Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter's Bone (2010) (2nd time)

A girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting Actor: John Hawkes
Best Adapted Screenplay

This movie was one of the pleasant film surprises I've had in 2010, because, while preparing to see it for the 1st time, I really expected it to be more Frozen River-like (which meant bad supporting acting and low production values). Instead, Winter's Bone has believable, relevant acting all around, the cinematography is efficient, the original score has the right mood and it all comes together nicely.
There's not much of a story in the film, but it's strength lies in the simple way it's crafted and in the charisma / right casting of leading actress Jennifer Lawrence, of which I'll write more on the other blog. John Hawkes and Dale Dickey give some very interesting supporting performances, while Debra Granik's subtle direction works fine, especially in the famous lake scene.
My rating for the film: 8/10. It felt nice even the second time around and I'm happy it got nominated: it's better than most of the front-runners.

True Grit (2010)

A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer. [imdb]

Nominated for 10 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing

I have just seen it, so I'm still in the first impressions phase and have it fresh in my mind. It was a good film, it was an ok film. I've enjoyed it, but I still think it could've been better. By the end of the film, I felt a bit disappointed, maybe the story wasn't challenging enough or maybe the ending required more emotion, more passion.
The beginning is the best part and it's captivating storytelling. Jeff Bridges gives a good performance, but far from his best. Hailee is ok, but maybe a bit overrated; of course, her placing in Supporting is a category fraud, but I've seen much worse cases (Casey in The Assassination of Jesse James, for example). I was so captivated by the male characters in the second part, that I found her presence less oustanding than in the first half. I don't see what the big buzz surrounding her is all about, and in a race between her and Melissa Leo for the win, to me it should be a no-brainer victory for Leo!
Matt Damon delivers his regular ok, but I was very captivated by Barry Pepper's very short but terrific performance. He has come a long way since Battlefield Earth. :) The technical recognitions seem fair enough, but the Coens getting the nomination and not Christopher Nolan is kind of upsetting to me. True Grit is a film I like, it has its good moments, but to me it won't be one of the year's favorites.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I would've given it maybe a bit less, but it was pleasant to see.

The Wolfman (2010)

!!! I saw it in February 2010 !!!

Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, a man is bitten and subsequently cursed by a werewolf.

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Makeup (WINNER)

I was quite anxious about seeing it and I didn't expect too much on a screenplay level. And of course it didn't deliver on the story part, but the mood of the film seemed quite right. It's silly writing, it has a silly ending and the direction is not as steady as it would've been required. But it was easy to watch and the cinematography, art direction and costume design would've deserved more recognition.
Benicio delivered a good, strong performance, way above what the material required. I remember Anthony Hopkins to be quite ok in the role, nothing special, but Emily Blunt is also much above the screenplay, doing her best with such a cliched role. I am actually a bit surprised by the makeup nomination (really!), not just because I thought they had completely forgot about the film, but also because I remember there were a lot of visual effects in the transformation scenes, and we know people from the Makeup branch don't like it when it's hard to separate the actual makeup from the fx.
My rating for the film: 5.5/10. It will probably win it, considering Alice was unexpectedly snubbed.

I Am Love (2010)

!!! I saw it in December 2010 !!!

A tragic love story set at the turn of the millennium in Milan.

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Costume Design

I never would've suspected when I first saw the film that it would ultimately become an Oscar nominee. We knew it wasn't eligible for Foreign Language Film and we knew that Tilda would more likely not receive a Best Actress nomination, so imagine my surprise (and a smile on my face) when it got nominated for Costume Design!
I wanted to start with this film, not because I loved it, but because I really admire the nomination. The contemporary costume designs are fabulous and Tilda looks breathtaking especially in the first half - she never looked more gorgeous and luxuorious!
On the film itself, the highlight is the technical part, including art direction and gorgeous cinematography. Tilda delivers a very subtle, but good performance, not something I go for usually, but she was consistent and every small flaw is to be blamed on the screenplay. I didn't like the ending, I didn't appreciate the sudden change in the second act - but even so, it's a film I admire, because it has a very special look, a special style.
My rating for the film: 7/10. I will however point out the double standard when it comes to nudity. They show the naked woman from almost every angle, but never the man; one would expect more equality from an European film :)
Now that the Oscar nominations have been announced, I'll start posting about each of the nominated 2010 films that I have previously seen, mentioning the date when I saw the movie (actual date or approximation). I'll watch again some of them: the Best Actress ones, Inception, but most of them are either still fresh in my mind or here's a simple argument: why would I wanna see Wolfman again?! :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Shop on Main Street (1965)

Slovakia during WW2. Tono lives a poor life, but the fascist authorities offer him the chance to take over the little shop for sewing material, belonging to an old Jewish widow. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 (1+1) Oscars:

Best Foreign Language Film: Czechoslovakia (as a 1965 film) (WINNER)
Best Actress: Ida Kaminska (as a 1966 film)

I've been wanting to see this film for quite some time now and watching a black & white low budget Czechoslovakian film is definitely something different from the current wave of 2010 films I'm watching these days. The Shop on Main Street has been praised by many critics and it's regarded as one of the worthy Best Foreign Language Film winners. I found it to be interesting, but not a masterpiece.
The film is never difficult to watch, in the too slow kind of way. But even so, the first part is not as interesting / conflictual as the last 30 minutes which totally change the tone of the film. The two leading actors give some special performances and the direction is quite solid for the most of it. Even with such praising, I still feel however that the subject had lots of potential and could've been done in a better way, more intense and maybe with a better ending.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I would've went with less if it weren't for those 20-30 minutes in the second act when the film really becomes unpredictable.