Wednesday, 30 November 2011

American Beauty

 American Beauty 1999
Directed by Sam Mendes
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 5

Lester Burnham is depressed. His life is boring and ordinary, and his marriage and relationship with his only daughter is strained and almost non-existent. But then, he swoons and falls (lustily) for Jane's good friend Angela. Meanwhile, Jane is striking up a relationship with a drug dealer next door, who films everything he sees, and his wife is also looking for a way to break out of this boring life she has.

I'm just going to throw it out there now, but I didn't particularily enjoy this film. Granted, I'm not particularly enthused by the story of a 42 year old man fantasizing and lusting after a 16-18 year old girl. I'm also not into drug dealing, affairs and swearing. So this movie wasn't exactly my cup of tea.

I'm not sure if it was the fact I'm not good at watching films the whole way through on my own (which I did for this one) or if I just didn't like the film in general, but I found it went by very slowly, and wasn't all that exciting. Lester Burnham I was found very embarassing. I felt embarassed for him when he couldn't stop staring (obviously) at Angela when they first meet, or just how obvious he is about everything else about his obsession. But I guess that was the point?

What made this film sad was the attitudes of every single character in this movie. I just don't understand how someone can let their marriage fall apart, and then proceed to complain, even though they didn't even try to save it, like we see in this movie. Or how daughters complain that her father doesn't care when she isn't making any effort at all. Or how people can have affairs and be attracted to younger women and not be ashamed of themselves.

It saddens me to see how selfish every single character was in this movie. And that's just whats so wrong with America, and North America, and so many other places, today. We're selfish people, and blame others when things go wrong. And I didn't like that about the movie. They didn't realize how much they themselves were at fault and continued to blame others.

There was just too much sexual references/content, drugs, swearing, and selfishness for me to even feel sorry a single character in this film. Harsh, but true.

While I thought Thomas Newman wrote an excellent score, and Annette Benning was great, overall, this movie wasn't exactly my thing, nor did I enjoy it, though the ending was a twist, and was suspenseful. Sorry, unpopular opinion, I suppose.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 8.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 3/10 
Entertainment- 5/10 
Rewatchability- 4/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 5/10 
Overall Package- 6.5/10       

Total: 62/100

Saturday, 26 November 2011

MillIon Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby, 2004
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 4

Frankie Dunn has coached some amazing boxers in his time, but he "doesn't train girls". At least, that's what he tells Maggie Fitzgerald when she comes up to him after a match, when she joins his gym, and when she won't go away. After a little convincing from his old partner that helps him oversee his gym, Eddie Scrap-Irons Dupris, and when his best fighter leaves him for another coach and goes on to win World Champion, he finally agrees to take her own, and she tells him he'll never regret it.

I got this movie out from the public library. I got about halfway through it when it started acting up, and then just stopped working completely. At that point, while I searched for the rest online (shhh) and loaded it up, I thought this movie was so-so. Hilary Swank was pretty good, Morgan Freeman was great (when he had screentime), and Clint Eastwood... well, he's not really my favourite actor, though he also did a good performance.

The story was interesting, albeit progressing really slowly, with not too much action besides the odd might (which Maggie always seems to be losing, or owning). It was more talk than action, and I haven't decided whether that was a good thing or not. I wasn't exactly sure where this was going when we got to the halfway point.

It's hard to make any comments anymore because the second half of the movie completely makes up for the slow and drawn out first. This is where all the performances truly shine. Swank blew me with her performance, as did Eastwood. Though Morgan Freeman, who won an Oscar for this performance, didn't have a whole lot of screen time.

The lighting, also, I thought was interesting in this film. I know that's kind of an odd thing to remark upon, but I really noticed it. Many times, faces were shadowed while bodies had light cast upon them, or half faces were illuminated, and half weren't, or only one characters could be seen. It was an interesting technique.

I'm not sure what else to say about this film because if I say anything else, I would spoil so much of it. This is a tough rate because the 2 halves of the movie were so different, and I felt so differently about the two of them. I'm sorry I can't say more about this film, but this is a spoiler-free blog!

The only thing I was say more is, I haven't cried harder in any film. Yet. But I am, slightly, a movie-crier.

