Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2015 Blindspot

As 2015 rolls around, I've decided to pick up a new project, this one a year long one. I've seen bloggers all around participating in this over the year, and as the new year rolls in, I've decided to join in. Introduced by Ryan at the Matinee, I'm going to be participating in the The Blindspot challenge. It's about catching up with "essential" films and picking 12 of them to view and post about over the course of the year.

Since I've finished my Best Picture project, I still felt there are so many films I just haven't gotten around to seeing. Mostly because my time was taken up with that project and those films were the priorities. So several of the films below are films many people thought should've won Best Picture, or films that are pop culture favourites, or just had Oscar Nominated performances. I'm not really sure how "essential" everything is on this list, but I tried to get a broad range of classics, cult classics, popular films, and critical favourites. I've listed my films below and I'll give you some reasons why I've picked them.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Yes, seriously, I have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. I know some of you are shocked and probably confused, but it's just a film I've just somehow never gotten around to. I'm too young to have watched it as a kid, and it was a film that my parents never owned, so I never saw. Now, I've seen bits and pieces of it over the years, and even played the theme song in Band in high school, but I figure it's about time I saw this one. 

Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dazed and Confused is a film I've heard a lot about over the years. But right now, I've been really interested in Richard Linklater's films, and it would be fun to see the original performance of "alright, alright, alright" from Matthew McConaughey, and I know it's such a cult classic. Again, maybe not "essential" but it's definitely one I'm interested in seeing and have heard so much about. 

Goodfellas (1990)
The film that probably should've won Best Picture over Dances with Wolves. At least, that's what I kept hearing when reading up on Dances with Wolves during the BP project. It's also the film that many say should've gotten Martin Scorsese his first big Oscar win. Needless to say, I definitely call this one essential viewing. It's a "runner up", in a sense, for Best Picture, and I've just heard it's so freaking good. (Also, it means I get to see Harry from Home Alone in an Oscar Winning Performance... definitely essential!)

Psycho (1960)
Is anything really more essential viewing than Psycho? I am sadly behind on my Hitchcock films, all I have seen to date is Rebecca and Rope. Both really good, but not really the ones he's well known for. I just feel it's high time to watch this classic. 

Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Mainly, I want to see this so I can find out why Angelina has an acting Oscar but Brad doesn't. I'm not really sure if this is a classic or an essential film at all, but I mainly want to see Angie's Golden Performance. 

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Is there really anything to say about this one? This one, and the one below, both released in the same year and, depending who you ask, say it deserved to win Best Picture over Forrest Gump. It's Tarantino at his supposed best, so it's something I definitely need to see. 

Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Again, this one is pretty easy to see why it was picked. It's another film I feel weird saying I've never seen. Admittedly, I have seen the first 45 minutes or so (it was on TV during my honeymoon but came on really late so I fell asleep). It's a film my husband really likes, and, obviously, is a classic. 

Roman Holiday (1953)
I wanted to toss some lighter stuff in without it being too light. This is Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, a combo that sounds really enjoyable to watch. It's an iconic movie (or more, Audrey Hepburn is just iconic in everything she does). It won Audrey an Oscar and was up for 10 Oscars including Best Picture. A break from some of the heavier fare is always welcome!

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Again, another movie I'm kind of ashamed I haven't seen yet. It's that classic Christmas movie that I was never interested in seeing as a kid, so never saw. Jimmy Stewart is awesome and I've enjoyed some of Frank Capra's other films, so this one is a must-see. 

Almost Famous (2000)
Okay, not necessarily essential, but it's a film I'd like to see. It got Kate Hudson an Oscar nomination, so I'm definitely pretty curious. Mainly, it just looks like an itneresting, fun film that would be a nice break up from the heavy stuff, but also critically acclaimed enough and I've heard enough people reference it to make me want to see it.  

Se7en (1995)
Another director I've like to completely catch up on is David Fincher. His films I often don't care for on first viewing but grow to love them. I debated whether to put Fight Club or Se7en on this list, but went with Se7en in the end. It's regarded often as Fincher's best film (depending who you ask). I'm also a big Brad Pitt fan so it's two birds with one stone on viewing this one. 

Citizen Kane (1941)
Okay, there are a lot of movies I'm kind of ashamed I haven't seen. And while I wouldn't rank this as high on the ashamed list as Indiana Jones, it's still a film that, as a film lover, I feel I should really get around to seeing. I saw the first half or so in film class in college but haven't really had time to watch the rest. It's greatly considered the best film ever made, so I'd say it's definitely essential!

