Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Amadeus, 1984
Directed by Milos Forman
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 8
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor (F. Abraham Murray), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art/Set Direction, Best Costume, Best Makeup, Best Sound

Antonio Salieri always wanted to be like Mozart. Mozart, a child prodigy, playing for emperors and royalty at a very young age. Salieri prayed to God that he may also give Salieri the talent that Mozart has. He wishes to praise God with his music and promises him his chastity if he can devote his life to music. Later on in life, he becomes the court composer for Emperor Joseph II, and is content. However, he becomes eager to see Mozart. He is extremely disappointed to find that, upon seeing Mozart (chasing after a young girl, kissing her in scandalous places and making fart jokes), that he is extremely crass and immature. Salieri becomes angry with God, that He gave young, crass, immature Mozart his divine talent, and gave Salieri, a man who wanted to devote his life to music and to use it to praise God, much less. And thus begins the rivalry, and the madness of Salieri, who later claims to have killed Mozart.

Amadeus is a film that, after I finished watching, I didn't know what I thought about it. Nor did I know what to think or feel about it. It was a slightly peculiar story, and one I wasn't sure how I felt about it.

I think what made me feel this way, is that this story didn't feel like a "true story". Mozart was a little too obnoxious and ridiculous that it always felt like an exaggeration. Salieri had such a twisted view of God and how he allots talent. Additionally, Salieri once did claim to have killed Mozart, but later, on his death bed, confirmed that he did not.

But I think one of my main issues was the movie was not decisive on who you should be rooting for. Both Mozart and Salieri were really messed up, and I ended up feeling sympathy for neither of them. Mozart was caught up in censorship of the time, and trying to do what he wanted creatively. But he went about so many things the wrong way, trying to display why he should be able to put on shows for whatever he writes, even if it is banned. He is often shown is immature, and ill-prepared. Salieri, on the other hand, is shown as someone who is mad at God that a brat like Mozart should receive all the talent. And plotted to murder Mozart. He explains, in his old age, that he had plotted this, but in the end Salieri did not literally murder him in the traditional sense. Only in a very vague abstract sense.

Other than this, the film looked incredible. The filming locations were beautiful, the costumes were great. The art/set decoration was lovely and the makeup and wigs were fantastic. Period pieces that win Best Picture are always so good-looking, and this film is a great example. The music, obviously, was fabulous. It was cool to have Mozart's music playing for so much of the time, but was also there to serve as what is going through Mozart's head, stopping abruptly when interrupted while writing down his music, and cuing up when writing again.

The acting was just decent. Tom Hulce had a crazy, disgusting laugh which was quite fun, though appropriately annoying. F Murray Abraham was calm, cool and collected, with a simmering layer of crazy.

Overall, I felt very mixed about this film. It was a decent film, though a little longer than it probably could've been. And I felt it was more interesting learning about the life of Mozart, and found Salieri's story line quite boring and felt the film (ironically) would be better off without him.

Acting- 8.5/10    
Directing- 8/10    
Screenplay- 7.5/10    
Music – 9.5/10   
"The look"- 9/10    
Entertaining- 7.5/10    
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10    
Rewatchability- 7/10    
Did I like It?- 7.5/10    
"Total Package"**- 8/10     

Total: 78/100  

Monday, 9 December 2013

The French Connection

The French Connection, 1971
Directed by William Friedkin
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 5
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

The French Connection is a classic drug bust movie. 2 Cops, working in the Narcotics Bureau, stumble upon a drug smuggling job in New York. While Doyle and Russo don't seem to have the best record behind them, they are convinced they've stumbled upon something huge and put surveillance on a newsstand diner. Meanwhile, a Frenchman named Alain Charnier, is planning to smuggle $32 million worth of pure heroine into the United States in the car of his unsuspecting friends and french TV Star Henri Devereaux. And while it seems that Doyle and Russo, by chance, have stumbled onto this massive drug drop, they are determined to catch the criminals, even if Charnier always seems one step ahead. 

This movie, to me, felt like a classic drug bust film. It did feel overly different than others I've seen in the genre, but whether that because so many films have come out styling after this film and other likes it, I'm not sure. 

The movie's length is perfect for it's story. Like so many movies that win Best Picture, they sometimes seem much longer than they should be, and thus hinder my view on them. At 104 minutes, The French Connection is tightly woven, and perfectly paced. There's nothing that doesn't contribute to the story, and I think the movie really benefits from that. 

The acting is solid, though I didn't find anything particularly noteworthy. It's filmed in classic 70's style. And, of course, the car chase is the best car chase scene I've watched yet. It's completely thrilling, as Doyle is chasing a sniper in his car, while the sniper is above his, riding the subway and making sure the subway isn't stopping. It's filmed uniquely, and has some amazing shots. It's not longer than it should be, and is exciting every minute. This is the most standout part of the film, and, to me, what it's most remembered for. And personally, it bumps the film's rating a little higher for me. Had the car chase not been as good, I would probably have rated this a little lower. 

This film was solidly made, though is another example of how filmmaking has changed. Films like this nowadays always include young stars, with good chemistry between the two cops, with lots of "witty" dialgoue and a lot more car chase scenes, and is action-packed. While there is definitely action in this film, it's a bit more subdued than most modern films, and the dialogue a little more dry, the pace a little more slow-moving with the majority of it being surveillance. However, this film was enjoyable, if not overly fantastic. 

