Thursday, 27 March 2014

Best Picture Ranking So Far

So I have now watched 70 out of 86 of the Best Picture winners and now only have 16 to go! It's definitely been really interesting and fun (and sometimes boring) to see many of the films that have won. Also, it's been a while since I've done this, so I thought I'd update you all on how my rankings stand, best to worst. While some of my choices probably aren't as "critical" as others, I've endeavored to find a ranking that equally ranks how "good" a film is, and how much I enjoyed it. The list has had some adjustments since I last did this (mainly do to rewatching, and just my view of films being sharpened since). So here we go!

The Greatest Show On Earth

The Greatest Show On Earth, 1952
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Nominated for 5 Oscars, Won 2

Circus Manager Brad Braden has secured the Great Sebastian to join the Ringling Bros Circus, in order to make sure they can run a full season and continue to be profitable. Before this, they were only supposed to do a 10-week run instead of a 10 month one. But the Great Sebastian comes with strings attached. He's a notorious flirt, and extremely wealthy and famous. It also means Brad's girlfriend Holly, is knocked out of the center-ring trapeze, and Holly and Sebastian begin a dangerous one-upmanship duel (without nets and rings to boot), which threatens to bring the circus down.

The main complaint I had about this film was that it seems no one had ever heard of a montage scene. The movie is two and a half hours long, but could've easily been under 2 hours had many of the circus scenes been reduced to montages. We have many unnecessary circus act scenes that add nothing to the plot that are overlong and pointless. We have the long parades, in which we see the whole thing. We have hula dances who sing and do acrobatics, and we see the entire thing. None of these add anything to the plot (which doesn't really exist anyway).

Otherwise, I didn't mind this film. I mean, no, it was certainly not best picture. But I didn't mind it. It was overly dramatic with so much personal issues, many of them trivial and pathetic.

I had very low expectations of this film, thinking it would be some sort of general movie with not really any main characters or much of a story. I knew virtually nothing about the movie before going in. So I know a lot of people rag on this for being one of the worst films to win, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was alright and it wasn't crazy boring for being as long as it was. The first half of the film had my attention all the way through but about halfway was when it started to drag and you realized there wasn't much of a story. This could've been a lot more concise than it was (see above about montage scenes).

The acting was extremely mediocre. There was nothing overly special about the performances and probably most anyone could've played these roles. Some of the circus scenes were definitely well done, but as the movie wore on, you started to get tired of them. And it definitely is dated since circus's have advanced since then and are doing even more extreme things (maybe not as extreme as Holly and Sebastian, but you know).

Overall, the film was alright. As I said, first half was good, second half continued to just have no idea where it was going and tried very hard to make it look like there was a story. Holly's constant going back and forth between Brad and Sebastian was tiring and childish, and the side stories about Buttons the clown and Angel and Klaus were boring and over-dramatic (and distinctly soap-opera-ish).

While this wasn't necessarily a bad film, it was definitely not a deserving winner. It still boggles my mind that Singin' In The Rain wasn't even nominated this year, as it's pretty much my favourite movie ever and kind of deserves like all the awards, including Best Picture.

Acting- 6.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 
Music- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 
Overall Package- 6/10       

Total: 60/100

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

All The King's Men

All The King's Men, 1949
Directed by Robert Rossen
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 3
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, we have the story of the rise and fall of a politician. We are told the story through the eyes of Jack Burden, a journalist, who is told to go over to Kanoma County to cover a man named Willie Stark. He's running for County Treasurer, but people are also saying he's an honest man. He doesn't end up winning the race, but Jack takes a liking to him all the same. In a few years, Stark is making a name for himself. First as a lawyer, and then he runs for governor. At first, he is convinced to run by some other politicians who are hoping to split the vote so another candidate will win. And while he does indeed, lose, he goes on to run again in a few years (and easily wins), but has changed. He is no longer quite the honest man he used to be.