There you have it! There are my 12 films to expect posts about over the next 12 months. I'm definitely looking forward to catching up films that I really should've seen by now and excited to just see some great movies. 

(Note: I didn't realize how many 90's movies I was doing until I started adding the dates to the films. 6 movies from the 90's plus 1 from 2000)

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, 2014
Directed by Morten Tyldum

In a race against time, the British government is trying desperately to crack the Enigma Code, the way in which The Germans encode their messages during WWII. They are trying to crack the code in order to win the war. However, this is an impossible task. There are millions of millions of possibilities for the code, and they change the code everyday at midnight. But at Bletchley Park, groups of scholars, mathematicians, and all sorts of intelligents are gathered to try and crack the code. Enter Alan Turing, a prodigy Cambridge student who loves crossword puzzles and games. Turing is hired, along with a small group of others, to crack Enigma. Confident in his skills and knowledge, Turing knows that humans are incapable of cracking the code themselves as there are millions of millions of possibilities for the code and the code changes every day at midnight. So he set out to invent a super machine in which can crack the code for them.

The story of Alan Turing is a complex one. And while I’ve heard that the film is not that accurate at all (when are these biopics ever that accurate?), the story is an interesting and a thrilling one. The film shows all the tangled webs that are weaved throughout the war, and how the war was simply not just the soldiers out fighting on the battlefield. There was much more to the war, so much we don’t know. And Alan Turing played a large part in that. The story is well balanced in talking about Turing’s personal life, his work and his life after the war.

While Turing is most well known for essentially inventing the computer during WWII, the other thing most well known about him is that he was gay (something of which was illegal in the UK at the same). And as punishment, was chemically castrated. The film does involve his homosexuality, and, while many have complained the film isn’t “gay enough”, I found the balance that was struck was appropriate and made the most sense. The most interesting thing I found about this film, and the attitude of many of the people who talk about Turing is that it’s terrible that we uphold Turing as a war hero, but then we chemically castrate him for being a homosexual. And while I do agree, chemical castration is terrible and is such a dark part of the UK’s past, but I find it interesting that most people think of the situation this way. Turing’s part in the war was not only classified, but no records existed for what he did during the war. His file is completely empty, as the film shows. Nobody knew of his contributions for a long time. As well, Turing was offered the choice of a few years in prison, or to be chemically castrated. He chose castration over prison so he would be able to continue working.

Nobody knew that the government had condemned and castrated a man who helped to end the war and had contributed so much. In their eyes, this was just another homosexual man, a regular man. I wonder whether things would’ve been different had anyone known. I suppose you could argue that the people who did know could’ve stepped up. But I feel as though things may have been a little different had it been known how much Turing had done for his country. This could be naivety on my part, but you never know.

Anyway, the film didn’t overly focus on this. This is just me taking these thoughts away from the film. Film’s that have you asking questions are always good ones. The way in which Turing was treated was undoubtedly horrible, whether or not he was a war hero.

As well, Keira Knightley’s character Joan Clarke is probably the person who fascinated me most. Joan came to Bletchley Park after completing a crossword puzzle in the newspaper, the means used to find new recruits as code breakers to work on Turing’s team. She was the only woman and, at the interview, completed the exercises faster than Turing himself had. But Joan found herself unable to attend. She is a young, unmarried woman, and to do such work amongst men (the work at Bletchley was disguised as working at a Radio Factory) was not looked as “appropriate” by her parents. However, Turing is incredibly interested in Joan, and is able to get her to come, though working among the women who intercepted the German messages. Joan and Alan became extremely close and she also plays a part in the cracking of Enigma. Joan Clarke was a very well-written female character in a very male film. The fact that a woman like her existed is fantastic. I found Joan probably the most interesting character of the bunch. She was strong, intelligent, and knew exactly what she wanted. But being a woman meant that there were so many obstacles in her way. But she overcame so many of them to get where she went.

The film itself was well-made, though nothing terribly stand-out about it. It was thrilling, had a great story and the story itself was delivered well. Turing is an interesting character and Benedict Cumberbatch played him so well. Cumberbatch is just one of those actors where I don’t believe when people say he can’t act. I mistrust those people because Cumberbatch is one of the most obviously talented and passionate actors working right now. You can tell he had such devotion to the part and to the man himself. You can tell how much love and effort was put into the role. He played the part incredibly well and delivered on so many levels. And as much as I loved the character of Joan, Keira Knightley’s performance was simply a solid one but nothing terribly standout. Though admittedly the role of Joan was not nearly as juicy as I’ve made it sound, and often didn’t have Keira Knightley doing things overly interesting. Though in the small moments she needed to deliver, she always did.

