Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mirror Mirror (2012)

An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Costume Design

Mirror Mirror was one of the two 2012 American films dealing with Snow White's story, and the films couldn't have been more different, especially in tone and genre. This is easily the one I liked the least, even though it does seem to have its fans. I was open to the idea of the film, but all those bad jokes were really hard to take. 
The best thing about the film is Lily Collins' leading performance as Snow White - not that she gets that much to do, but she's right for the part, quite pretty and does the best she can to keep us interested when the camera is one her. The thing everyone's talking about is the Costume Design - the costumes were created by Eiko Ishioka, who has since passed away. I was a huge fan of her work in Coppola's 1992 Dracula, but for this film I have mixed feelings. A couple of Snow White's dresses were really pretty (the white swan), but everything that Julia Roberts wears (and she wears a lot of stuff) looked cheap to me and unworthy of an Evil Queen; some really questionable fabric choices - trust me, I was paying attention.
And that brings me to the film's two worst elements: Julia Roberts is terrible, I don't remember the last time I saw such a poor performance of hers. Needs to be noted: the casting is a disaster, she's neither pretty enough to play the Evil Queen (she is suppose to be the most beautiful one of them all!!!), nor wicked enough to nail the dark side of the character. She's doing her old Julia Roberts thing that doesn't work here. The other problem of the film: the screenplay that feels the need to throw in one joke after the other, with only about 10% of them actually being worthy to be included.
My rating for the film: 4.5/10. And what's with the song at the end?! Biggest WTF song moment since Slumdog Millionaire.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Animated Feature

This is one of the three Animated Feature nominees I've seen so far, and it's the one I liked best from the ones I've seen (more on the other ones later). A reason for this might also be that I had very little expectations going into it - it was the animated film no one was predicting for a nomination, because it opened early in the year and the reviews were not that great. 
But hey - while it's nothing groundbreaking, there were definitely some good jokes in it, and I did laugh outloud a couple of times (something that rarely happens to me). The funniest character and the source of humour is "Queen Victoria", who is actually the villain of the story. There is a particularly funny scene involving a painting of hers that was so-so funny. 
There are weaker moments in the film, mostly connected to the morals of the story. But even then, the film is totally watchable. Curious if it'll be my favorite after seeing all 5 nominees. Anyway, just to make it clear: objectively it has zero (!) chances of winning the Oscar a month from now. The producers should be happy it got nominated.

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. I like a lot this Wallace & Gromit type of animation.

Amour (2012) (2nd time)

It focuses on the love story of an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, retired music teachers. Anne suffers a stroke which paralyses her on one side of her body. [wiki]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Michael Haneke
Best Foreign Language Film (Austria) (WINNER)
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva
Best Original Screenplay

This was the perfect film to start the series of Oscar nominees for this year. This blog is all about films with Oscar nominations, so each will get a bit of writing - films that I've seen throughout the year or (again) recently. So I catched up with Amour again the other night, also because I am writing about the Best Actress nominees for the other blog. It's still feels like such a great film, and it's among my favorites for 2012 so far, if not THE best one.
What I appreciated more the 2nd time around is how well the film is directed. Haneke is one of the best directors of the past decade and I'm happy he finally made a film that's a bit more accessible to the public. Sure, Amour is heartbreaking and not always easy to watch, but it's his most mature work, from what I can tell. Emmanuelle Riva is an actress-lover's dream; her performance is pure European realism and there isn't much else to say; so raw, so effective, so heartbreaking. Jean-Louis Trintignant is almost just as good (I know him because his 1966's film A Man and a Woman is one of my alltime favorites; strange to see him in a role 46 years later, looking completely different). As great as he is, my eyes were on her all the time.
It's not a film for everyone's taste. But it definitely left a strong impression on me. If there's any fault to find is a bit in the screenplay, that doesn't always find a balance - or simply I would've liked it to focus less on Miss Huppert (who is however GREAT playing the daughter) and more on the emotional struggle of the characters (yes, even MORE). Scenes like the ones with the pigeon are so so beautiful. Haneke does a fabulous job not only directing his actors, but also on the technical aspects: the cinematography is quite special, never claustrophobic, and the Paris apartment is so beautifully constructed.

My rating for the film: 9/10. It could easily be a 9.5. Just like The Tree of Life, it firstly needs to be seen with the soul, if that makes any sense.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Perfect Storm (2000)

An unusually intense storm pattern catches some commercial fishermen unaware and puts them in mortal danger. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Sound
Best Visual Effects

The second and last film I saw on New Year's Eve was the visual effects-driven The Perfect Storm - a film that is messy plot-wise, but OK when it comes to nice effects. Actually, I don't know if the highlight is the computer-generated stuff; I appreciated more the realism of the scenes on the boat, the boat's movement, all of that which I assume was filmed in a studio, in a specifically built pool.

The story is cliched and nothing special. There's romance I couldn't care about. There's some conflict on the boat, but that's just forced inside the screenplay for diversity. And then there's the storm and the waves and that's fun to watch, especially on a big screen TV. George Clooney is ok, Mark Wahlberg is ok, but there's only so much on page to work wish. This is not a vehicle for actors to shine, just an excuse for big-ass visual effects.

My rating for the film: 6/10. Gladiator won for Visual Effects that year, but it wasn't much of a competitive category. 

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) (2nd time)

A British woman is determined to improve herself while she looks for love in a year in which she keeps a personal diary. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Renee Zellweger

No better film to see on New Year's Eve than Bridget Jones's Diary... I hadn't seen it for more than 10 years and I had a feeling I need to watch it again, because I underappreciated it the first time. I was right: this has got to be one of the best romantic comedies of our times. It's funny, it's smart, I giggled my way through it, while admiring that this is a silly comedy for grown-ups, not for silly teenagers. 

And it has got to be Renee Zellweger's best performance (one could argue for Chicago, but I'm sticking with this), as this Oscar nomination in the crowded 2001 was no accident. Oscar doesn't usually go for romantic performances, but I'm happy voters were seduced by Renee. It's her most charming, natural, feel-good performance. I loved Bridget, and what Renee did with the character. A nomination for Adapted Screenplay would've been great too - unfortunately it didn't happen. With the grade I'm about to give, a Best Picture nomination wouldn't have seemed ridiculous either, but I must admit 2001 was such a fabulous year for films.

Colin Firth is adorable, Hugh Grant is just right for the part. The screenplay is sharp, just as tight as it needs to be. Highly recommended, on any occasion.

My rating for the film: 9/10. One of the ages.