Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nine (2009) (2nd time)

Famous film director Guido Contini struggles to find harmony in his professional and personal lives, as he engages in dramatic relationships with his wife, his mistress, his muse, his agent, and his mother. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz
Best Original Song
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

6 months before Nine was released I predicted it was gonna win Best Picture. Obviously, I was quite foolish, but how could you not trust Rob Marshall. He did great with Chicago and a decent job with Memoirs of a Geisha... Nine should've been fabulous. Nine is boring, confusing, unoriginal and badly directed.
But hey, at least it has fabulous songs, if you got the chance to know them better. The performances go from WTF (Sophia Loren) to quite good (Marion, a bit of Penelope and Nicole), but the screenplay is messy and the direction a failure. It's just a bunch of musical numbers thrown together. The actors have charisma and I thought: how cool it would've been if we would've had more Nicole singing...
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. I can't rate it, sometimes I feel like a 4 or a 6... I dunno.

Precious (2009) (2nd time)

In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Lee Daniels
Best Actress: Gabourey Sidibe
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Editing

I was so happy this movie felt just as good the second time I saw it. My eyes were on Gaby and it truly is a fabulous first-performance; it's not perfect, but she impressed me with her acting instinct and how well she teamed up with Mo'Nique. Lee Daniels is a great director, he often does a bit too much to a scene (we all know the weakest are the fantasy scenes), but boy does he know how to get the best from his actors. Precious really has one of the best ensembles 2009 had seen.
Nobody loves a terrificly-written supporting character like I do. And Mo'Nique's performance is easily one of the memorable this Oscar category's ever seen. She gives us the best acting of the film and probably the best performance of the year, in my opinion. Her volcanic screen presence works perfectly with Gaby's calm, internalized acting.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. The most moving picture 2009 had to offer. And thumbs up for Mariah and Paula Patton; great work.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Up in the Air (2009) (2nd time)

The story is about a corporate downsizer and his travels. The film follows his isolated life and philosophies along with the people that he meets along the way. [wiki]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Jason Reitman
Best Actor: George Clooney
Best Supporting Actress: Vera Farmiga
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick
Best Adapted Screenplay

When you watch it a second time, you realize Up in the Air is a cool movie and better than you thought! At least, that's what happened to me, because even though I liked it at first, this time I also noticed the small directorial touches and how efficient Clooney's performance really is.
The screenplay is well structured, even though the big twist is still a bit unjustified in the story. Also, I give more credit to Anna Kendrick; I thought her performance was really flawed at first, but the second time it seemed justified and fit for what the role required. Her biggest problem: the crying which doesn't really work and she should've practiced it more. Vera Farmiga is hot, but you somehow still expect more. Up in the Air is a good movie, and had the Oscar race not been so long, it would still be a Best Picture contender.
My rating for the film: 8/10. A solid 8, that is.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

!!! Seen it in October 2009 !!!

Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Sound

Just for the record: I kinda liked the first Transformers movie and I'm still shocked that the talking bear from The Golden Compass won Visual Effects and not the big robots. Anyway, getting to the sequel: yes, it sucks on many levels, but 6 or 7 Razzie noms including Worst Picture is a bit too much. I actually believe it deserved an additional Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects: the scene from the beginning and the other one with robots fighting in the forest are great and visually outstanding.
The screenplay is just as pathetic as it gets, a giant cliche with some disastruous supporting performances! BUT, let's not forget it's not meant to be smart or too demanding: it's a fun fx movie that sounds well (a worthy nomination) and looks great on a big screen.
My rating for the film: 5/10. And I'm sure we had worse directions this year than Michael Bay's effort. That Razzie nom is stupid.

