Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Season!

Here are a few movies I am excited to see this upcoming holiday season.  Put a few of these on your short list if you're into artistic dramas.

In no particular order;

  • My Week With Marilyn  
  • Colin Clark met Marilyn Monroe while working as a young assistant on Laurence Olivier's "The Prince and the Showgirl." When Marilyn experienced emotional difficulties during shooting, the 23-year-old third assistant director came to her aid and romance developed. But one week of honesty and fun was not enough to save the doomed star from self-destruction. 
Michelle Williams and Julia Ormond in this film has peaked my interest enough, let alone the fact that it would be a small glimpse into the life of Marilyn Monroe.  Albeit "silver screened". Michelle Williams also seems to be gaining more and more recognition for her acting powress.  i didn't get to see Blue Valentine last year which got her an Oscar nod, so hopefully I won't miss this one.

  • A Dangerous Method 

  • Early in his career, psychiatrist Carl Jung takes on the challenge of a seemingly impossible case, a deeply disturbed, beautiful young woman named Sabina Spielrein. Jung employs his mentor Sigmund Freud's experimental "talking cure" in treating Sabina and the treatment proves to be successful. This results in Freud and Jung becoming colleagues rather than master and student, but before long, both men are involved with their patient, complicating their relationship. 
Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender (plays Magneto in X-Men: First Class) is enough of a reason for me to want to see this movie.  But a movie about two of the most famous psychologists of all time?!  Yes please!   
  • The Artist
  • Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. 
Seems that it may be a foreign film?  I'm not exactly sure, but I am very intrigued and curious with this film.  What kind of cinematography are they going to use?  Will some of it be filmed in black and white?  Will they stay true to 1920's styling?  Very curious...

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  • In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.
COLIN FIRTH!!!! (yes, that is my main reason) 

That is all for now!  Keep these in mind when choosing films.  I really would love to see J. Edgar, but apparently it didn't get very good reviews... more on that later.

Until next time, happy movie viewing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King - 75

2004 Winner.  Nominated for roughly 289346 other awards, and won them all.  (Okay so it really was only 11...but 289346 was a good keyboard mashing guess)

I feel silly reviewing this film since only someone who has lived under a rock in the middle of Mongolia has not seen or at least heard the basic reviews of this film, let alone the entire trilogy.  But! It has been so long since my previous post that might as well start with one of the most popular trilogy's of all time.  (The original Star Wars trilogy is still the very best by FAR, no arguments allowed.) 

201.  That's the running time on our beloved 2004 winner.  As in, 201 minutes.  I really shouldn't seem to hate a movie so much that seemed to change a landscape of film and that really put "nerdy stories" into the mainstream pop culture.  I fear I may need to re-watch it at some point and consider my opinions again.  After watching all of the extended versions in dorm rooms with my friends... I may have to wait another 10 years before I can stomach it again.  

To be fair, LOTR: RotK won best original song (Annie Lennox - "Into the West") which would always make me well up like a cheap sponge.  And best original score, because Howard Shore.  Truly was a movie that deserved to win, I'm just being a sore blogger :)

Until next time, thank you Academy #75

Monday, November 7, 2011

Midnight Cowboy - 76

1970 Winner.  Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight.  No other major awards besides Best Director, though Voight and Hoffman were nominated for the roles they portrayed. Garnered 7 Oscar nominations even though it was a rated 'X' movie.

I am aware that Jon Voight (on the left in this poster) appears to completely tower over Dustin Hoffman, but Hoffman plays a man with a limp and you can tell if you check out his right ankle.  Here is some fun trivia about Dustin Hoffman's performance in the movie;

  • Dustin Hoffman used to keep pebbles in his shoe to ensure his limp would be consistent from shot to shot
  • Before Dustin Hoffman auditioned for this film, he knew that his all-American image could easily cost him the job. To prove he could do it, he asked the auditioning film executive to meet him on a street corner in Manhattan, and in the meantime, dressed himself in filthy rags. The executive arrived at the appointed corner and waited, barely noticing the "beggar" less than ten feet away who was accosting people for spare change. At last, the beggar walked up to him and revealed his true identity.
  • In one particular scene, Ratso and Joe get into an argument over cowboys. Ratso states that "Cowboys are fags!" Joe's response is "John Wayne is a cowboy! Are you calling John Wayne a fag?" Coincidentally, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for their roles as Ratso and Joe, respectively. They lost out - to John Wayne for his role in True Grit.

Two things out of the gate; Jon Voight is soooo young, and Dustin Hoffman has always looked old.  Case and point with just how young Jon Voight looks in this movie;

Not so young.

