying to balance between something artsy for a chosen audience and regular ass drama with no true direction or enjoyable plot. I didn't care about the characters, just about Christopher Plummer. Even so, it's suprising that Oscar voters actually saw this film, with no release date back then and everything...
My rating for the film: 4/10. For someone not encounting issues with McAvoy and Giamatti, it's probably a 6-7.

Coming Home (1978)

A woman whose husband is fighting in Vietnam falls in love with another man who suffered a paralyzing combat injury there. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Hal Ashby
Best Actor: Jon Voight (WINNER)
Best Actress: Jane Fonda (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Bruce Dern
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Milford
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Editing

It's sometimes tricky for me to criticize... wait, that's not it. Hmmm... the fact that the film has real-life war heroes influences my judgment of a scene or maybe even a movie. Because of that, Coming Home is an effective film, especially, mostly, for its era. It was an important picture and I congratulate it for that, but for a modern audience it's rather dated.
Ashby's direction is not the most inspired and I particularly hated his too frequent use of songs and the way they were presented. He must've known he wasn't making a movie for the ages, but only for that moment in time. Jon and Jane are ok and I usually LOVE Jane Fonda, but it's such an underwritten part for her. Jon Voight seems more like the worthy winner of the two, but not being to familiar with the competition, I'll hold my judgment. In a couple of weeks I'll start Best Actress 1978 and Jane will be talked about then.
Bruce Dern overacts for my taste and Penelope Milford is just there. I shamefully admit to have never seen The Deer Hunter, but I have an idea it's better and quite different. Coming Home is ok, good when Jon Voight is around, cause his character is more interesting, but for me an unsatisfying final product. The original screenplay win is not worthy, NOT when you have An Unmarried Woman, Autumn Sonata, Interiors (all better) and even Deer Hunter, which I haven't seen, AS competition...
My rating for the film: 7/10. I kept staring at Jon Voight thinking Angelina looks soooo much like him, in hotness level included.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) (2nd time)

In London, four very different people team up to commit armed robbery, then try to doublecross each other for the money. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Director: Charles Crichton
Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Kline (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay

The film was among a list of relaxing stuff I wanted to watch (again) just for the fun of it, and of course: because it's Oscar related. I have this idea in my mind that Kevin Kline's Oscar win is kind of an infamous one, because it came out of nowhere (yet, that frequently happened in the 80s; aka: hello, Geena Davis). I'm sure a lot of people consider it fully deserved, but I'm holding on to my idea.
Because even if I'm not THAT familiar with Kline's competition, this doesn't seem an Oscar performance to me. He is quite funny, but so is Jamie Lee Curtis and especially John Cleese, and it's quite the same trick Kevin Kline often pulled from that moment on.... But why am I talking so much about him?! I dunno. The screenplay is nice, but far from a win due to a strong category. The direction nomination can only be explained by a weak year, considering even Mike Nichols made the cut for Working Girl, who is hardly special in the directorial department.
A Fish Called Wanda is nice and relaxing and considering I hadn't seen it in many years, it was kind of nice to watch it again!
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. Michael Palin and his killing storyline represent the best part!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) (2nd time)

After rescuing Han Solo from the palace of Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels attempt to destroy the Second Death Star, while Luke Skywalker tries to bring his father back to the Good Side of the Force. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Sound
Best Sound Editing
+ Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects (*WINNER*)

At the end of the film, when everybody's celebrating the success of Good over Evil, there's a scene with Luke seeing the ghosts/spirits of dead Jedi warriors/masters. And who do you think is next to Obi Wan (Alec Guinness) and Yoda??? Hayden freakin' Christensen (who was like 2 yo in 1983)!!! :))) I can't believe they've added him in this copy... cause it's so weird (***sorry for people who have no idea what I'm talking about***)... George Lucas, you're such a cheater!
Getting back to the film: it's obviously the weakest of the original 3! Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher seem so embarassed to be there (Carrie's acting is pretty bad), the action is kind of weak, not a lot of stuff happening plotwise... those funny furry creatures are cute, but the good guys really suck in this episode. A big plus: of course, my beloved Emperor, such a cool looking villain.
My rating for the film: 7/10. It kind of drags along. But still ok for someone with a weak spot for Star Wars, like I have.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Victor Victoria (1982) (3rd time)

A struggling female soprano finds work playing a male female impersonator, but it complicates her personal life. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Actress: Julie Andrews
Best Supporting Actor: Robert Preston
Best Supporting Actress: Lesley Ann Warren
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Music, Original Song Score (WINNER)
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

I wrote more about the film on the other blog, because I especially watched it for Andrew’s Celebration of Musicals. I was asked about my favorite and this one is among the best.

