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.