Monday, 17 December 2012

The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music, 1965
Directed by Robert Wise
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 5
Up Against: Darling, Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools, A Thousand Clowns

Set in the "last Golden Days" of the 1930's in Austria, Maria is a troublesome young woman, attempting to become a nun, but her fellow nuns aren't her biggest fans. She's too outspoken, adventurous and she sings too much. So the head nun, Mother Abbess, decides to assign Maria the task of becoming a governess to the 7 children of Georg Von Trapp, a Navy captain who is a single parent and has written to the abbey for someone to look after his children. Maria is hesitant at first but decides to go since this must be the Lord's will. What she finds there breaks her heart. The children are treated as though they are on a naval ship, called by whistles, are on strict schedules with no time to play. Meanwhile, the children have been through several governess's, having played pranks on them all, trying to get their fathers attention. But Maria is determined to give the children what they never get from their father, laughter, fun and playtime, while Captain Von Trapp goes away to Vienna to meet a lady he's courting. And during that time, and when the Captain returns, everything changes. 

The Sound of Music is one of the most iconic and beloved musicals of all-time. It was a box-office smash when it was released and replaced Gone With the Wind as the highest grossing film. Adjusting to prices now, it is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time, right behind Gone with the Wind and Star Wars. While the Sound of Music had been a Broadway Musical before a film, the film added much popularity to the musical, and helped make Julie Andrews a huge star. 

Like Oliver!, this is a film I grew up on. And again, like Oliver!, we never really watched the whole thing, because it was so long, and both got so serious at the end that it bored me when I was younger. But The Sound of Music is a movie I couldn't say too many negative things about. Sure, it's not a brilliant, deep, or even accurate story. But it has so many iconic songs, and scenes, and it really is a nice family movie. And I'm definitely not adverse to family movies (much less ones that become classics) winning Best Picture. 

This film is a very beautiful film. The Austrian scenery is gorgeous, the set design and costumes are lovely, and overall it is a beautiful looking film. The child actors are really very good, and adorably cute. Julie Andrews was fantastic as Maria, and Christopher Plummer was great as Captain Von Trapp. 

Overall, this is a film I'll continue to like very much. Its a nice movie, with a nice ending. Predictable, yes, but an adorable film with great music altogether. 

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

Total: 79.5/100

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy, 1969
Directed by John Schlesinger
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 3
Up against: Anne of the Thousand Days, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hello Dolly!, Z

Joe Buck has left his life in Texas behind and come to New York City to become a "hustler", a freelance sex stud. But things are harder than he'd imagine it to be. The streets are meaner, and Joe has his demons to fight. But then he meets Ratso, a down-and-out crook but outcast. Ratso and Joe form an unlikely friendship, and end up both needing each other if they are to survive life in New York City. Especially since Ratso's health isn't very good and Joe is a naive country boy.

Midnight Cowboy's claim to fame is that it is the only Best Picture winner to be rated X. While it has since been bumped down to an R rating, it was very interesting that it won. It was also released a year after the Hays Code (a code set out by MPAA of what was appropriate and not appropriate to be in films). It was also a slightly controversial film. It contained scenes of homosexuality, and a lot of sex and nudity. Interestingly, the film that won the year before was Oliver!, a movie was a G rating. Shows how different movies are that the Academy awards Best Picture.

This film was definitely not a favourite Best Picture winner of mine. While I adore Dustin Hoffman, and he was really very good in this film, I found the picture rather dull. Sure, it was sad, and Joe was wildly messed up, but I found it a bit of a bore most of the time. The story was slow-moving, and while the acting was good, it wasn't my cup of tea.

It was definitely a well made film. It looked great. Hoffman and Voight made a good team and had great chemistry, and the costumes were good. I can appreciate the movie for that, but, similar to this years Lincoln, it just wasn't the movie for me.

While they gave Joe a very troubled past, and made Ratso a mysterious person, someone we never truly get to know or understand, they seemed a little flat to me. The constant flashbacks at the beginning of Joe's life, and his visions of what he wished he could do in certain situations were a little much. Though I guess the flashbacks at Joe's worst memory was very meaningful to the story and added a lot.

While this film is remembered as the X-rated film that won Best Picture, I feel like there wasn't much more to it. It was unnecessarily explicit, and was very slow moving.

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

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 6/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Rewatchability- 3/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 

Overall Package- 7/10     
Total: 66/100

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Life of Pi

Life of Pi, 2012
Directed by Ang Lee

Life of Pi is that book, up here in Canada, that you read in high school. Or at least in my high school you did. I remember my friends constantly complaining about this book, and how it's about a boy named Pi and he's on a raft with a hyena, zebra, Orangutan , and a tiger named Richard Parker. I also heard about how it was boring, and they were over-analyzing it way too much. This was back 5 years ago. Since then, when I was seeing what all movies were coming out this year, I heard once again about Life of Pi. My boyfriend, his brother and father really enjoyed the book, and since I was aiming to read a lot of the books that were to become films this year (I read Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina, The Hobbit), I decided to pick up Life of Pi.