As well, I’m a huge fan of Alexandre Desplat, and his work here, of course, was fabulous. Desplat is always so brilliant for having elements of the story and film reflecting in his music. In this case, Desplat often had the music feel very scattered and very ticking. It definitely felt puzzle and enigma-like, which is something I love about Desplat’s style.

In the end, while the film wasn't edgy and didn't take very many risks, it was still an incredibly enjoyable film. The screenplay was well-written, and while the approach of the scattered story-telling (in order to feel like a puzzle, as well) worked for the most part, it started to get a little too much and felt less effective by the end. However, there were some incredibly well-written and directed scenes. The “breakthrough” scene was a particular highlight of the film. As well, so many things were included without detracting from other details (a problem which The Theory of Everything seemed to have). Everything in the story was balanced exceedingly well, and this helped aid the film. 

Overall, the film should perform reasonably well at the Oscars. The screenplay is a current frontrunner for the win in Adapted Screenplay, and Desplat is also overdue for an Oscar win. However, I don’t see Cumberbatch being the winner of lead actor (I would personally choose fellow Brit Eddie Redmayne over Cumberbatch). However, the film should walk away with at least 5 nominations, if not more.


Friday, 12 December 2014

pitch perfect + breaking + christmas (random thoughts on fridays)

so where i'm living got buckets of snow yesterday. so that's a lot of fun. driving to and from work was pretty scary and slippery. so because my husband and I didn't feel like doing much, we watched Pitch Perfect on Netflix last night. I'd seen it before and just felt like watching a movie we could just
mellow with and not need to think about. And Pitch Perfect is pretty good for just that. I forgot how apathetic I feel about that movie. It's just alright and the fact they do that one song like a million times and you get to hear it a million times is really tiring. But I do really like Anna Kendrick so it's worth a watch every so often, I suppose. Also, Elizabeth Banks has a small part but she's kind of my favourite. Pretty cool she's directing the sequel.

So remember I was mentioning about Snowpiercer and how it got released in like no theatres which was really stupid and it probably would've made decent money had it actually played? Well, I found out more information about why this didn't happen. Apparently Harvey Weinstein didn't like the final cut and wanted the director to edit out like 20 minutes (which included back story of a character) so that the "average movie-goer from Oklahoma or Iowa" can understand it. I'm unsure what South Koreans understand that Oklahomans can't? Anyway, Weinstein's cut got poorer reactions and then he decided to make the directors cut the official version but was pissy and said that he was going to chop their theatre count and release on VOD really soon after so basically no theatres would want them. Sucks, eh? At least I eventually got to see it and it sounds like several people I have on Facebook have as well. That's always nice.

And on the same note, I'm still waiting for Foxcatcher and The Imitation Game to actually start playing near me. We'll see if this, like, ever happens. How is it I was more easily able to see Boyhood than Foxcatcher? This makes no sense to me.

My husband and I are slowly making our way through Breaking Bad. I heard it gets really slow near the middle and I'm wondering if we're hitting that point. This last episode was essentially Walt doing
home renos and Jesse was being all cutesy with a girl. I know, we're so behind, we're still on season 2, but now that we have more time, hopefully we'll start watching like mad, especially when I'm off in a week. Is it weird that I always wish really good shows or movies had book versions I could read? I always wish Downton Abbey was a book, I think that would be so awesome as a book. Is that weird? I just love combining my books and movies love. So many times I've read a book because the movie was coming out (yes, I've read Anna Karenina and Les Mis, crazy right?)

Does anyone have Christmas movie recommendations? The ads I see on TV for various Christmas movies all look so terrible and there is only so many times I can watch Home Alone 1 & 2, Elf, White Christmas and A Christmas Story. Why are so many so lame? Recommend me a good one please!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

2015 Golden Globe Nominations

Another day with more nominations! Today had the announcement of the Golden Globe nominees. I mean, does anyone really take the Globes seriously? I know I don't, but it's still exciting and it's fun. 
As always, I have the film nominations listed below and have included some commentary. 
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Into the Woods
The Grand Budapest Hotel
St. Vincent

So I think Birdman, Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest were pretty unsurprising here. I haven't really heard of Pride and St. Vincent looked so meh. I'd have preferred to see something like Begin Again or Chef in here. 

Best Motion Picture, Drama
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Best Director
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay, Selma
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

OH MY GOSH WES ANDERSON. Basically all my thoughts right now. Like, seriously, this is so wickedly cool. I love Wes Anderson and am so happy to see him here. Can this lineup repeat at the Oscars? I'd be incredibly happy with this!

