Saturday, 28 April 2012

The King's Speech

The King's Speech, 2010
Directed by Tom Hooper
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 4.
Up Against: The Social Network, Black Swan, The Fighter, True Grit, Inception, Toy Story 3, The Kid's Are Alright, Winter's Bone, 127 Hours

As I've said in a previous post, The King's Speech makes into my favourite movies arena. I seriously enjoyed it, and I'm putting that up front right now before I do a little analysis and say what I liked and didn't like about it.

For those of you who don't know, this movie is the story on King George VI, known as Bertie. Bertie is the Duke of York, and struggles with a speech impediment that makes it very difficult for him to speak (much less in front of an audience). His wife, Elizabeth is reffered to a quirky speech therapist named Lionel. While Bertie is hesitant at first, he finds himself needing help, and knows Lionel can help him. Soon, he is thrust on the throne  very unexpectedly. How can Bertie lead a country if he can hardly speak?

This is Tom Hooper's second feature film after having done great work doing several different mini-series. He and the crew knew that they had to get some sort of star attached to this project or it may never lift off the ground. Someone in the crew lived  near Geoffrey Rush and they got them to slip the script through Rush's mailbox, with a note attached to it apologizing that it was unsolicited but they desperately wanted him to do the film. Who knew the act of slipping an unsolicited script through a mailbox started the process in what ended up to be the next Best Picture winner.

The crew were able to find their star-studded cast, having Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, along with Geoffrey Rush, to play the three lead. Geoffrey Rush was such a treat in this film. He was quirky and zany, but he was also inspiring. Rush really nailed the part of quirky, Aussie Lionel (though the accent was only sort of there). Helena Bonham-Carter was lovely, which is in stark contrast with her character Bellatrix LeStrange in Harry Potter, which she was filming at the same time as the King's Speech. She was supportive of her husband, but she was broken-hearted over this hurt her husband was going through. And she was a little bit uppity, but Helena is wonderful, and was able to play all of it convincingly, and with lots of grace and poise.

And then there's Colin Firth. Honestly, we was so phenomenal in this role. His stuttering was heartbreaking, especially the beginning speech in the movie, just those horrible echoing noises, and just not knowing how to get his words out. Colin Firth both broke my heart and made me laugh throughout this movie. He was able to strike the right balance between humor and sorrow, especially in the scene while talking about his childhood with Lionel. Colin Firth really embraced this role, and seemed to truly get into the heart of the character. His speech impediment, and his stuttering were perfect and were never too overboard, or too subtle. He struck the right amount, making it more severe in some situations, and less so in others.

The scenery and artwork and costumes were all great. Alexandre Desplat gives us a lovely score. Nothing too brilliant, though in some of the more emotional tracks (Queen Elizabeth, Memories of Childhood), he replays a single not over and over, almost as though it is stuttering and can't get farther. But that may be me reading into Desplats music (though I doubt it, he's played themes backwards and forward before).

One thing that bothered me is sometimes the cinematography tried to be too "artsy". There were a lot of awkward, character in the very corner of the shot, sometimes cutting the person beside them out. It's hard to explain without showing. Google didn't have many good examples. This was as close as I could get

Overall, the film told it's story well. It showed the problem right up front, and showed how Bertie dealt with it (or didn't), and how exactly it affected his life, and why.

Many will say this is one of the most competitive and disputed years. You'll hear such debates as Shakespeare in Love vs Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump vs Pulp Fiction, and I know that list has come to include The King's Speech vs The Social Network. Like the 2 debates mentioned above, both are incredibly different and very opposite movies. The King's Speech is a classy period piece, while The Social Network was very modern and dealt with something very current. Both have pros and cons about them, but for this one, I'm going to have to side with The King's Speech. It took me a few tries to warm up to the Social Network and appreciate what it is. While it had good acting, the acting in TKS is much stronger, though TSN excelled in the music (the music and movie had amazing chemistry) and cinematography.

Unpopular(ish) opinion, but I dearly love The King's Speech. It was an uplifting, yet sad, movie, and had some very wonderful performances.

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

Total: 76/100

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Best Pictures Ranked (of the 30 so far)

Update: a full ranking of all winners can be seen Here

So to celebrate that I've watched and reviewed I'm posting the ranking, from worst to best, of all the Best Picture's I've watched so far. You may not agree with my rankings, but I thought I'd be a fun little thing to commemorate making it to 30, after only 6 months of reviewing and blogging.