Acting- 7.5/10   
Directing- 8/10   
Screenplay- 7.5/10   
Music – 8/10  
"The look"- 8/10   
Entertaining- 7/10   
Emotional Connection- 7/10   
Rewatchability- 7/10   
Did I like It?- 7.5/10   
"Total Package"**- 7.5/10     

Total: 75/100 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The English Patient

The English Patient, 1996
Directed by Anthony Minghella
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 9
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art/Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score

Based on the Booker prize winning novel, the English Patient is a romantic drama set before and during WWII. Focusing on a critically burned man, intially only referred to as "The English Patient", we get two stories. The first and most prominent story is that of the "English Patient". He is a Cartographer employed by the Royal Geographical Society to map the Sahara desert. His name is Count Laszlo de Almsay. Told during flashbacks while being cared for by Canadian nurse Hana, we are told a story about his time in the dessert leading up to WWII, and his falling in love with a married woman named Katherine, who is the wife of Geoffrey Clifton, both of whom are explorers and arrive at the expedition Almsay is on. When Geoffrey has to leave for business, he leaves Katherine behind, and slowly, she and Almsay begin to have an affair.

The second story we get, and the one we are first introduced to, is of Hana looking after the English Patient in an Italian Monastary. We see the drama unfold around her caring for him, and of 2 other men. David Caravaggio, who is a Canadian-Italian thief employed as an Intelligence Operator for the Allies, who claims to know the patient and claims the patient isn't the saint Hana believes him to be. We also get Kip, a Sikh Indian man in the British army, who, along with another soldier or two, stick around the monastary to protect Hana and the patient, and whom Hana falls in love with.

This movie is long. And I'm honestly not really sure what the point of it was. Not that it was a bad movie, per se, but I didn't really see what the point of the story of the affair was while contrasting it to WWII. Almsay and Katherine have very little character, and do not show much about themselves except that they passionately love each other and lust after each other. I hate, hate, hate stories about affairs. They make me so sad that affairs happen.

What the movie did well was the art behind it. The cinematography was very beautiful, almost reminding me of Lawrence of Arabia, with the desert backdrop, the camels, WWII, etc. The costumes and art direction were great, and done so well.

The acting as well, was quite good, but I didn't think it was anything spectacular. Ralph Fiennes was stand-out as the burn patient, looking slightly like a more friendly Voldemort, but playing the part of a mutilated man quite well. Juleitte Binoche was quite good, though I didn't think it was quite amazing enough to earn an Oscar, but then again have not seen any of the other nominated performances. I like her as an actress, so I'm happy to see she did receive recognition. As I understand, it was a bit of an unexpected win.

Overall, the story was very dull, very long, and I found the "present" story more interesting. I was much more interested in Hana, who seemed to have real issues compared to Katherine and Almsay. Her story with Kip was much more interesting and, to me, a better love story.

It was a welcome addition when we start to question whether Almsay was a German spy, as Caravaggio seems to think he was. This could've been more included in the story, to make us really question who exactly Almsay was and what his motive was, but it was not so.

Overall, the movie was just okay. It was longer than it needed to be, and more dull than it should've been. But the acting, the art direction, costumes, cinematography was great that I see why this had such a presence at the Oscars in 1997. Should it have won Best Picture? Personally, I don't think so. But I'm not the one choosing.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 6.5/10 
Visuals- 9/10 

Music- 8.5/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10     
Total: 69/100

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Chariots of Fire

Chariots Of Fire, 1981
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 4
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score

Chariots of Fire tells the story of 2 runners aiming to make the Olympics. One, Harold Abrahams, comes from a rich Jewish family, and is running with the aim to fight against opression and find his place within the high Cambridge society. The other, Eric Liddel, is a devout Scottish missionary, and runs because he finds it pleasing to God. Liddel is incredible fast, and Abrahams is determined to beat him. When both of them make the Olympics, Liddel is crushed to find out the first qualifying heat is on a Sunday. The Sabbath, the day where one should rest. Both men, standing up for what they believe in are the subject of this film. 

I think this film is the perfect example of how film-making has changed. The story of Liddel and Abrahams are told very plainly, with a little tension, but not much with some pretty cheesy 80's music. These days, when telling the story of rivals, we make it very tense, we make the races gripping, and we make the story extremely exciting, even if it isn't 100% true (and not that Chariots of Fire was that true either). 

To me, this movie was pretty in the middle of all the Best Picture Winners I've watched. It was not a bad movie, but it wasn't the best one I've watched, and didn't really do anything spectacular. While the music was certainly a little gutsy and very different when the film was released, it now just comes off very dated and cheesy and doesn't particularly fit at all. Of course, we all know the theme and it has become very iconic, but it truthfully doesn't fit. 

The acting was alright in the film. We had only one nomination for acting, and it was for Abraham's trainer. It was overall pretty subpar. Solid, but nothing incredible. 

The movie, additionally, was very British. Generally, I only notice high patriotism in American movies because they are always so rah-rah America! But it was very British (which I don't mind since it's always the American's and this time it wasn't, and it's about the Olympics). There were also a lot of smaller, supporting characters which were hard to distinguish from each other as all of them served very little purpose and had hardly any personality. 

Overall, this movie was just sort of whatever. It was a nice movie that I've defiinitely seen before at youth group a long time ago, and is sort of a standard Christian movie played in church (everyone I know at church has seen it, or at least parts of it, at some point). It had a good message, but times have changed, and while this movie wasn't made that long ago, I can tell it would be made very differently now. Though you never know, with all these reboots and remakes, you never know what will happen. Though I'd personally love to see Tom Hiddleston as Eric Liddel and Benedict Cumberbatch as Abrahams (I'm not being fangirly, I swear they both sort of look like these 2 characters). But as this won't happen, and I'm glad it won't, I'll just go on saying this movie was alright, though has a good message. 

