Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

In 1930s New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Screenplay

In bed with high fever again, so it seemed like a good opportunity to sit and watch a classic. The Purple Rose of Cairo was the only BIG Woody Allen film I never saw, so I kept it there because I knew it would be special, and I just wanted to save one from his good ol'days. The film is a great achievement in many ways, but maybe not my type of film.

On the good side: the direction which is creative, impressive, and also the dialogue with a lot of smart one-liners. I know there are many people who think it's his best: it wouldn't really get close to a top 5 for me, because I just couldn't fully connect to it and the silliness. I loved the scenes in the movie, but the real-life just felt flat at times. I also am not a fan of the ending, even thought I can guess what he was going for.

Mia Farrow gives a good performance, not the year's best, but she sure gets the character and as always works out well with delicious, complicated dialogue. Jeff Daniels is just fine, and I loved the supporting players: Dianne Wiest, plus all those actors in the film.

It's ridiculous to have Witness win Original Screenplay, with both Purple and Back to the Future way better. I have yet to see Brazil and The Official Story - but I suspect them to be interesting and highly creative.

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. A must-see, but give me Annie Hall, Interiors or Husbands and Wives over this.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Biutiful (2010)

Connected with the afterlife, Uxbal is a tragic hero and father of two who's sensing the danger of death. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actor: Javier Bardem
Best Foreign Language Film: Mexico

First of all, why was this film nominated for Mexico, when it all takes place in Spain? I get it: the director is Mexican, but otherwise there's hardly a connection. On the film itself: it's a special one that I'm sure it gets better in time. I understand why some don't like it, but I fell for it, especially for the second half.

Javier Bardem is, of course, fantastic! He starts on the right foot giving a subtle, quiet performance that turns spectacular as we're heading towards the end. There's a scene with him giving the two magic stones to his children - really touching and emotional and beautifully acted. The film itself is slow at first, but after the first hour I was really engaged. Inarritu does a good job afterall, with an incredible care for details; the cinematography also stands out.

My rating for the film: 8/10. The scenes with the wife were uncomfortable, I wish there were less of those.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Barney's Version (2010)

The story of the politically incorrect, fully lived life of the impulsive, irascible and fearlessly blunt Barney Panofsky. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Makeup

The films I have to see to stay connected to Oscar... :) I'm exagerating a bit, Barney's Version is not one of the year's worst. But I would've probably not have given it 130 minutes of my life. It has its good moments, but it's really uneven throughout, going from bad to fine, from mediocre comedy to sometimes relevant drama.

I don't think the Oscar nomination for makeup is worthy, there were notable mistakes especially is Rosamund's aging makeup. Its other big award recognition was the Golden Globe win (Comedy/Musical) for Giamatti: it seemed like a pretty weak category in the funny department and I'm sure he won more for the dramatic scenes (which is called cheating!) than for the more funny ones which are rather superficial. And he does give a good performance, but boy is that character dislikeable. There's always a problem when I don't give a damn if my lead character lives or dies, is happy or not.

Dustin Hoffman is a scene-stealer, in a small but very effective role. Rosamund has her good moments but nothing terrific, while Minnie brings the comedy to the film. There are some bad casting choices with the grown-up kids, the direction is shaky: never deciding if we're seeing a comedy, a drama, switching too suddenly from one register to another. But there are also a couple of key scenes that do feel powerful: if I'd mention them, I'd spoil the story...

My rating for the film: 5.5/10. It needed a better grip on the story, and I could never really call myself a Paul Giamatti fan, even when I admit his successes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Incendies (2010)

A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Foreign Language Film (Canada)

I've actually seen this film days ago, but because it's so difficult to rate and because I had little free time, I had to postpone writing about it. Incendies is quite an unusual film and it gives me stuff to think about: what the hell was going on with this year's Best Foreign Language Film category?! I didn't think I'd see something more outrageous than in Dogtooth... :)

The idea in Incendies is a great one, but the subject is poorly developed; even so, it would make for a good film, if it weren't for the biggest WHAT THE F*UCK moment of them all. Those who've seen it know I'm talking about "the twist" - I myself thought it would be too kinky to be used, but they went there. Even if we put that aside, it's something so hard to believe that it destoys any believability from there on. This is because the biggest problem with Incendies has to be the casting; it's the WORST casting I've seen in a while because it completely takes away from the believability of the story (those who've seen it know I'm taking about the age of some actors).

My rating for the film: 7/10. 7 was randomly chosen. The film has a couple of powerful scenes, the idea is great, but bad casting caused by bad directorial decisions make for a messy ending.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Street Angel (1928)

A woman on the run from the law finds her past catching up to her just as she is on the verge of true happiness. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 (1+2) Oscars:

Best Actress: Janet Gaynor (for 1928) (WINNER)
Best Cinematography (for 1929)
Best Art Direction (for 1929)

I'm looking at the official poster on the right: the girl there looks nothing like Janet Gaynor :)) oh, Hollywood, using "photoshop" even back then. :) Getting back to the film: this is of course one of the 3 films for which Janet collectively won Best Actress in Oscar's first edition. I have no idea why the film was also nominated for 2 categories in the following year, but those mentionings are worthy.

The cinematography and the art direction are both quite interesting, especially the set decoration which is efficiently used to tell the story. Frank Borzage also directed the big hit of 1928: 7th Heaven - also starring Janet, and I'm very anxious to see that one. Street Angel makes for no big breakthrough in silent films and it's mostly carried by Miss Gaynor lovely emotional performance and the incredible use of music, with a very distinctive main theme. The story could've been worse, but it's really her charm that makes the film a bit more believable and attractive to the audience.

My rating for the film: 6.5/10. Its biggest problem is the general misogynistic tone of the story.