So very young.

It was almost like when I was watching Nicole Kidman in The Hours, I had to do a double take on the cast list to verify it was actually Voight that my eyes were gazing upon.  I mean, he wasn't hard on the eyes... by any means... annnnnnd moving on.... (sorry boys)

In short Jon Voight plays young stud Joe Buck.  Joe Buck lives in Texas and works as a dishwasher.  He decides to quit his job, pack up and move to the Big Apple where he plans to use his "manly talents" as a hustler.  He ends up befriending Ratso (Dustin Hoffman), who is a man with many.....issues.. to say the least.  He is not only crippled, but his health is ailing as he suffers from tuberculosis.Which would explain the limp... so maybe he's not crippled he just has tuberculosis which causes his limp... moving right along now shall we?

Apparently hustling (errday I'm shufflin') wasn't all it was cracked up to be and Jon Voight falls into a world of debt and misfortune.  Rico Rizzo, "Ratso" (Dustin Hoffman) takes Joe into his condemned apartment so they can both rely on each other to survive.  And from there the movie takes off as they struggle to make ends meet, barely scrapping by.  Joe finally lands his first regular customer but Ratso becomes very ill, so Joe buys two bus tickets to Miami to fulfill Ratso's life dream.  On their journey to Miami, Ratso dies in the seat next to him.  The movie ends with Joe staring out the bus window, arm around Ratso and Palm trees passing them by.

There is so much more to this movie than this chopped up terrible nut shell that I have put it in.  From a psychological standpoint it is very intriguing.  Joe Buck goes to a party and smoke a joint, which he naively thinks is a cigarette, then mixes it with some coke.  He ends up having vivid flashbacks of his past, where him and his girlfriend at the time are raped by a local group of boys who are jealous that she chose Joe over them.

The entire film revolves around homophobia and the current state of society.  To put it simply; Drugs, Sex and Rock n' Roll.  In my opinion it was rated 'X' originally not because of the sexual content (though fairly graphic, but seldom) but because of the portrayal of society at the time.  I believe that people were trying to hide from the fact that the younger generations were becoming more "liberal" and experimental.  The current generation did not want to confront homosexuality or face the truth about drug addictions that was becoming more prevalent.  The same kind of thing happened to Requiem for a Dream when it first came out. (Which is an absolutely mind wrenching movie that you should see if you haven't yet.  But I warn you that the ending scene is VERY difficult to watch...)   People wanted to hide from the truth, they wanted to shelter themselves from reality so Requiem for a Dream did not get very positive reviews when it first came out.

The most moving aspect of the movie is very simple; the relationship between Joe Buck and Ratso.  Two strangers that end up meeting by chance. Ratso takes the Cowboy under his wing, lets him live in his apartment and they end up supporting each other, becoming best friends in the process.  A true story of camaraderie and the human nature of friendships.

Until next time, thank you Academy #76  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cimarron - 77

1931 Oscar Winner.  No one that any of us would know acting in this movie... but to follow the theme, Richard Dix & Irene Dunne. Both nominated for acting.

So.... this is your typical Western, as all movies should be when filmed in 1931. These are my favorite movies to watch (dripping sarcasm).  Old westerns yessir.  Let me put it this way... the main characters names are Yancey and Sabra.  C'mon man! Those are fairly epic names, even for a western.

So in short, it's 1889 and President Harrison opens up the territories in Oklahoma on a first come first served basis.  So hundreds of people line up and wait for a "shotgun start", quite literally,  and then they all race to find the land they want.  So an editor of a newspaper in Wichita (Yancey) decides to pack up all his belongings, with wife and son in tow and move to "Oklahomy".  Originally Yancey gets beaten to the patch of land he wanted by a woman named Dixie Lee, so they settle in Osage

My first impression?  Dirt.  So much dirt.  Someone gets kicked out of the bar and as they fall you can see the dirt billowing from his clothes.  The amount of dirt in this movie reminds me of the amount of sand in Lawrence of Arabia.  In fact one of the very first scenes of the movie has so much dust and dirt flying about I could almost taste it.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie were the lines that they would use and the phrases they would say.  I've learned how to speak "Western".  Let me share my new wisdom;

"HIGH RICKITY!"- when you're surprised about something.
"Why, you old letch monger!" - when excited to see someone you haven't seen in a long time.
"Stick to your lawn!" - stay out of my business.
And to say to your buddy about a woman who "pleases the eye";
"Ain't she a huckleberry?"
"Lollapalooza, field up, pert and chipper" (By far my favorite in the movie, they used the term "Lollapalooza" back in the 1930's?!? This baffles me)

There is so much going on in this movie I'm not even sure where to go... about an hour into the movie Yancey is convinced to give the first sermon of the town of Osage.  He uses the time to talk about his new newspaper, some of his sins, kind of about God and His temple, and then the service ends with a prayers after a shootout in the middle of it. Where Yancey ends up killing Yon Lountis because he killed the old newspaper editor.