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

Music- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 7/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.25/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10 

Total: 72.75/100

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 2003
Directed by Peter Jackson
Nominated and Won 11 Oscars
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects

Return of the King is third movie in the epic franchise of Lord of the Rings. Based on the extremely popular novels of the same name, Peter Jackson directed what will forever be heralded by fanboys, nerd culture and well, just any guy, as truly epic. Having read the books myself (though more than a year prior to watching the films), I enjoyed the films. They are well acted, they look great, and the scenery is amazing. 

The problem with Return of the King winning Best Picture though, is it is a third film in a trilogy. While a good movie, it is not a stand alone. Much of what you are watching and need to understand come from the first two films before it. I suppose you could grasp the basic understanding of what's going on (Frodo needs to destroy the Ring), but much else will remain slightly unclear. 

That being said, had you watched the first two films, or even just read the books, this is a pretty well done adaption of the book. As with the previous 3 films, the scenery is incredible. New Zealand is the perfect backdrop for Middle Earth, with it's mountains, volcanoes, field and lakes. It is a beautiful country, and it was a well chosen place to film each movie. 

As for the acting, it is quite solid. Ian McKellan is spot-on as Gandalf, and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn is great as well. Personally, I always enjoy the Hobbits. While not quite in league with McKellan or Mortensen, I personally prefer their storylines. With Frodo and Sam together with Gollum are trying to get into Mordor, towards Mount Doom to destroy the ring. Andy Serkis plays Gollum, and he does a wonderful job. While underrated as a real actor, as most of his work has been motion capture, Serkis really captures Gollum incredibly, getting his craziness, his obsession and his confusion. This storyline I find most interesting, the travels of Sam, Frodo and Gollum. Though additionally, we get a little female action with Eowyn taking on a slightly bigger role, sneaking off to war, and sneaking Merry along with her, as they are both told they cannot go, and they ultimately prove exactly why they should be allowed. 

The film is rife with battle scenes. Yes, I know the battle scenes are important and aid in the story, but much of it could have been cut down, making the film tighter and less drawn out. Then again, this is Peter Jackson directing so that wasn't going to happen. 

Overall, I'm proud something a little out of the ordinary won Best Picture, and swept many of the awards as well. This is the first and only fantasy film to win Best Picture. Fantasy has been severely under-represented at the Oscars, which is sad, because there are many quite good fantasy/sci-fi films worthy of acclaim. While it isn't the strongest movie to ever win Best Picture, with lots of battle scenes and only a medium amount of plot, it is nice to have fantasy represented in a big way. And with Lord of the Rings being as popular as ever, having been popular for a long long time, it is a fitting win. 

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

Total: 79.5/100

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind, 2001
Directed by Ron Howard
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 4
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress

A Beautiful Mind is the story of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician, and also a man with schizophrenia. We start with John at Princeton, a co-recipient of the Carnegie Scholarship. John knows he's brilliant but is intimidated by his peers, whom have already published ground-breaking papers and have contributed very much to math, economics, etc. John is definitely different than everyone at school, which everyone seems to know, especially his classmates (not that John goes to class). But John is obsessed with having his "brilliant idea" and becoming published. With the help of his roommate Charles, John works hard, skips class, and eventually comes up with his brilliant idea one night at the bar when a group of classmates see a group of pretty girls and a standout blonde, and says "every man for himself". John responds it would be better if they had a cooperative approach so that they don't all go for the same girl and all end up alone at the end of the night. This is his brilliant idea! With this John becomes published and is offered an appointment at MIT, bringing along 2 classmates with him. From there, after a visit to the Pentagon to crack a code (which he does mentally), a mysterious man from the US Department of Defence recruits him to break more codes and to uncover a bomb plot. Meanwhile, John is asked out by one of his students at MIT, to which he says yes and falls in love and eventually marries her.

This seems like a great success story. Going into this I knew very little about the movie, only knowing it was about math and the man in it had schizophrenia. How bad his schizophrenia was, I did not guess. And this is where the story takes a huge twist that I truly did not see coming. John becomes obsessed with cracking codes for the Department of Defence, and is close to cracking the codes, is involved in a car chase where himself and William Parcher, the mysterious man who recruited him. But when he goes to give a speech at Princeton, he see's the same black coated men he's been seeing for weeks, paranoid they are Russians who are coming for him to kill him. But he is taken to a hopsital for mentally ill, is told what he has. We also discover William Parcher, Charles his best friend from Princeton, and the bomb plot are not real. Everything we believed in the first half of the movie only happened in John's head.

This movie had a great twist (is it a twist if it's a true story?) Nevertheless, I knew something had to be going on, something was wrong, but on that big of a level I didn't expect.

Additionally, I'm a Russell Crowe fan and had been disappointed that he did not win for this role. He won the year before for Gladiator, so I understand why he didn't. However, I feel this was probably some of Crowe's best work. It's very different from other roles I've seen him in, and he played the muddled yet brilliant yet self conscious and eventually angry and confused John Nash excellently. Crowe was able to convery so many things throughout this movie. He was sincere yet he had problems. You could see how hard John wanted to be better, was trying, but also succumbed a lot.