Life of Pi tells the story about a young boy named Pi. He was raised in India by his family. His family owned a zoo, and Pi loved the animals. He also loved religion, and he finds himself practicing Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. He is chastized for following several religions, people telling him that you "if you believe in everything, you believe in nothing". But Pi stuck to his love for God (in whichever religion that happened to be in). When Pi is older, times are hard for his family and the zoo. They end up packing up themselves and the animals so they can move to Winnipeg, Canada and start a new life, and sell of the animals in North America, where they will go for more money. They head off on a large boat, a Japanese boat, and head for Canada. But along the way, the ship sinks. And it's only survivors are Pi, and a few of the animals, stuck in the life raft. And soon, it's only Pi, and the tiger he's been afraid of since he was a child, Richard Parker.

I was so skeptical when I heard this movie was coming out, and while I was reading the book. And I was even more skeptical when I heard it would be released in 3D. So many movies are coming out where 3D is unnecessary (Twilight, etc). And after I finished the book, I didn't  really know how they'd do it to make it that interesting. And then the trailer came out not too long after, and all of a sudden, I knew it would be a movie to watch out for. It looked incredible.

And indeed, upon seeing the movie in theatres last weekend, it did indeed look incredible. There were several times during the film where I would just utter "wow" to myself because there were so many incredible scenes. Shots like Pi under the water after the ship has sank, and he see's the boat, the lights flickering and dying. Or just being on the raft, a shot of the raft from above, and the water is so still it reflects the morning sky so it looks like they're floating in the sky. So many trippy, yet incredible shots. And it was so interesting to see how packed out the theater was. Though when I thought about it, it wasn't surprising. I live in an area in Ontario where there's a very high population of Indian families, many of them immigrants (or at least the parents are). So needless to say, a movie about a boy raised in India, coming to Canada (and playing at a theater where we show Bollywood films, and the snack stand is offered in English and in another Indian language), it wasn't surprising the film was packed out.

And what I loved overall about the film, was that it felt like I was watching the book being literally translated to the screen. Sure, there were a few differences for sure, like Pi having a girlfriend, and the part with the whale, but overall, I have never seen a more closely adapted book-movie translation (or not that I can remember). Ang Lee stayed incredibly close to the source material, and the movie benefits so much from that. The book is chock full of religion, and I'm very happy that Lee kept it all in.

It was also a thinking mans movie. It makes you think about God, and the way we look at religion. And while Pi's point is that it doesn't matter what religion you practice, it's about loving God, and all religions bring you to God (which is something I don't quite agree with), but makes you think about where God fits in in this world. Many people dismiss him altogether. Or many people try to exclude him from things like movies, or from being upfront. And Life of Pi brought it front and center, which was very brave.

The acting by first time actor, Suraj Sharma, was very good. Nothing was incredibly overacted, nor could you tell that this was Sharma's first ever film. He was able to carry the film on his shoulders so well. He was wild and crazy as Pi, but also scared and heartbroken, yet hopeful. A very hard mix, but I found Sharma played it all very well.

And the graphics, of course, were incredible. The cinematography is just gorgeous, and this is one of those movies you really have to see on the big screen to really appreciate what it looks like. And of course, this movie is almost this year's Hugo in a way. An acclaimed director making their first dip into a family movie, and into 3D, both which are acclaimed movies, and the 3D is highly praised. While I wasn't a fan of the 3D in Hugo (I felt it was overdone and made everything look like an animated film almost), the 3D in this film really added to the movie, but didn't overly stand out. And of course, this will be the year's frontrunner for visual effects. My only complaint was that the animals acted a little too human, but, reaching the end of the movie and hearing it's conclusion, that may have been the point.

As for Oscar chances, I'd be upset if it wasn't up for Best Picture, though I don't expect it to win. It was a very well made film, and while I don't quite see Ang Lee sneaking in for Director, it wouldn't be a surprise if he did. It's a packed year for main actors, so I don't see Suraj Sharma making it in, but I can hope it'll make it in to adapted screenplay (up against Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, and Les Mis). And of course, cinematography, art direction, visual effects, and I could see it sneaking in for Best Score. Overall, this is definitely the best family-oriented film of the year (it's the only movie this year that's getting awards attention and is only rated PG).

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with this film in a number of ways. It took chances, it did things differently, and it turned out incredibly well despite people claiming that this book is "unfilmable", which I had definitely agreed with at first until I saw the director Lee took with the film.