(note: some of  the ratings don't go in order. I rate films not compared with anything else but the overall thought, and sometimes films that got a lower rating overall, I enjoyed better than something that was a .5 higher.)

30. How Green Was My Valley  4/10
This film was just very long, and very dull, with very little action, nor anything of interest. It told the story of a family living in a Welsh coal-mining town. It sounded like it would be funny and interesting but didn't turn out that way, for me.

29. West Side Story- 4/10
I've never really understood the hype over this musical. The songs were alright, and the choreography was great, but the acting was pretty terrible, the story line (Romeo and Juliet modern-day retelling in New York with Americans vs. Latinos? With gang/turf wars?) was pretty lame too. It just wasn't the musical for me.

28. Going My Way- 6/10
Again, while it sounded like an interesting story, and Bing Crosby is a really good actor, it was a bit too long, and a bit too much not like what it said it was going to be. And just sort of dragged out the story line. There were a couple nice songs in it though.

27. The Broadway Melody- 5.5/10
Honestly, I thought this movie was pretty impressive for a movie made in 1930. The first talking film to win, and the 2nd winner overall. While it wasn't overly interesting, it was neat to recognize some of the music. And it was pretty good for something so old.

26. American Beauty- 5/10
While I realize this movie is supposed to be complex, and "deep", I just can't take movies like this very seriously, nor can I find myself to empathize for the main character. Sex and nudity don't go well with me either.

25. Shakespreare in Love- 6.5/10
While I thought it was alright, it's just funny to see what the Academy thinks is the best. Personally, I would've pushed it off as another period piece chick flick with lots of big name actors.

24. All Quiet on the Western Front- 6/10
WWI is something I find so tragic. So it was interesting to watch one of the first movies on the topic. While it was made in 1930, it was pretty impressive. The special effects weren't terrible, and the acting was quite good. However the story was a little slow and the characters weren't very connectable.

23. Terms of Endearment- 6.5/10
This was a cute story with good acting. However, some of it felt a little unrealistic, and some of it was just boring. And then the end came as a bit of a shocker, but I felt I hadn't connected well with any of the characters to really care as much as I ought to.

22. All About Eve- 6.5/10
One of the first Hollywood satires. It was a funny story, but was a little too drawn out at 2 hours and 18 minutes. It had a funny, witty script, and had some great performances (including an early Marilyn Monroe appearance).

21. Forrest Gump- 6.5/10
While we've seen movies time and again with people with "simple" mind views, Forrest Gump is probably the best known. While Tom Hanks have an amazing performance, the movie couldn't seem to decide if it was serious or funny, and that really hindered it for me.

20. A Man for All Seasons - 7/10
Being a Christian myself, I felt this movie had a very strong message, and found it quite inspiring. In the typical "die for what you believe in" this movie was well acted, if a little long.

19. The Departed- 7/10
Martin Scorsese's very first Best Picture and Director win. While it was good, and had an interesting plot, excessive swearing always puts me off a movie a little bit. And gangster/crime movies aren't really my thing. However, Leo, Matt, Mark and Jack were all fantastic.

18. Casablanca- 7/10
One of the big classics on the list. Humphrey Bogart being that suave lover, and Ingrid Bergman as the confused woman in love, it was a classy movie, with an interesting story. While it wasn't my favourite movie ever, nor was it what I expected it to be, it was good.

17. No Country for Old Men- 7/10
Very different from all the other best picture winners is No Country for Old Men, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. It's a thriller, with guns, blood, violence, drugs and money. Javier Bardem floored me in this role. But reading it was a 'fast-paced action thriller' really left me disappointed, since that wasn't what it was at all. It was slow-burning, and psychological. A second watching may bring up the rating.

16. Slumdog Millionaire- 7.25/10
India, slums, romance, and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. This movie portrays the slums of India, and tells a young Indian boys story in a brutal and honest way. While it wasn't my favourite movie of the year, or even of the nominees, I understand why it won. (Oh, and the little kids were probably the best part of the movie)

15. Chicago- 7/10
I was surprised by enjoying this musical. I thought it was funny, and the way they song numbers were done was interesting and different from other musicals, being on stage, and as an "inner monologue". The dancing was great, and Catherine Zeta-Jones was brilliant and sexy.