Best Actor, Drama
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything

Nothing really surprising here. Like, at all. Having Keaton in Comedy opens up another slot so you've got pretty much the same nominees as yesterday at the SAG. I just love that Michael Scott is probably going to be an Oscar nominee! 

Best Actress, Drama
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Jennifer Aniston was surprising yesterday but she isn't here. Globes love nominating celebrities and if Aniston is going to get in anywhere, it would be here. Also, looking at this list (which perfectly matches the SAG Actresses) I wondered who the heck our comedy nominees would be. Also, I love Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike. I'd love to see either of them win!

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

Are many of these actually comedies? Golden Globes are always so weird like this. Nevertheless we have Inherent Vice actually slipping in here, a movie that just looks really weird and that i have like no interest seeing. Also this is probably the only place Big Eyes will be a thing. But yeah seriously I want Ralph Fiennes to win, I don't even care that Keaton was also fab, I'd love to see Fiennes win because he was so great. 

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
Helen Mirren, The Hundred-Foot Journey
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie

An interesting list for sure. But then I feel like this category is always random. Was Maps to the Stars and Hundred-Foot Journey comedies? But I digress, it's an odd list and I don't really have many thoughts about it. I think I'd like to see Emily Blunt win. She's kind of awesome and I like her. Good reasons to root for her, right? 

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Naomi Watts didn't make it in here like she did yesterday. I prefer seeing Chastain nominated because her movies looks juicy and awesome and she's super great and always deserves nominations. Just as long as Patricia Arquette wins. Anyone think the Globes might get really celeb-mainstream happy and pick Emma Stone? I could see it. 

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Matchy-matchy with yesterday if I'm not mistaken. Again, as always, Edward Norton should be the winner here. 

Best Screenplay
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Again, so happy to see The Grand Budapest here. Actually, just all the nominees here are exciting and great choices. 

Best Animated Motion Picture
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
The Lego Movie
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Glad to see HTTYD2 here. I love those movies. Also, The Lego Movie should be the big duh winner here. 

Best Foreign Language Film
Force Majeure
Tangerines Mandarinid

Best Song
“Big Eyes,” by Lana Del Ray—Big Eyes
“Glory,” by John Legend & Common—Selma
“Mercy Is,” by Patti Smith & Lenny Kaye—Noah
“Opportunity,” by Greg Kurstin, Sia Furler, Will Gluck—Annie
“Yellow Flicker Beat,” by Lorde—Mockingjay

I'm surprised that Unbroken didn't even manage to make it in here... But otherwise, I really don't care about this category. 

Best Original Score, Motion Picture
Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez, Birdman
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

All of these are such, such, such good choices. Like seriously, all of these are amazing scores and I'm so happy to see them all ehre. Johannsson's work for Theory was one of my favourite parts, BIrdman's was so original and Zimmer did something different and beautiful for Interstellar. Reznor and Ross are obviously brilliant and Gone Girl is no different. Also, can Desplat win his Oscar yet? Seriously. 

Anyway, I'm excited about the nominations, even if they don't really mean all THAT much in the end. It's fun and I'm rooting for my favourites. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

2015 Screen Actors Guild Nominations

As pretty much everyone already knows, I love awards season. And between today's SAG nominations and tomorrow's Golden Globe's, I'm just really excited! So here are the Film announcements below, along with a few thoughts. 

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel! I'm seriously excited and would love if this would turn into a thing. Like a Best Picture nomination thing. Please? Anyway, I'm also glad to see Theory of Everything and Boyhood here. Both have much smaller casts but they were both really good, Boyhood especially and the performances in Theory are just too good, so I'm glad they both made it in. Will Birdman be this years American Hustle? Maybe, maybe not. Hard to see where the direction of winners will go just yet. Although, can I point out that Unbroken didn't make it in here? Very interesting... (neither did Selma but apparently screeners weren't sent out so yeah). Also, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl and Into The Woods didn't make the cut either. Interesting, interesting. 
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
  • Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
  • Beendict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
  • Michael Keaton (Birdman)
  • Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
I'm pretty excited for everybody here. I mean, I'd more excited if I had actually seen the Imitation Game and Foxcatcher (why is this not playing anywhere near me???) , but I'm still excited since I love both Steve Carell and Benedict Cumberbatch. Particularly happy to see Carell, since he seemed to be slipping. Also, I know the internet is loving Nightcrawler, a film I should probably catch, so I know people are happy to see him here. With GBH in Ensemble, I would've loved to see Ralph Fiennes here too but alas... 
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
  • Jennifer Aniston (Cake)
  • Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
  • Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
  • Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Jennifer Aniston? I was surprised! Will this also become a thing? Potentially? Maybe not? Somehow I don't think it will, but the Globes love celebrities so I wouldn't be surprised to see her nominated there as well. But will that equal a thing at the Oscars? Otherwise, Julianne Moore is like a big duh, as is Reese Witherspoon. I love Felicity Jones and am so happy she's finally getting the recognition she deserves. Also, Amazing Amy for the win!

