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.