Overall, the film was an okay one. It's definitely not my favourite movie, not even my favourite boxing movie (The Fighter was just really good, sorry), but it had some great performances, looked really great, had an interesting story, and had potential, though I think it could've been done better, though I do applaud the ending, which was fantastically done.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 
Music- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 8.5/10 
Entertainment- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 
Overall Package- 7.5/10       

Total: 76/100

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

2012 Predictions

I've posted in the sidetabs, my current predictions for the 2012 Nominations. They are made up mostly of guess-work, and buzz, as I've seen hardly any of the films so far (besides Moneyball, The Help, Harry Potter).

But I'll update in a few weeks after I've seen some more of the films (I plan to see The Descendants and My Week With Marilyn soon!), and predict some winners (:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An American In Paris

An American In Paris, 1951
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, Won 6.

Synopsis: Jerry Mulligan is a struggling American painter, living in Paris after being a soldier in WWII. He gets discovered on the streets by a rich young woman, who decides to sponsor him, and get him set up with exhibitions and meet important people to become successful. But she's got more on her mind that Jerry's art. At the same time, Jerry has swooned for a French girl named Lise, who is already engaged to an acquiantence of Jerry's, though neither of them know this- yet. But, as we all know, it's going to happen eventually, and the situation will be quite comical indeed.

I watched the movie Singin' In The Rain for the first time about a month and a half ago, and absolutely adored it. The tap dancing, laughing hysterically at Donald O'Connor's antics, and may or may not have been swooning over Gene Kelly. SInce then, I've watched it once or twice more, and still love it. So naturally, when I was looking over the list of Oscar Winning Pictures, and looked into what An American In Paris was about, I was excited to see it was a musical- and Gene Kelly was in it!

I quickly made a reservation at the library for it (along with a couple others) and was eager to watch it. I snuggled into bed and watched this movie on a rainy night with my mother, glad for someone to watch a movie with, because I find I can hardly ever sit through a movie by myself. But I digress.

The story itself, unfolded quite nicely and quickly (though not too quickly). We are introduced to the three main men quite quickly. Jerry Mulligan, Adam Cook (Jerry's friend, another American in Paris) and Adam Cook's good friend Henri Baurel, a cabaret singer, and Lise's boyfriend/fiance. Not ten minutes later, have we met the two main women; Milo Roberts, the rich young woman who takes a liking to more than just Jerry's painting, and Lise Bouvier, the young dancer who works at a perfume shop, and is with Henri.

The situation quickly sets itself up. We open on the film with Henri telling Adam Cook about this woman he is in love with. We learn about Lise, without realizing she is to be a main player in the film. Then we see Jerry and Lise encounter each other for the first time at a smoky Jerry is instantly drawn to Lise, while he is out with Milo and some friends shortly after Milo and Jerry meet when she purchases 2 of Jerry's paintings. Lise is resistant, but Jerry is persistant, while Milo is still vying for his attention.

I quite enjoyed this film. It was a light-hearted romantic-musical-comedy, with some brilliant situational irony (you can just imagine what is happening at this point), dance numbers and okay songs. While I didn't think the music was mighty fantastic, I thought Gene Kelly was great. He was really convincing as a poor painter, and played obvious, adamant, and happy-go-lucky lover, so well.

Newcomer Leslie Caron (Lise) was also really good. While I didn't much care for her character, she's an extremely, extremely talented dancer, if nothing else. She really holds her own next to Kelly (I'm just biased because I love tap dancing, though I can't do it myself) and the 17-minute long finale was really quite something. She's a very very talented woman.