14. An American in Paris- 7.5/10
After seeing Singin' In the Rain, I've been kind of a sucker for Gene Kelly and for tap dancing. While the movie wasn't as charming as Singin', and with less tap, this movie looked great, was fun, and had great dancing.

13. Gigi- 7.5/10
Another musical, starring Leslie Caron, who got her start in the previous movie, An American In Paris. This movie, while it wasn't the best musical ever was cute, and fun, and girly. And a girl like me likes stuff like that sometimes.

12. Million Dollar Baby- 7.5/10
The first half of the movie bored me a little bit. The second half I spent bawling my eyes out. Hillary Swank was simply amazing. It was very interesting, very sad, and really well made.

11. Rain Man- 7.5/10
Through this project has brought me to really love Dustin Hoffman. And this movie definitely showcased his amazing abilities. While the movie wasn't altogether exciting, Dustin Hoffman was truly incredible, and I hardly realized it was even a performance.

10. The Bridge on the River Kwai- 8/10
I thought this movie would be boring, but I found it quite interesting. It's very different from any war movie we've seen, and tells the interesting story of soldiers who are prisoners of war, and how one stood up for what he believed in, and how they were able to succeed. I liked it a lot.

9. The Lost Weekend- 8/10
I thought this movie was incredibly interesting. It's about an alcoholic, in the time when alcohol addiction wasn't talked about very much. It was well-acted, and showed it in a really personal way. I enjoyed it. 

8. Gentleman’s Agreement- 8/10
Another interesting movie, from around the same time period. It's about a reported who goes under cover as a Jew to write an article on antisemitism. While it only stayed in the upper class way of things, it was interesting nonetheless and really showed how much antisemitism there was in the States. 

7. The Artist- 8.25/10
This year's winner, and the first silent film to win since the 20's (and only the 2nd one overall). It's a love story, but it's more than that. It's the rise and fall of the silent film era. It's depression and loneliness, pride and cowardice. Jean Dujardin gave an amazing performance and the film was really fun, as well as interesting. 

6. Annie Hall- 8.25/10
Probably one of the only comedies to win Best Picture (only comedy?). It's the story of a disfunctional relationship, not unlike (500) Days of Summer. It was cute and funny, and Woody Allen is adorable. 

5. Driving Miss Daisy- 8.75/10
I know a lot of people give this movie heck for winning, but I watched it with my mum, and we both really enjoyed it. Morgan Freeman is so great, and this role gave him a different side that I hadn't seen him do before. It was cute, fun, and just a nice movie. I like those kind too. 

4. Kramer vs. Kramer - 8.75/10
This is the movie that made me really like Dustin Hoffman. I'm too young to have really seen him in anything before, and I thought this movie was really good. I cried, and I laughed. Dustin was great, Meryl was goooorgeous, and their little boy was adorable. An interesting insight on divorce, when the dad is usually the one made out as the bad guy or the cheater. 

3. Titanic- 8.75/10
I'm a sucker for this movie, what can I say? I have a strange fascination with Titanic in the first place, so I'm pretty biased towards anything on the subject. Leonardo DiCaprio was great, and Kate Winslet was heartbreaking. I like romance, I like Titanic, and I cried a lot.

2. The Hurt Locker- 8.75/10
I'm really not sure why I liked this movie so much. I don't get into politcal movies, and I've never much been a fan of war films either, but I really, really liked this movie. It was different, gritty, and threw me right into the Iraq war. It had the interesting way of not being biased to one political take on the war or the other. It was more about the people, how they dealt with the war, and their feelings. I don't know why, but it was so good. 

1. Oliver!- 9/10
Childhood favourite, there's always a bias. This film never gets old, the music is fabulous and it's just so fun. I love this movie. 

So there you go, everyone. All 30 of the Best Picture's I've watched, ranked from worst to best. I know many will disagree, but I have a funny taste in movies. Enjoy!

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Titanic, 1997
Directed by James Cameron
Nominated for 14 Oscars, Won 11
Up Against: As Good As It Gets, Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, LA Confidental

We all know the story of Titanic, especially now, with the world reminding us of it's 100th anniversary since it's sinking. For those of you who've been hiding under a rock, Titanic was, at the time, the largest ship in the world, and was struck by an iceberg on it's maiden voyage, killing 68.2% of all people on board, around 1523 people. The movie follows 2 young people. Jack Dawson, a young man who wins his ticket onto the Titanic in a poker game. He's poor, but has big dreams and takes nothing in life for granted. When he sets eyes on Rose, he makes a connection that will change his life. Rose is an upper class lady, engaged to marry a very rich man. But Rose is unhappy with her life. She detests everyone around her, and wants to live life, and see the world, not to submit to a husband whom she doesn't love, or do what people tell her to. She meets Jack while trying to work up the courage to jump off the end of the Titanic, to kill herself. He convinces her to stay, and saves her life when she slips and almost falls into the water after trying to climb back onto the boat. After this, the two find themselves falling in love.

