Saturday, February 26, 2011

And the Oscar goes to......

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

My frock's at the cleaners, the popcorn's in the cupboard. James and Anne are warming up. All radios, computers and tvs are switched off until 8.30pm. No talk of Academy Awards until then please. It's my time to get all the winners wrong. Again. So here goes.....

Best Leading Actor: It has to be King Colin Firth, everyone else was brilliant, but it HAS to be HRH

Actor in a supporting role: It's a toss up between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush, but it's Gold for Geoffrey

Actress in a leading role: Natalie Portman is a (ballet) shoe in

Actress in a supporting role: Mmmm, I would love to see Jackie Weaver get this, but it's down to Hailee Steinfeld and the Queen Mum, Helena. I'm going for Hailee

Animated Film: Toy Story 3

Art Direction: Inception, Inception, Inception

Cinematography: True Grit

Costume Design: The King's Speech clothes were divine, but I'm going for the madness of Alice in Wonderland

Directing: What a tough one this is. Not the same as best film. The Social Network is the fave, but I'm a thinkin' True Grit

Documentary (Feature): Gasland

Documentary (Short Subject): The Warriors of Qiugang

Film Editing: 127 Hours

Foreign Language Film: Biutiful

Make Up: Barney's Version

Music (Original) We Belong Together Toy Story 3

Best Picture: Oh, do I HAVE to? Well, I would love Inception, True Grit or The King's Speech. I think it's The Social Network, but...Inception

Short Film (Animated): The Gruffalo

Short Film (Live Action): God of Love

Sound Editing: Inception

Sound Mixing: The King's Speech

Visual Effects: Inception

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): True Grit

Writing (Original Screenplay): The eloquent King's Speech, or the tangled Inception? The King's Speech, by a hair.

So there it is, in all it's glory, my predictions. This time in two days, we will know how wrong I was!
Enjoy the best night of the year, I'll be the one in the front row....


Not many good things have been written about this film. As I read poor review after poor review, something didn't add up. This is a Clint Eastwood movie, most of his films are great (apart from Million Dollar Baby which the rest of the world loved, but I wouldn't give one cent for). Not only has the big man directed and written the score, but Matt Damon is in it, and the gorgeous yet underrated Bryce Dallas Howard (well done Richie Cunningham!), and Cecile De France, a beautiful and talented French actor. So what wasn't to like? Not much in my opinion. Hereafter is a well crafted and sensitively told film about, well, the Hereafter. It follows the lives of three people. The main character is George (smile please Matt Damon, oh please smile), an extremely reluctant true psychic who is haunted by his gift. He stumbles through his life, desperately trying to connect with people, only to find that it's impossible when they discover his talent. He is up against trying to live a normal life with trying to stave off his brother's numerous attempts to get him back into the psychic reading business, he's been down that road, and it was a rocky one. The second life is that of young boy Marcus and his identical twin Jason in London. Their Mum is a junkie and they are frequently visited upon by social services. Tragedy hits as Jason is killed. Life and the afterlife are questioned over and over as Marcus tries to make sense of the loss of his beloved brother. The third person is Marie, and she is introduced in the opening scene. Marie (Cecile De France) is a hard nosed tv journalist who is on a dirty holiday in Asia when a tsunami hits. The graphics in this part are quite brilliantly horrific. Marie has a near death experience. This slowly changes her whole attitude and outlook on life, and she finds herself looking for answers and a new career path. These three lonely and sad people entwine together at the end of the film, with really quite emotionally satisfying results. Some questions are answered and tears are shed. It is a Clint Eastwood film. By that I mean that he intuitively seems to know the right notes to strike, not just in his melodious score. There is emotion without sentimentality. There is horror without bloodshed. There is sadness without shirt tearing histrionics. We find out what happens to these world weary people. It's the little things in his movies that always mean a lot. George's love of Charles Dickens. Melanie's heartbreakingly awkward reaction to George's reading. The boy's mother's obvious love for her children. It's been slated as a slow movie. Well, the subject matter is hardly appropriate for a blockbuster. It was a gentle tale that I really didn't want to end. It's also been reviewed as not half as clever as it thinks it is. I don't agree. I think we all have questions about the afterlife. I am a committed atheist but it's an interesting thought, and let's face it, none of us knows for sure what happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil. It surely defies belief that a man entering into his ninth decade this year is continuing to direct such quality films, and scoring the music too. He made my day. Hereafter was a delightful surprise, superbly acted with great depth of emotion. HEREAFTER:I wouldn't be seen dead writing a bad review about this one. 7.5/10