Dixie Lee makes a triumphant come back and Yancey remains polite and his wife Sabra gets very jealous of this fact.  Calling Dixie a heathenish woman, mainly because of the rumors that are milling around of the type of woman Dixie is, if you know what I mean...

Blah blah blah, lots of random gun fights because it's your typical Western Movie and there are lots of outlaws, drunks, etc.

Typically with films of this era I cannot stand the acting nor the camera work, and it's not because I think they could have done better but more the fact that I believe I have been spoiled by modern day technology and "movie glamour".  But this one isn't that terrible for 1931.  In fact, one of the very first scenes of the movie when they do "The Run" to claim land was quite dangerous for its time.  It's not like they had computer graphicing to super impose in hundreds of extras riding horses and pulling wagons.  Can you imagine if one of them fell?  Or one of the wagons tipped over?  Game over man...  Those extras were taking quite the risk to help make one scene in a film.  Especially since film hasn't completely taken off yet in the early 30's.

The acting is actually bearable, and some of the scenes are able to convey emotion that I haven't seen in movies this early.  Isiah, their young work boy, was shot during a shootout and when they found his body I felt a tiny bit verklempt.

Yancey leaves for many years at a time.  When he heard of adventure he would not be able to resist the temptation of the new excitement and would pack up and leave his family for his own happiness.  Meanwhile the townspeople still worshiped the ground that he walked on.  This is the point in the movie my opinion of Yancey as a good man/husband completely changed.  Packing up and leaving your family for your own personal gain?  One of the most unattractive character traits a person can have, in my opinion.  (I'll step off my soap box now...)

Yancey dies at the end and his last words as he is dying in Sabra's arms are "Hide me, hide me in your love", Sabra replies with "sleep my boy, sleep".  Then it cuts to the final scene of a statue being reveiled of "Oklahoma's Pioneer", and of course it's of Yancey Cravat.  Music builds and the screen fades to black.  A very poignant final scene that indicates the love that Sabra and Yancey still have for each other.  

All in all, Cimarron was actually a very interesting movie about changing times and the rising American economy and how it impacts the lives of a family.  How one city was literally raised from dirt into a booming town.  How one woman follows her husband to "Oklahomy", has that husband leave her for extended periods of time to "discover new adventures and land" and in the meantime takes over the paper and eventually becomes a congresswoman.  The more I think about it, the ending of the film was really about the strength of an independent woman.  Sabra, in the end, has to raise her children and run a newspaper all by herself.  In the 1920's that's a pretty big deal.

Would I recommend the movie?  I'm not sure.  I'd rather just tell you about it than you trying to hunt down this film and spend 2 hours watching it.

So, until next time...

Thank you Academy #77

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicago - 78

 Holy cow I'm sorry it's been so long...

2002 Winner.  Won 6 Oscars in total including Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones). All Star Cast in a Celebrity Jamboree; Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger, the oh so dreamy Taye Diggs, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John C. Riley, Queen Latifah, Lucy Liu and even Mya.

Since my last Oscar post was so painful (All Quiet on the Western Front) and pretty much the worst post ever, I'll try to do this one a little more justice.
Get Some

Quite possibly one of the few musicals that is better on screen, depicting the story, than on stage. Just the way they can use camera angles and flow seamlessly through scenes.  On stage the play can, not saying that it is, become too jumbled and it's somewhat hard to follow scenes from the jail to scenes in the court room.  The luxury of the silver screen is that you can lay it all out for your audience, without losing them and still capture the essence of the play. I really don't want to give any of the play/film away so we'll leave out the plot completely and I'll focus on two of my favorite numbers in the show.

Almost the same image from stage to screen
I had forgotten how early in this movie the Cell Block Tango was.  I couldn't remember any other big numbers as vividly as the Cell Block Tango, which is why I was thrilled I had forgotten about "They both reached for the gun" (TBRFTG).  More on that later....The Cell Block Tango is one of my all time favorite songs done on Broadway and the way the film took it from stage to screen was phenomenal.  How each sound entering into the song could be seamlessly depicted was just, well, delightful! From the dripping water to the prison guard walking with his baton to a full scale orchestral piece just makes me all giddy.  I could probably watch this number on repeat for a good hour.  The use of light throughout this scene was also brilliantly done.  Not to mention camera angles and movement through the set.  Clearly, I am infatuated with this scene and need not discuss it further to get my point across.  If you haven't seen this or have no idea what I'm talking about please educate yourself;

Good, now that you no longer live under a rock I believe we can move on...

