I’m usually not into hyperbole, but last Sunday was one of the greatest days of my life. Yes, that’s right — I sat courtside for the Indiana Pacers/Houston Rockets game at Taipei Arena on Oct. 13. Allow me to put that in perspective. It’s not easy being a Pacers fan (because there are so few read more
I have a new favourite fried chicken joint. ‘Two Peck’ Fried Chicken in Taiwan is possibly the most sensational fried chicken I have ever tasted. The franchises have branched out like wildfire since the first store opened in 2005, and there’s good reason. The shop fronts are tiny, but the fried chicken breasts are massive. read more
The Lord of the Rings is the holy grail of epic fantasy, both in print and on the big screen. When I heard Peter Jackson (originally Guillermo del Toro) was bringing us The Hobbit as a prequel, I was naturally excited. I grew less excited when I heard it was being made into two films, and even read more
So the world is apparently going to end on December 21. We’ve had plenty of scares before, be it Y2K or Nostradamus or some loony evangelical pastor in Texas, but this time a lot of people genuinely believe it because it’s supposedly from the Mayans. Chances are most of them have seen Apocalypto and know read more
I’ve reviewed every Best Picture nominee from this year’s Oscars, so now I will get the rest of the Oscar-related reviews over and done with in one fell swoop. The five films below all missed out on a Best Picture nomination but were all nominated for at least one other award.
I was a little disappointed in The Master because I am incredibly fascinated by Scientology (and this was supposed to be a veiled depiction of its founder, L Ron Hubbard) and I love all three leads and writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, who blew me away with his previous effort, There Will Be Blood.
Joaquin plays an ex-soldier who is sex-obsessed and a drunk. He stumbles across a cult called The Cause, ruled by Hoffman and his wife, played by Adams. He gets involved in the cult but has trouble following rules and keeping his emotions in check because he is so damaged.
While it was skillfully made, carefully paced and driven by three of the best performances of 2012 (in particular the lads), The Masterwas more about how and why people get sucked into cults (in general) rather than a Scientology expose. It is artistic and intentionally slow in parts, much like There Will Be Blood, but lacks the same edge-of-your-seat tension and explosiveness. For me it was just a little too flat and detached to pull me all the way into the story.
3 stars out of 5
PS: Maybe I was expecting too much, or maybe I was just thinking about this whenever I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman and couldn’t take him seriously.
The Impossible (2012)
Nomination(s): Naomi Watts (Best Actress)
I was wary of this film as I’m usually wary of tear jerkers, but this turned out to be one of the better ones, and not just because it’s based on a true story. Well, the true story involved a Spanish family caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but the filmmakers decided to turn them into a British family. I didn’t have a problem with that — they had to do what they had to do to sell film.
The movie works better if you don’t know how it ends, so if you haven’t seen it, avoid finding out. The special effects and the make-up are amazing, and the moment the tsunami hits is as realistic (and terrifying) as you could have hoped it to be.
But such a film wouldn’t work if it didn’t strike the right emotional cords, and the right emotional cords would not be struck if the performances didn’t hit their mark. In this regard The Impossible delivers because Naomi Watts is stunning as the battered mother, and Ewan McGregor is also very good as the distraught father. The one who links the film together, however, is young newcomer Tom Holland, who plays the eldest son of the family.
I didn’t shed any tears but the emotions did get to me, and that’s already quite an impressive feat because I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.
3.75 stars out of 5
The Sessions (2012)
Nomination(s): Helen Hunt (Best Supporting Actress)
If you want to be crass about it, The Sessions is a true story about a horny disabled guy’s mission to get laid. John Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien, a poet who has lived with an iron lung after being struck down by polio as a child. He is paralyzed from the neck down and requires near-constant care for life’s most basic activities.
Mark has a sharp mind and an even sharper wit, and he’s also a smooth talker, a charmer and a flirt. If he was able-bodied he’d probably be quite a ladies man, which is why he is so frustrated that he can’t get a girlfriend, or simply someone to help him lose his virginity.
Enter Helen Hunt, a “sex surrogate” who specializes in cases like Mark’s. The two have a limited six sessions together, but things don’t turn out the way Mark had envisioned. Naturally, instead of just a physical relationship, both of them undergo emotional changes that will affect their lives forever.