Friday, February 25, 2011

127 Hours

James Franco joins a rank of actors whose smile is so beatific and divine, that it positively bathes you in melted butter. James go and stand next to Matt Damon, Ewan McGregor, and the delicious James McAvoy. Now all say 'cheese'. Gorgeous. Ok, on with the review. This is the true story of Aron Ralston. Aron is an adrenaline junkie, and a loner, who spends his weekends in the canyons of Colorado squeezing himself through tight spots. My claustraphobic idea of hell. His love of this beautiful barren land is evident. On this adventure, he meets two girls, Megan (Amber Tamblyn) and Kristi (Kate Mara). They spend part of the day together, he shows them a slighty different view of the beautiful clear pool, and how to get there. Looks great fun. Aron then proceeds with his focused journey, through the terrain he knows and loves so well. It's at this point, that you are just waiting for 'it' to happen. By 'it' of course, I mean *spoiler alert* the awful bit where the rock pins his right arm against the crevice. The look of disbelief on James Franco's face when this happens is quite startling. Now you would think that this story would be a little difficult and tedious when transferred onto the screen. Not at all. Danny Boyle has directed this film with sensitivity and humour and manages to keep you completely captivated. Of course, this is also due to the magnificent acting of James Franco. He brings a real warmth and likeability to a quite self centred character. It is agonizing to watch Aron going through the gamut of emotions, all recorded for posterity on his movie camera, as he realises that his options and choice of beverages are fast slipping away. There are also some extremely emotional moments as he hallucinates his way through past love and what might have beens. The scene where he finally releases himself from his rocky grave is nothing short of horrific (and I'm a nurse). The bravery, courage and resourcefulness needed to endure this type of incident are miraculous. The final few minutes of the film are really emotional and poignant. It's really nice to know what happens to characters. People raved about 'Slumdog Millionaire', I was one of a handful that couldn't see what the fuss was about. This one I can. The soundtrack is also really well chosen, listen out for 'Lovely Day', poetry in motion. 127 HOURS: I wouldn't have lasted 127 minutes. 8.5/10

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sarah's Key

This is a harrowing tale of the holocaust based on a novel. The fact that it's not fact has raised some eyebrows. I feel that anything that sparks people's interest in this dark time in history is a good thing. It is sympathetically scripted and very sensitive to the subject. The film follows American in Paris Julia (consistantly beautiful and brilliant Kristin Scott Thomas), who is married to Bertrand, who's a little bit selfish in my opinion. Julia and Bertrand are about to move into architect Bertrand's parents apartment. During her research into a terrible real incident, where the French rounded up their Jews, and kept them in a cycle stadium the velodrome for 3 days before shipping them off to the death camps, Julia discovers that their new flat's previous occupiers, the Starzynskis,were a family that were taken away to this stadium. Interweaved in the modern day story, we follow the path of Sarah, the little girl from the flat as she hides her brother from the French and is taken away with her mother and father. The film slowly unravels and we learn what the terrible fate is of the Starzynski family. Julia also has her own troubles, her selfish husband for one, more like a child than a partner, her teenage daughter and the possibility, after years of trying, of becoming a mother again. After Julia finds out the terrible story, she sets about trying to track down the surviving members of this heartbreaking time, with some surprising consequences. The film is extremely well acted, especially by the dear Melusine Mayance who plays Sarah. The skipping back and forth over time is not confusing and is edited well. The subject matter is of course, chilling, and completely devastating.there are some nice touches. The younger journalists that Julia works with are initially indifferent and ignorant to the horrors of world War 2. The guilt that haunts people in the present over the past is evident. It's a many layered film, with a nice return to the screen by Aidan Quinn. Sarah's Key: Will unlock the tears. 7/10