TBRFTG is a perfect example of what I was talking about earlier where some things and elements of a scene can get lost on stage.  "They Both Reached for the Gun" is centered around Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger at a press conference.  Richard Gere plays a puppeteer as Renee, Journalists and Courtroom are his puppets.  Another song that is better on screen than on stage.  It is so much easier to act as a puppeteer moving marionettes on strings when you have special effects at your disposal.  That being said, Richard and Renee do a remarkable job acting this scene out together.  Working in perfect tandem with one another throughout the entire song.  Without synchronization the essence and point of this piece could have easily been lost, but with great actors and great directing there were a couple times I had to double check to make sure it was still Renee singing and not some kind of fandangled doll in her place.

If you have not seen this, either on stage or screen, and do indeed love a good musical you need to get on this stat.  All in all I believe the best musical you will see on film (not counting Sound of Music because in the game of choosing favorites Sound of Music always wins).

Until next time,

Thank You Academy #78

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Funny Girl - Barbra Streisand

1968 Musical which awarded the ever so famous Barbra with an Oscar for Best Actress, which she had to share with Katherine Hepburn.

(Fun Fact: this is the only tie in the history of the Oscar's as Barbra had to share the award with Katherine Hepburn who won for The Lion in Winter.)

I haven't posted in a while because I'm working on my post for Chicago (yes I am on a musical kick) and it's ending up to be a lot more detailed than I thought.  SO! In the meantime here is a quick review of a musical that is climbing the ranks as being one of my favorite ever.

I am Fanny Brice.  Or at least I am the Fanny Brice Barbra portrays.

I don't know of any other musical that is so dominated by a sole lead.  Barbra does it all, she IS the soundtrack. No really, look up the track listings.

Barbra wins for her portrayal of the real Fanny Brice.  I was not aware that Ms. Brice was a real person until after I had seen the movie.  If you have time, especially if you've seen the movie, I suggest you click that like I so kindly made and read about her.  It's a somewhat fascinating story for someone born in 1891.

"Hello, gorgeous" are the first words uttered by Barbra in the movie, and were the first words out of her mouth when she accepted her Oscar, AND is in fact #81 on AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes.  It sets the tone of the movie off the bat.  Not another word is spoken for awhile as the movie begins to unfold.

The depth of her character is one of the best I have seen an actress portray.  The first 3/4 of the movie is absolutely hilarious and you feel attached to Fanny.  You want her to succeed because you know she's just like you in some ways.  She becomes ridiculously famous and yet hides behind a curtain of sarcasm and humor to deflect issues she has with image and self-esteem.  She is undeniably human.  The emotion she puts behind each song she sings is tangible.  Especially the last two songs in the entire movie "Funny Girl" and "My Man"

The last quarter of the movie takes a very serious turn. Instead of roaring with laughter you ache with empathy for Fanny.  Her voice cuts through you as she laments on life and love.

I strongly believe that this movie/musical would have not been nearly as phenomenal had it not been for one Miss Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl turned me into an instant Barbra fan and now there is no turning back.

Until next time, thank you Fanny Brice

Thursday, May 26, 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front - 79

1930 Oscar Winner.  No names that anyone would recognize and none of major importance.  Adapted screenplay from the novel written by Erich Remarque.

A couple items before we dive in.  I must confess, I have never actually read the book.... and as mentioned in my "Bridge on the River Kwai" post, I'm not a huge fan of war movies pre 1990... and this is definitely a war movie that fits into the "Lauren is not a huge fan of ____" category.

So, with that in mind, I was very bored with the movie.  Maybe I wouldn't call it bored, but I would get distracted easily by more entertaining things while I was watching the movie.  Like shiny objects on the floor... or painting my nails.... yeah you get the point.

To be fair, it was well done for the time, and I can understand why it was so popular and critically acclaimed, but I believe it was because of the era it was made in.  Society was "war hungry" at this time.

[I've been trying to finish this entry for over a month now so I'm going abruptly wrap things up]

Basically this teacher convinces this German high school boys that it is their duty to join the army for the MUTHALAND and they think it will make their families proud.  A lot of people die, one kid kills a Frenchmen and then tries to save him as he is bleeding out.  Then when he can't save him he sobs at this dead mans side.  If I had to choose one word for this movie it would be; regret.  It really depicted how war changes ones life forever and it is something you can never set aside and look past.