In the Loop (2009)

The US President and UK Prime Minister fancy a war. But not everyone agrees that war is a good thing... It's a comedy / satire.[imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Adapted Screenplay

You sometimes see a movie you like, but you're not completely sure why; you hear the dialogue and you dig it and laugh, but you're not sure you understood everything. But you're sure it's funny. And smart. And this was In the Loop for me: smart, well written dialogue, witty as hell, but it really outrun me at times.
The performances are great, especially from Peter Capaldi (where's his Oscar nom?!) and Tom Hollander, and it really is a group effort acting-wise. The direction is subtle, mostly letting the actors do their jobs. Nice to see a nomination for Adapted Screenplay, the movie does sound/read great, but just don't ask me what it was all about... :) it needs to be seen...
My rating for the film: 8/10. The 8 is random. It's my classic rating for movies I kinda liked.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crazy Heart (2009)

A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Best Original Song (WINNER)

I am happy The Blind Side was nominated for Best Picture and not this! Need I say more? :) Isn't it obvious that Crazy Heart goes for every cliche in the book and the result is a big Whatever with a good soundtrack and a decent leading performance?
If you don't have the story, there's nothing to work with. And the screenplay is quite bad and highly predictable. Jeff Bridges is fine, but I don't see anything too special about his performance, nor did I find it touching. Maggie's nomination is a misfortune; it's nice to see an Oscar nom coming out of nowhere, but she wasn't even a quarter as good as Diane Kruger, Melanie L, Samantha Morton or Marion...
My rating for the film: 4/10. It deserves Best Song... but I'm still pissed about Maggie's pointless nomination.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Animated Feature
Best Original Song
Best Original Song

Good morning, Disney! Finally a black princess as a leading character!!! But I have a problem with it: why does she have to kiss a frog and transform herself into a frog and stay one for 70% of the film?! Really, Disney! The first black princess transformed into a frog! Come onnnnn! You should’ve thought better!

But moving past that, this is a standard Disney film, yet nowhere near the level of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, the classics in general. The story is simple, the villain is not great, but I did find some funny characters… The voice-work is nice, but the songs are the same old tunes and not really catchy. It’s a decent comeback for the old way of doing animation, but still: Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox are really kicking its ass this year, in story, directing AND creativity.

My rating for the film: 7/10. But not bad, really.

Il Divo (2008)

The story of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who has been elected to Parliament seven times since is was established in 1946. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar (as a 2009 film):

Best Makeup

I would have never gotten to see this Italian movie had it not been for the Oscar nomination it received! Just to make it clear: the makeup nomination is very worthy, and from the three nominees: it definitely deserves to win (but it won’t happen). It’s not just average prosthetic makeup, it’s an excellent one, applied to more than just the leading character.

The movie is quite European :) , confusing in the plot unless you’re Italian, but fairly satisfying in its acting and directing. The leading performance is terrific and unexpectedly funny even though it’s not a comedy. But the film itself is strange, and you need to see it to get what I mean. I just wished for a better ending, as it would’ve made or break the whole movie; and it didn’t go the good way. Anyway, congrats to the Italian moviemakers for the honesty displayed in the film.

My rating for the film: 7/10. I was very tempted to go for a 7.5.

The Messenger (2009)

!!! Seen in December 2009 !!!

An American soldier struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow of a fallen officer. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harelson
Best Original Screenplay

The subject is so difficult to take and I thought I was gonna have an impossible time watching this film! A movie about 2 soldiers announcing families their sons/husbands have died: you just know it will be an uncomfortable experience. But once the film starts… it doesn’t get boring and although painful at times (in an emotional-intense way), it really is a smooth, fulfilling movie experience.

It’s not a complicated film; it’s very low budget, nicely written, and superbly acted: Woody Harelson and Samantha Morton might just give career best performances, but to me the true star of the film is Ben Foster, delivering some of the year’s best acting. The fact that he was totally ignored by all the Award groups is plain stupid. A nice, touching indie film.

My rating for the film: 8/10. Excellent idea to use Willie Nelson’s Amazing Grace in the trailer.

Up (2009)

!!! Seen in December 2009 !!!

By tying thousands of balloon to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Sound Editing
Best Animated Feature (WINNER)

Lately, it’s been all about Pixar. And Up had a lot of pressure on it: how can you top Wall E? Is it even worth trying?! Well no, because Wall E (which I loved) was an unmatched phenomenon and in case of 10 nominees for Best Picture, it would’ve definitely made it. But Up is not that far behind, quality speaking. However, the idea seemed less attractive.