I'm sorry, but this movie was quite dull. The acting was fine, and the premise was, at least, semi-interesting. But it was not overly interesting and dragged itself out.

I'm really not sure what more to say about this besides that it was dull. I mean, this isn't nearly as boring or mediocre as other films I've seen before, but it was still nothing special.

John Ireland was great as Jack. It's actually pretty uncanny that Jude Law played him in Zaillian's 2006 adaptation, because they look quite similar. However, he did a solid job as the reporter Jack. As well, Broderick Crawford was great as Willie Stark. The transition between characters is believable and he plays both the honest man and the corrupt one so well. Mercedes McCambridge was also fun as Sadie, the wise-cracking assistant.

However, the rest of the film was quite lacking besides the acting, and I'm not really sure what else to add but just give my overall rating.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 5/10 
Rewatchability- 3/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 5.5/10 
Overall Package- 6.5/10       

Total: 62/100

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

12 Years A Slave (updated review)

12 Years a Slave, 2013
Directed by Steve McQueen

12 Years a Slave has been the talk of the town ever since it premiered at TIFF. And after watching the film trailer wondered if this movie would be the Best Picture winner this year. And it seems I was right.

12 Years tells the story of Soloman Northup. A free black man, in the 1840's, living in New York. He's an accomplished violin player and has done very well for himself in society. But when he naively goes with 2 white men to Washington while his wife and children are out of town, as they are offering him a job to play violin with them for a circus they run, he gets drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in the American South.

Right there, taking a man who was free, who had no master, and had a wife, a family, a house, and a career with rights and privileges, and selling him into slavery, losing everything, that makes it so much more personal. And knowing it really happened makes it even more so. All of a sudden I'm sitting in the theatre imaging it happening to me. Or to my husband. It makes the story much more relatable. And all the more heartbreaking.

I cannot express enough how beautiful, heartbreaking and moving this film is. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup gives the performance of a lifetime. Ejiofor was subtle, and so much of the performance relied on his expressions and the emotion in his eyes. The most moving parts are when he isn't speaking at all. The performance is absolute perfection, and Ejiofor really captures Solomon's rage, anger, desperation, hope and love. Never does Solomon let himself truly fall into despair. Solomon knows where he came from, and while he may not expect to ever see his family, he remains faithful to them in hopes that one day they are reunited. In fact, the final scene of the film is one of the most heartbreaking of all. And Ejiofor carried this all so well.

The two other notable performances include Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o. Fassbender has worked with Steve McQueen on his previous 2 films. While I haven't seen either of them, I was completely taken in by his work here. He is an incredibly diverse and flexible actor, and he really takes on the crazy of Epps, the alcoholic and insane slave owner, without making him a caricature. What I love about Fassbender was the nuance of his crazy. The resting of his arm on another slaves head while talking to Northup, or walking around in just his long white shirt, or the weird little hanker-chief he wears on his head, staggering around drunk, and holding "dances" for the slaves in the middle of the night. Fassbender is able to pull this off without being over the top crazy, and becoming a funny/evil character rather than a bone-chilling one. 

Lupita Nyong'o, a complete newcomer and this being her first feature film, is dazzling. She as Patsey, the tortured and yet a little too loved slave of Epps, is portrayed with such grace and yet such heartbreak. Patsey is the character we feel the most for, as she does not receive a happy ending. Nyong'o, while her role was quite small, give quite an impact on the film overall. She was outstanding, and completely deserved her Oscar. As well, Sarah Paulson as Epp's wife, was completely chilling and outstanding. Other small but notable roles include Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt. 