Saturday, 1 December 2012


Lincoln, 2012
Directed by Steven Spielburg

Lincoln tells the story of, well, Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and the most well known (and loved) president. The film is set during 1865, as the Civil War is winding down. Lincoln is endeavoring to abolish slavery through passing a 16th amendment to the Constitution. However, he needs to do this before peace is reached in the Civil War before the Southern States would return and any slaves that had been freed may be re-enslaved, and the amendment would never pass. Should it pass, slavery would be banned in the United States and the Southern States So Lincoln must do everything he can to get enough votes for it to pass. However, having an early peace would mean saving hundreds of lives. So Lincoln must decide what is best for his country.

I'm just going to say this outright that I'm not an American, nor am I interested in history (much less American history at that). I'm a Canadian, and my country didn't exist during the time of the Civil War (though it became a country only 2 years after the Civil War). This movie was, obviously, very political-heavy. It was a lot, a lot of talk, and then some more talking. And while I'm not into history and I'm not American, it made it somewhat difficult to be overly interested in this film. Canada as a country has never had slavery, as before we were Canada we were a British colony and slavery was abolished roughly 60 years before it was in American. Not being someone who is into history, nor is into politics, much of the movie went over my head a little bit. After doing some research into the movie for this review (and talking to my fiancee about exactly what happened and why the amendment needed to pass before the end of the war) I came to appreciate a bit more of who Lincoln was as a person and a politician, how he was pressed against time to ban something that would never have passed had the Southern States been in the vote, and how, once they rejoined them as a country when peace was made, they would be forced to free their slaves. Clever guy, really. However the film didn't get me overly interested in history, and it felt a little too "rah-rah America" at some points for me as a Canadian to get into. (Yes I realize this movie is about America's most beloved-President, and about a turning point in American history, but you know what I mean. You can only take so much of "rah-rah" any country that isn't your own.)

Other than that, I could see how incredibly well made this film was. While I genuinely loved War Horse, Spielburg almost seemed to have listened to what the complaints that people had against War Horse and made sure none of it was in this movie. The movie was not nearly as nostalgic, sentimental, and was a lot more talk and intelligent than WH was. People are saying it's Spielburg's best movie in the last 10 years, and I have to agree. The acting was incredible, the sets and cinematography were amazing, and the script was well done.

Daniel Day-Lewis, a man who already holds 2 Oscars in his hands may need to grow an extra arm so he can hold his third. He was simply incredible as Lincoln. While we have no actual footage of Lincoln (obviously), he is exactly as what I would imagine Lincoln to be like. But Spielburg also made him human. There's something about Lincoln, a man who is an icon, that seems almost non-human in a way. He's just an icon. But Spielburg gave Lincoln a sense of humor, a love of storytelling, charm, wit, and had him throw his feet up on the table while he was busy reading whatever. Things like that made him seem like a real person and not just the iconic guy you see in history textbooks. Day-Lewis captured this man so perfectly and also made him believable and human.

Sally Field, also someone who holds 2 Oscars, was fabulous as Mary Todd. She was able to balance the "putting on a face" for the public, and having her emotions all over the floor as Lincoln's wife. And another man, Tommy Lee Jones (he only has one Oscar :P), as Thaddeus Stevens, a fervent abolitionist, and a member of the United States House of Representatives. Jones was a radical and gave Stevens mystery. While you knew he was very much in favor of racial equality, you never knew what he was going to do or say next. He gave a wonderful performance, as the sharp, witty and funny man who had a dark and serious side to him.

The supporting cast (made up of actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Spader and Tim Blake Nelson) was quite fine. While JGL had a much smaller part than I thought he would, it was interesting side note to the history of Lincoln. And Spader and Nelson's part was some good humor, them almost pushing Senators to vote of the Amendment, but conspicuously handing out folders on the topic and following after them shouting for them to vote. Between these parts, and the ending vote, I enjoyed them and were something I could follow.

Overall, the film was well made. It was well-crafted and paid a lot of attention to detail. However, while I thought the voting scene was quite fun and brilliant, there were so many little stories going on (Lincoln and his son, Lincoln and his wife, Lincoln and the vote, etc) nothing seemed to have a "big" moment or wrap-up. And while these were all very important story lines, I didn't quite feel the importance of any of them. The movie seemed to simply touch on many things, but never really fully developed a lot of the smaller story lines. Even though they showed a little bit of the result of the ending of slavery, it wasn't quite enough to make a big enough impact.

Then again, I feel like if you're not into history, and not an American it would be a little difficult to quite appreciate what happened in the film. You can appreciate Lincoln as a politician and him being clever, but if you don't quite know the story, it may be hard to appreciate how the events turned out in the States, especially since many country abolished slavery (such as Britain) before the United States.

As for Oscar chances, this film has about a lock in every category, from Best Picture (many say it has a good chance at winning), director, Actor (current front-runner), Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, and most things within the art and tech categories, this has the potential to sweep the Oscars. However it has big competition from films like Argo (another favourite to win picture and director) and Les Miserables which also has the potential to sweep the awards in every category (including all 4 acting categories). It's definitely a big year, and Lincoln will be a big contender.