While this doesn't show mental health in the best way, nor is the story about John Nash 100% true in this film, it still made an enjoyable movie.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 7/10 

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

Overall Package- 7.5/10     

Total: 77.5

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II, 1974
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 6
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (De Niro), Best Art Direction, Best Original Score

To put it simply, Part II shows us the origins of Don Vito, escaping Sicily and growing up in New York, and about his son Michael and his rise/fall as the new head of the "family".

I'm just going to put it out there; I know Part II is considered a classic, and some even say it's better than Part I. But personally, I felt this was a little pointless. It was alright in terms of the story, and didn't seem to tell us tons that really added into the story of the Corleone family. Yes, the best part of the film was the original Godfather's origins (played superbly by Robert di Nero). But Michael's story felt bland in comparison. Michael was a character I felt hardly any emotions or sympathy for, because he did not portray either of these himself whatsoever. Michael was incredibly distant, and unemotional. Which ultimately leads to, at the same time, his rise in the head of the Family, but a crashing in his own family.

Additionally, when it comes to gangster/mob/crime films, I do expect a little bit of action. Part I had a great amount, and balanced the talking with the action. Whereas I felt Part II did not. When it was Michael's story, all it was was talking, and lying, and betraying. Michael trying to protect himself rather than protect his family.

The origins of Vito is played in contrast to Michael's story. We see Vito rising and gaining respect through cleverness, and being able to repay a favour. Yes, violence was included, but we did not see it very much. Whereas Michael is "rising" because he kills anyone who gets in his way and is a danger to his own life and image. Which is quite the different legacy that his father had. Vito came to America, struggling to survive and built up an Empire. He did what he did to provide for his family, and to protect them. Whereas Michael came from a world of privilege and builds his legacy upon trying to prove himself in his family- a family he seems to always try to distance himself from.

Yes, the acting was well done. The music was great and the costumes and set were great, but I felt this movie lacked any sort of emotion or connection. Maybe that was the point, I don't know. All I know is the second installment was a lot slower, a lot less engaged and a lot less dramatic.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 

Music- 8.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 5.5/10 
Entertainment- 6.75/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6.75/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10     

Total: 74/100


Gravity, 2013
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Gravity was one of the most anticipated films of 2013. After being pushed back almost a year for post-production, becoming THE movie to see at TIFF, and then coming to have incredibly high reviews, it definitely become a film that had really high expectations. Personally, it's a film I've been pretty hyped for for a while. I had first heard about Gravity almost 2 years ago. Having loved Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, had heard how great Children of Men was, and being set entirely in space, I was pumped. Space I always find fascinating. And this movie did not disappoint.

Gravity starts off it's story with a routine mission. Matt Kowalski is on his last mission before retiring. Ryan Stone is on her very first. They are just doing a simple, routine mission of going to make some repairs on the Hubble Space telescope. But when Mission Control alerts them that debris from a Russian anti-satellite test is speeding towards them at incredibly fast and destructive speeds, they aren't able to go for cover in time before the debris arrives. Completely annihilating anything in it's path, Ryan Stone finds herself detached and spinning out into the void until Matt Kowalski is about to attached her to him. And then to find that they are the sole survivors of the attack, and don't have long before the debris will strike again. So they must find their way to safety.

While this is a somewhat simple story, of 2 astronauts trying to find safety, and eventually, to find their way home, it is told incredibly well. We have an objective and that is the focus of the film, told by Dr Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock. It's an everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. But that does not seem unrealistic for a movie that has debris destroying everything in it's path, and for a movie set in space. I would imagine it's quite easy for something to go deadly wrong.

But the thing everyone is talking about is how good this movie looks. Which, to say, looks impeccable. The graphics never looks fake, even for a single moment. And Cuaron employs many long shots that it feels as though the whole film was taken in one shot almost. The film starts with a long 13 minute shot, which is incredibly beautiful and effective. It gives the movie such a different feel, since Hollywood seems to be obsessed with short shots and lots of editing. Cuaron and his team give this a very long and realistic look. The long shots make you become drawn in and makes it feel more real. Having seen this is 3D (and I always have trouble seeing things in 3D), but this looked so great. It wasn't flashy 3D, but gave the film depth. You could really feel exactly how deep and vast the space around our 2 leads is. And how scary it is to become lost in it.

Additionally, the score and sound was almost spectacular. There is much debate about whether Cuaron should have included a musical score or just left if silent. I think a score was risky, but the one that was composed was perfect for what this film was. It was subtle enough that it didn't intrude, and blended in with typical "space noises" using the beeps, and radio static frequently heard. Also, while I did not notice this myself, but had a friend point out that we only heard things the characters touched, which the sound would come from the vibration of them touching it. The small, small details that Cuaron is able to pick up on is astounding. And while there are some inaccuracies to this film and it's science (which Cuaron readily admits), it's an incredibly effective film that has a very wide audience appeal. Gravity, because of it's simple yet powerful and emotional story, and it's amazing graphics, is a film that an incredibly wide audience can find they love. This is a film with a very wide appeal and that is something that doesn't come around that often.

Of course, with awards season coming up, this movie has gained immense Oscar Buzz. And I can say with complete confidence, it deserves it. With pretty much all the technical awards locked down (if not locked down for wins), we also have the possibility of some of the bigger awards. Sandra Bullock has gained much buzz for her performance. She truly did a great job and it's the best I've ever seen of her. Yes, it was a lot better than The Blind Side. As well, we have Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. I would not be surprised if this film ended up with possibly 9-11 Nominations.