Having an old man and an annoying kid as leading characters seems very out of nowhere. And they definitely don’t have the charisma of a sweet robot. So why does Up work? Well, it’s the screenplay: it combines funny (the talking dog, the bird) with a very touching story (the much talked about montage at the beginning is worth every praise). So the 2nd ever animated feature nominated for Best Picture is a success, but not an all-time favorite for me.

My rating for the film: 8/10. I hope it wins Original Screenplay.

The Blind Side (2009) (2nd time)

The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (WINNER)

If claiming hundreds of millions of dollars can bring a Best Picture nomination, how come Star Trek didn’t make it?! The fact that a movie like The Blind Side made it into Top 10 shows the weak spots of this outrageous 10 decision. I don’t hate it as much as others do; I just consider it very inappropriate for this type of film to be in the same breath as Best Picture.

Unlike other Oscar movies I disliked because they were smart, but selfish and inaccessible, The Blind Side doesn’t bother. For a TV movie, it’s a good one; it has all the elements, even the cheesy music and the forced screenplay solutions! Just looking at those stupid teachers from the beginning of the film, with their fake dialogue and the scene where the good teacher finds that (pathetic) letter in the recycle bin (really?! The recycle bin?!)… And so on.

And then there’s Sandra to clean up this Christian movie mess. And you know what: she kinda does it, but not quite! I’ll write more on her performance on the other blog, but you can’t match that charisma. And she’ll probably win, considering the general support for the film…

My rating for the film: 5/10. Being very generous for Sandra’s sake! But shame on you, Oscar voters! 500 Days of Summer, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Messenger, Where the Wild Things Are and many many others were just around the corner…

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Avatar (2009)

A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: James Cameron
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Sound
Best Sound Editing
Best Visual Effects (WINNER)

After a previous embarrassing situation when I got dizzy watching Avatar in Imax and left earlier, I finally got to see the BIG ass blockbuster. And despite all, I found it to be a calming, relaxed, sweet experience. Not what I’d expect from a big sci-fi action James Cameron movie. If you get to the heart of it, it really is the story of a simple man; not a warrior as described, but someone who finds comfort outside of reality and, lucky him, gets the chance to stay there.

The whole visual eye-popping thing is indeed amazing. Not the type of visual effects I prefer, but still top class and you can tell the HUGE amount of work all those people put into it. The performances were fine, but I still don’t get the hype for Zoe Seldana; I thought Sam Worthington was the perfect casting for the leading role, because just by looking at his sad puppy eyes you could feel for his character and he himself was the emotional core of the film.

I expected the screenplay to be worse, but some lines were funny and it did take my by surprise a couple of times. My favorite scene, obviously the most emotional one: the meeting between Neytiri and the real Jake Sully! I hoped for it to happen and it did!

In the big fight between Avatar and The Hurt Locker for Best Picture, I’m on Hurt Locker’s side. Avatar was nice to look at, but getting past the visual effects: was it THAT different from other sci-fi? A good story, a good movie, great visual effects, but was it magnificent or really meaningful as a whole? I don’t know the answer. I think it will win 3 or 4 technical awards, and I honestly won’t be that upset if it takes the big prize (just not Best Director, which IS for Bigelow).

My rating for the film: 8/10. I might change it to an 8.5 soon. Truth is I haven’t given more than an 8.5 this year, so Avatar is sitting pretty at 8 anyway.

A Serious Man (2009)

!!! I've seen it in January 2010, so about 2-3 weeks ago.

A black comedy set in 1967 and centered on Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern professor who watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him because his inept brother won't move out of the house. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Original Screenplay

Auteur movies are tricky. And the Coen brothers really went far with this one, making it as least accessible as possible. I wanted to start this with: do you need to be Jewish to like this movie? The answer is obviously no, but I’m sure it would’ve help to understand it. I will never say it’s a bad movie; I just didn’t like it, especially in the first half.

The screenplay is deliberately written to get on your nerves, and the movie keeps you tense and uncomfortable for the most of it. So I know / hope it won’t win Original Screenplay and the Best Picture nomination is justified only by the 10 movies thing (worst idea ever). No performance really impressed me, but I did appreciate the movie getting a bit lighter towards the end. Best thing about it: the beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins and the final shot.