While I enjoyed this movie, I didn't love it. I thought the dancing was great, the music was so-so, Gene Kelly looked great, and the storyline was pretty good. While I enjoyed it, I know there are several other musicals that didn't win Best Picture I liked much better, though it was decent, and cute.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 9/10 
Music- 9/10 
Emotional Connection- 7/10 
Entertainment- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 7/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 
Overall Package- 7/10       

Total: 77.5/100

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker, 2008
Directed by Katheryn Bigelow
Nominated for 9 Oscars, won 6.
Synopsis: A new sergeant, Will James, has come to take over a an elite squad of roadside bomb disposal team after their previous sergeant was killed on the job. James is reckless and wild, and very different from their last sergeant. He shows himself to be unafraid and indifferent to life, death, and everything around him, except disarming bombs. His two subordinates, Sanborn (a strong, fierce man) and Eldridge (someone suffering post-traumatic stress after the death of their previous sergeant) are both just trying to adjust and deal with this new, wild, reckless man leading them. But war doesn't leave you indifferent. If anything, it leads you to caring too much, and thus trying not to care.
At least, this is what Ms. Bigelow shows us in her (almost) documentary-style film about bomb disposal soldiers in Iraq.
I settled down to watch this movie with my boyfriend. I was interested in seeing this film. I had watched the first 20 minutes or so in film class, and wondered about the rest of the movie. Being extremely oblivious to war (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc), politics, and the like, I wasn't sure how much of this movie I would understand, or even like.
But I quickly found myself transported into this world that I had no idea existed. I see just exactly how war is affecting everyone. How tricky it is to weed out the citizens you want to help, with the citizens who want to kill you. How much you can't get attached, and how much you have to block out in order to not bleed to death from the hopelessness of it all.
All Oscars it won for the technical side were well-won. Film editing, sound mixing and sound editing. Everything was so rocky and raw and real that I felt like I was there in Iraq, wearing the bomb protection suit, or in the Humvee with them. 
The cinematography was indeed, also, very good. Very shaky, and amateur, but on purpose. To not try to take anything away from what's going on. So you can't put a glamour on what you're seeing. This is real. You also saw so much of what they saw. How many places you have to keep watch over; balcony's, minarets, windows, everything.  All the people who constantly around, and just how poor Baghdad really is.
I really appreciated this movie because even though I wasn't sure exactly what was going on all the time, it didn't dumb down the movie to make it simple for viewers. It threw them into the life of these soldiers, where they weren't beginners. You jumped right in, and there was nothing to introduce you, which I thought was refreshing.
I really enjoyed this film because of the character of Will James. He was a complex character, and I really felt so much sympathy for, not only him, but all of the soldiers. It's just so sad what's going on over there. That war like this is going on.  It really taught me a lot about what's going on in the world, or at least in Iraq, and just how much the American soldiers do. Or how much they suffer, and how much this is affecting them. And just how much we take forgranted here. America, and Canada.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8/10 
Visuals- 8.5/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 8/10 
Entertainment- 8/10 
Rewatchability- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10 
Overall Package- 8/10       

Total: 80.5/100

The Help

The Help, 2011
Directed by Tate Taylor
Possible Nominations include: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song

Synopsis: Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen (Davis), Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up -- to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories -- and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly -- and unwillingly -- caught up in the changing times. (Source: IMDB)

I saw this film a while back, so you'll forgive me if I forget some things.
I remember coming across mentions of this film back in January. I had just watched Emma Stone in a movie, and wondered what else she was coming out in, and read about the Help. Then I read that it could be an Oscar Favourite. Then before it came out, I watched the trailer and was intrigued. So like the bookworm I am, I picked up the book and read it first, before going to see. I loved the book. Not knowing much about racism in the South, besides the little they teach in Canadian schools, I learned so much. Racism didn't make a whole lot of sense. And young Skeeter saw this.
I went to see the film with my mother on a Cheap Tuesday evening in early September. Yeah, 2 months ago, I know. I remember being a little nervous, because the book was so long, with several different story lines and characters that I wasn't sure how true to the book it was going to be. Being a Harry Potter fan, I become weary when a book becomes a movie because more often than not, it's not adapted well. But I must say, this one was.

The film was well done. They handled telling three different women's stories quite well. Skeeter's storyline was interesting, without making her too much the focus. You felt Aibileen's frustration and heartbreak, and you grow to love Minny, hilarious as she is, and also really sympathise everything she is going through- between caring for a "crazy white lady", having an abusive husband, and, well, being black in 1960's Louisiana. 

Additionally, this film was acted quite well. Viola Davis (Aibileen) is almost a lock for Best Actress, as well as Octavia Spencer (Minny) most likely being nominated for Best Supporting. Emma Stone, while her accent occasionally got away from her, held her own, this being (as far as I know) her first very serious role. Bryce Dallas Howard, was fantasticly evil, and brilliant.

