Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love Story (1970) (2nd time)

Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV and music student Jennifer Cavalleri share a chemistry they cannot deny - and a love they cannot ignore. But fate has other plans. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Arthur Hiller
Best Actor: Ryan O'Neal
Best Actress: Ali MacGraw
Best Supporting Actor: John Marley
Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Score (WINNER)

After so many 2009 films I've watched recently (Oscar nominated or not), it was so nice to relax with some vintage stuff. I had seen Love Story just once, about 6-7 years ago. I wasn't impressed back then as I thought it to be an overrated blah. It still feels overrated, but it was nice, relaxing and seemed just a bit better the second time.
The Oscar win is much deserved, Francis Lai's music theme is fabulous and it became an instant classic. It's the best element of the film and no shame about it. The screenplay has some good one-liners and it definitely works better in the beginning. Seriously now, the Love means never having to say you're sorry is bullshit :) The direction was good, but the second strongest part is the acting. NOT Ali MacGraw, who's nomination feels kind of undeserving, but the men: Ryan O'Neal (whom I despise in real life) gives a good performance and the 2 supporting performances are terrific. John Marley makes a brief appearance, but he's incredible and deserved the nomination to say the least and Ray Milland gave a strong reliable performance (which I think should've been aknoledged).
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. It really should be a 7, but it has a nice flow and its simplicity can be charming at times.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

A man wants to solve a murder committed many years ago. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Foreign Language Film: Argentina (WINNER)

The Foreign Language Film category is often enough a joke. How could you not nominate 2 years ago Romania’s highly praised submission: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days?! :P Ok, I’m very subjective about it and I can appreciate they’ve cleaned up this category’s regulations in the past year. And it strangely shows: this year’s line-up is kind of surprising and very VERY diverse. This one’s the 3rd I’m seeing and also the big winner.

A Prophet was too violent for Oscar, and White Ribbon too artsy. So this Argentinean police-drama seemed as a good voting back-up plan. I had my doubts at first, because the first 30-40 minutes of the film are slow, uninteresting, it looks like a random TV movie. The characters are never the highlights, not even when the story gets better and I couldn’t really get the character’s romantic intentions.

Secret in Their Eyes becomes good when the action side of it gets more interesting and dynamic. The secret treasure of the film is the story and the screenplay in its last 30 minutes. The film suddenly becomes interesting, mysterious, maybe even a bit tense. And the TWIST… oh, man… best twist in a movie I’ve seen in a looong time. And that makes me happy, when I am taken by surprise and it’s all explained in the story. I have no doubt now: it won the Oscar because of the surprise ending and those who’ve seen it know what I mean!!!

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. 75% of the film is a 5. But with a killer ending, I’ve decided on an almost 8.

The Hurt Locker (2009)

!!! Seen it in December 2009 !!!

Iraq. Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (WINNER)
Best Actor: Jeremy Renner
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Sound (WINNER)
Best Sound Editing (WINNER)

I am a lazy ass for not watching this again, but I remember it quite well and more importantly: I remember the experience of seeing it. The Hurt Locker is a good film. What I appreciated a lot, I guess, is that’s it’s not cheesy and it doesn’t judge or at least not in an obvious way. Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar winning direction is probably the best thing about it; the direction doesn’t just have balls, but it’s also essential in the storytelling aspect.

The action part is very cool, Jeremy Renner and especially Anthony Mackie (his obvious snub from critics and Oscar is mindblowing) give great performances, so faithful to the raw, tense spirit of the film. Because it really is a tense movie, and I guess that’s what makes it so successful and an enjoyable sit through: it rides on the edge, but doesn’t force it. It’s not the Screenplay’s credit (an Oscar win I don’t agree with), it’s all Kathryn’s way of guiding the story and camera.

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. A close 9, but I haven’t given a clear 9 to a 2009 film.