And personally, I would not complain if it was the big winner and took home Best Picture. I loved Gravity a lot and feel like it would be something very different to win Best Picture, and with it's wider appeal, would be a great choice. Though we'll see and right now I'm not counting on a win. Just crossing my fingers at this point.


Saturday, 5 October 2013


Rebecca, 1940
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 2
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Cinematography

Rebecca tells the story of a young woman who has a whirlwind romance with an older, widowed, rich man she meets while in Monte Carlo, as a companion for her obnoxious employer. They quickly fall in love and get married very quickly. The rich man, Maxim de Winter, takes his new bride to his mansion in Cornwall, called Manderley. While there, she realizes there is a lot more behind Mr de Winter's first wife's death than she had realizes and is constantly haunted by the thought of her, while everyone in Manderley still seems to be obsessed with the first wife, Rebecca.

Being this is a Hitchcock movie, and him being known to make "scary movies", I literally thought the new Mrs de Winter would literally be haunted by Rebecca and came out disappointed. While the movie threw twists and turns that I didn't quite expect, it still wasn't exactly the movie I thought it would be. And wasn't altogether overly interesting.

Mrs de Winter always seems to be doing something wrong in the eyes of everybody. Though often times she is set up. She doesn't come from money and servants so is therefore not used to the life at Manderley. But is constantly reminded of how beautiful and fabulous and lovely Maxim's first wife Rebecca is. I don't blame Mrs de Winter. This would drive me crazy too, but would also make me curious in Rebecca.

And while the end of the film did bring out some twists to the story of Rebecca's death that I didn't expect, I was a little disappointed with the rest of the movie just being about Mrs de Winter constantly not being "good enough" and not being "like Rebecca". There were no ghosts (which I expected, or at least I expected nightmares/dreams that Mrs de Winter has about Rebecca and is therefore "haunted").

Though this movie was well made. The costumes, the sets, the acting. Hitchcock does make fine movies and this was a well-made one for sure, even if it was quite slow and not overly exciting.

The creepiness of Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, is definitely the best part of the film. She is incredibly creepy and cynical. Always seeming to be plotting something in regards to Mrs de Winter.

But overall, this film was pretty sub par to me. It wasn't a bad movie, but there have definitely been lots of better winners. It was a well-made if a slightly slow film.

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

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 6.5/10 
Entertainment- 6.5/10 
Rewatchability- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7/10 

Overall Package- 7/10     

Total: 70.5/100

Monday, 30 September 2013

Gone with the Wind

Gone With the Wind, 1939
Directed by Victor Fleming (as well as George Cukor and Sam Wood as well, kind of...)
Nominated for 13 Oscars, Won 8
Wins Include: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography (Colour), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Writing Screenplay

Gone With the Wind is an incredibly iconic movie. Even if you don't really know what it's about you know there's romance, and it's in the South. While I wouldn't exactly brand this movie as romantically specifically, it is indeed a "romance" and is set in the South, taking place pre-, during and post Civil War. Scarlett O'Hara, a young girl with a rich family, owning a large cotton plantation in Georgia, she is beautiful and is stealing the hearts of all the men in Tara. But the one she does love has just become engaged to another girl, his cousin. While the film isn't really about this (though continually focuses on Scarlett's love and longing for the man she loves- Ashley Wilkes), it is just a small part. The movie spans the young man being excited for war, during the war, and rebuilding from the war.

I had a lot of ideas about what this film was going to be about, and early on it seemed as though my expectations were going to be right. It would be about Scarlett, getting together with Rhett, eventually. And it would take them 4 hours to do so. But this movie had a bit of a different layout.

Vivien Leigh was fantastic as Scarlett. Having only seen her in later films and seen photos of her when she's a bit older and more of a "star" than she was for Gone with the Wind, it was incredibly pleasant to see her early work. Leigh really captured Scarlett's vivaciousness and passion, and at the same time was able to capture how ready to please she is and how sweet.

Clark Gable was as charming and handsome as always, playing the suave Rhett Butler. The man no one is really sure who he really is or exactly where he stands, Rhett always seems to be there just when Scarlett needs help. Spending most of the movie dropping in and out, Cable's part, at first, is a little of a one-line, but eventually gets a little meatier as the film moves along.

The scenery is gorgeous and the costumes are exquisite, huge dresses and sharp suits (whether dress suits or army uniforms).

Overall, the story was not overly memorable. It glosses over a lot of what the Civil War was truly about and was sentimental. The ending, I found, was the same as the ending at the end of the first part, a little underwhelming. And was literally the same ending. The movie didn't really end up the way I thought it would, and didn't give us much of a clear ending really.

While I understand why it won all the awards it did and I did enjoy the first half very much so, the second half is what drew the film down a bit. While the story of Scarlett trying to survive through the Civil War and care for herself was very well done, the second half which consisted of her whining about Ashley Wilkes, and then about Rhett Butler become a little tiresome and what brought me to like the film a little less than I had.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 8.5/10 

Music- 8/10 Emotional Connection- 6.5/10 
Entertainment- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 

Overall Package- 8/10     

Total: 74.5/100

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor, 1987
Directed By Bernando Bertolucci
Nominated for 9 Oscars, Won 9
Wins: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound

The Last Emperor tells the story of Pu Yi, who becomes emperor at age 3. He is also the final emperor of China. Documenting his entire life. 

I know very little about Chinese history. Correction, I know nothing about Chinese history. Seriously, like at all. Fortunately, the aforementioned history major that is my husband, did take a Chinese history class last year, and thankfully generally had answers for my numerous questions. 