Germans are manipulative and war is bad.  And with THAT. 

Until next time,

Thank you Academy #79

Sunday, April 24, 2011

No Country for Old Men - 80

2008 Oscar winner. Joel & Ethan Cohen, Javier Bardem (Best Supporting Actor), Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson and that guy with the red stapler from Office Space.

I think the best way to start off explaining this movie is by describing it as delightfully creepy.  You don't really understand what is going on until about an hour into the movie, but the whole time you're riddled with curiosity while the movie generates a great amount of suspense.  Then the movie hits the 65 minute mark and ALL HELL breaks loose.  You understand more of what is going on and then an intense series of scenes happen back to back, and you're hooked.  The Cohen brothers don't leave much to the imagination, including some fairly graphic scenes with no lack of blood. Including a fairly remarkable scene where Javier Bardem has to clean a shotgun wound on his thigh. Graphic, and for the film it almost seemed necessary to show.
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Which leads me to my favorite scene in the entire movie. Javier Bardem blows up a car as a diversion so he can gather supplies from a drug store. At first you think he it going to siphon out gasoline from a car to somehow clean his wound, but instead he shoves a handkerchief down the gas cap and ignites it.  He then turns around without hesitation and walks into the store knowing exactly what was about to happen.  This is the first point in the entire movie you notice his character is harried.  He doesn't walk calmly into the store, he is visibly shaken and you can see a hint of concern on his face.  I mean, what else to expect when he's been shot in the leg and it losing more and more blood by the minute...

Our other main character, Josh Brolin, has also been shot.  He escapes to Mexico and wakes up in a daze to Woody Harrelson telling him he's in over his head.  Then of course, after Josh Brolin has committed all of these immoral acts, the one act that SPOILER ALERT gets him killed is when he flirts with the idea of adultery.  And it wasn't even Javier Bardem who caught up with him in the end.  More killing, more blood, more creeptastic events are preformed by Javier Bardem and somehow the Cohen brothers still have you on edge more than three quarters of the way through the movie.

The most suspenseful scene, in my opinion of course, happens near the end of the movie.  Tommy Lee Jones comes back to the crime scene at the hotel room and he sees that the locks have been "blown" in by the same device that has been breaking into other rooms (scariest friggin compressed air weapon ever...) and takes out his pistol before he walks into the room.  Meanwhile we see Javier lurking in the shadows of the dark in a room, staring at the same lock, well lack of lock I suppose.  And then Tommy Lee Jones throws the door open and stands in the doorway.  The shot of him illuminated by the light from the street lamps in the doorway, staring into imminent danger, unable to see his face but only the outline of his frame was so well done by the cinemetographers.  You want to hold your breath with Tommy as he enters the room, your body tenses as he takes that first step willing to put money down that Javier was going to attack him at any second....  I have started to realize how similar vantage points and camera angles are across Cohen Brother's movies.  Seriously check that out.  Think of comparing this with "True Grit".  I think it's a little uncanny actually.

Not to give away any spoilers for those of you who have not seen the movie, do we every really know what he does at the end?  The end I believe is left up to the viewers interpretation.  I spoke with two people and they both had different takes on the ending.  Which I believe, makes for great discussion and in turn is characteristic of an enthralling movie.

Picking between "There Will be Blood" and this movie is a no brainer.  It's this movie hands down.  Suspense that takes off like a rocket and then pair that with your curiosity throughout the entire film... a definite must see.  The ending is perfect for the story as well.  You get the idea that Javier Bardem's character is a ghost.  That he is still out there and still a psychotic killer on the loose, that will never be found or brought to judgement.

Just a thought; cowboy boots are very loud when you're trying to run away quietly from a psychopathic killer.  For future reference if any of my faithful readers are thinking about purchasing cowboy boots and trying to be sneaky like whilst wearing them....

Until next time, thank you Academy #80

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Bridge on the River Kwai - 81

1957 Winner. 161 minutes, won 7 Oscars in total. Just like the title says, building a bridge over the river Kwai, during WWII.

Let me preface this post with a little known secret, I'm not a huge war movie fan. What I really mean is that I'm not a pre 1990's war movie genre film fan. To be quite honest I was not looking forward to watching this film since it is indeed titled as a war film produced pre 1990.

I was however pleasantly surprised.

