Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Splendor in the Grass (1961) (2nd time)

A fragile girl's love for a handsome young man from the town's most powerful family drives her to heartbreak and madness. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Actress: Natalie Wood
Best Original Screenplay

 How is it that I liked this film quite a lot when I saw it as a teenager, but found it much more dated this time around? Is it me growing up or just gaining more film experience? Something felt flat this time around and the film itself is rather redundant. Not to say there aren't good elements to it: I actually like the ending. And there are motivations in the leading character that I do understand.

But... rather unusual for a film from the era (because usually there were other elements fucking it up, like the screenplay), I couldn't name you one great performance in the film. Which is a shame, because we're talking of Elia Kazan. Natalie just isn't for me, though she has her fans. Beatty is visibly lacking experience, and the casting in some of the juicy supporting roles is quite disappointing.

My rating for the film: 6.5/10. It has moments of honesty that aren't exploited well enough.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) (3rd time?)

Struggling writer Paul Varjak moves into a New York apartment building and becomes intrigued by his pretty, quirky neighbor Holly Golightly. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Actress: Audrey Hepburn
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Song
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
Best Art Direction, Color

Can we just forget about Mickey Rooney for a second? Looking back at his casting, director Blake Edwards said the he didn't think about the implications of casting a white actor in a role as a Japanese person, but "looking back, I wish I had never done it... and I would give anything to be able to recast it." So that's that.

The film is not perfect and neither is Audrey's performance, but they both work. It's a charming film that surprisingly stands the test of time (I feel) and there's enough elegance, likeability, charm and good acting in close-ups to make Audrey's performance feel special and somehow the right one for the film. Moonriver is a classic I've adored for years and it's perfectly used in key scenes of the film. And this picture even has cat(s), so what else do I need...

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It's a lovely film and everyone should see it. There's depth behind all that fashion.

The Hustler (1961)

"Fast" Eddie Felson is a small-time pool hustler with a lot of talent but a self-destructive attitude. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Robert Rossen
Best Actor: Paul Newman
Best Actress: Piper Laurie
Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Gleason
Best Supporting Actor: George C. Scott
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)

I heard a lot of great things about The Hustler before I saw it and they were mostly confirmed; I knew it would be better than its sequel (The Color of Money), which I'd seen many years ago and frankly I don't remember much from it, except it wasn't exactly spectacular. But this is a good film and its quality is due to a well-written screenplay. The film didn't bore me and I thought it built up nicely to the final match. 

Everything happening around the pool table was interesting and intense. The love story could've been better, but it served its purpose inside the film. Paul Newman is excellent (had it not been for Maximilian Schell's great performance in Judgment at Nuremberg, Paul would've had no problem winning - it's the closest he ever got prior to Color of Money). Jackie Gleason is ok, Piper Laurie is good, George C. Scott gives a great performance. 

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It's an entertaining film that does justice to its hero.