Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Color Purple (1985) (3rd time)

The life and trials of a young African American woman. [imdb]

Nominated for 11 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Whoopi Goldberg
Best Supporting Actress: Margaret Avery
Best Supporting Actress: Oprah Winfrey
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Makeup

You know when you've seen a film once or twice a couple of years before and you are certain it's one of your alltime favorites? So much that you include it in your Top 5 ever? Well, this is what happened to me and The Color Purple - but when I've seen it now, years later, for my blog: some of the magic was lost. :( And I can see the flaws, which are plenty. This doesn't mean I've stopped liking the film, I still think it's magic: only that I can't call it an alltime favorite anymore, if I'm being honest with my choices.

The first 30 minutes are really the weakest, with the story lacking a clear focus and with more of a naive way of telling us what happens. As soon as Whoopi gets on screen as grown-up Celie, everything moves better, with the characters of Sophie & Shug also bringing plenty of great stuff to see. Overall, it remains an impressive achievement, and the film grows in quality as we get more used to the characters. Two scenes are filled with emotions and so representative for the heart of the film; both towards the end: God Is Trying to Tell You Something and the cheesy, but so heart warming reunion at the ending.

Talking Oscar, you surely know the film holds an unfortunate record: it ties The Turning Point (1977) for most nominations for a film, without a single win; it deserved better than this. Also, its director, none other than Steven Spielberg, didn't get nominated although he had won the prestigious Directors Guild Award, usually an Oscar indicator. Whoopi Goldberg was a favorite to win and had the chance to make history as the first African American to win Best Actress, but lost to veteran actress Geraldine Page. Margaret Avery & Oprah Winfrey give fantastic supporting performances, and any of them would've deserved a win.

I hope I'm never asked to choose a Best Picture winner for 1985, as you might remember my renewed love affair with winner Out of Africa. Having to choose between that one and The Color Purple would be an impossible task for me.

My rating for the film: 9/10. If you haven't seen it, run to it immediately.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: David Lean (WINNER)
Best Actor: Alec Guinness (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Sessue Hayakawa
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Cinematography (WINNER)
Best Editing (WINNER)

The Bridge on the River Kwai is an excellent film that is also the 30th winner of the Best Picture Oscar. I had seen scenes from it before, I knew the ending, but I never enjoyed it from beginning to end and I gladly did it now for my Best Picture series. It's a beautiful action film, interestingly divided in chapters with some that are simply fantastic. The first hour-hour and a half is the best. Guinness and Hayakawa both deliver remarkable performances and it's in their scenes that the film reaches the highest quality of writing, acting, directing.

It was very enjoyable seeing the two working together, as their scenes of rivalry are really entertaining, in a dramatic way. While I didn't care so much about the William Holden part of the film, I understand its role and it does contribute to the action element of this picture. The cinematography, the music, the editing, the art direction are all fascinant and very efficient. David Lean's direction is subtle and it's another proof that he was a great storyteller.

The film's final hour is not as captivating as the first part, but the fabulous ending is exactly the right choice. It probably deserved most of its wins, though I'm holding back a bit on Guinness - he's great, he really is, but he was competing against Charles Laughton in Witness for the Prosecution, so it's difficult to choose between such fascinating performances.

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Good piece of action-drama.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sweet Dreams (1985) (2nd time)

Lange portrays Patsy Cline, the velvet-voiced country singer who died in a tragic plane crash. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Jessica Lange

Sweeeeeeeeeeet nonsense. And it's not even sweet. Whoever wrote this (by the way, he also wrote Mommie Dearest) has real limitations as a screenplaywriter. The film fails massively and mostly because of the writing, and also because of a very very lazy direction.

I actually HATED the writing, to be honest: the film is so much about the relationship between the two, and not enough about her music, her personality, her individuality. Also, it sickens me how much it justifies the abusive behavior of the husband. Seriously! It's insane! Other than Patsy's songs, there isn't much (or anything for me) to rally behind; and it's not even accurate for most part.

I know some go crazy over Jessica Lange here, I don't; had problems both seeing her as Patsy and dealing with her Southern girlish atittude. But more on that performance on the other blog, in a day or two.

My rating for the film: 3.5/10. To have Patsy calling her abusive husband's name right before she dies (something we know didn't happen) is BEYOND offensive.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Chalk Garden (1964)

A grandmother seeks a governess for her 16 year old granddaughter, Laurel, who manages to drive away each and every one. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Supporting Actress: Edith Evans

There isn't much to say about this film, as it was mostly a very uninteresting cliched experience. The film focuses on 4 performances, of which I'm sorry to say Deborah Kerr's is the most boring. Nobody is fantastic, or even great, but each of the other actors has a good scene to put a bit more effort into.

Famous teenage-actress Hayley Mills does the best she can and shares an intense scene with her real-life father, John Mills. But I mostly payed attention to Oscar nominated Edith Evans, waiting for something to justify the nomination. It's a fine performance, which I'm sure some would really like. She gets plenty of screentime in the role of the grandmother, but I was not entirely convinced and didn't find the role to be as demanding... so a win would've seemed too much for me. Though she surely had a shot at the trophy.

The film lacks in story; it's based on a successful play, but judging from the film it's hard to say why the success. There's nothing fascinating and it ends up looking too predictable, with a flawed direction.

My rating for the film: 4/10. I don't hate it, but it's hard to find real qualities.