Aside from all the acting, the story was well told, and at times, we extremely uncomfortable, in a way that I loved. As with Schindler's List, there were many scenes that were a little uncomfortable, and a little horrific. The camera frequently lingered a little longer than we're comfortable with on certain moments. And while I didn't enjoy any of these moments, and once or twice just really wanted the camera to turn away, I loved what it did for the film, and the message. Slavery and the treatment of slaves should not be something we stay within our comfort zone for. It was cruel, and sometimes extremely brutal. And while experiencing such subject matter, we should be pushed out of comfort. When we see a man hanging, with only the tips of his toes slipping around in the mud as the only way to keep from choking, we shouldn't just think "hmm, that sucks". And McQueen didn't do that. We had an uncomfortably long time looking at this, with slave children running around, laughing in the background, white women looking from the window, and a fellow slave giving him a sip of water, but otherwise they're going about their business, Northup slipping around in the mud until sundown. It went on for a long time, and I was practically begging for it to end. For me it was only a minute or two. For Soloman Northup, it was all day. We see whippings in this film, lasting longer than we're used to in film, Patsey receiving upwards of 20 lashes. And so on. This, for me, is another thing that made this film more powerful, was how uncomfortable it was. Which, for me, makes it much more of a great movie than any other slavery film made.

This film is probably the most deserved win in many years. It's a hard look at the stain on America's past (though slavery is definitely a stain on every single country). The film is utterly moving, though hard to watch. The performances were fantastic and the cinematography gorgeous (though some credit definitely goes to the stunning Louisiana background). Hans Zimmer music is moving, and perfectly emotes the heartbreak and hope we are supposed to simultaneously feel. While the film definitely deserved more nominations and wins than it received, 12 Years A Slave is a fantastic film, and one that will age well and place relatively high on overall winner lists, even if it's one I don't need to visit again for a long time.

Acting- 10/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8/10 
Visuals- 8/10 
Music- 8/10 
Emotional Connection- 8/10 
Entertainment- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 9/10 
Overall Package- 9/10       

Total: 82/100

The Life of Emile Zola

The Life of Emile Zola, 1937
Directed by William Dieterle
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 3
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Writing (Screenplay)

Emile Zola was a poor writer. A hard stickler for facts (and controversial ones at that), he is continually told by police and his employers to stop writing such controversial work, and to mind his business. He does the exact opposite, and he finally writes a best selling novel, Nana, after meeting a French prostitute. He continues to write expose pieces and makes quite a name for himself. But as he becomes older, and starts to think he can now relax and work at his leisure, one of the biggest scandals in France happens, and he gets drawn in. The Dreyfus affair takes place. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused of giving military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus, continually insisting his innocence, is set to prison for life on Devil's Island. The army, however, arrested Dreyfus under very little evidence, and the rest presented is sketchy at best. After several years, Mrs Dreyfus approaches Zola to help her, as she has absolute proof that her husband is innocent. For Zola to get involved, he knows it would likely mean being arrested and tried for Libel, but it's a risk he's willing to take if it means an innocent man's freedom.

Admittedly, I had never heard of Emile Zola, or even the Dreyfus affair, though my husband was quick to explain that the Dreyfus affair was a very large scandal in France. And, after viewing this film, I can see why. While the film is entitled the Life of Emile Zola, it would more aptly be named along the lines of relating to the Dreyfus Affair, as this was the bulk of the story.

While the subject matter itself was interesting, the film itself did not get overly interesting until the last 45 minutes of the film or so, when we entered the trial, which was essentially the rest of the film. The trial, presently well and precisely, was interesting and the most well done part of the film.

The acting was well done in the film, and while the actor who portrayed Dreyfus had a relatively small-ish part, he was quite fantastic, and I definitely remembered his performance. A well deserved supporting actor win. As well, Paul Muni, who played Zola, was also really great as well, and was particularly awesome when laying the smack down and giving awesome speeches.

Overall, while the film could've been more interesting overall, the trial scenes were kind of interesting and were certainly the highlight of the film.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 
Music- 8/10 
Emotional Connection- 7/10 
Entertainment- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7/10 
Overall Package- 7.5/10       

Total: 73/100


Cavalcade, 1933
Directed by Frank Lloyd
Nominated for 4 Oscars, Won 3
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction

Cavalcade is the story of one family, spanning across 33 years, beginning on New Years Eve 1899, the dawn of the new century. An English family, who, among other things, are touched by the Boer War, the sinking of the Titanic and the Great War. 