This film was... odd. I'm not sure there's another way to put it. While it's a very serious topic, which is handled quite seriously, there were many really head scratching moments that made me not able to take this film seriously. Anyone know what I'm talking about? 

In the midst of the odd moments (such as child Pu Yi sucking on his wet nurse's breast, hiding a mouse in a small pouch attached to his belt, etc), there was some good acting. Point out for me would be the 3 year old Pu (he was incredibly adorable and seemed very natural running around where he wasn't supposed to, and standing and slapping his sleeves around on the throne), and the 8 year old Pu. Both were very good in their roles, and I sort of wish they had stayed around longer. 

Another thing I wasn't so keen on in this film was the lack of explanation. Events in the film feel a bit poorly explained, and I asked my husband a time or two to reassure that I knew exactly what was happening, or just straight asking him why something was happening or why it was a big deal. 

It seems a very irrelevant movie to win best picture. I'm not saying that a film about Chinese History shouldn't win the top prize. But the film seems to have very little appeal to people who don't actually know the story or Chinese History, especially since this is one that took little to no time to explain what was happening. 

Overall, not a bad film per se. Well acted, and it looked incredible. The costumes and make-up were fantastic. But this movie really wasn't for me, and was a bit uneven. 

Acting- 7.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 8.5/10 

Music- 8/10 Emotional Connection- 4/10 
Entertainment- 5/10 
Rewatchability- 4/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 5.5/10 

Overall Package- 6/10     

Total: 60.5/100

The Godfather

The Godfather, 1972
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 3
Wins: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (x3), Best Costumes, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound

"Don" Vito Corleone, head of a mob family, and known as the Godfather, is aging. His son Michael, just come home from war, is adamant that he will not become part of his family's notorious business. As Don Corleone is getting older, and the ways of the mobs are changing, Michael is finding himself stepping up to take the place of his father. 

Well, that was an extremely brief synopsis (and probably not overly well-written) of what is a quite long, and slightly complex movie. The Godfather is truly a classic film, that has always been hailed as one of the best films (and Best Picture winners- if not bested by the sequel) ever made. It's the ultimate "guy film", with lots of killing, and blood, and back stabbing. Macho, you know. 

As a young woman, I wasn't sure how this film would go with me. Not that I'm a lover of chick-flicks. And I do have the occasional "guy film" that I really love (Gladiator, etc) but I was interested walking into this one. I knew I would probably come out with respect for the film, acknowledging that yes, this is a well-made film, but i wasn't sure how much I would actually enjoy it. 

While it isn't my favourite film or anything, this film was definitely well made, well acted, well everything. It was also intriguing and interesting. Marlon Brando is an extremely fine actor. While his last win (and the only other film I"ve seen him in) was On The Waterfront, 18 years earlier, he still manages to completely immerse himself in the role. Brando was extremely convincing as the aging Italian patriarch, the one everyone both respects and fears. Having not done anything worth-while in several years, and losing cred as an actor, this film turned things around for Brando. At only 48 years old when the film came out, almost considered "too young" to play the part, Brando snagged his second Oscar for the role. 

On the other hand, we have Al Pacino, newcomer, who beat out people like Robert Redford and Warren Beatty for the role of Michael. Pacino plays Michael very subtly. Very carefully, giving him a very subtle growth in what Michael becomes. By the end of the film I wondered how we had gotten from Michael, innocent young man come home from war, to the new "Don", head of the Corleone family. When did that happen? It came on so slowly and so perfectly that it never seemed rushed or forced. This earned Pacino a Best Supporting Actor nomination (to which Pacino boycotted the Oscars that year, insisting he was the lead role). 

Overall, this is a well-made film. It looks authentic and wonderful. Between the backdrops of grungy 1940's New York, and the beautiful lands of Sicily Italy. The acting, and not just Brando and Pacino, was well done. Hence 4 different men being nominated in an acting category, and nominating the Best Supporting Actor category (though not winning). The music was beautiful and the perfect mix of old Italian style and New York mob. While, in parts, I found the film a little long, I did find the film interesting, and am interested in what makes people say the Godfather Part II is even better 

Acting- 9.5/10 
Directing- 9.5/10 
Screenplay- 8/10 
Visuals- 8/10 

Music- 8.5/10 Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 

Overall Package- 9/10     

Total: 82.5/100

Saturday, 31 August 2013


Rocky, 1976
Directed By: John G. Avildsen 
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 3
Also Won: Best Director, Best Film Editing
Also Nominated For: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (x2), Best Actress, Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Writing, 
Up Against: All the President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver

Rocky is the story of a down-on-his-luck boxer who gets a chance to fight in the World Heavyweight Championship. But what it's really about is a crappy boxer who does not look remotely like an athlete when not boxing, who loves his turtles and pets, gets together with the weird girl at the petshop, and randomly gets selected to fight Apollo Creed in the World Heavyweight Championship because his boxing name is cool and Creed doesn't want a real fight. 

This movie is a very big pop culture win. When it came to the montage scenes with Rocky training, I recognized them, and even know he would climb up those steps in front of the museum and pump his fists, even though I've never seen the film. And honestly, with this film being the classic and popular movie that  it is, I was expecting way way better than it was. 

In many ways, I could tell Sylvester Stallone wrote this script, and meant it for himself. All he did was talk the entire movie with everyone else getting few lines. Stallone seems natural for the part, and did a good job in it, but it seemed almost a little too showy, and having almost too many lines compared to his girlfriend Adrian, and various other characters (there weren't many other characters of importance). 

