Sunday, April 29, 2012

W.E. (2011)

The affair between King Edward VIII and American divorcée Wallis Simpson, and a contemporary romance between a married woman and a Russian security guard. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Costume Design

Madonna made a little movie about a controversial couple (I would say controversial not because he was the future king and she was a married woman, but because of the long debate if or if not they were Nazi sympathizers) and the movie failed. 

The biggest problem is the screenplay, which is filled with uninspired choices: the present-day story shouldn't be there at all I think, the film is 30 minutes too long, and small details fail big time: the visions that Abbie Cornish's character has go from uninspired to ridiculous; the fact that 76 year old Wallis would dance a twist for the dying husband is also a terrible idea. :) Mostly, one poor choice after the other. 

The directing is all over the place, and Madonna is clearly trying to copy what Tom Ford did with A Single Man, except... you know... he proved talent. She doesn't. But it's not all messy and it's never horribly bad. The technical aspects are good, with the Art Direction and the Costume Design as outstanding elements; I believe it should've actually won Costume Design, because they are quite memorable. 

Andrea Riseborough is the only one giving a good performance, as Wallis Simpson; every time she returned to the screen I had a glimpse of hope the movie might get better. She is right for the part and had the movie been written/directed by someone who actually knew what he was doing, I'm sure we would've had an Oscar talk about it.

My rating for the film: 4.5/10. It's boring; only for die hard Oscar fans.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Iron Lady (2011) (2nd time)

An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Meryl Streep (WINNER)
Best Makeup (WINNER)

After the Oscars, many have said: oh, this won more Academy Awards than Tree of Life, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, Tinker Tailor combined. And that is true, but can you really argue with any of these 2 wins: Viola Davis is superb and has plenty of fans, but Meryl (!) - oh, finally a 3rd (because before this win, she had only won once every 8 nominations... not even Glenn Close can beat such a negative track). And the makeup, easily the best I've seen since La vie en rose and such a key part of the film and the story and the performance.

What I can admit is that this is not a good movie as a whole: the screenplay might be the problem, or Phyllida Lloyd's rushed style of directing. There's nothing terribly bad about it, but it doesn't feel deep at any particular point (other than what Meryl is trying to do with it). A more focused screenplay might've helped, also some smarter choices (Jim Broadbent with  a turban, oh my).

My rating for the film: 5.5/10. Felt even less interesting the second time, but I think the haters are exaggerating. More on Meryl on the other blog, she really does give an acting class here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Muppets (2011)

With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Song (WINNER)

I'm not so familiar with The Muppets, because I guess we don't care so much about them here in Europe; also, I am somewhat over the age of 10, so I guess I'm not the main target of this film... - ok, that was bullshit, because this is clearly not for kids, even though it has a nice message in a born this way kind of way.

So it didn't start well for me, but as the story progressed some of the jokes got better: Miss Piggy was more of a delight than I expected and the character "Animal" was fun too. The humans - just ok, they didn't get the best of the screenplay. So it became more enjoyable, and it's definitely easy to watch and relaxing. I'm not sure if it deserved the Oscar, neither of the 2 nominees in this category impressed me. What I can say is that I'm surprised Life's a Happy Song didn't get nominated, as it was featured twice in the film, it IS a better song than Man or Muppet, and they were really pushing for it.

My rating for the film: 7/10. I am being generous just because I laughed a couple of times and thought it was overall enjoyable.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Real Steel (2011)

Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he interacts with his 11-year-old son who wants to know his father. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Visual Effects

This falls in the category of stupid films I see for Oscar, because there's no way I would've wasted time on this stupid mess called Real Steel. And no, not even the visual effects are worth it: because they don't bring anything new to the table, so the nomination is both surprising and saddening. 

The screenplay of the film is Razzie-worthy, with situations that are beyond any believable standard: for example a small boy able to carry a hundreds of kilos robot from a junk yard by himself. The cliches are there: a ridiculous love story, the underdog robot winning against all odds (they truly found it in a junk yard), morons as villains. And again, more outrageous storylines: apparently in the near future there's no such thing as Child Protective Services, and an irresponsible father who trades his child for money can get temporary custody of the child he's never met without any additional back-up check from anyone. 

The robot fights are just ok, as I mentioned: nothing in this film to justify any kind of award buzz, let alone Visual Effects, with shortlisted films like Tree of Life, Captain America, Mission: Impossible 4, Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men getting snubbed in favor of this mess.

My rating for the film: 3/10. I'm being generous.