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Robert Duvall (The Judge)
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
  • J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
I guess Duvall is the only real surprise but apparently SAG really likes him or something so I guess it isn't overly surprising. Otherwise, Hawke, Norton and Simmons were locks so no surprise there. I know people have loved Ruffalo for Foxcatcher so it's nice to see him here. Too bad for Channing Tatum, completely missing out. 
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
  • Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
  • Naomi Watts (St. Vincent)
I am currently at work so I wasn't able to watch the live stream of nomination announcements so I had SAG's twitter page open. They don't specify what film/show people are nominated for so I had at first assumed Naomi Watts was up for Birdman, which I thought was a little random but not weird because I thought she was really good. But she's up for St. Vincent?? This is really, really random. I know I haven't seen it but this seems so out of the blue. Everything else was expected. As long as Patricia Arquette win, I'll be happy!
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
  • Fury
  • Get On Up
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Unbroken
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past

There you  have it! Birdman is our leader with 4 nomintions, followed by The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game and Boyhood. All of which I approve! So Awards season has officially launched and tomorrow we'll get the Golden Globe nominations. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

random thoughts on fridays (snowpiercer + award season)

To break things up, I just thought I'd post about random stuff. I mean, my blog is filled with mostly reviews or blogathons or whatever. So I thought I'd just post about random stuff and just write a typical blog post. I thought I'd try to do this once a week, so here we go...

I watched Snowpiercer a couple of weeks ago. Seriously, it was so fantastic. Like, so so good. I love how non-American it felt and just how much more guts it had than anything like it. I just don't get why this didn't get a bigger release than it did. Seriously, this is an R-rated Hunger Games starring Captain America. I definitely feel like if this had actually been marketed and released on a wider scale, there would've been a pretty solid audience. But yeah, Chris Evans proves to me that he is actually a really good actor. I mean, that scene where he's telling his story, right near the end? Yeah, so great. Also, Tilda Swinton is seriously underrated. Can I call her the quirky Meryl Streep? Because she kind of is. 

On a related note, limited releases sucks so much. I've been dying to see Foxcatcher for so long now, and this movie is just taking it's sweet time. It's been released now for a few weeks, but it's only playing downtown Toronto which, while not that far, takes a long time to get there, is inconvenient and I really don't have any time this time of year to just go. Here's to hoping it starts playing more places soon. Also, the Imitation Game better play at least somewhat close to me when it's released either next week or the week after. But yeah, Canada seems to be oddly behind on so many releases this year. I'm just happy that I was able to see Boyhood in theaters, and that I somehow was able to see the Theory of Everything at TIFF because goodness knows it's not really playing anywhere either. 

Also, I haven't see Mockingjay yet, and I really don't care. Weird for me, because I love the first two (and especially Catching Fire) but just really haven't bothered to go see it. I guess I will at some point but I'm thinking I'll just wait until my life gets a little less busy and go see it when it gets to the $5 theatre. That probably sounds like a better plan than spending a lot of money for what I hear is just a mediocre movie. 

Also, I'm getting ridiculously anxious and excited because I weirdly love Oscar season, and making predictions and who wins what, and ahhhhh. I love the competition and the guessing game and whatever. I've officially jumped on the "Boyhood for Best Picture" train. While I would love if Unbroken was fantastic (because the book was so great and Louis Zamperini's story is insane and amazing) but I don't really think it's going to happen and Boyhood seems the best bet after that. I mean, people are talking about Selma as well. If played right, it could get a big lift because of the whole civil rights thing going on in America right now, but I just don't (at this point) see another civil rights/"white guilt" movie winning two years in a row. I know they're different era's but I like to think the Academy can even provide a little more diversity with their winners. And yeah, I know Boyhood is probably way too indie to win, and that the Academy loves Jolie so Unbroken winning could still be a thing but I just really want Boyhood to win because, really, is there any other winner like it? Yep, I just love the speculation of it all. It's just too fun. 

Well, until next week...   (I hope this wasn't too random)  

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

My First Movie Blogathon!

So the ladies over at Flick Chicks are hosting another blogathon. This time, it's about your first movie experience. This could be anything from the first VHS you remember watching, your first time to the movie theater, or even the first VHS/DVD you bought for yourself.

