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.