Margin Call (2011)

The film follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Screenplay

I guess this film was meant to be something like "financial crisis for dummies", so it's surprisingly uncomplicated for this type of film. I liked the screenplay, but what I liked more was the ensemble cast, which really takes the film to a different level and makes it feel more special.

Kevin Spacey is the obvious stand-out in a dynamic, engaging performance. The other great one is Jeremy Irons, and it's the type of man-in-charge role that fits him perfectly, with a touch of greed and a bit of villain. Hell, they even made Demi Moore bring in a good performance, Stanley Tucci is good as always and Paul Bettany is also memorable. 

The directing is good, simple, sharp, with an effective cinematography. I actually prefer this screenplay to The Artist or to Midnight in Paris, so I couldn't really complain about the nomination, though I would've rather seen Young Adult taking that 5th slot. Even if I appreciate the screenplay, you can tell some scenes are fillers - a scene that doesn't push the story forward and is there only to fill in pages or to move around some characters. 

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. I respect it, great cast and overall a better film than most of the Best Picture contenders.

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Intrepid reporter Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock's ancestor. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Score

You can tell the amount of work that went into making this film look as special at it does. Even so, I must admit I'm not a big fan of this type of animation: to me, it mostly looked like a very well made video game. sure, the big chasing scenes are amazing, but the way the characters look was a bit distracting from the story.

The story itself needs some warming up, because it only gets interesting after the first 30 minutes of so: but once it starts going, it's a great adventure, and the film was entertaining, with plenty of action scenes that were really suspenseful. The star here is Steven Spielberg, for orchestrating this and it really is well directed - again, if we get over the fact that I'm not cheering for this kind of animation. 

I don't remember much from the score, but it's John Williams, so it's gotta be good; though this one didn't feel specifically distinctive. I think it deserved an Animated Feature nomination, and I liked it slightly more than Rango, so I guess it should have won. 

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. I might've went with a different ending, but overall it was a fun ride.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (2nd time)

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Actress: Rooney Mara
Best Cinematography
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing

Unfortunately, the film didn't seem better the second time around: I still feel like it's too long, poorly written in key parts, there's too much editing going on and it loses the essential part of the story: the mystery which was so interesting in the Swedish film is almost completely changed here and it goes for an easy solution. That was very disappointing. Those who've seen the original know what I mean.

On the good side I must mention Rooney's Mara edgy performance which I appreciate much more now. Also, the technical part is as great as in any other Fincher film; the director itself does an ok job, but the screenplay is too messy at times for the directing to save it. Oh, yes, and the best part of it all: the opening credits, which are dreamy.

I think the film also deserved an Original Score nomination, I've learned to like it more and more ever since I listen to it outside the film; it certainly creates a mood. Had we had 10 Best Picture nominees, this would've definitely been the 10th, I think we can all agree on that; I'm a bit surprised that Academy members were more tempted to put Extremely Loud (which I liked) as their no. 1 rather than Dragon Tattoo - even so, I'm happy with their choice, Dragon Tattoo is not a bad film, but it's not Best Picture material. And the Editing win was probably the biggest shock of the evening, and rightfully so: I thought the editing was very messy, cutting scenes in all the wrong places, but I guess they just went for the most edited film.

My rating for the film: 6/10. I will admit though that it's a cool movie.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Week with Marilyn (2011) (2nd time)

Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actress: Michelle Williams
Best Supporting Actor: Kenneth Branagh

This is a film I really wanted to like, but it didn't do it for me: and it's not just the obvious reason that I simply couldn't buy Michelle as Marilyn. That was a big factor, but the main problem is in the screenplay (isn't it always?!), for not making Marilyn enough of an interesting character.

I don't know how accurate this is, but she was presented either as a moody dumb blonde, or as a manipulative bitch or as a constant victim. There is nothing empowering about this character and I don't remember any particular scene in which I cared for her. Laurence Olivier is nicely written and beautifully portrayed by Branagh in a performance that deserved the Oscar recognition. Judi Dench is always a nice presence, Redmaybe was ok as the leading Colin Clark, but the most interesting character in the film was by far Paula Strasberg, nicely played by Zoe Wanamaker. It's not good writing, when in a film about Marilyn Monroe, I am intrigued only by Paula Strasberg.

I'll write about Michelle on the other blog. This film has issues with the casting (Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh?? wtf), the screenplay is flawed and the ending just wrong. It's not that it's a complete failure, but nothing to get excited about.

My rating for the film: 5/10. I feel like had it been darker it would've been better.