Winter's Bone

What a beautiful, bleak movie this is. It's the story of Ree, who lives in a cabin with her depressed mute mother, and her much younger sister and brother. Her father is due in court for cooking crack, he's put the house up as collateral for bail, and he's disappeared. It's up to Ree to find him, or they lose the house. Every member of her kin folk that she goes to for information, aggressively turns her away. If her father is truly dead, as her Uncle Teardrop declares, she has to prove it. Jennifer Lawrence puts in a hugely powerful, yet vulnerable performance as Ree. Her love of her family is obvious, especially for her siblings. She actively tries to nurture them, even in the midst of this chaos and oppression. The pecking order of these families, is nothing short of horrific. I have never been to this area of America, nor experienced this life (thank goodness), but it felt so real and raw. The menace and twisted sense of loyalty that the families have for each other is palpable. And the women, blimey, don't mess with the women. This is not an easy film to watch, not by a long shot. I doubt if the subject matter is too exaggerated, right down to the cowardly corrupt sheriff. Though to be fair, you think, well what other choice did he have when dealing with people whose way of thinking is, quite frankly, this primitive? Put it this way, it doesn't make you want to rush out and buy property in Missouri. It also shows the very real hardhips that people like Ree have to face. The scene where she goes to find out about signing up for the Army is really poignant. There are some moments of real humanity. Some of the friendships are very touching as is the obvious deep bond to the country area that these people have been born into. WINTER'S BONE: Will chill you right down to yours. 7/10

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Grit

Remakes, don't you just love 'em? Generally, or course, no. In this case it's a no too, I adore them. This is a Cohen brother's film. It's a remake as we know of the John Wayne vehicle, but this sticks far more closely to the novel. Mattie Ross is a fourteen year old girl who's out to seek revenge for her father's murder at the hands of Tom Chaney. Mattie hires US Marshall Reuben 'Rooster' Cogburn (the inimitable Jeff Bridges)as she's heard of his true grit in such matters. Mattie has been warned off chasing Tom Chaney by LaBoeuf, (Matt Damon) a cocky and very proud Texas Ranger who is after Tom for his own reasons. After an underhand deal is made between Cogburn and LaBoeuf, the end result is that all three go in search of Tom Chaney and the leader of the gang, Lucky Ned Pepper. I am not a fan of Westerns, so what can I say about this film? Well, it's dang near perfect dagnabbit. The costumes and cinematography are breathtaking, transporting you to a time of difficulties and hardship. The script is tight, quirky and written in formal speaking style, which adds to the authenticity. It is also very funny in places, the gallows type of humour, obviously. It has all the Cohen brother's traits, but the style does not take over nor detract from the story. And the acting, oh the acting. Hailee Steinfeld is a revelation as Mattie. She is precocious without being irritating. She is smart without being cocky. She is overwhelmingly adorable, without being in the slightest bit cute. I hope this is not her finest hour. I have a feeling it won't be. What can you say about Sir Jeff of Bridges? He has the ability to show the worst possible of human traits, and yet still portray a sympathetic character that make you want to cry. Matt Damon's first venture into the Cohen brother's world is no less of a triumph. He plays the puffed up LaBoeuf with understated wit and pathos. Tom Chaney is played by Josh Brolin, the largeness of his face only rivalled by Javier Bardem. Tom is a thug who appears to have a low IQ and little compassion, but even he is not portrayed in a purely dark light. Barry Pepper plays Lucky Ned Pepper, again an excellent performance. I hope he didn't take method acting too far and really let his teeth decay to the foul extent they are in the film! This is truly a remarkable, magnificent film. If you can, do it justice by seeing it on the big screen. Is there any other way to see a movie? TRUE GRIT: Couldn't have picked a better title myself. 10/10.