While watching this movie, I realized I had come to see it on an interesting day. April 14th. The Titanic went down very early (2:20am) on April 15th. It was uncanny timing, as I hadn't planned it, but it was eerie nonetheless. The Titanic is a topic I find extraordinarily interesting and a story I've always felt myself drawn to. While it definitely wasn't the largest boat accident/sinking, it sunk under such unusual circumstances, and on it's maiden voyage, leaving so many dead and frozen in the waters. I hadn't seen this film in a really long time. I've seen bits and pieces over the years when it plays on TV, but haven't watched the whole thing for probably 4 or 5 years. So it was almost like watching a whole new film, as I remembered so little.

If I'm correct, this film is what really brought Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio into the international limelight. Kate, playing Rose, received her first Academy Award nomination. Kate was delightful as Rose. She captured her spirit, her ambition, and her fire and really made her believable. Leonardo DiCaprio played Jack, who had initially turned the role down. Leo was also great in his role, playing the smart but poor young man who finds himself falling for Rose. Surprisingly, he received no nomination.

This film is incredibly stunning. The shots of the ship are gorgeous. James Cameron did a phenomenal job with everything set related. He studied everything he could on the Titanic for several years, and even organizaed several dives to the wreckage site over 2 years, and having filmed and looked farther into the Titanic than anyone else had been since it's original passengers. All the footage seen in the film was Cameron's own footage of his dives. Cameron constructed a replica of the Titanic which was almost to full scale, thought the lifeboats and funnels were 90% to scale and only the starboard side of the ships exterior was completed. The sets were reconstructed either by or under the supervision of researchers of the White Star Line, the company that created the original ship. Cameron studied the Titanic for 5 years before going into production. As a result, his film is made incredibly accurately. The interior set designs were based off the original blueprints of the ship, and modeled after her sister ship, Olympic.

The filming of the sinking scenes were 90% filmed on set. The replica boat was able to be put on an angle to make it appear as though it's sinking, and the destruction of the infamous staircase was truly destroyed by the water. The scene of the ship splitting was also the actual replica. It was split into several sections, and was actually sunk, and filmed. Cameron was really striving for accuracy when filming, and wanted to show it's sinking as it probably actually happened, and did this, for the most part, without computer generated effects.

James Horner, no stranger to the film world at that point, composed the music, as well as the song "My Heart Will Go On". The music in this movie is gorgeous, with a flicker of Irish, and really captures the love between Rose and Jack. And everything technical, whether it be costumes, art/set direction, cinematography, everything was so well done. It's even said that every single female extra wore corsets, even if they were in the background and hardly seen.

What I love about this film is how it portrays the sinking. It doesn't talk facts, or stats, or anything like that. It focuses on two people, who were there and experienced it, and makes you realize as interesting as something like the Titanic sinking was, it was a real story, and so many people were lost. And that's the point Cameron really wanted to get across. While the story of Jack and Rose is a little cliche, it made the story of the Titanic personal, and real. And that came across so well.

Titanic really is an epic film. We get the real story, and see what it was like from several different points of view. We see how the third class were locked in for so long, many of them drowning in the ship. We see the first class people in the boats, not willing to turn back and save those who were in the water, stranded. We see that only one life boat went back to find survivors, only to find it was too late. We see people jumping off the boat, people hanging on for dear life. We see the people who willingly stayed behind; an elderly couple who laid in bed as the water drifts in, and a mother with her two children telling them a story. We see things from all different kinds of perspectives, making this story all the more heartbreaking. We're frustrated with the workers on the ship when we hear they're sending out lifeboats not even half full, even though there's not enough boats for even half the people on board. We see the captain go down with the ship, and people killing themselves. All of this perfectly executed by Cameron, and most of it filmed, as I mentioned before, on set, rather than visual effects.

