Saturday, September 17, 2011

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Adaptation of Jules Verne's novel about a Victorian Englishman who bets that with the new steamships and railways he can travel around the world in 80 Days. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Michael Anderson
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design

The Best Picture winner for 1956 is considered by many to be one of the worst in Oscar's history. As I go to each of them chronologically, I was quite happy to reach this one, as I suspected it would be easy to watch, maybe even fun. And I was right: I think the critics are overreacting; it's not a terribly smart film, it doesn't even explore its own potential, but it's far from worst.

Out of its competition, I've only seen Giant which is a better film, and definitely more serious & important. Around the World starts out very well, but loses focus along the way, or maybe it all seemed to rushed. It has a good story, but the writing could've been better in the second half, and the ending is not what I might've hoped for. Best in show is Cantinflas, a Mexican celebrity/actor playing the servant: he's very funny here and most of all likeable, and the success of this film depends a lot on his charisma.

How did this win Best Picture? Probably because it was the cool stuff, and it was also a competitive year, so Giant and The King and I were real contenders and could've split the votes. The Art Direction is very impressive and the film looks well-done technically.

My rating for the film: 6/10. I just wish they had paid more attention to the second half.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Out of Africa (1985) (2nd time)

In 20th century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair with a free-sprited hunter. [imdb]

Nominated for 11 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Sydney Pollack (WINNER)
Best Actress: Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor: Klaus Maria Brandauer
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Editing
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Costume Design
Best Sound (WINNER)

I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills... [I melt]

I really like this film. It's no masterpiece, but I really really like it, because it's so pretty and well put together. It's definitely one of my favorite Best Picture winners of all times. It has a nicely organized screenplay, allowing the story to flow properly, and I'm sure it was not an easy adaptation to do. Its focus is on Meryl's character, the very interesting real-life Baroness Karen Blixen, and I especially appreciated the way the character is put together - there's nothing incredible about this woman, but on her feelings and reactions I could really stand behind, and found them believable.

Redford is just a pretty face, Klaus has charisma, but I don't think it's an awards-worthy performance. Meryl is beautiful & great, but more on her on the other blog. The original score is one of the best I've ever heard, and the cinematography is dreamy. Pollack's direction is not perfect (what's up with the obvious studio screen in 2 scenes?!), but he sure also made some smart choices. I think the beginning of the film is perfect, and the ending is nearly just as good. Yes, you should always start a film with fabulous music & a voiceover from Meryl. All films should have that.

My rating for the film: 9/10. From its competition, I'd probably go for Color Purple, but this is a great winner.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Agnes of God (1985)

When a naive novice nun is discovered with a dead newborn in her convent quarters, a court appointed psychiatrist investigates her case. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actress: Anne Bancroft
Best Supporting Actress: Meg Tilly
Best Original Score

I'm not gonna spend too much time writing about this; to keep it short: I honestly believe it's a mess. The worst thing about it is the screenplay, offering some RIDICULOUS dialogues, not only too stagey, but with no rhythm and sense of how people really talk. It's predictable, overhyped and doesn't live up to the tension and mystery it tries to build.

The performances are nothing special. Meg Tilly is in her own universe, I'll write about Anne on the other blog very soon & Jane Fonda is trying the hardest, but there's only so much you can do with such bad dialogue. A big mess, with only one or two better scenes, one of them being the second hypnosis (nicely shot, but a silly idea to begin with).

My rating for the film: 3.5/10. The deconstruction will continue on the other blog.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Swing Shift (1984)

A woman finds romance when she takes a job at an airport plant to help make ends meet after her husband goes off to war. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Christine Lahti

Oh boy, this film is a mess. I wanted something easy to watch, also with some Oscar nominations, and I chose this, because I had previously seen some scenes on TV. But it wasn't really what I expected (some romantic drama); in fact, it's a boring, predictable, melo non-sense with only one good performance.

Christine Lahti did deserve the Oscar nomination, because she's clearly the best by far; her acting gives such a contrast it's embarassing for the rest of the cast. With such a bad screenplay, she manages to create a likeable character, and the only real emotional one. Ed Harris is ok, Kurt Russell is ignorable, but Goldie Hawn gives... her worst performance ever. She can't even manage the easy scenes, while also being surprisingly dislikeable. It's sad.

My rating for the film: 3.5/10. I can't believe Jonathan Demme directed this waste of time.