Friday, March 12, 2010

An Education (2009) (2nd time)

A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan
Best Adapted Screenplay

This movie is so British, so nice and so sweet. And well directed, and cool and trendy and... current in a strange way. And fun, and playful, and well acted. And it moves around so fast, really. And maybe that's also something I'm holding against it: it never settles... the plot never stops for a moment of quiet.
The screenplay is fun and I understand it wasn't an easy adaptation, as it required some story changes. The direction is inventive, but subtle and Carey's performance (which I'll soon write about on the other blog) is a star is born type of performance. It's so good (and she's perfect for the role) that I doubt she'll ever be able to top this. And talk about the best short-role of the year: Emma Thompson is so fierce in her 3-5 minutes performance that I would've actually suggested an Oscar nom.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Why not a 9? Because it goes by so fast, as I've said. :P PS: Peter Sarsgaard and Alfred Molina are also veeeery good.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

!!! Seen it in October 2009 !!!
(and have no intention on watching again :P )

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Quentin Tarantino
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Sound
Best Sound Editing

Isn't it funny how Inglourious Basterds could've had at least 11 nominations? Most of us also expected it to get Art Direction, Costume Design and Supporting Actress Diane Kruger (who would've been far more deserving than 80% of the final line-up). And I actually expected it to also win Original Screenplay, not just Supporting Actor. Christoph Waltz was the obvious predictable choice; not sure he was the best, but he did give a strong fascinating performance. So in some ways, his win if fully deserved.
The movie itself is kind of violent, but mostly entertaining. To me the weakest points were all those Hitler scenes. And the best ones: anything with Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger in it. Melanie's character is supporting (she gives a very very good performance), but I'm sure she was very close of getting a Best Actress nomination instead of Helen Mirren. I would've wanted the film to be more historically correct, but hey... in a strange way, I still love Tarantino. He does his sh!t and does it good.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Inconsistent, but strangely a breath of fresh air. Who would've thought he'd be such a strong contender back in the summer, after mixed reviews?!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coraline (2009)

!!! Seen it in December 2009 !!!

An adventurous girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Animated Feature

Coraline is a well-made, colorful, stylish animated feature, that I admire, but definitely don't love because to me it felt inconsistent at times. It wasn't a ride that I fully enjoyed and it dragged at times. Even so, when it was good: it was really nice. Just as Mr. Fox, Coraline has great production stuff: the art direction, the "camera work" and especially the original score - all fit nicely!
But as I've complained: the story insisted too much at times on less interesting aspects. Was is really necessary to have that long, extended ending? Wasn't it a bit redundant? But we can forgive that, because the direction is great, the voices work nicely and the film itself just has this cooooool mood and feel to it.
My rating for the film: 8/10. A much deserved Oscar nomination.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

!!! Seen it in December 2009 !!!

Angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, look to get rid of their opponent and his family. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Original Score
Best Animated Feature

This year's Oscar race for Animated Feature really was something. All the nominees were kind of special, different, creating a very diverse list. Fantastic Mr. Fox might just be the unique one, to stand out through style, direction and most witty adapted screenplay.
It does have its less interesting moments, but even then Mr. Fox is such a fascinating creation to look at, the small dolls are delicious, the music is great, everything is very meticulously created. It deserves its nominations + one for Adapted Screenplay would have also been in place. All together, it's a fun, relaxing movie experience.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I love this puppet style. All I could wish for is another Wallace & Gromit full-length animated.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Prophet (2009)

A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Foreign Language Film: France
I expected A Prophet to be difficult to sit through because of all the prison violence I imagined would happen onscreen. Fortunately, it wasn't as bloody, but the real challenge was the story itself which made the film feel like 4 hours long. So, at one point I really wanted it to end faster. I don't know who to blame for that, because the screenplay is well written and well thought, the direction is perfect for the genre and Tahar Rahim gives a good-almost-great breakthrough performance.
However, I really don't see it winning the Oscar tonight because I'm sure, that just like I did, many voters will get a bit bored after a while (not that White Ribbon is that different, but at least it's cooler to vote for and keeps a mystery). A Prophet is a very strong production. I respect it, but I definitely didn't love the movie.
My rating for the film: 8/10. But again: good drama / prison movie, I just didn't connect with it on an emotional level. For those keeping score: I gave a 7 to White Ribbon.
***originally 7.5/10, I've edited it to 8/10, 2 weeks after seeing it.***

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book marked mysteriously "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort's dark past. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Cinematography