This movie has come down as a classic. It's won 11 Oscars, tied for the most won. It was nominated for 14, tied for most nominated. It's the 2nd highest grossing film in the world (was the first until 2010). It's regarded as one of the best romance movies, and it spent the most weeks at the top of the box office, consecutively. It gave Leonardo DiCaprio international "hottie" status, and sprung both Kate Winslet's and Leonardo DiCaprio's career to a higher level. The film was made after dedicated research and even several Titanic historians were hired to validate much of what Cameron was doing.

Honestly, I really loved this movie. The acting is great, the story is tragic, and just everything is so accurate, you can tell James Cameron has such a passion for this story and for this event. He made it personal, instead of just facts and being an "interesting event". While many criticize it for being a love story, being long, etc, this is something I really liked. I like that sometimes romances win Best Picture. They're a part of the movie culture, and it's a part of most everyone's lives. The film was exceedingly well done, and had so much heart and soul put into it. Plus I'm a girl, and I'm allowed to love romance movies right?

Acting- 18/20
Directing- 20/20
Writing- 18/20
Personal Enjoyment- 19.5/20
Overall Package -18.5/20

Total: 94/100

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, 2012
Directed by Gary Ross

By now I'm sure you're all familiar with what 'The Hunger Games' is all about. I'll break it down briefly for those who don't know. In the ruins of North America, now named Panem, there are 12 districts, each living in poverty and oppressed by the Capitol, a spoiled city. And to reaffirm their control, they hold, annually, something called the Hunger Games, where a one boy and one girl from each district, between the ages of 12 and 18 must fight to the death in an arena, until only one stands. The winner is awarded fame, wealth, and safety. Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12. When her little sister is plucked from the bowl of names to be a tribute, Katniss volunteers in her place. A boy her age named Peeta is also selected, in which she has ties to. And the Hunger Games begin.

I know, this review is a couple weeks late. I had originally planned to see it the Saturday after it opened, with a bunch of friends. We'd pre-ordered tickets and everything, but I got the stomach flu the morning of, and just haven't had time to see it since. Finally, 2 weeks later, I've seen in! I picked up the first book after the urging of my friend around a year ago, during the very early stages of casting. The books weren't a huge deal yet, but it was picking up steam. I read them all pretty quick, and while I wasn't awestruck with the books, they were good reads with a strong message, and knew they would translate to screen a lot better than most things.

 First, let me just say all the performances, I thought, were pretty spot on. A lot of people had reservations about Jennifer Lawrence being too sexy, and Josh Hutcherson being too young, or just not what they'd imagined at all. But getting Jennifer Lawrence on as Katniss was a really great move. She's an Oscar nominated actress, and this role is quite similar in nature to Ree, the character she played in Winter's Bone, in which she was nominated. She really embodied Katniss in every way and gave such a real and gritty performance. She had Katniss's strength, but was also able to embody her vulnerability in a real way, and was able to find the balance between that and her strength and stubbornness, which, I'd imagine, is quite tricky. Jenn is a really diverse actress. She had a small but cute role in last year's Like Crazy, she played the sexy and mysterious Raven/Mystique in X-Men: First Class, and debuted in Winter's Bone. Jenn has such promise to be a really great actress, and she doesn't take it easy in this role. She pours a lot of emotion into her character, and draws back enough when needed to draw back. She gives Katniss strength and a ruthlessness. But you can still remember she's just a teenage girl, who has a family to look after. She's not the tough person she appears to be, and Jenn really captures this all.

The supporting cast was great too. Josh Hutcherson was great as Peeta. What I really appreciated about his performance was the subtleties he brought to Peeta. The smiles, and the stolen glances, that you knew he bought every word Katniss said, and that he's really in love with her, and it's not a game to him. He was able to make me feel for his character in a way I hadn't in the book. He made me realize what a tragic character Peeta is, constantly getting the rotten end of the stick. Having an undying and loyal love for Katniss, and not realizing until he's head over heels that it was just a game for her. While he didn't give a heart-stopping performance, he did give a nuanced one, and was quite good if you were really paying attention.

Such as this moment here. Just the way he looks at her, and he just loves her, you can tell. Just the one little glance (and tons more in this scene and throughout the film) sold me. And his reaction to being picked to the Games was great too. Just mouth half-open, hardly believing, and in shock, and even crying. I feel like this is an unpopular opinion since I keep reading people thought his performance was mediocre, but I felt like he really understood his character. It wasn't perfect, nor was it the best in the movie, but he really captured who Peeta is and what he's about. For that I applaud him.

