My snarky reviews of Movies, TV series, Food and other happenings...
A distinctively American, and totally Spielbergianly indulgent, historical drama that may not play as well to the international audience despite a tour de force, immensely astounding and amazingly immersive performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. He is going home with the Oscars no doubt about it. I can see why Spielberg may not be winning the awards as this is surely not his strongest film. But why Affleck is beyond me, when Bigelow and Haneke are way more deserving! Spielberg's signatures are over this film with glares, flares, backlights and shadows play. He composes images beautifully and these are lensed gorgeously by by Janusz Kamiński, in particular one very memorable moment with Lincoln's eldests son. Kaminski and Deakins ("Skyfall", any my first choice) are the top contenders for Best Cinematography. There is a steady hand directing throughout but the pacing is inconsistent and the narrative occasionally falters. Kushner may be blamed for the latter as his script although sprinkled with moments of wit and dry humour, is also peppered with clunky exposition that unless uttered by Day-Lewis is rather aversive. However, the lines spoken by Lincoln were lyrically beautiful and impactful. Tommy Lee Jones and his curmudgeonly old man is the second best thing of this movie. He gets the best one liners and delivers most of the chuckles in this otherwise serious film. A strong contender for Best Supporting Actor (and in my opinion, Philip Seymour Hoffman is really more of a Lead Actor than a Supporting Actor for "The Master", but may be Jones' strongest rival). Sally Field gives a solid performance as Mary Lincoln although she does look decidedly older than Day-Lewis' Lincoln. Her one scene opposite him as she goes through a gamut of emotions is as strong as Anne Hathaway's "I Dream a Dream" but perhaps less showy, so she may be in the running but is a distant second for Best Supporting Actress. The other supporting casts were less memorable but at least not distracting. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lee Pace were barely recognisable. John William's score was boring and insipid, and sincerely, his nomination (and Newman's for "Skyfall") is a bit of a head scratcher compared to Desplat's other two non-nominated works for "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Guardians". The epilogue was too long and could have ended 10 minutes earlier if the final scene was tagged on right after the surrender. There was no need to show *Spoiler Alert* Lincoln's death *End Spoiler* ... don't we all know it? That is a classic example of Spielberg being overly heavy-handed and indulgent. The Best Director race may actually be very interesting this year!
*note: kept having flashbacks to "House of Cards" throughout! Who's the whip I wonder :)
Director/Writer Barry Jenkins' moving examination about one boy's tumultuous upbringing shaping his teenage years and moulding him into the man he becomes is both a deeply personal story about self-identity and also an heartachingly poetic narrative of love and romance.
Where "Fences" and Denzel Washington failed in their translation from stage to screen, Jenkins effectively transposed Tarbell Alvin McCraney's "In Midnight Black Boys Look Blue" to the silver screen and embraced all that cinema has to offer to give the story the necessary added depth, scope and cinematic magic.
However, all would have been for nought if not for the cast.
Jenkins struck jackpot with his casting of Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert as the film's protagonist in all three ages. Not only for their uncanny resemblance to each other, but also in the way their eyes and body talk. Similarly, the roles of his best friend were also exceptional. Perhaps only Rich…
A feel good, underdog triumphs, girl-power film, highlighting both a significant and unlooked scientific history during a period of known darkness and discrimination. Led by the superbly entertaining and funny trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, this story deserved to be told. However, despite all the hype, its execution was rather lightweight and the storytelling frou frou in nature. Director Theodore Melfi could not find the true heart of the story and although all three women are extraordinary in nature, without a true focus, all three stories felt under served.
Henson was great. Funny and heartfelt, showing us the great range that she has that made her a previous Oscar nominee and now a perennial Cookie/Emmy nominee. However, she was failed by the lack of characterisation and the simplicity in which her character was handled.
Spencer was also strong in her role. Although like Henson, her character was way too simplified.
A competent film from the directors of "Little Miss Sunshine" that tried to juggle too much including gender politics, LGBTQ rights, themes of love vs ambition and of freedom to love with a love story and a love triangle, and unfortunately, in the end, underserved all of them to the point that the actual titular tennis match was the most exciting moment of the whole 121 minutes. In a similar vein, the supporting actors, including the scene-stealing Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming, and surprisingly nuanced Austin Stowell and Elisabeth Shue, were more interesting to watch than the leads: a miscast, albeit competent, Emma Stone (who had no chemistry with Andrea Riseborough) and a funny, but lightweight Steve Carrell. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris delivered a by-the-numbers story but may have bitten more than they could chew such that although the narrative moved forward, it moved erratically and without focus. Furthermore, with such a well known historical momen…