Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

A married farmer falls under the spell of a woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars (as a 1927/28 film)
Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production (WINNER)
Best Actress: Janet Gaynor (WINNER)
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Art Direction

Don't get fooled by its "Best Picture" win, the Academy doesn't recognize it today as the standard BP winner, as this was a second category to a more relevant one, which was won by Wings (1927), which now stands as the officially first Best Picture winner in Oscar history.

But the voters at that time clearly liked Sunrise, and there are a lot of elements to enjoy, especially the technical part: the cinematography is impressive even today and I got a feeling that Sunrise was a road opener with a lot of technical aspects. The direction is very effective, even when the screenplay goes dry in its more uneventful scenes.

While the acting is ok, I can't help but look at it as a very dated film in story and acting. I'm sure it was a hit back then with the critics, but there's something uncomfortable about the story and it did lose my interest at one point. Technically beautiful, but overall I prefer Wings.

My rating for the film: 7/10. Good ending, though.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The King's Speech (2010)

Seen on January 18th, 2011

The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it. [imdb]

Nominated for 12 Oscars:
Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Tom Hooper (WINNER)
Best Actor: Colin Firth (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush
Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Mixing

It has nothing to do with he fact that it won Best Picture: King's Speech is my least favorite film of the 10 nominees. I don't think it's a bad film and I'm not one of those haters... but Social Network, its obvious runner-up for the win, was a better film and while I'm not the biggest fan of TSN, it's good to call it like I see it. My biggest problem with The King's Speech is that it didn't really keep me interested throughout, and I needed a bit of a suspense - because it was so damn predictable, even to the last shot. It would've been more uplifting, had it had a less cheesier ending.

On the good side there's definitely the acting. Colin Firth gives a good, difficult performance, but Geoffrey Rush is best in show, bringing unexpected humanity, while Helena Bonham Carter makes the best of her character and I actually cared for these 2 more than for the king itself, a character which kind of bored me. The screenplay is fine, but nothing groundbreaking; the win for Best Director is ridiculous given the competition and I still found it hard to believe even though it was obvious to happen. Tom Hooper's directing style definitely has its good moments in creating scenes that work properly, but often enough it's too flat to be worthy of Oscar praise.

The film is easy to watch, nothing to hate, but I didn't get much excited either.

My rating for the film: 7/10. Not one of those winners to make film history, but definitely not one of the worst.

127 Hours (2010)

Seen on January 16th, 2011

A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:
Best Picture
Best Actor: James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Editing

127 Hours is the kind of intense experience I would probably never watch twice; even so, it was hardly as brutal as I expected it to be. I thought Danny Boyle made a smart choice with that: keeping the difficult to watch scenes as short as possible and allowing us to spend enough time with the character so that the hand-thing becomes just an aspect of the film and not the defining one.

Other than that, of course the film is a bit over-directed, just like Slumdog was, and I've also had a bit of a problem with the cinematography - it gives an unique touch to the film, but everything is too colorful at times, too eye-popping that it distracts from the story and gives it an unnatural feeling.

The material is very good, so the film could've been better. But when it comes to the acting, I thought James Franco was sensational, making it look as believable as possible and definitely bringing some humanity in a couple of key scenes. A terrific performance, in my opinion.

My rating for the film: 8/10. And I still love If I Rise, it should've been a much stronger contender for Best Song.

The Fighter (2010)

Seen on January 15th, 2011
A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:
Best Picture
Best Director: David O. Russell
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (WINNER)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Editing

This is a film that could've actually won Best Picture in a less complicated year. I didn't think it was very challenging when it came to the writing or the directing (though they're both fine), but it has a nice story people can relate to and it has some terrific acting.

I know many who appreciate Mark Wahlberg's performance, I thought he was just fine and it was a smart and generous choice for him to step back on the acting and let his co-stars really shine. Christian Bale is quite terrific, another character for him to get lost into - from the 5 nominees, I think he definitely deserved the win; he grabs all the attention everytime he's on screen. The 2 ladies are also great: Amy Adams delivers an unexpectedly bitchy performance, but always vulnerable and relatable. Melissa Leo is loud, but never cartoonish on screen and I thought overall she did a fantastic job, even though I would've voted for Jacki.

The film has its slow moments, but it's generally entertaining and it's always nice to see great actors giving some of their best performances.

My rating for the film: 8/10. Nothing more to add.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Inception (2010) (2nd time)

In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Original Screenplay
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Sound Mixing (WINNER)
Best Sound Editing (WINNER)
Best Visual Effects (WINNER)

When I first saw it on the big screen last summer, I was a bit confused, but definitely impressed - of course it works best when seen in a theatre, because it's such a visual & sound experience, and it deserves to be enjoyed the right way. But once the haters started to show up, I knew I had to give it a second look, in case I missed something; and I've watched it again on the small screen - and while it didn't get better, it was definitely quite fabulous.
Yes, I think not nominating Christopher Nolan is quite stupid; today nobody's doing action films like he does - his attention for detail when it comes to directing is breathtaking, and he's such a visionary, at least admit that. Never boring. Getting to the writing: of course it has its flaws, and it's a complicated structure (how could Mal have kidnapped Robert Fischer??), but I liked the idea, the fact that he really tried to make it clear yet never pushing it too hard (seriously!), and I loved the twist and the emotional love story.
Ellen Page shouldn't be in this movie, other than that: they're all great. I had a thing for Marion of course, I though Joseph was just right for the part, Cillian Murphy gives a fabulous limited performance, and Leo is not bad at all. I think the Cinematography definitely deserved the Oscar win, and I consider Hans Zimmer's music to be best in show and no doubt one of the most haunting, perfectly used scores of the past years. Genius.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Just because the 3rd act goes a bit too long, but it was closer to a 9, and what an achievement it is, in my opinion.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Animal Kingdom (2010)