Cavalcade, admittedly, felt like an overview of the first 33 years of the 1900's. Which is exactly what this film is. The film serves as a "highlights" (though all of them hard and depressing events) of the early 1900's. 

The film is set on the back of Jane Marryot, wife and mother. The story always comes back to her. We see the Boer War and the Great War through her eyes, of waiting at home and never knowing. We see her lose her children and worry about the future. 

Overall, the film didn't have much to say, individually. It was mainly repeating the ideas and values that came from the events in the film, and didn't amount to very much. 

The film was a little overly long and was quite dull, even though it was telling a lot of "highlights". The acting was competent, but was nothing special. It felt like a mediocre film, and that was exactly what this was. It wasn't a bad film, per se, but it wasn't one that needs to be watched again, and is one that won't be remembered very well. 

Acting- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Visuals- 7/10
 Music- 7/10 
Rewatchability- 5.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 6/10 
Captivation- 6/10 
Enjoyment- 5.5/10 
Overall Package- 6/10       

Total: 63/100

Monday, 3 March 2014

Oscars: A Gif recap

So this years Oscars have come and gone! And despite the fact I went into the Oscars thinking anything could happen, it was an overall predictable night for winners. I got 18/20 predictions correct (a personal best!), proved wrong in a category I wanted to be proved wrong in, and lost out on a small prediction risk. Overall, a satisfying night!

Personally, I love Ellen. I thought she made an otherwise pretty boring show pretty fun. She randomly popped up in the audience among stars, made fun of Jennifer Lawrence,  ordered pizza (and then Brad Pitt handed out paper plates to everyone), and organized the world greatest selfie. Overall, while the show was just alright itself, Ellen was a safe and awesome pick for the night and really made it a fun and relaxed night for everyone. Oh, and she also gave Bradley Cooper some scratch lotto tickets when he didn't win Best Supporting Actor.

Besides that there were some awesome moments for the winners. For the most part the speeches were pretty concise. Though did anyone else notice the moment when, after the main editor from Gravity gave his speech, Alfonso Cuaron was about to start speaking just as the music cued in and all he said was 'hi'?. Anyone? But just everyone's speeches seemed so amazing. Highlights including Jared Leto, Alfonso Cuaron, Steve McQueen/Brad Pitt and (while long) Cate Blanchett. I loved how she called the Oscars 'random and subjective'

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Also, Lupita Nyong'o won and the world rejoiced because she was the definition of class and beauty last night. Her dress was amazing, and she was just had so many random cute moments with her brother, dancing with Pharrell, made Benedict Cumberbatch cry during her acceptance speech and when the whole crew from 12 Years A Slave was on stage after winning Best Picture. As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, I was so happy not to see her win this year. Also, American Hustle shut out anyone? I personally felt weird predicting it and last minute changed my Original Screenplay prediction. However, I was way too happy to see Spike Jonze win it and see Hustle with no wins. Both the shut out and the Spike Jonze win were deserving!

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the winners. I know the entire world is complaining about Leo not winning but I'm personally whining that Chiwetel Ejiofor was pretty much over looked the entire season. He was so incredible and I don't really understand how he didn't sweep awards seasons. Personal preference I suppose. And Brad Pitt finally has an Oscar!!! I am so so excited for him! This has been long overdue and I'm glad he finally has one!

Like I said, I played it relatively safe (aside from predicting 12 Years A Slave for the Costume Win) so I did a personal best! It was a great year for film, and I"m still so excited 12 Years A Slave won. It is utterly incredible and I know it'll rank high on an overall list of winners, and well be remembered similarly to Schindler's List. Gravity, as well, will not be forgotten soon and will definitely change cinema and technology.

Overall, a pretty fun year! Looking forward to everything next year will be bringing us!