One of the 7 Oscars (besides best picture obvs), was for best actor, Alec Guinness.  You might remember Alec Guinness from such movies as, oh I don't know, STAR WARS.  Correct, he was Obi-wan Kenobi in episodes IV and V.  So almost the entire time I was watching the movie all I could think about was him in a cloak whilst slinging a light saber.  Ok, so maybe not the entire time, but the thought would randomly creep up in my head throughout the movie.

The movie wasn't anything I expected.  I thought it was going to be fighting and scenes of war, inundated with random skirmishes and battles.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  In a nut shell it was about English soldiers, with a handful of Americans, in a Japanese PoW camp.  Instead of being interrogated ala Jack Bauer they were put to work to build a bridge on the River Kwai (WHO KNEW?!).  Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) refuses he and his fellow officers do work because according to the Geneva Conventions, captured officers are exempt from manual labor. The Japanese camp commander, Saito, backhands him across the face and threatens to kill him and the officers.  After some punishment in what they call the "hot box" (a metal box in the direct sunlight), he comes out and says NO, I still refuse to do manual labor annnnd more punishment in said "hot box". Then, Nicholson and Saito come to an agreement that the officers do not have to do physical labor yadda yadda. Saito really caved because the bridge was so far behind schedule, not because he suddenly had a stroke of sympathy.

Moving past the really boring details that is the actual plot of the movie, because really the rest of the movie was building a bridge, on the river Kwai...  Col. Nicholson becomes so wrapped up in the thought that by building this bridge he is somehow demonstrating the honor and character of the British Soldier.  At the end he even makes a plaque to let everyone know that the bridge was built by British soldiers.  Of course on the other side of the coin the British Army is devising a plan to blow the bridge up to interrupt Saito's railway for supplies.  Nicholson sees lines rigged to explosives and figures out that something is wrong and that someone is trying to destroy his beloved structure, so he follows the wires and actually ends up killing one of his own men, and then ends up getting shot himself, but not before realizing what he had done.  Nicholson's body falls on the detonator and the bridge blows taking down the ceremonial first train that was passing over it.

Overall, thinking back on the movie I give it an upbeat "meh" rating.  Not one of my favorites, but not the worst Oscar movie that I've seen yet.  Alec Guinness did a supreme job acting as an arrogant Brit only concerned about what others think of his integrity and character.  But still, Star Wars. It's definitely a movie you have to see for yourself since it appears to be fairly difficult to explain.

Well, since I've probably confused more people and have completely talked myself in circles, I think that should wrap it up.

Until next time, thank you Academy #81

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Kings Speech - 82

2010 Winner, Colin Firth (Won Best Actor), Geoffrey Rush(Nominated), Helena Bonham Carter(Nominated).

The most recent Oscar winner that one of my friends deemed an "old people's movie".  Which I found rather amusing since it was one of my favorite movies of the year, which then in turn made me feel old.  Terrific movies don't have to have explosions, suspense and sex appeal, and though the majority of the movies this season had all of these characteristics "The Kings Speech" ventured away from the blockbuster norm and set an awe-inspiring scene on screen.

If you have seen the movie I would like to point out that Helena Bonham Carter was filming "The Kings Speech" on weekdays and then completely switching roles and filming Harry Potter on weekends.  Roles that are such complete opposites that I'm surprised she didn't develop multiple personality disorder by the end of it, and she executed it so perfectly.  Helena is not normally known for being mild mannered or demure, which is why I was shocked to hear she would be playing Queen Elizabeth.  Then I saw the movie in a theater that seats about 50 people on vacation in Sarasota, FL.  The theater plays host to a ton of film festivals and is the cutest postage stamp of a place you'll ever watch a movie.  It's obvious Colin Firth blew me away in his performance (more on that later), but it was Helena that I was most surprised with.  Sure she had a small role and many people were confused as to why she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but to me it was the way she delivered her lines.  I know that sounds a little strange but she did it so effortlessly, like she had to portray the Queen Mum on a regular basis, and as a Brit it had to be terrifying to do her justice.  Her lines were just so matter-of-fact and as a viewer I felt that the character in the movie meant the lines she was saying, not just saying what was scripted. It was a side to Helena Bonham Carter I have rarely seen.

Colin Firth.  I mean. Colin Firth. Just, wow.  I can only imagine how frustrating it had to be for him to speak with a stutter throughout the entire filming process.  I read somewhere, or saw an interview that he would get pretty intense headaches on long days of stuttering.  As i described with Helena Bonham Carter, Colin firth made the viewer feel what he was going through.  There were times I wanted to shout at the screen, grab him and shake him "it's going to be OK! Just say what you're thinking!"  Other times where my heart swelled with sympathy for what he was going through.  The movie as a whole was such a great story of courage, determination and camaraderie.  It wasn't about "getting the girl" or "fighting for a cause", it was the story of not just a King, but a man struggling with a disability and how he was able to work through it and because one of the stronger figures during WWII.  All with the assistance of.....