Seen on January 5th, 2011

Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver

Animal Kingdom is a good film. I liked it, I respected, I admired it. I was also a bit annoyed by the emotional blackmail, but other than that: it's such an enjoyable film to see. The screenplay & direction are smart & interesting, and the actors are quite great, so let's just go to Jacki Weaver. She is what makes the film so fascinating for me, because it's such a subtle, original performance.
Yes, I think she should've won the Oscar, but the nomination itself was a pleasant surprise, I admit I didn't think she'd make it. Because unfortunately not many people had seen Animal Kingdom, but the voters from the acting branch made justice and gave her the chance to compete. While I love the ending of the film (I do, I know some don't, I do), the final chapter is all about Jacki. She's fascinating, she's mesmerizing, she knows where the camera is, she knows how to keep you connected, how to make the performance special & unique, how to subtly show the vulnerable side of the character and how to fabulously deliver every.damn.line.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I hated the psychotic brother; but this is top 10 material.

The Town (2010)

Seen on December 27th, 2010

As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy Renner

I don't think I've ever written this, though I've surely thought about it: Ben Affleck is definitely a better director than an actor. Both The Town and Gone Baby Gone were executed with a certain degree of easiness, both so focused on the story, which made for a surprisingly subtle, efficient direction. The Town has its share of problems, but some elements of greatness really stand out.
From the point of an action movie, it's constructed the right way. The 2 or 3 big action scenes are entertaining, dynamic, impressive, and I still remember them with a lot of admiration. Jon Hamm is fine, Rebecca Hall is pretty good, Blake Lively is surprising, but the best performance comes by far from Jeremy Renner, who seems perfect for this role and gives a certain likeability to a more of a villain character. His performance is worthy of the nomination. Ben Affleck, on the other side, keeps his acting a bit too low-key and the writing choices he makes with the ending of the film are confusing to me: he should've ended it on a much more meaningful note.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. A good action flick.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tangled (2010)

The magically long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but now that a runaway thief has stumbled upon her, she is about to discover the world for the first time, and who she really is. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Song

If you see me giving a 5/10 to an animated feature, than you know I must've really really disliked it; because I'm generous with this genre, and it so happens I think Toy Story 3 is one of the year's best movies, so I'm very opened to such entertainment. And I was anxious to see Tangled, but it truly felt like a disappointing, rather boring experience.
There's no real villain, there no funny supporting character (no, the horse is not enough). The storyline is too simple and definitely not worthy of the Disney tradition, and the animation looked just a bit strange to me. How boring is the ending and, with the exception of one scene, I hardly cared for these characters. Of course, I see the light is the best moment, and I still believe it should've clearly won the Oscar for Best Original Song. But other than that: not much.
My rating for the film: 5/10. They should start making them smarter, or at least funnier.

Hereafter (2010)

A drama centered on three people - a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy - who are touched by death in different ways. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Visual Effects

I know people have kicked this a lot, and I understand it: the film is wrong in so many ways. But the beginning of the film is so powerful, I still had it in my mind once the film was over. When it's good, Hereafter is pretty awesome: the one single most important visual effect is great, even if it doesn't justify a nomination; truth be told: those 5 minutes are very cool.
And also functioning quite ok is the Matt Damon storyline, especially in the beginning, when he's trying to build this character out of so little - and bringing some emotion and managing to create a believable person. But the other aspects of the film are quite messy: the screenplay, especially, becomes really stupid at one point, and I was so sick of hearing the word weightlessness every 5 minutes. Seriously: even in the lines of a 7 year old.
My rating for the film: 6/10. One of the year's best opening scenes, but clearly downhill from there. Bryce Dallas Howard is quite fabulous though, in a limited but perfect performance.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Another Year (2010)

A look at four seasons in the lives of a happily married couple and their relationships with their family and friends. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Screenplay

I've waited quite a while to see this film, but that was not my choice. At one point, it was actually one of my most anticipated films of 2010 as all the raves about Lesley Manville made me curious. Also, I've really enjoyed Mike Leigh's 2 previous films and I wanted to see if he can continue making intriguing, believable, well acted motion pictures.
To me, Another Year is a bit of all that. The performances are the highlight: Lesley Manville is really something, but no wonder she didn't get a Best Actress nomination, because to me she's a supporting character in the film, and should've been campaigned as such. Ruth Sheen is quite great herself, in a subtle performance, and the other actors also deliver good, natural performances.
I know some people had issues with the story and the way it's constructed, I thought it was fine, some scenes slower than others, but overall good writing and nicely constructed dialogue. It IS a depressing film, but he surely didn't go too far with it. My favorite part has to be the final chapter and the film has a good ending. I don't think it's a brilliant film or a must-see, but it definitely kept me curious throughout.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Imelda Staunton is fabulous in a very limited role.