Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camille Claudel (1988/1989)

The film recounts the troubled life of French sculptor Camille Claudel and her long relationship with legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars* (*as a 1989 film):

Best Foreign Language Film (France)
Actress: Isabelle Adjani

All signs indicate that I should've liked this film more than I actually did, because it started like a... I don't want to say epic. But an impressive period piece / biographical film. It has a certain rhythm and especially two dynamic characters. But as soon as Camille has to become crazy inside the screenplay, it all gets a bit confused. It's true I saw the 158 min version, not the 175, but I doubt that's the issue. Somewhere around the second half, the screenplay stops justifying actions and behaviours, and that hurts the film.

Depardieu is quite ignorable in this role, it's all about Isabelle, nobody steals the spotlight from her; and it's indeed a flashy performance (more on it on the other blog, tomorrow). I would also mention the technical aspects, especially the production design, with all the sculptures that had to be recreated (at least most of them).

My rating for the film: 7/10. It loses its focus in the last hour.

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

It's about two brothers struggling to make a living as lounge jazz pianists in Seattle. In desperation, they take on a female singer, who revitalizes their careers, causing the brothers to re-examine their relationship with each other and with their music. [wiki]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer
Best Cinematography
Best Music, Original Score
Best Editing

This film played a lot on HBO when I was a teenager, so I had seen scenes from it before, it just didn't grab my complete attention back then. And it's a good film, it's relaxing and rather entertaining which works great for it. The writing is ok, the kind that would receive an Oscar nomination, but I guess it was just a crowded category that year. 

I'll save my comments about Michelle for the other blog - she won almost every single critics' award for this performance, and might I say I think she is/was a bit overpraised (don't shoot!). Jeff is fine, and Beau Bridges should've received a Supporting Actor nomination, for a performance that's both funny and seems way too easy to do (which I'm sure it was not). The cinematography nomination feels a bit unusual.

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. Enjoyable, not too dated.

Music Box (1989)

A lawyer defends her father accused of war crimes, but there is more to the case than she suspects. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Jessica Lange

This is another film to surprise me recently, first because it starts so painfully bad, and then because it shifts completely becoming a very interesting film, a courtroom drama. There's a slow start for everyone: from the poor dialogue to Armin Mueller-Stahl's questionable acting to Jessica's hesitation and overpreciousness. Luckily it gets better as soon as the trial starts and it's an uphill journey from then on.

The music box twist comes as a nice surprise, so was the trip to Hungary. Jessica's acting just keeps getting better, though unfortunately Armin's doesn't. In the hands of the right actor (a bigger name, maybe), it could've also been an Oscar nominated performance. I hear Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau were both considered, both better choices. 

My rating for the film: 7.5/10. I get it why some don't like it, because it simplifies things too much, but I enjoyed the second half, by contrast to the awful first half an hour. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wag the Dog (1997) (2nd time)

Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actor: Dustin Hoffman
Best Adapted Screenplay

I think it's been almost a decade since first watching this film and I was curious, really curious, to see it again. I remembered parts of it, but I wasn't sure my feelings on it were still accurate. You know how sometimes you're maybe too young for some of these smart films. Also, Dustin's Oscar nomination is still fascinating - don't get me wrong, he fully deserves it (!) as he is fantastic in the role - but it seems like an unusual one, for a role that's not flashy in the classic Oscar way, nor dramatic.

So I liked the film even more the second time. Because it's relaxing, easy to watch, amusing and very well written. There's not one boring moment in it. Anne Heche is surprisingly good, De Niro is fine, but it's Dustin who steals the spotlight. He brings the humour and the outrageous aspects, in an exciting performance.

My rating for the film: 9/10. It was my initial intention of going with 8.5/10. Most people would find the 9/10 waaaaaay too generous, but hey - I enjoyed it, for the silly satire it is.