So, for me, because I just can't remember the very first movie I ever watched, I am choosing to write about the first time at the movie theater. And honestly, I'm not even 100% sure this is the first film I saw in theaters. However, I spent some time going through the years I would've been old enough to go, and this was the first film that stuck out to me, and I'm pretty sure I saw in theater.

In 1999, I was seven years old. And one of my first trips to the movie theater (if not my first overall) led me to see the Disney movie Tarzan. I wouldn't say I was exactly raised on Disney (there are still a few I only remember vaguely watching and some I haven't seen at all), but, for whatever reason (maybe because I was finally old enough, or had seen the commercials and I was dying to see it), my parents took me to see Tarzan.

Tarzan, if you don't already know or haven't seen it, is about a man who has been raised by apes his whole life, out in the jungle. But when some explorers reach his area to research the apes, Tarzan discovers Jane. Jane and those with her are astonished in their discovery of Tarzan. A man been raised by apes? They teach him to read, speak and write English, to learn English customs and culture. And, of course, Tarzan and Jane fall in love.

Honestly, Tarzan is a movie I have not watched in quite a few years now, but it's one I definitely really loved growing up, after seeing it in theaters. The music is great, the story is great, and I kind of really wanted to be Jane Porter. How awesome was she? The animation was so beautiful, and I'm sure I pretended I was Tarzan or Jane various times after watching this film. And I also remember being slightly disturbed at the ending, with Clayton hanging in the vines. This scene, is the one I remember most from seeing it in theaters. I found it sad and scary and something I had never really seen before.

However, the music in the film was something I loved. All of it was awesome, Phil Collins wrote some amazing stuff. I believe we owned the soundtrack and I remember listening to it at home, thinking "You'll Be In My Heart" was such a sweet and romantic song.

Tarzan is a movie that I do not personally own, but my parents bought and owned on VHS after the movie was released. It was one we watched every so often and that we always enjoyed. It's one my mother probably enjoyed just as much as me and my younger sister. It was somewhat of a classic in our house for a period, but never really reached the level of love we had for Aladdin (which was my family's absolute favourite). We haven't watched this movie in years, and frankly, I can't really remember the last time I watched it. But it's a film that I've always loved and enjoyed, and one I'm actually thinking about watching sometime this week since it's been so long and I'd love to finally revisit it.

As mentioned, I can't be 100% sure that this is the first film I ever saw in theaters. But looking at the wide release movies in the years after I was born, this is the first one that sticks out to me and I'm 95% certain I did see in theaters.

Other movies seen in theaters in 1999: Inspector Gadget, Toy Story 2, Stuart Little

Monday, 24 November 2014


Interstellar, 2014
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Much of Interstellar is left to secrecy. I mean, what would be the point of an almost 3 hour movie if we knew generally what happens or even what it's about?

Interstellar, at it's very most basic, is about Earth, and it's decay, and about a group of people who leave it to find the people of Earth a new home. It involves space travel, worm holes and a lot of science.

Coop is a single father of two. A farmer since the world started running out of food, but a pilot and almost astronaut before that, Coop is always look up at the sky above him. His daugher Murph, too, is fascinated by science and space and the ghost that she claims haunts her bedroom. But Coop gets called into action when he gets recruited by NASA to go on a trip to find Earth a new home. There's a wormhole near Saturn that leads to another galaxy with planets with the potential for life. And Coop is the only person they know who has actually flown a spaceship. Heartbroken about leaving his kids, Coop sets out on this adventure, but vows to return, no matter what.

Matthew McConaughey was wonderful as Coop. Is he not the master of crying? His crying scenes are always so killer, and I know I teared up every time he did. The scene where he watches video messages from his son is so emotional and powerful. McConaughey really nails everything he does, and this film is no exception. Incredibly believable as loving and devoted father, desperate to return home to his children, and a man conflicted with the choices he is given. However, McConaughey is not the only one who stands out in this film, though I'd argue he gives the best performance here.

Anne Hathaway is also fantastic as Dr Brand. She is able to balance all the difference layers she is given, whether emotional, strong and professional, she gives everything. The hate people have for Anne Hathaway is something I have never understood, and still don't. She's incredibly talented, and while I wouldn't say she deserves an Oscar nomination for her work here, it is still solid work.

I won't spoil anything about Jessica Chastain, but she too, as always, gives a great performance. Really, can she give a bad performance? While her part is not as large as McConaughey or Hathaway, she still gives a great performance here. As well, there is such an incredibly supporting cast of Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy (fantastic as Murph), Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley and Matt Damon.