 There are plenty of fun performances by various well known actors. Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci gave my favourite supporting performances in the film. Harrelson as the drunken, harsh mentor of the 2 District 12 tributes gave a great performance. He was funny, he was a jerk, and then you saw the side of him where he really cared. And Stanley Tucci, you could tell he was really having fun with his part. The faces he made, his laughter, just the way he carried himself, it was such a fun performance to watch. Other fun supporting actors included Elizabeth Banks as the cooky and colourful Effie, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane and Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith.

The pacing of the movie, I found, to be balanced quite well. I had wondered how long they would spend on the preparations before the Games. The training and all that. I felt they kept in a good amount. It was long enough that you got the picture, and got enough information about the tributes, and about Haymitch and Peeta, that you needed to know before the Games. It was a good chunk, but it never overstayed its welcome. It was a large chunk in the book, and was a large chunk in the film. It showed off just how much of an event this was to the Capitol, and showed how grotesque it really is, when you think about it, showing the balance between the showing off of the tributes and the dressing up, and the training. The Games were also well paced, though Katniss's time with Rue was very short and could've been extended for a fuller effect. The violence was definitely there, and we got touches of it, but, to keep it to a PG-13 rating, it was scarce and was shown in generalities only, though there is a lot of blood shown.

Additionally, the costuming and make-up were quite fun. They were outrageous and crazy, and were just so fun and playful. I wouldn't be surprised to see this film get either a make-up or a costume nod. Both were well done and were great.

One frequent complaint that I've read is the excessive use of "shaky cam". For the most part, I felt it was well-used. During fight scenes, understandable. Running through the woods, understandable. However, it was used way too much during the first half hour or so, I felt like I was watching the Hurt Locker. But it felt extremely misplaced when in the Capitol and on the train. I felt like I never got a very good look at anyone for the first little bit since it was zoomed awkwardly in some places, and was all very close shots, and hardly any wider shots for the first little while. Use of shaky cam should've been reserved for the Games, and it didn't have much business in the first half of the film, as it took away from the film more than it added to it. Additionally, some of the Visual Effects weren't that great. When Katniss and Peeta was on fire at the tribute parade, I actually chuckled out loud upon seeing. It looked incredibly fake, and phony. I realize they didn't have an enormous budget and it was saved for other things, but this looked pretty bad. Though I forgive them because most of the other things looked quite good.

There were many "added" in things as well, though all were incredibly beneficial to the film. The scenes between Seneca Crane and President Snow, the rebellion in District 11, the television discussion with Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith, etc. Even seeing more of Haymitch, and what kind of role he played in different things added more to the film that the book wasn't able to with a first person perspective.  We get to see the part Haymitch plays behind-the-scenes, and showing him sucking up his anti-socialism, and interacting with the sponsors in order to help Katniss, and just how much he really cares for her, and for Peeta. In a way, I felt the movie portrayed the overall themes and thoughts of the characters better than the book did, because it was less limited to Katniss's view.

Overall, this is one of the better blockbuster films, based on a YA novel no less, that has come out. With an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this film has done well for itself. Not to mention it had the biggest opening weekend, ever, for a non-sequel and has made a ton of money. This film has a wide appeal for both boys and girls, and it's great to see something the guys can get into as well, after having all-girls things like Twilight.
It's a fun movie, with some violence, some romance, and some fun costumes. It's a great movie, and a really well done adaptation.


Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957
Directed by David Lean
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 7
Up Against: Peyton Place, Sayonara, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution

Sorry for the hiatus, friends! It's crunch time at school as I write my final exams and finish up my college education in 2 weeks! But I found a little free time to watch a long movie. So here we go!