So do click HERE to read my short take on Victor Victoria.

My rating for the film: 9.5/10. Because it’s undoubtedly in my Top 20 Best Films ever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Camille (1936) (2nd time)

A Parisian courtesan must choose between the young man who loves her and the baron who wants her, even as her own health begins to fail. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar (as a 1937 film):

Best Actress: Greta Garbo

I'm sure many have asked how come Greta Garbo didn't win the Oscar for this?! It seems to be the general consensus and based on numbers and context it's a fair question. But I could spot the flaws in the film, and also in the performance. Camille is mostly an excuse to show Garbo in fabulous dresses (bless George Cukor, who loved his actresses to look their best). So, being a star vehicle is a tricky thing, which doesn't always pay off.
Garbo has her moments of shining, and I'll probably write on that sometime next week. But her theatrical charm can only do so much. Camille is never bad, but it looks like a very old fashioned (even for 1936) silent film. What saves it a lot are the camera work and the supporting actors. Laura Hope Crews shines as Marguerite's vulgar, loud friend and she brings much needed humor to the story, as she deserved an Oscar nom.
My rating for the film: 6.5/10. It looks pretty, otherwise I can't justify my generosity.

Babe (1995) (3rd time)

Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs, learns to herd sheep with a little help from Farmer Hoggett. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Chris Noonan
Best Supporting Actor: James Cromwell
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Visual Effects (WINNER)

I love Babe for many reasons. First of all, it's such a well told story, and you can't deny that. Then, it somehow manages to find humanity and emotions in all kinds of unexpected places. It's a compelling, uplifting, both cheerful and dramatic story. The direction and the screenplay are the keys for success and I reeeeally believe Chris Noonan should've won Best Director. What he did was incredibly difficult: give a serious, artistic, professional feel to a subject which sounds ridiculous on paper.

Regarding Best Picture, I would've probably went with Sense & Sensibility out of the 5, but Babe sure is special. The Visual Effects are subtle (yes, I see them as subtle) but terribly effective. It's not a film everybody would enjoy, but it's a relaxing, quiet experience that I have fun going back to.

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. And I feel I wasn't generous enough.

P.S.: I've watched it again because Malcoms asked some people to share thoughts on Best Picture 1995. To see what the general idea was, you can click HERE.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

After an encounter with UFOs, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Director: Steven Spielberg
Best Supporting Actress: Melinda Dillon
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Sound
Best Visual Effects
+ Special Achievement Award for Sound Editing

It so happens that I just never found a good enough reason to see this. I never expected it to be great, and it actually wasn't. To me, it looks more like an experimental student film. It has a consistent budget, but it lacks substance or something... anything... resembling a storyline. Better said, it's an excuse to try some visual effects stuff, without giving it much sense.

It's not bad, it's just a visual experience, of which I've seen better. The technical part is good and the best I can say about Close... is that it gave an iconic face to an alien species (short, with big round heads). I don't think any of the 2 leading noms are deserving, especially Melinda Dillon's as she gets so little to do. Thankfully, the film was not nominated for Best Picture, as I fully appreciate all 5 Oscar had chosen that year.

My rating for the film: 6/10. Give me Star Wars any time of day; different ball game, I know, I know...

Marriage Italian Style (1964)

It tells the story of a man who kept a woman as his mistress for
several years and now plans to marry another woman until his
mistress pretends to be on her deathbed to trick him to marry her before she dies. [wiki]

Nominated for 2 Oscars* (64/65):

Best Actress: Sophia Loren (as a 1964 film)
Best Foreign Language Film: Italy (as a 1965 film)

From what I can tell I never posted on this blog other movie photos than the film posters themselves. But there's something so kinky and vulgar and glamorous at the same time about Sophia here, that I just had to put it. What a beauty! What a talent!

However, I can't say the same about the film: it's a weak movie, with a paper thin story. The idea is good, but the execution lacks creativity and the film doesn't develop to what it could've been. Marcello gives a mediocre dislikeable performance, so it's all on Sophia's shoulders. And she delivers, especially considering that the screenplay shows all kinds of different ages of the character. She is convincing and funny and sexy, but can only act as much as the screenplay allows. See Marriage just for Sophia.

My rating for the film: 5.5/10. It has nothing to do with the brilliant Divorce Italian Style, one of my alltime favorites also starring Mastroianni.