Thursday, 30 August 2012

Ordinary People

Ordinary People, 1980
Directed by Robert Redford
Nominated for 6 Oscars, Won 4
Up Against: Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man, Raging Bull, Tess

Ordinary People stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton is a story about depression, and grief. After the accidental death of the eldest son, Buck, the rest of the family deals with it in different ways. Conrad, the son, blames himself and is riddled with immense depression, and we see him a month after he gets out of the hospital for trying to "off himself". Calvin, the father, is constantly trying to make sure Conrad is okay, and trying to be honest, but not worry people, at the same time. And Beth, the mother, doesn't talk about it, and refuses to talk about it, and has distanced herself from her other son, and even her husband. 

This was the first time I'd seen Mary Tyler Moore in a dramatic role. The only times I've really seen her is when I watched the Mary Tyler Moore show with my grandmother. So it was quite interesting to see her a bit older, and a lot more dramatic. Additionally, this is the first film I'd seen without Donald Sutherland having white hair or just young in general. Both of these 2, playing Calvin and Beth, were truly fantastic. However, Mary Tyler recieved a nomination, yet Donald Sutherland did not, which quite astounds me. If I had had my way, it would've been the other way around as I thought Sutherland stole the film when Timothy Hutton wasn't on screen. 

And speaking of Timothy Hutton, I thought he really was fantastic. He really embodied the guilt and anger that comes with depression and with grief of losing someone. He really made you feel for the character and brought Conrad to life. He had ups and downs and was thrown off easily. He was a well-written character, and helped me to understand what someone in his circumstances might be going through. 

The family relations in this film, also, were done well. They were intricate but also relatable. All were strained, and you could see why, yet you hurt that they were like this. Beth was too cold to Conrad, Conrad was distancing himself from his family, and all his father did was care about him, much to his wife's displeasure and accusations that his son is "controlling him". 

I thought this film was a good show of depression and grief, and the way a family deals with it (or doesn't). And while I didn't think it was quite worthy to be the best picture of the year, I'd love to see more films like this win. Stories about, well, ordinary people, and circumstances that any one of us could go through. Enough biopics, enough period pieces, and stories about extraordinary circumstances, I'd like to see more movies like last years, the Descendants win. A story that could happen to any of us. Movies like Annie Hall, Kramer vs Kramer or Terms of Endearment. The last movie that won like this was 1999's American Beauty. 

But I digress. This film was well made, and definitely well acted (a little bitter about the Donald Sutherland snub, especially since he was Golden Globe nominated for it), but it was a good film. I liked it as a movie, but it was just okay as a Best Picture. But I like the variety of films that win (war movies, gangster movies, period pieces, biopics, and ''ordinary people" movies), so I'm not going to complain too loudly because it was a good film. 

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 8/10 
Visuals- 7/10 

Music- 4/10 Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10     

Total: 70/100

Thursday, 23 August 2012

On The Waterfront

On The Waterfront, 1954
Directed by Elia Kazan
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 8
Up Against: The Caine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Three Coins in the Fountain

Terry Malloy used to be a prize fighter, but now he raises pigeons and works on the docks, running errands for the corrupt union boss, Johnny Friendly. One of the errands Terry has to run is telling a man named Joey that he found one of his missing pigeons and that he's put it on the roof for him to come and get, Terry knowing there will be men up there waiting for him to accost him. What he didn't know was that they were going to toss him from the roof of the building, killing him. Terry immediatly feels guilty, and that guilt builds when he starts falling in love with Joey's sister, Edie, while she tries to find out who killed her brother. While the two start falling in love, Terry realizes who much better life can be, and it's not the horrible place with all indecent people he's thought it has been. When Johnny Friendly continues to kill people, and Father Barry, a local priest, challenged by Edie that she "never heard of a saint hiding in a church", and to go out there and see what's going on, tries to find information on who killed Joey. Terry starts realizing he needs to tell the truth, and he needs to bring down Johnny Friendly in the process. 

This movie came highly recommended to me by my boyfriends father. While he's more of a literature man instead of a movie man, I thought I'd take his recommendation seriously since he also spoke extremely highly of Annie Hall. So I put a hold on it at the library (subsequently it had a lot of other holds and it's taken me months to get it). But I popped the movie in just a day after getting it, and found myself enthralled by the story and by Marlon Brando. 

What, I thought, could've easily been a pretty 2D character, Brando turned it into a subtle performance, where we can clearly see Terry start to become more and more guilty and slowly realizing his philosophy of life isn't actually true. Brando was classy, with just enough tough guy to balance it out, that you knew he didn't realize believe what he said he did, and wasn't the bad guy that Edi'e father made him out to be. He was searching for something more, and Edie showed him what it was. 

The movie was well-told, and had many chilling and heartbreaking moments, including when Father Barry is praying over Kayo Dugan's body, and then starts to talk to the dozens of men around him about honesty, and cruxification, and some of the men start throwing food at him. And when Terry, beaten to a pulp, gets up and walks through all the men to enter the docks, after they declare they will only work if Terry is given work. 