...Geoffrey Rush.  Once again, another phenomenal actor portrayer their character.  I immediately fell in love with Geoffrey Rush's character, Lionel Logue.  He was likable, witty and, well it's Geoffrey Rush... Some of the scenes between Lionel and the King were absolutely hilarious.  Something I didn't really expect from this movie, and it kept my interest and develop a stronger connection to the characters.

By the end of the film I wanted to cheer for King George, I wanted to applaud his final speech and I wanted to high five Lionel Logue.  That is the type of movie that should win Oscars (for all you doubters out there).  As a viewer I wanted Bertie (family nickname of King George, for Albert) to succeed, to prove his family and the world wrong.  All in all, a fabulous portrayal of King George's unusual rise to the throne during troubling times and defying all adversity.

It takes leadership to confront a nation's fear. It takes friendship to conquer your own.

Until next time, thank you Academy #82

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Hours - Best Actress

2002 film that rewarded Nicole Kidman her only Oscar to date.

"The Hours" has been on my list of movies to watch for quite some time now.  Not only did I want to see what landed Nicole Kidman an Oscar, but the cast boasts some major names; Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Meryl Streep, Claire Daines, John C. Reilly & Toni Collette. The cast did not disappoint.

From the very beginning I was hooked.  It grabbed my attention by playing with my curiosity.  Who is this woman, why is she putting rocks in her coat, isn't Nicole Kidman in this movie?  Wait, is that Nicole Kidman?! By the 7 minute mark I was already on my computer opening up IMDb, because I knew the interwebs wouldn't lie to me.  I had to verify that I was looking at Ms. Kidman, the same gorgeous actress who was in "Moulin Rouge!".  Srsly.

Nicole Kidman - Virginia Woolf

Carlize Theron - Aileen
That's right kids.  Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf on the left. Who woulda thought?!  The transformation was almost as shocking as Charlize Theron from "Monster". Almost. (Pictured right) I mean, it's damn near impossible to top Charlize's performance in that creeptastic role, which earned her a well deserved Oscar, for portraying a true serial killer. I understand that a lot of credit is given to the makeup crew, but the point I'm bringing up is how well they both did at completely transforming themselves into their characters emotionally.  Both playing real life people, both ridiculously unstable characters.  If you haven't seen "Monster" I recommend it, but I must warn you, very dark and twisted. Alas I  have digressed ...

I feel that the beginning was so gripping not only because of the curiosity factor, but the music was perfectly entwined into the scene.  The melody did not drown out the scene, it complimented it perfectly and flowed smoothly into the beginning credits(thank you Phillip Glass).  Then after the opening sequence you start to see the lives of three women; Julianne Moore playing a unhappy housewife in 1951, Meryl Streep as a 2001 publicist and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf circa 1921 struggling with depression and the meaning of life while writing one of her most famous novels, Mrs. Dalloway.  The lives of these women are simply shown to you, with no dialogue, for about 10 minutes.   All living different lives but tied together by the same underlying dark motif of death.  

If your in the mood to watch a movie movie I highly recommend you watch this.  It's definitely a darker drama but the acting was tremendous and just how it's about life, death and how people deal with them was really intriguing for me.  Maybe it was the mood I was in, but I do believe this movie is in my top 30 movies, definitely top 50 movies. I ended the movie with a better appreciation of the friends that I have and my own personal happiness being a driving factor in major decisions.  You can't stick with something, either a job, relationship, etc; if it doesn't truly make you happy.  Because honestly, what is life without happiness? 

The movie also had some amazing lines.  When Kidman's husband asks her about her novel and "why does someone have to die?" she responds with "someone has to die so we value life".  And my favorite line was Kidman's response to her family's choice to move her to the country side for he "mental stability"; "You cannot find peace by avoiding life".

Definitely a movie worth your time. And yes, that IS Nicole Kidman.  Srsly. 