Aren't people bored with Harry Potter movies?! I can't tell if the story is poor starting with the book or do the adaptations just get worse and worse. I have no idea what this 2 hours and 10 minutes movie was about: all so confusing and unbalanced. I'm no expert in Harry Potter (though, seen all), but this has got to be the weakest movies of the series, right?
And they didn't even give us Ralph Fiennes who is a delicious villain. The visual effects were... nice, but the Cinematography nomination is an unfortunate event. What's wrong with the people from that Cinematography branch? Haven't they seen Bright Star, Where the Wild Things Are, Public Enemies, ANYTHING?!
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. Confusing story, but I salute Jim Broadbent's effective supporting performance. I hope the final 2 episodes will give a decent ending.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coco Before Chanel (2009)

The story of Coco Chanel's rise from obscure beginnings to the heights of the fashion world. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Costume Design

You know I wouldn't have seen this had it not been for the Oscar nomination... and how did it get it? Despite the tempting title (Chanel! Chanel!), the costumes really don't reach the level of expectations. They are underplayed and I haven't seen one big impressing costume piece. Other than that, Coco is a standard biopic.
And not really a good one. It's too by the book in a way and it lacks creativity or... something to really care about. I think they chose the wrong period in her life or didn't twist enough the supporting characters. Audrey is ok, but not great. The ending is a failure and the film slowly goes nowhere when it should've hit a bang in a big finale.
My rating for the film: 5/10. Seriously, what was it with the ending and those costumes?! What era was that? Even if 20s or 30s (hard to believe for the story), some of the dresses looked like 1980.

The Secret of Kells (2009)

The animated story of the boy behind the famed Book of Kells. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Animated Feature

It's so funny thinking that the Irish spiritual folkloric Kells got the 5th animation nom and not the American superficial comercial Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They couldn't have found more different competitors. The Secret of Kells is a special movie and you have a feeling it's quite unique because of the way it's drawn. Even so, I don't really agree with it.
The visual part is quite stunning and there's a scene where the boy goes to fight an evil spirit in the shape of a snake: it is one of the best scenes I've seen in a 2009 movie (take that, Avatar), because of the way it's directed and put together. But at just 70 minutes, the subject could've been compressed and more adequate for a Short animation. The story doesn't always keep my interest and there's little character development or attention to the ending. However, visually it's a colorful delight.
My rating for the film: 7/10. I wish I'd given it more, but 7 is what I feel. Anyway, the Academy is very cool for nominating it! It's probably the best year this Oscar category's ever had.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The White Ribbon (2009)

!!! Seen it in December 2009 !!!

Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Foreign Language Film: Germany
Best Cinematography

To my knowledge, this might be the most artistic film Michael Haneke has offered us so far. It's not a secret he's a very f*cked up director, but his style is quite unique and his direction fierce and innovative. My problem has always been with Haneke the screenplay writer, because he leaves behind way too many unanswered questions.
You know David Lynch often has no answer for them and just throws it outthere. But Haneke is just hiding the answers too deep and that makes the movie experience kind of frustrating. Who could figure out the ending of The White Ribbon? I didn't, I just have some ideas or alternatives. The technical part is flawless; the black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous and cold at the same time and the costume design and art direction really contribute to the mood of the film. The acting ensemble is among the best I've ever seen, giving us incredible child performances.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Why 7? I don't know. Because Haneke is stubborn and didn't give us an ending.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

!!! Seen it in January 2010 !!!

Detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Original Score
Best Art Direction

This movie is very enjoyable if you don't look too much into the plot. It's not a murder mystery like many would've expected. It's the journey that counts, not the mystery solving. So if you have no grand expectations, Sherlock is a fun experience, mostly due to the charisma of the two leading men.
Robert Downey Jr. gives a surprising wonderful performance (surprising because in such genre you don't always have to bother) and Jude Law is very effective in a charming supporting role. The direction is fine for an action flick, but the supporting characters (and performances) are boring and ignorable. I don't remember much of the Original Score, but the Art Direction looks dead-on for that certain era and it deserves an Oscar win.
My rating for the film: 7/10. The men make it worthy.

Invictus (2009)

!!! Seen it in December 2009 !!!

Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates an unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actor: Matt Damon

I kind of feel sorry for Invictus, even though I didn't like it at all. It had a decent shot at a Best Picture nomination, because it's that type of a cliche that the Academy just loves. And it's Clint Eastwood, who is very respected, but I found his last 3 movies to be totally boring and unpleasant.
My problem with Invictus is that's is sooooo predictable and cheesy, from the stupid bodyguards to all that hooray team spirit bullshit. Nothing subtle about it, nothing to require too much attention or thought. Maybe except for Morgan Freeman's performance, which is NOT great, but it's the best thing about the movie, next to the original score. Matt Damon's nomination is a popularity vote and those slow moving scenes in the end just killed me.
My rating for the film: 4.5/10. I don't hate it, just not enough good stuff in it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bright Star (2009)

!!! Seen it in January 2010 !!!

The drama based on the three-year romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats' untimely death at age 25. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Costume Design

Auch! I know there are many bloggers outthere (NOT Academy members :P ) who really liked this film! I am not one of them. Actually, I might be the only one who didn't. Bright Star is beautifully shot and designed and it really would've deserved a Best Cinematography nomination and win. The costumes are fabulous and the art direction well thought.
But I had no interest in the love story. I didn't buy it, I didn't care for the leading characters. Abbie Cornish is ok, but I didn't see the magnificent in her like others did. Ben Whishaw is actually better than expected, but the story is hardly about him. To me, Bright Star is so gorgeous to look at, but empty and unnatural in the inside. Great style, yet I didn't catch the substance.
My rating for the film: 6/10. Kerry Fox is fine playing the mother, but Paul Schneider is overrated.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

!!! Seen it in January 2010 !!!

Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from Heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actor: Stanley Tucci

When I saw it, I posted something about it on my other blog, Alex in Movieland, something that I don't usually do, as I keep that one mostly connected to the Best Actress category! Here's what I wrote:
An overdirected movie. A bad directed movie. An unexpectedly terrible screenplay. Awful visual effects. Awful romances. Overscored. Superficial writing. Bad casting. Future Razzie nominee Mark Wahlberg. Horrible teenage love interest. Painfully bad screenplay.
And I stand by everything written there. On the good side, you have the use of Cocteau Twins for the soundtrack, Susan Sarandon's magic touch as the grandmother, Stanley Tucci's smart acting choices, even though it's not that much of a worthy nomination, and a good work from Saoirse Ronan. That's IT! But boy, they've used the worst from the book. What was Peter Jackson thinking while writing the screenplay?!
My rating for the film: 3.5/10. Probably the biggest flop of the year, judging by what we expected and the final product served to us, quality-wise.

District 9 (2009)

!!! Seen it on October 19th 2009, my birthday!!!

An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Editing
Best Visual Effects

This is one of those unusual sci-fi movies that finds a lot of crazy support from critics and some die hard fans. I will admit that it's special, in the way that it feels real and quite easy to connect with. It has a very good leading performance: Sharlto Copley in a great first role and a smart direction. Where I think it lacks at times: it's gotta be in the Screenplay department (where it surprisingly got a nomination).
You should know I'm either hating or loving stories that torture or provoke unjustice to the leading character. I love it when it's called Precious, it annoys me when it's called District 9 and the movie is about the hunting of an usual hero, a guy who finds himself in a lot of trouble and fights for survival. The film made me uncomfortable at times (the birthday cake scene) and I didn't like the ending, which is often the breaking point for a movie.
My rating for the film: 7/10. I was tempted to give it more. But let's shout out the obvious: it's definitely not a Best Picture movie.

Star Trek (2009)

!!! Seen it in December 2009 !!!

A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Sound
Best Sound Editing
Best Visual Effects
Best Makeup (WINNER)

I never was a Star Trek fan and I certainly didn't become one after seeing this movie. For the entertaining part of it, it was ok, not great. For the dramatic side of it: kind of boring and cheesy and I don't see the hype for the Adapted Screenplay or Direction, as I found both to be mediocre. Star Trek was a step away from getting into the 10 Best Picture slots. Fortunately, it didn't make it.
The nominations are mostly worthy. There's nothing mind-blowing about the Visual Effects, but they're consistent and well made. Zachary Quinto gives the only acting piece worth mentioning... And I have a strange dislike for the story as whole. To me, it felt too general, with plenty of chiches.
My rating for the film: 6.5/10. Because it has visual effects, and I enjoy big action sci-fi. But still, I'm too generous.