Saturday, December 25, 2010

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

It tells the story of working-class artist Morgan Delt, obsessed with Karl Marx and gorillas, who tries to stop his ex-wife from remarrying. [wiki]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Vanessa Redgrave
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

I was watching it and I kept thinking: what is this??? :)) it's not a comedy, because there was nothing funny about it. It has a wacky story and a screenplay that literally goes nowhere. It doesn't have a distictive style and there's nothing about the performances to stand out. The film looks just like another excuse for the director to push forward some socialism values.
And making them political is fine with me, as long as it all makes sense and it's not just thrown in there. The love story is virtually missing and the characters are painfully underwritten. The last 15-20 minutes are almost unwatchable and it's one of the worst, pointless endings I've ever seen. :) it's not a bad movie in the Glitter kind of way and I don't hate it, but it's so confused and confusing and unjustified that it gives no pleasure to the experience.
My rating for the film: 2.5/10. "Oscar" and Vanessa's performance should not be in the same sentence.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Georgy Girl (1966)

A homely but vivacious young woman dodges the amorous attentions of her father's middle-aged employer while striving to capture some of the glamorous life of her swinging London roommate. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Actress: Lynn Redgrave
Best Supporting Actor: James Mason
Best Original Song
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

This is one of those film you just know it was cool when it was released. And a bad film it's not, it just lacks a sense of direction and some experienced, more inspired writing. I did smiled at times, especially in the first half, but it's gets just really boring and unfocused at one point.
Lynn is clearly the star and she made me laugh at least in the Italian scene. She was just a 22 year old girl when she did the film and while you can sense the lack of experience, she definitely feels fresh and what the role needed. James Mason is fine, but nothing Oscar worthy, while the very young Charlotte Rampling is very sexy, bitchy and perfecty cast.
My rating for the film: 6/10. I'm sure it's a classic for many, but for me it doesn't succeed in any genre.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Man and a Woman (1966) (3rd time)

A man and a woman meet by accident on a Sunday evening at their childrens' boarding school. Slowly they reveal themselves to each other. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Director: Claude Lelouch
Best Actress: Anouk Aimée
Best Foreign Language Film: France (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)

For many years now I've had Un homme et une femme among my top favorite 20 films of all time. When I first saw it, it blew me away because I hadn't seen anything like it before and I'm sure people from 1966 felt the same thing. Its unique qualities are the simplicity of the story and how sophisticated and well thought the execution is.
The highlight is not the acting, even though it's some of the most natural love story interaction you'll ever see on screen. It IS one of the best directed films I have EVER seen. The cinematography is fantastic, the editing is magic, the screenplay is pure and simple, the music is legendary. And then back to the directing: Claude Lelouch wasn't even 30 years old when he did this and I don't know how but he fitted the pieces perfectly creating such a balanced, marvelous, sophisticated, cool, great looking film. The last 10-15 minutes are bliss and relevant for the film's heart and emotions. The ending is superb.

I wanted to be them. I wanted to be with them.
My rating for the film: 9.5/10. More people should see this, especially if they have a weakness for well made simple romantic stuff. French movies rock.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hamlet (1948)

William Shakespeare's tale of tragedy of murder and revenge in the royal halls of medieval Denmark. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Laurence Olivier
Best Actor: Laurence Olivier (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Jean Simmons
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Costume Design (WINNER)

Last year I started pushing myself into seeing all the Best Picture winners, some for the first time, some again, in chronological order. The 21st Best Picture winner was definitely... difficult to watch or just not engaging. I didn't enjoy Hamlet and I found the incredibly long first half quite painful to sit through.
It's not the story, which I find interesting and we have the 2nd part to prove it. It's not the shakesperean dialogue, which I can get used to. It's the damn slow pace, the shaky direction in the first part and some unsatisfying acting. While watching the first hour, I was quite sure this was going to be the worst BP winner I'll ever see. Some casting choices are just crazy, but surprisingly enough it's the actress who plays Gertrude who delivers the best performance. Jean Simmons has nothing to do with any Oscar talk and Laurence Olivier... well, sometimes he's just perfect with the dialogue, other times he overplays the gay arrogant card.
On the good side, it has an efficient original score, the ghost scene is good and the last 30 minutes have a much better pace than the rest of the film. But even so: how snobbish were the Academy voters for choosing this over Treasure of Sierra Madre and Johnny Belinda, the two all-American favorites?! It's a win hard to explain.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I'm sure some adore it. I'm also sure many didn't get past the first 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) (3rd time)

The film focuses on the self-destructive relationship of history professor George and his hard-drinking wife Martha, as they invite a younger couple over for drinks. [wiki]

Nominated for 13 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Mike Nichols
Best Actor: Richard Burton
Best Actress: Elizabeth Taylor (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: George Segal
Best Supporting Actress: Sandy Dennis (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Sound

There are many things I like about this film and there are also things I think could've been done better or adapted better for the screen. But regardless of how memorable or not you find it to be, this is a very well acted, special film. Can you believe it was the directorial debut of Mike Nichols, who was in his early 30s at that time? Looking at the film, you'd think it has years and years of experience behind it. Because, while it's mostly about the performances, it all seems well glued together and this was not an easy play to deal with.
Elizabeth, of course, delivers her all time best and maybe the performance that really brought her the acclaim from critics; strangely enough, it would also be her last important role. Sandy Dennis did deserve the win, George Segal was quite great, but I need to say something about Burton. To me, this is his best performance I've seen him do, and that means a lot. Even after watching Man for All Seasons, I don't see how Scofield won the Oscar over Burton and over Michael Caine's delicously fabulous performance in Alfie. Burton might just have the most challenging and subtle role of the film and nobody could've done it better or been able to face just as well Liz's Martha!
The cinematography win seems worthy, even though some complain about excessive close-ups; I enjoyed it, it made the film look special. But while there's nothing wrong with the Art Direction and the Costumes, these wins are ridiculous: absolutely nothing to justify them. Moreso, the following year, the Academy stopped giving separate awards for B&A and Color, probably due to these 2 unfortunate wins.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It has parts that might be too slow, but it's overall an achievement. Also, I have to admit I might've changed the twist in the ending, as I think something ever more powerful would've helped the film's believability more.