The Bridge On the River Kwai is set in WWII. It's the story of British soldiers who surrended to the Japanese army and are now in a prisoner of war camp in Burma. When the Japanese Colonel Saito commands that all the British prisoners ("not soldiers!") participate in building a bridge over the River Kwai, which would be an addition to the Burma-Siam railway and help advance the war by feeding the Japanese soldiers. He commands that the Officers are also expected to participate in the manual labor. Captain Nicholson flat-out refuses. The Geneva Convention (which he pulls out a copy of) states that Officers should not be used for manual labor in POW camps. Saito uses the Geneva Convention against him and slaps him with it, and puts him in a tin hut ("the oven") where he sits for days and weeks until Saito, who knows he will have to commit hari-kari (ritual suicide) if he fails to build the bridge in time, realizes he needs Nicholson and his officers to help boost the working pace of the prisoners, who are not working quickly at all. After this, Nicholson takes on this project obsessively. He and other officers take over the bridge project, moving it down stream after they realize the original bridge is in a very bad location, as it's too muddy. Clipton, a military doctor, suggests that others may think they are committing treason, and aiding the enemy by building this bridge as best they can, but Nicholson insists they are setting an example. And he does it for his own pride, forgetting the larger picture that they are, in fact, helping the Japanese, and hurting their own side. Additionally, we get the story of an American soldier named Shears, who, by a miracle, escapes the camp and is enlisted by the British Army (after spending time in a medical center to recover) to return to the camp to blow the bridge up with several men, and we see their journey into the jungle, with Asian women aiding them, in their plans to attack.

This movie is an interesting one. It's so different from all the other WWII movies I've seen. It's not action packed nor is it bloody or violent. It had an interesting message. And it's quite a unique story. Colonel Nicholson is played by the brilliant Alec Guinness. It's a war epic of a different kind. While the story was drawn it, it never felt too long or boring. Interestingly I was kind of enraptured in the story, having no bloody clue how anything would end.

Colonel Nicholson, from my perspective, was a bit of a crazy guy. He was rigid and an old-school soldier. He believed in integrity, and for standing up for what is right. When approached about escape plans, he uttered that they shouldn't because they had surrendered so technically they would be breaking some sort of war/prisoner rules, even though they all knew they would die in this camp.

And then we have Colonel Saito. He is just as rigid and stubborn. He refuses to cave into Nicholson's requests, and the two are constantly going head-to-head, and both are quite mad. Saito insists all the officers work. He is to commit suicide if this bridge fails or isn't complete on time. And that scares him. We also see a scene of Saito weeping privately after Nicholson and his Officers take over the project, in which he was directly in charge of. He is ashamed.

This plot becomes ever complex as we realize what building this bridge means, and how much pride Nicholson takes in it. We feel so many mixed feelings as Shear and the 3 other soldiers arrive to blow up the bridge and the ammunition train.

Alec Guinness is fantastic in the role, and rightly won an Oscar for it. Japanese actor, Sessue Hayakawa, who played Saito, was also nominated, though did not win. The 2 had fantastic adversary chemistry, and were fantastic enemies who come to understand each other in a way. They were fantastic in their respective mad characters.

Additionally, this cinematography was fantastic. There were some great shots, and it showed off the jungle landscape so well, and really hit all the right spots. The costumes were great, and it overall had a great look. The music was used very sparsely, but what we did hear was very good too. Honestly, there's not much to complain about in this movie. I can't really think of much at all. WWII have been incredibly overdone in the past 75ish years since it concluded, with stories about German soldiers, British soldiers, Americans, Canadians, etc, etc. And while this story did include British and Americans, it took a look at the Japanese soldiers, and the name Hitler was not uttered once. Nor was Germany spoken about.

The movie was an interesting look at 2 different people, who were, at the same time, quite similar. Saito comes from a country where you cannot dishonor your family. You should kill yourself rather than bring shame. He strives for excellence so as to not bring shame, and to appear great. Conversely, Nicholson does not come from a country that upholds honor in the same way, though he comes from an Upper Class society (being a colonel), and wants to uphold the laws and regulations that his society holds up. Both want to maintain their reputations and neither will break. But eventually both do.

The ending is so interesting, and really made me think. I won't spoil  it for you, as it's so unique. But it made me think, what's more important: your personal pride and accomplishments, or the country you're fighting for and the pride and duties to your army? I'll leave it there.

Thinking I was going to find this movie boring, I was surprised when I actually loved it. My 3 choices of movies were Braveheart and The Best Years of our Lives (both war movies, the latter also about WWII soldiers), I was glad I chose this one. It was a thought-provoking and truly epic masterpiece. It was never too long, too boring, or cliche. It struck things in all the right places, and made for an interesting and insightful watch into a different aspect of WWII. Something other than Hitler.

Acting- 9.5/10     
Directing- 8.5/10     
Screenplay- 8/10     
Music – 8/10    
Visuals- 8.5/10     
Entertaining- 7.5/10    
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10     
Rewatchability- 7/10     
Overall Enjoyment- 8.5/10     
Overall Package- 9/10      

Total: 82/100