My rating for the film: 5/10. Maybe my least favorite of the 10 nominees. Smart, but heavily annoying.

Speed (1994) (2nd time)

A young cop must save the passengers of a bus that has a bomb set to explode if the bus goes below 50 MPH. [imdb]
Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Editing
Best Sound (WINNER)
Best Sound Effects (WINNER)

Let’s not waste too much time with this one, ok. :) it’s the type of silly action flick I catch on tv and continue to watch either of nothing-else-to-do or forced by other people. Speed brings people together, but does nothing deep for your brain or soul.

Hey, at least it really introduced Sandra Bullock to the world, after that disastrous Demolition Man. And Keanu: well, ok! Thank you for Keanu too! At least as a feast for the eyes. The Oscar nominations are worthy, I guess; but not sure about the wins. Dennis Hopper is as cartoonish as always, and the dialogue lines plain stupid.

My rating for the film: 5/10. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Between October last year and present time I've seen most of the movies newly nominated for Oscars. Unfortunately, I did not save the date when I saw them... Some I'll watch again (definitely the ones in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress), many I won't.

So I'll do a bit of a recap, even see them again in the cases where I don't fully remember the movie experience.

It's the right thing to do. When I'll get to movies from the past, now Oscar nominated, I'll just post !!! and the month I saw it in. It will help me keep track. If there's no warning, then it means I had just seen the movie and it's not a recap. :)

The Young Victoria (2009)

A dramatization of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design (WINNER)
Best Makeup

Who knew this much delayed Victorian film had that much popularity to score 3 Oscar nominations and 1 Golden Globe nom for Emily Blunt?! It wasn’t sitting this pretty a couple of months ago; and no wonder: despite the big historical figure promoted here, there isn’t much of a subject for the movie, and therefore it shifts a lot, unable to decide on a certain genre or storyline.

But in the end, The Young Victoria really is a pleasure for the eyes. Not in the same league as Marie Antoinette for example, but it does have nice costumes, adequate art direction and lots of pretty faces to look at, with Rupert Friend at top of the list. Emily is ok, but the role it not meaty enough, Paul Bettany had potential, but a much underwritten role and I did appreciate the short excellent performance given by Jim Broadbent.

My rating for the film: 7/10. I’m always into costume dramas. PS: how ridiculous in the makeup nomination? :))) the people from the makeup branch are nuts.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

A traveling theater company gives its audience much more than they were expecting. Fantasy. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

Worst 2009 movie I’ve seen so far. And yes, I did see Transformers II; and The Lovely Bones. :P But Imaginarium beats them all: to me it’s a ridiculous attempt of a fantasy movie slash mystery slash love story, with a very amateurish screenplay, filled with story gaps and screenplay solutions. Terry Gilliam is so overrated. Somebody needed to just say that.

And it’s not that messy from the beginning. It just doesn’t go anywhere. Too bad this was Heath’s last movie. Trying to ignore the quality of the film, his performance is also pretty bad. That Lily Cole girl is nice to look at, the cameos partly improvised and the visual stuff: horrific. I might accept a Costume Design nomination; I might. But one for Art Direction is so not deserved: what for? A wagon and awful computer design?!

My rating for the film: 2.5/10. Definitely a time waster.

Julie & Julia (2009) (2nd time)

Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Meryl Streep

Ok, I’ll admit it. The second time I saw Julie & Julia, I flash-forwarded a bit on the Amy Adams storyline. It’s just because the Julie part is so boringly written and predictable. And the Julia Child part: so interesting, nicely colored and wonderfully acted. Nothing personal against Amy, but she got the shitty part of the deal.

Meryl is wonderful and of course she got nominated: she’s playing a real person and that always helps. She’s so joyful and a pleasure to watch onscreen. The Julia Child part had the real conflict, charisma, character development, great costumes and art direction (which deserved Oscar recognition) and so on. Unfortunately, the movie focused on that for just 50%!

My rating for the film: 7/10. But it did feel a bit stronger on the 2nd viewing. Maybe because of all that flash-forwarding.