Overall, I really liked this film. It's an interesting story, not too predictable, and educational. While it is likely to get nominated for Best Picture in 2012, it is extremely unlikely it shall win. As much as I liked it, I know it's not quite the Academy's sort of film, but we'll see when the show rolls around.

Rating: A-

No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men 2007, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 4.
Synopsis: In rural Texas, welder and hunter Llewelyn Moss discovers the remains of several drug runners who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. Rather than report the discovery to the police, Moss decides to simply take the two million dollars present for himself. This puts the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh, on his trail as he dispassionately murders nearly every rival, bystander and even employer in his pursuit of his quarry and the money. As Moss desperately attempts to keep one step ahead, the blood from this hunt begins to flow behind him with relentlessly growing intensity as Chigurh closes in. Meanwhile, the laconic Sherrif Ed Tom Bell blithely oversees the investigation even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to thwart.
(source: IMDB)
Before watching this movie, I was under the impression that this film was going to be extremely boring. It didn't look all that thrilling to me, and was sure I wasn't going to enjoy it much. I remembered when it came out, and seeing the previews for it. I didn't think too much about the movie, not did I remember what it was about when I decided to start this project, and picked up this film at the library.
Reading the back of the box, I felt optimistic. It said it was an "action-packed thriller" and the story about a man finding dead men, a truck full of drugs, 2 million dollars cash, and violence sounded pretty promisin Unfortunately, I came out of the film disappointed.
The film started interestingly. We see Javier Bardem, killing various people in shocking and unexpected way and we know this guy is going to be a mastermind, and a huge played in the film. Though his relevance takes a while to unfold. We are about 25 minutes into the film before we see why we are looking at this killer.
We also follow the storylines of Llewelyn Moss, a retired welder and hunter, who is the main, main protagonist of this film, and sherriff Ed Tom Bell, who is on the verge of retirement, but friendly with the town-folk.
I remember sitting through this, and the action had finally started. Chigurh was tracking Moss, and many people are getting killed. There's several moments of suspense, but not much else. I started to find some of this film fairly predictable. Chigurh is in the house, don't do in. Chigurh put a tracker in the money. Chigurh has already caught up to you, run fast! While the movie didn't end as I had expected, I sat on my couch, thinking about what had just happened. That was it? But where was the action-packed thriller that I was promised? Sure, there was action (sparingly) and suspense (in a few moments) but overall, I found the film to be lacking. Had I not went into this thinking this was going to be some constant-action movie, I may have appreciated it more. But there we have it, false advertising the summary on the back of the DVD holds.
That being said, everything else about the film was quite fantastic. The acting was great, Javier Bardem (who won an Oscar for this role, as Chigurh) especially. He was extraordinarily creepy, and his acting was spotless. He seriousness was flawless, and his character was stunning. Pulling huge and unexpected weapons from seemingly nowhere, and killing without a blink.
Additionally, it was visually stunning. The cinematography was fantastic, and the landscapes were beautiful. The cinematographer, certainly did a stunning job.
Overall, the film was a strange one, but just ok. Had it not been acted so well, or looked so good, I wouldn't understand the hype that this movie received. While I somewhat enjoyed it, it wasn't a favourite.

Acting- 9.5/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8/10 
Visuals- 9/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 6.5/10 
Entertainment- 6.5/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 
Overall Package- 8/10       

Total: 77.5/100

hello again!

Originally this was posted on but I wasn't too thrilled with wordpress and find myself a lot more well-adjusted to Blogger. So here I am, I'm back!

I've become a big fan of film lately, and have been getting into the Academy Awards the last few years, and have decided upon 2 challenges. (1) to watch my way through all 83 winners of Best Pictures and (2) watch all pictures nominated for best picture for the 2012 Oscars.

Here I will be posting a mix of these reviews, very old and very new films, giving my opinion and just sharing what I've been watching! Feel free to provide feedback; comments, things I'm doing well, things I'm doing wrong, and just general helpful tips for writing reviews- I'm not exactly a professional here!

So here we gooo!