Saturday, January 28, 2012

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Seen on October 15, 2011

It tells the story of Gil, a writer who is forced to confront the shortcomings of his relationship with his fiancée after he experiences magic events when walking at midnight in Paris.

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Woody Allen
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Art Direction

The success of this film is still surprising to me; next to The Artist, this might just be the most overrated film of the year. This could be an explanation: his 2 previous films (Whatever Works and You Will Meet...) were so disastruous that, by comparison, a mediocre film such as Midnight in Paris feels like a masterpiece.

This film is nothing new when it comes to Woody Allen films, all the chichés are there and the style of the film is pure Vicky Cristina, with the main difference being that he's replaced Barcelona for Paris; but the cinematography has the same style, the story has a similar rhythm, not so many differences. Though truth is I thought Vicky Cristina Barcelona was much better, more focused and funnier.

The contemporary parts of Midnight are mostly boring and predictable. Owen Wilson, the actor playing the typical woody allen character, is fine, but it's a copycat of what Woody would do in this role. Poor Rachel McAdams gets an annoying character, while Michael Sheen is as annoying as ever, regardless of whoever he's playing. The midnight part of the film, aka Paris in the 1920s, is a bit more fun, but all those supporting characters just don't glue together. Marion is nice to look at, the guy playing Hemingway overdoes it, Kathy Bates is nice, while Adrien Brody probably gives the best cameo.

It's nice to see Woody stepping away from monstrosities like Whatever Works, but the step taken is not far enough: the screenplay feels way too familiar, with characters that he's been doing over and over again. Sure, it's an easy film to watch, the direction is ok, but it's far from anything original or his best work.

My rating for the film: 6/10. The Art Direction nomination is not bad, but there were better contenders.

The Tree of Life (2011)

Seen on December 27th, 2011

The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Terrence Malick
Best Cinematography

What do you write about a film that is almost perfection?!

I have no idea.

What makes Tree of Life so miraculous for me? That I don't remember ever feeling something like this when watching a film. The best way to describe it is that I saw it with my soul, as cheesy as that might sound; I don't know how to say it in any other way... If you are open to see it and feel it than it's an unmatchable experience. It is a film that feels alive, and yes, an experience more than anything else.

It's poetry. So it needs to be seen with an open heart and an open mind, otherwise... well, otherwise you won't like it. It doesn't need to be explained, because that is not its purpose, it's a pure sensorial film.

Of course, I think it's technically perfect, it should've been nominated for everything, Pitt & Chastain probably deliver their best work. Terrence Malick is a fantastic director and this might just be the best Cinematography I have ever seen.

My rating for the film: 10/10. But that's because I'm exactly its target.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Actor: Gary Oldman

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Original Score

Well the good news is Gary Oldman is finally an Oscar nominee... we can take him out of the list for the best never-nominated actors outthere. And this makes me happy: I adored him in Dracula, thought he was impressive in Leon and The Contender and I even liked him in The 5th Element. It was about time. That being said, Tinker Tailor itself is not much of a film.

It needs to be said this was directed by Tomas Alfredson, the Sweedish director behind the 2008 masterpiece Let the Right One In. He has such an unique style and I can see his fingerprints all over Tinker Tailor, though this can't overcome the problems in the screenplay. But this would be a higlight: the film is mostly well directed, it has a mood, it's stylish, cool and everything. Also, on the plus side: Gary's performance; while he doesn't get that much to do, his simple presence is mesmerizing and he does give an impressive almost-monologue describing an episode from his past. The supporting actors are equally great (especially Firth, Hardy and Cumberbatch), the cinematography is beautiful and the art direction seems appropriate.

Then, where's the problem? I'd say in the screenplay or maybe in the book, which I haven't read. This is a mystery film, but it doesn't build up to anything; in the end, I couldn't care less who the spy was, and this is something the film tries to put a lot of attention into. The whole film just moves along too slowly, I thought the screenplay would've needed some heavy editing or some serious restructuring. And there's something else that bothered me about the ending, but I wouldn't wanna spoil it right now.

The elements are there, but in the end it feels incomplete in the suspense department, overcrowded when it comes to unnecessary details, and overall nothing to get that excited about. Though I'm sure some will really like it. Even its more tense scenes felt a bit flat and not so creative.

My rating for the film: 6/10. I didn't get to talk about it's 3rd nomination for Original Score: Alberto Iglesias does a fine job, as usual, and it's a worthy nomination.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bowling for Columbine (2002)

Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for gun violence. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Documentary, Features (WINNER)

This really was the first time I've seen Bowling for Columbine, even though I'm a fan of Michael Moore: Fahrenheit 9/11 is a 10/10 for me, at least on a documentary level. So why did I stay away from Bowling? I have no idea; I was probably saving it for later.

And it was worth the wait: it's an impressive, very interesting, very captivating documentary on violence in America. As a European, I really enjoyed it and was moved by it in a couple of key scenes; I'm not sure I would've been as excited had I been an American. He's criticizing the American society in a manner that would really annoy conservative patriots.

The comedy is also there and I liked a lot the short animation inside the documentary, about the history of violence in the United States. It really is the kind of film that people should learn a lesson from.

My rating for the film: 9/10. Truth hurts.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Morocco (1930)

It's the story of a Foreign Legionnaire who meets and falls in love with a singer. [wiki]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Director: Josef von Sternberg
Best Actress: Marlene Dietrich
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction

The only thing people remember about this film is Marlene wearing a man's suit during a musical number and kissing a woman. Wow! Shocking! And I bet it was shocking, for 1930. And once you go past that scene, this isn't much of a movie. The worst thing about it is actually the love story, which I found hard to believe and not something that would come naturally to these characters.

Marlene is beautiful, Gary Cooper is gorgeous, the cinematography impressive for that era. The musical numbers were a bit flat for me, but even with the unconvincing screenplay, I am surprised this wasn't among the 5 films nominated for Best Picture: while I am not a fan, this is much better than winner Cimarron.

My rating for the film: 5.5/10. But it had real potential.