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Showing posts from February, 2014

Oscars 2014

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Well, it's that time of the year again, and for once, in a long, long, time, I have watched all the movies that are nominated for Best Picture, which incidentally include nominees for all the other main categories. Those outside the Big 9 include Cate Blanchett for Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, and Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively for August: Osage County.

In retrospect, my personal favourite movie of 2013 (as based on release date in America) was All Is Lost. Other favourites include12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, GravityBlue Jasmine, Frances Ha (I watched it on the plane, but did not review it) andThe Conjuring.

Like last year, below I give my predictions on who should win and who will win for this year's Academy Awards for the big 8 categories and my own personal favourites of Best Cinematography and Best Score (nothing interesting in the Animated Feature). Winners will be updated in red.

Best Picture
12 Year…

The Monuments Men

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A monumental (heh! Couldn't help it) failure. Despite having a fascinating slice of history as its basis, and lots of star wattages, this George Clooney directed comedy-drama is a poorly written history textbook coming alive. A meandering, barely coherent mess, strung along by a weak - thinner than paper - excuse for a plot/narrative, a bare iota, or even less, of characterisation and unbalanced, bordering on schizophrenia, directing. I have never felt like walking out of a cinema in a long time. Not to say there were not any bright sparks, but they were too brief and far in between, mainly courtesy of Bill Murray and Bob Balaban.

I applaud Clooney for attempting to present this really intriguing piece of history to the general public in a comedic manner, however, his balancing between the dramatic moments and the lighthearted comedy was just totally off. Bordering on jarring and inappropriate. The tonal shifts were abrupt with drama vying with comedy for the spotlight. Thankfull…

All Is Lost

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This is what happens when studios do not market/campaign for their movie. All Is Lost is a far and away one of the best, or even the best, movie of this season, and its main - and only - star, Robert Redford is in a class of his own, easily trumping over any of the Best Actor nominees this year. Riveting, exciting, tense, harrowing, humbling and undeniably intense, the simple plot belies a tightly complex character study.

J.C. Chandor wrote and directed this gem and it is an amazing example of a complex character study. With barely any dialogue, we are given an immensely exciting movie with a character with whom we know anything about, but just based on his actions (and reactions), we can come to slowly understand him. We can guess his background, his motivations and his drive. However all these are just speculations and endless possibilities are abound. But instead of being frustrated by the lack of clarity, it is to Chandor's credit that he was able to weave a fascinating story…

Philomena

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This sentimental movie led by a quietly dignified Judi Dench and penned by co-star Steve Coogan is quintessentially British in nature: dry humour, emotional but not gut-wrenching, and so very proper throughout. It tugs at the heart strings but does not emotionally manipulate like most Hollywood fare.

Stephen Frears adopted a rather documentary-style approach to the story which, for better or worse, puts the audience firmly in their seats and never really part of the events. This style was useful in the flashback scenes. Visually Frears gave the past and present two distinct looks, with the past appearing more grainy like a faded film (memory), but as we join Dench and Coogan in the present, there is some disconnect between us and them as he continues with the documentary-style presentation.
If it was not for Dench's quietly powerful and intimately heartfelt portrayal, a lot of the film's moments would not have struck the emotional chord of the audience. Her eyes and her subtl…

I'm So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros)

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Pedro Almodóvar's newest movie is an extremely frothy and highly campy comedy that is essentially an anthology of stories tied together with the thinnest and flimsiest plot. Don't expect it to be like Almodóvar's previous brilliant work like Volver, Todo Sobre Mi Madre, Hable Con Ella and the most recent La Piel Que Habito, and it can be quite enjoyable. Embrace the silliness, frothiness and bawdiness (MDA's words), and it's not too bad a way to spend 90 minutes.

The poster basically says it all. The tone of the movie is set from the opening introduction and credits. There are some definite laugh out loud moments, a lot of sniggering and snark, and quite a number of eye-rolling, but critically, nothing really stood out. The plot as aforementioned is thin to the point of invisibility; the acting is camp not high art. There were some innovative directing and some attempt at depth (exploring certain themes). It seemed that Almodóvar had an idea - a situation - and tr…

Nebraska

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A simply complex, darkly comedic fable by Alexander Payne that is much better than his last movie, The Descendants, mainly because it is so much less self-obsessed and self-smug, but also has a much tighter story-telling and generally better acting. It deserves all the nominations that is has gotten.

Having the film shot in black and white is a very smart choice by Payne. Without colour differentiation, there is no distraction from the story, the acting and the cinematography. But of course, with such a technique all the other aspects must be excellent. Thankfully, with a script written not by Payne but by Bob Nelson, we have a script that is simple in its complexity exploring the paradoxical, and often silent, relationship between father and son, and also illuminating the harsh truth about Greed. And in between all that, there is still space and time for smart, witty, and drily deadpanned moments to liven things up.

Luckily Payne, as a director, is also much better here, with a tidy…

Robocop

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Disclaimer: I remembered watching the original 1987 movie and loving it, and even now although I cannot really recall the plot points, I still remember certain scenes and how in awe I was with it back then. 

A rote, mediocre crime thriller that failed to live up to the pedigree of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven classic, but it is not for without (some of) its cast trying their best.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with sci-fi remakes/reboots such as this and Total Recall, just updating and modernising the tech/science is not enough. The original films captured the zeitgeist of their time; but now, with a saturation of sci-fi in the media, this concept just feels old and tired. On television, we have Almost Human that pairs human detectives with cyborgs; we have Intelligencethat sees a man connected to the internet and "cyber renders"; we had movies like Tron, The Matrix Trilogy, I, Robot, and Her which ranges from popcorn blockbusters to the thinking man sci-fi; we have books by…