Until next time,  happy viewing!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Name of the Game

So I just want to explain myself and my purpose here a little more before we really get going into the realms of the Academy Awards;

  • I do not want to give a plot synopsis of the movies unless it's pertinent to something I'm discussing.  You can click on one of the tabs at the top of the blog, (under the blog title) and get a quick summary from IMDb or a different engine of your choice.
  • There most likely will be spoilers! So if you know you want to watch the movie, you probably shouldn't read the post.  Even though I won't be going into great detail on the actual plot, I will be describing my opinion of the movie overall and actors, which may involve specific scenes.
  • Comment away!  If you don't agree with me or had a completely different take on the movie I want to know!  I absolutely love discussing film and always want to hear different viewpoints.
  • I may not always stick to Best Picture Winners.  I also like watching films that have an award for Best Actor/Actress, Best Screenplay, etc.  so I may diverge from "The Challenge" if I see a movie that I really enjoy that may not have received much recognition from The Academy *coughthecolorpurplecough* 

That is all for now, until next time, happy viewing!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lawrence of Arabia - 83

1962, Peter O'Toole, 3 hour 47 minute EPIC feature.  Really gives meaning to the term "full length feature".  Starting off my list of 83 movies with "Lawrence of Arabia" is like forming a book club and making everyone start off with War and Peace.

To be quite honest I wanted to tackle this one first since I recently watched it and there is a LOT to remember, annnnnd I want to get it out of the way.

I'm not really sure what I was expecting before I watched it.  I mean, I had just finished "Amadeus" which was a 3 hour film and I was thinking to myself "well at least I got the longest one crossed off the list!"  Then I opened the NetFlix envelope to have Running Time: 3 hours 47 minutes staring me down.  So I made sure to save a Sunday morning for the first half, hunkered down and began my quest of climbing the Mr. Everest of films from the 60's.  

As epic movies go, this was definitely a 9 out of 10 on the "epicness" scale. What surprised me the most was there wasn't a single female lead in the entire movie.  Which also meant that there was no type of love story or love interest.  I'm not saying that for a movie to be epic or good there has to be a love story, but it sure helps... it's a lot of film to sit through without one.

Sand.  If I had to describe the movie in one word I would choose; Sand.  And a hell of a lot of it.

Peter O'Toole did a phenomenal job developing his character throughout the film, especially since the film starts with his death.  But he of course was up against Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird) and wasn't awarded Best Actor that year.  I mean, Peter O'Toole was the movie.  There were no other leading characters, and no other actors that really stood out.  Mr. O'Toole took a nonchalant British soldier who was content painting maps in the basement of a building to a leader of an Arabian tribe.  I mean, think about it.  Integrating yourself into a culture that you have no business being in and then getting the people trust you AND then fight with you.  People who don't trust your kind.  Mind you, this was set in the early 1900's and the same stigmata of not trusting the "white people who only want to take advatage of you" was very present.  So when Lawrence comes along and starts fighting for the RIGHTS and land of the Arabian tribes it's quite the shock for all parties.

At one point in the movie he has to kill a man for stealing from another man, as is custom to the Arabs.  The thief turns his face and Lawrence sees that it is the same man he had earlier risked his life for in the desert to save.  Traveling without food or water to go back and save this man from starvation.  He looks him in the eye and pulls the trigger.  The first shot doesn't kill him so he stands there and empties a round into his friend and you can feel the pain and the regret.  Later when meeting with a British Major Lawrence explains what he had to do and at the end he has a hard time describing how he felt; "It felt... I felt... it felt... good". That was the turning point of the film.  The viewers then knew that Thomas Edward Lawrence was a changed man.

Well, I probably could go on about this movie for another 5 paragraphs but I don't want to bore all of you to tears.  

Did I mention that this movie had an intermission?  A musical intermission.  The composer decided to play it with no film.  So it's a 10 minute intermission with a black screen and music.  And sand, lots of sand.

Until next time,  thank you Academy #83

Start at the Beginning

83 years of film have given us 83 films deemed "best picture", or as it was first called "Outstanding Picture".  So why not watch them all?  And then why not blog about it?!  That is exactly what I've decided to do here.  It's almost like my little own "Julie & Julia" but with film!

Who knows how many people will actually read this blog, but don't you ever get frustrated with IMDb from time to time?  Sure it has the actors names and a cute little plot synopsis, but I want a more in depth critique of the movies other experts have considered the best "Outstanting Motion Picture" of each year (I'm so happy we just stick with calling it Best Picture nowadays).  So I plan to tackle all 83 films and then write my reaction to each of them here.  Please forgive my grammar and spelling ahead of time, sometimes my brain can get ahead of my fingers on the keyboard.

To be honest I have seen a good majority of these movies already.  The only movie I have not seen from 1990 - present is Clint Eastwood in "The Unforgiven".  But I am debating going back and re-watching some of the winners so I don't try to give my reaction/opinion completely based on my memory.

Stay tuned for this battle of human vs. silver screen, it should be fun!

Without further ado, presenting The Challenge;