Hans Zimmer, naturally, scored this film. And his work here blew me away. I had been expecting something along the lines of his work for Batman or Inception, but it was great to hear something different. Indeed, it was more celestial and classical. It was chaotic when it needed to be, and was reminiscent of classical music while spinning through the galaxies. It was great to hear something different, and Zimmer really did great work here.

Also, this is Nolan's only second film not to have Wally Pfister as cinematographer, as Pfister was busy filming Transcendence at the time. However, getting Hoyte Van Hoytema was a fantastic choice. The film looked different from Nolan's other films, and I thought Hoytema's work was a perfect fit for this film. It was beautifully shot and I'd love for Nolan to work with him again in the future. The cinematography here was stunning and was perfect for the feel of the film.

Interstellar is far from a perfect film. It's complex in plot, and it's science is head-spinning and sometimes hard to understand. There were parts where things weren't explained that well or just skimmed the details. Things sometimes got convoluted, and while I understand what Nolan was going for, and why he did what he did, things often got a little too bizarre, was a bit too much of stretch, or was just starting to slip from control. There's the scene near the ending (movie watchers will know which one I mean), that feels like it's just gone too far. It's pretty ridiculous and was a bit of mess. It made next to no sense, and while I like the thought behind it, it was just too far.

The problems I had with this movie are much like the ones I had with Inception. Both have extremely strict rules for some things, but other things, for whatever reason, aren't as strict and are flexible, all of which is inconsistent with each other. Some things are explained deeply, with rich detail. Other things are just skimmed over with little explanation, even though they play a large part in the overall story. However, like Inception, this doesn't make it a bad film! In fact, I enjoyed Interstellar very much, it just makes it more flawed than it could've been.

And at it's core, past the science and space travel, it's the story about a father and a daughter. It's about the power of love and the heart. And this is what the film is really about and what makes the film as good as it is. We all have people we love, and people we would do anything for. It's what makes us connect and relate to this film about worm holes and foreign galaxies and space travel.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu 

I’m one of those people who has become pretty tired of superhero movies. I have just a handful that I really enjoy, and gave a big sigh when Marvel and DC announced their line ups for the next 6 or 10 years or whatever it was. And while I know that no one is making me see superhero movies, it still is tiring and a little disappointing that our culture is inundating themselves with so much of the same thing, over and over.

This is kind of the idea behind Birdman. It’s more about an idea than an actual story. It’s about an experience and about our culture. Or at least that's what I think, anyway. Riggan Thompson played Birdman back in the 90’s. But now, 20 years later, he’s opening a play on Broadway (that he adapted, directed and will star in), trying desperately to prove that there’s more to him than just Birdman. It’s a film about human existence, and trying to prove that you matter, to try and do something great.

Riggan, obviously, is the most interesting. He’s constantly battling Birdman. He battles it while he walks on the street and people ask him for his autograph and a photo, even though Birdman ended 20 years ago. He’s trying to open a play, but the cities top critic is already planning to write a terrible review, simply because he’s Birdman and he’s taking up the place of people who are more talented than him. He goes viral when he finds himself needing to walk through Times Square in his underwear. He finds himself butting heads with the newest cast member, who is a very respected and brilliant (though somewhat crazy) Broadway actor. But mainly, he finds himself, seemingly literally, haunted by his superhero alter ego. Every moment alone, Riggan finds his head filled with the growls of Birdman. Birdman tells him he isn’t good enough, and that Birdman is all he’ll ever be. And while he tries to convince himself that he had a great time filming the Birdman films, he also finds himself hating the association, so many years later. Hating that nobody seems able to move past it. And so many people seem to write him off because of it. Riggan is constantly trying to separate himself from Birdman, and seems to always find himself constantly entangled and going back.

But there is also those around Riggan. There’s Mike Shiner, the brilliant but crazy Broadway veteran. Very well respected, but drives the cast around him crazy, Mike seems to be the opposite of Riggan. He doesn’t care at all what people think of him, and finds he is the most honest when he’s out on stage, playing someone else. His performances are honest, and he wants everything to be as real as it can be. His ex-girlfriend Lesley is making her Broadway debut in this play and is begging that he doesn’t mess this up for her. She just wants her Broadway dreams to come true. But then there’s also Sam, Riggan’s daughter. She just got out of rehab not that long ago, and her relationship with her father is strained from many years of her father not being there.

But all of this comes back to Riggan, and his inability to separate himself from Birdman and his desperation to do something that matters, to prove himself, to do something great. He doesn’t want to just be Birdman anymore, but it doesn’t look like anyone will let him.