The film had just enough amount of romance (doesn't Edie look like a mix of Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowski? Or at least I thought so, it was pretty uncanny) without making it too mushy. And had the right amount of action/crime in it. 

Overall, I thought this film was really well done; well acted, well directed, well written. It really deserves all the wins it received (including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Writing, Editing and Art Direction), and deserves to be revered as a classic. Yes, I really enjoyed this film. 

Acting- 20/20
Directing- 19/20
Writing- 20/20
Personal Enjoyment- 19/20

Overall Package -19.5/20

Total: 97.5/100

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1975
Directed by Milos Forman
Nominated for 9 Oscars, Won 5
Up Against: Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville

When R.P McMurphy arrives at this mental institution, things start changing around there. While many believe McMurphy is faking his mental inability so he doesn't have to work, he starts to wreak havoc in the ward, gathering the patients together and slowly earning their trust, and getting them to rebel against the head nurse, Nurse Ratched, who's a little more than oppressive to the patients. 

This film was just all Jack Nicholson for me. I found the story to be a little bland, but found Nicholson very captivating. He was totally inside the character of McMurphy and you could really tell. He was crazy, yet you pitied him, and wondered why he was there at all, and then sometimes you knew exactly why. He's a complicated character and you wondered how it was all going to end. Would they release him? What would happen if they didn't? But the ending we get is truly disturbing, and it really made the movie for me. 

Along with Nicholson, we had some fun cameos from Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd. They played some of the ward's patients and they did a fantastic job, as did all the other extras. They were crazy, they were strange, and they either followed McMurphy blindly or didn't bother with him. 

And then there's Louise Fletcher who plays Nurse Ratched, and won Best Actress. She was so convincing as the dictator of the ward, and oppressor of the patients. She was mean, and cold, and heartless. And Louise Fletcher just nailed her. 

The mix of these characters made for an interesting story of uprising, and of the ward's ways of dealing with patients who don't obey the rules. 

While I wouldn't go so far to say as I loved this film, I would say it was definitely a performance film rather than a story film. While I felt the story was a bit bland, all the performances in the film made up for that. It was extremely well acted, giving Jack Nicholson his very first Oscar (who would go on to be the most nominated actor, and to win 2 other Oscars). This film was good, and definitely deserved the Best Picture win from the acting alone. But would I watch it again? Probably not. 

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8.5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 8/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 

Overall Package- 8/10     

Total: 77/100

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Sting

The Sting, 1973
Directed by George Roy Hill
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 7
Up Against: American Graffiti, Cries & Whispers, the Exorcist, A Touch of Class

The Sting is a story about con artists in the 1930's Depression. Johnny Hooker and his partners Luther and Joe con $11,000 off a man on the streets, not thinking they'd get that rich. Luther announces his retirement and suggests and tells Hooker about a friend he has, Henry Gondorff, saying he should go meet him and learn "the big con". However, things don't go according to plan. The man they conned money off was a numbers racket courier for a famous crime boss named Lonnegan. When a corrupt police officer confronts Hooker and demands part of the pay cut (Hooker had already spent it all), pays in counterfeit bills. Meanwhile, Lonnegan's men murder Luther and Hooker must now flee, and heads to Chicago to meet Gondorff. While Gondorff was a once-great, he's now in hiding and is a bit nervous to take on Lonnegan. But he comes around and the two set up the "big con" for Lonnegan.

The film was an immediate success. It gained positive critic reviews, and was a box office smash. It was also the second pairing of George Roy Hill directed Robert Redford and Paul Newman since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was released Christmas Day in 1973, and went on to win a lot of Academy Awards that year, including Picture, Director, Screenplay.

I really enjoyed this film. This is the first Robert Redford film I've seen, and also my first Paul Newman one (what a treat they both were!) and both were so great. They were great at the double acting (con men, pretending to be several different people, all innocent) and were real trouble-makers. But my favourite part of the entire film was the score. Compiled of mostly Scott Joplin's music composed in the early 1900's, and though not historically accurate for the time period (ragtime was no longer popular in the 30's), but was really really great. It fit the time so well, and was just so fun. It gave the film a bit of a lighter feel when darker music could've made the film more dramatic and sullen. It gave the film a spark quality, and really lit it up.

Additionally, the twists and turns the movie took were great. It really was a thinking movie, and it's so sad how little films like this are made any more. It was well thought out, entertaining, and had a few laughs that balanced the film out well.

Overall, the film was really good. It was a great showcase for Paul Newman and Robert Redford (who looks so much like Brad Pitt. Anyone else notice that?). It was a clever, kind of fun Best Picture as opposed to a lot of the more dramatic, serious, depressing ones.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 9/10 
Visuals- 9/10 

Music- 10/10 
Emotional Connection- 8/10 
Entertainment- 9/10 
Rewatchability- 8/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 9/10 

Overall Package- 8.5/10     

Total: 87.5/100