I found this film to be slow-moving for the first hour, and felt little sympathy for Rocky. His first fight showed he wasn't that great of a fighter, and that he wasn't really trying that hard to be great, or trying to do anything else. Rocky is a bit of a slow guy who likes to come across as being content with where he is in life, but we discover that he isn't really. The film moved a bit too slow for me, having very little to do with the final fight, and was more just random tossed together scenes of Rocky trying to help the neighbour girl who's hanging out and smoking with guys on the corner, or telling jokes to the pet shop girl (though mostly telling them to the birds or dog in the store). 

Rocky's shot at the title comes from random chance. The man who was supposed to fight Apollo Creed at the United States Bicentennial has dropped out because of a hand injury, so Creed gives this "marvelous" idea that they should give an underdog, local fighter "a shot at the title". And Rocky randomly gets selected because they like his boxer name "The Italian Stallion". To me, this sounds like a "too lucky" premise, and hardly to be believed. It's quite an outlandish idea, though its supposed to make Creed sound cocky, like it doesn't matter who he fights, they just need to give a show and Creed will win at the end of it, regardless. 

All in all, I found this film riddled with cliches. Yes I know this is the boxing movie that every boxing movie tries to replicate. But it was still filled with things I've seen in any other movie about a down-and-out before it. I find it a little unbelievable that this film won Best Picture in it's day. It was a mediocre film, that goes on to be a classic (for whatever reason). I also find it interesting that it was doubly up for Best Supporting Actor, and also for Lead Actress, all three of which I think were a little unnecessary. Talia Shire could barely get in a word edge-wise around Sylvester Stallone, and while her character represented a lot to Rocky, the performance itself was very small and nothing incredible. 

Overall, this was a barely alright film. It was extremely American, which is a film that never seems to sit that well with me because, well, I'm not American, and I've seen way too many "we love our country, the United States" movies. Sylvester Stallone had a great performance, but everything else about this film was mediocre and cliche. 

Acting- 7.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 7/10 

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 5.5/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Rewatchability- 5.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 

Overall Package- 6.5/10 
Total: 64/100

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Schindler's List

Schindler's List, 1993
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 7
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score
Up Against: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

Wow, once again, it's been a while. I've been pretty busy adjusting to married life and a new job (same company) that I've had little time to watch movies that are of "higher distinction". I'm hoping to get back into this and to post a lot more over the coming weeks. We'll see how this goes! However, my husband and I did find some time to watch Schindler's List (in two parts though!). My husband, who just graduated with his BA in History, knew more about this story than I did. However, we both did enjoy it (or as much as you can 'enjoy' a holocaust movie)

Schindler's List is a story about Oskar Schindler, Polish Jews and the Holocaust. Schindler is a wealthy and successful businessman, womanizer, a German and a member of the Nazi Party. Having moved to the city in order to start a business. Sponsored by the military (after lots of bribes for the SS and Wehrmacht), he builds a factory with the intention of making army supplies. Not knowing much about how to run such a company, he employs Itzhak Stern, a Polish Jew. While in the beginning his intentions are solely to make lots and lots of money, refusing that his company is not a refuge for Jews to work in without danger of being shot or taken to various camps, Schindler slowly begins to change his mind and his heart towards what one man can do, and the difference he can make upon the world.

The story of Schindler is a story I did not know at all coming into this film. As mentioned above, my husband knew more of this story than I did. I knew that it was about a man named Schindler, the holocaust was involved, and Jews being saved and that Ralph Fiennes is in it. So yes, very little. However, going into a movie with absolutely no knowledge or expectations can sometimes be a very good thing. While the narrative was a little less direct and the movie much longer than I had thought maybe it was, I was indeed very pleased with this movie.

One thing that really stuck out was how Spielberg did not shy away from the gruesomeness, the horror and the humiliation of the Holocaust. The digging up of dead Jews and burning them in a pile, while ash falls like snow in the city nearby. Or the Jews having to perform physicals, completely naked, in order to see how should go to the Auschwitz. Small children hiding in toilets, under floor boards, etc. The evil mentality of Amon Goeth (played incredibly by Ralph Fiennes), shooting 25 men in one of the camps, beating his servant girl, and shooting a small boy after "pardoning him". And simply everything the Jews went through. It was as though this was more about the Jews than it was Schindler. This is something I much appreciate about the film. The focus was not on the "good guy" who "saved the Jews", but of everything the Jews went through before a small number (but at the same time a large number) were saved).

Besides how raw and unafraid this movie was, it also looked quite amazing. The lighting especially made it look like this movie was genuinely made decades ago, something from Old Hollywood. The cinematography too, was beautifully (and heartbreakingly) done. The costumes were fantastic. I understand many people in rural Poland sold much of their clothing from back in the 30's and 40's to the film crew in order to make money, so much of it was genuine. As well this movie was cast well. Liam Neeson gave quite a good performance. BUt hardly ever did I think of him as the dad from Taken. Despite the fact that that movie was made 20 years later, Neeson has a 40's look to him that many contemporary stars do not. Neeson gave a great performance, the shining star being the last 15 minutes, right before he flees when the war is almost officially over, and he realizes how much he has, and how much more he could've done. While we all know it was an amazing feat to rescue 1100 Jews from Auschwitz (many of them actually arrived there before Schindler was able to rescue them from there too), Schindler's cries out that his car could've paid for 10 lives, his Nazi button was at least one or two, etc. It breaks your heart to hear him say this after seeing how much the Jews are grateful to Schindler, and knowing how much of a risk he took simply for these 1100, and Stern advising him that he did everything he could.