I enjoyed this film. The commentary on superhero and blockbuster action movies is incredibly biting and is very honest. It’s something I’ve been feeling exasperated with for some time now, so it’s been interesting to have a film come along to say some similar things that I’ve been saying. I often find myself a little annoyed with superhero films, often wishing that the actors involved would put their great talents to actual use, and that they would do it somewhere else, almost feeling as though they are wasting their time. I often feel this way about Andrew Garfield, who has incredible potential, but hasn’t done very much since doing the Spiderman films. Meanwhile, there’s people like Chris Hemsworth who seems to be able to balance doing his Thor films, but also doing a variety of films in the off-time (Rush was fantastic, and Hemsworth was very good, showing a lot of potential for great things). Superhero movies have inundated our culture so much that it hardly leaves room for anything else. There are so many people out there that will go see every superhero film, but never want to have time to sit down and watch a drama movie with a lot of talking (I believe Mike Shiner made this point, as well, at some point in the film). We have this weird disinterest in things that don’t have a lot of action or quick moving “plots” that it starts to not leave room for different, more serious films.

Everything in the film is very deliberate in trying to continue to make its point. Even the cinematography, which is filmed as to look like it is one long take, seems to almost be a shot at action films that are obsessed with having hundreds or thousands of cuts in them, while this seemingly none. Indeed, this way of filming, winding through the backstage hallways and streets of New York makes it feel as though it is spinning out of control. The brilliant jazz drum score, as well, aids in this.

Everything has this sense of teetering on the edge of chaos. Michael Keaton’s performance, especially, leaves us spiraling. It’s such a stunning performance, and one that feels so incredibly honest and heartbreaking. He really embraces Riggan as probably only Michael Keaton could. A reflection of Keaton’s own career, having starred as Batman in the 90’s and having done nothing too remarkable until now, Keaton is inspired casting and his performance matches. Keaton his given everything to the role, and you can tell. Edward Norton as Mike Shiner is absolute perfection, doing a balancing act or brilliance and insanity but with a soft core buried somewhere deep underneath. Norton seems to completely understand Shiner and brings intensity, but also a lot of fun, to the role. As well, Emma Stone as Sam is never better, finally in a dramatic role that she shines in. It’s the performances, more than anything, that are pitch-perfect and will leave you stunned. Even down to Zach Galifinakis, whom I thought was perfectly cast and did an excellent job, and to Naomi Watts as Mike’s ex-girlfriend about to make her Broadway debut. Everyone seems to have given their everything to the role’s assigned, and it makes the movie that much more remarkable.

I may have raved a lot about this film, but, personally, it’s one I don’t need to see again anytime soon. It's definitely a film that has some commentary that is hard to swallow, and definitely won't be a crowd-pleaser with the everyday audience. It steps on a lot of toes and many people will disagree, but there's no doubting the film is well made. However, this is not what makes me not love it. Indeed, these things are what make me like it as much as I do. Though, something just didn't quite completely capture me, though it has gotten me thinking so much about it for the last 2 days since I walked out of the theatre.

The performances and technical's were stunning, with fantastically real dialogue. But by the end, things just seems to become a bit of a run on sentence. And while this does seem almost deliberate (though it feels less so than everything else), it does spiral a little too out on control. I feel like this accurately sums up how I felt about Birdman overall. It may have some lovely language being used, fantastic words and eloquent phrases, and you may even agree with everything that is stated. But in the end, while everything presented may have been wonderful, it simply just could've been articulated a bit better, and runs on past the point that it should've. And really, with a film that had as high hopes for itself as this one did, it could've been much, much worse than just being a perfectly acted and well-written run on sentence. It could've had no substance or artistic integrity at all.

Update (3/27/2015)
Birdman is a film that, upon second viewing, I enjoyed much more. It's a fantastic story of wanting to feel like you mean something and have made an impact. Michael Keaton was fantastic, though I feel he was probably outshone by Edward Norton and Emma Stone, who were absolutely fantastic. The commentary and messages are biting but the imagery and parallels that go along with it are so stunning. The ending is fantastic, and all the foreshadowing and allegories are so perfectly done. It's a film I respect very much, it's also one I've come to actually enjoy, especially upon second viewing, knowing how it all ends. Knowing the ending didn't detract from a second viewing, but actually added to it. There are so many small things that the film does, in reflections of mirrors or even just the reflections the play itself has on the actors involved in it.

While it wouldn't have necessarily been my choice to win Best Picture, it's something very different to win. It's a film about a mid life crisis, with fantastical elements (and it's up for debate whether they were real or not) with smashing performances from every single person involved.

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

Total: 79/100