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