But it was Ralph Fiennes, to me, who particularly stuck out as brilliant throughout the film. The insanely evil and murderous Amon Goeth, he had a true Old Hollywood look to him that sometimes I almost didn't recognize him. He was fiercely evil, but sometimes you could tell he was confused about what he was doing. You hate his guts, but in moments you felt sad for him. Knowing what a mess he'd gotten himself into, but how evil he really was that he did deserve what he eventually got. And Fiennes played that beautifully.

Overall, I feel this was a very brave film, and no one could have made this film better. Spielberg, a Jew himself, was able to distance himself enough to make an unbiased film and make things absolutely brutal. While it was a great film, it's one I probably won't watch again for a very long time. It was incredibly heavy and emotional, and not the cheeriest subject matter (obviously). This is a film I indeed agree that it was Best Picture worthy, and am glad a film like this was made. 

Acting- 20/20
Directing- 20/20
Writing- 20/20
Personal Enjoyment- 18/20

Overall Package -19/20

Total: 97

Thursday, 6 June 2013

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night, 1934
Directed by Frank Capra
Nominated for 5 Oscars, Won 5
Up Against: The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, The Gay Divorce, Here Comes the Navy, The House of Rothschild, Imitation of Life, One Night of Live, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, The White Parade

Yes, yes, it's been a very long time since I've reviewed a movie. In fact I viewed this movie quite a while ago and just have been too busy to write my review. I got married about a month ago (yay!), so my time over the past few months have been sort of eaten up by planning, but I'm hoping that now I'm settled, to start doing more reviews.

It Happened One Night tells the story of Ellie, a spoiled heiress, who jumps off her father's yacht when he says she cannot marry the man she loves. When on mainland she catches a bus that will take her to her husband. However, sitting next to her is an out-of-luck reporter, Peter Warne. Reluctantly she must take his help and stick with him the entire trip, or else he'll blow the whistle on who she is, since her father is constantly searching for her. Though Warne's motives aren't completely innocent, a story to get his career back is what he's truly looking for.

This movie played out as a typical chick flick to me. In fact, it reminded me a bit of that movie Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. Spoiled girl takes help from annoying guy on a road trip, they end up falling in love, despite the fact that the spoiled girl already has a great man (or so she thinks). Then again, I'd assume a movie like this was way less cliche back in 1934 when this came out. However, it had some charming performances from Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It was quirky and cute, and it was a fun little movie. Best Picture winning? Not if it came out in this day. It would be quickly overlooked. But it was a fun movie for the time, and something different.

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

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

Overall Package- 7.5/10     
Total: 76/100

Monday, 4 March 2013

Oscar Winner Roundup

Yes, I'm doing this a week later than I'd originally planned, but I'm doing it and that's what counts.

The Academy Awards were a little over a week ago now, and we've been able to see a little bit of the feedback and how things have started to sink in. Already I've seen a half hour show talking about how Affleck is back on top and has become the best comeback story in recent Hollywood history. We've heard dozens of complaints about Oscar host Seth McFarlane, etc.

However, I made predictions just before the Oscars, and now let's take a look at how I did.

Best Picture
Prediction: Argo
Winner: Argo

I totally think it deserves it, and Ben Affleck's speech was great!

Best Director
Prediction: Ang Lee- Life of Pi
Winner: Ang Lee- Life of Pi

My risky prediction paid off!

Best Actor
Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis- Lincoln
Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis- Lincoln

Best Actress
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence- Silver Linings Playbook
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence- Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor
Prediction: Tommy Lee Jones- Lincoln
Winner: Christoph Waltz- Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Prediction: Anne Hathaway- Les Miserables
Winner: Anne Hathaway- Les Miserables

Best Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Argo
Winner: Argo

Best Original Screenplay
Prediction: Django Unchained
Winner: Django Unchained

Best Animated Feature Film
Prediction: Wreck-It-Ralph
Winner: Brave

Best Foreign Language Film
Prediction: Amour
Winner: Amour

Best Cinematography
Prediction: Life of Pi
Winner: Life of PI

Best Film Editing
Prediction: Argo
Winner: Argo

Best Original Score
Prediction: Mychael Danna- Life of Pi
Winner: Mychael Danna- Life of Pi

Best Original Song
Prediction: Adele- Skyfall
Winner: Adele- Skyfall

Best Sound Mixing
Prediction: Life of Pi
Winner: Les Miserables

Best Sound Editing
Prediction: Life of Pi
Winners: Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty

While it was a tie, and I still didn't guess right, I'm kinda proud the 2 winners were both in my "could win" section.

Best Production Design
Prediction: Anna Karenina
Winner: Lincoln

Best Visual Effects
Prediction: Life of Pi
Winner: Life of Pi

Best Costumes
Prediction: Anna Karenina
Winner: Anna Karenina

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Prediction: The Hobbit
Winner: Les Miserables

If you were keeping score, I finished with 14/20, which is better than my 12/20 from last year. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the winners! No big upsets with the biggest surprise of the night being Ang Lee's second Director Win and Christoph Waltz's second win for Supporting Actor. I had correctly predicted Lee so I was very happy, and while I didn't predict Waltz, his was my favourite performance of the bunch, so I was happy there too.

Hopefully I can start making up predictions for next year in the next few weeks! Until then..