Sounds like an uncomfortable movie, doesn’t it? But The Sessions is poignant and surprisingly hilarious, tackling the sex with humour and wit. It doesn’t shy away from it — Hunt goes the “full Helen” for the first time since The Waterdance in 1992, when she played the girlfriend of a paralyzed writer — but the sessions are skillfully portrayed and have a gentle and lighthearted feel to them.
Emotionally, I didn’t connect with the film as much as I thought I would, but I was still impressed by how funny it was (especially Hawkes’ exchanges with a priest played by William H Macy) and the way director Ben Lewin (a former Aussie barrister!) handled the difficult subject matter.
3.5 stars out of 5
Won: Best Animated Film
I had only seen one other animated film nominee and that was Wreck-it Ralph (the others were Frankenweenie, ParaNorman and The Pirates! Band of Misfits), which I liked but thought didn’t fulfill its full potential. If I had to compare the two then Brave would have gotten my vote too.
That said, Brave, while a very good animated film, is not in the same league as former winners such as Toy Story 3 and Up. It’s is an ambitious story set in the Scottish Highlands about a girl who refuses to accept her fate by expressing the desire to not marry, setting off a chain of events that predictably teaches us to follow our hearts before leading to an obvious conclusion.
It has a strong female protagonist voiced by Kelly Macdonald and with Emma Thompson as her overbearing mother and Billy Connolly has her stubborn father. The Scottish accents were finely tuned to ensure audiences could understand them.
Notwithstanding the predictable underlying message and ending, I found Brave generally enjoyable and amusing and one of the stronger Pixar efforts I’ve seen over the years. But if this was the best animated film of the year I think it was probably a relatively weak field.
3.5 stars out of 5
The Invisible War (2012)
Nomination(s): Best Documentary Feature
The Invisible War lost out to Searching For Sugarman for Best Documentary, meaning the latter must be one heck of a film because the former is one of the best and most important documentaries I’ve ever seen.
The film documents sexual assault in the US military, and the stories you will hear are shocking and sickening and will probably infuriate you. It’s not just the assaults, but the trauma the victims have to continue to suffer when they are ignored, blamed and/or ostracized by the military while the perpetrators continue to roam free and even get promoted.
The filmmakers do a fantastic job of letting the facts, the statistics and the victims speak for themselves, and the commendable research and interviews provide a broad spectrum of victims (predominantly female but also male) and loved ones. It’s heartbreaking to watch at times but it’s a film I would recommend everyone to watch.
The film has already sparked some changes in the way the military handles assault cases and will hopefully continue to do a lot more. This is what’s happening to the men and women who serve their country and it’s unacceptable.
Putting aside all the anger, The Invisible War is simply a finely crafted documentary that will keep you engrossed.
And so we’re back to my post-Oscars movie blitz (fr0m 2013, that is), with just a couple more waiting in the wings before I can finally move onto something else more…contemporary.
The second last Best Picture nominee I managed to get to is Armour (meaning “love” in French), possibly the most depressing experience I’ve had in years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant film that explores the depths of devotion, sympathy, empathy, mortality, and ultimately, what it means to be human, but it’s not the type of movie there you’ll be walking out of the cinema exchanging high fives.
Directed by Michael Haneke, who gave us the frightening Funny Games (both the original and the US remake) as well as 2009′s acclaimed White Ribbon, Amour starts off with a death, and backtracks to the lives of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an elderly couple in their 80s.
This is kind of a spoiler, but very early on something happens and one is forced to take care of the other. It’s a heartbreaking and unflinching portrayal of what I’m sure happens to a lot of elderly couples, many of whom don’t have the resources that they do — though that does not make the story any less traumatic.
With this kind of film it’s easy for the director to overplay his or her hand and turn the movie into a sappy, melodramatic mess. However, while Armour undoubtedly tugs the heart strings, it does so a-matter-of-factly, with a sombre dignity and skilled subtlety. It is a deserved winner for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars.
The performances are also remarkable. Riva got most of the acclaim and accolades (including the Best Actress nomination) for the way she portrayed Anne’s fragility, fears and anger, but I thought Trintignant was every bit her equal and the film wouldn’t have been the same without either of them. Isabelle Huppert is also very good as their daughter.
But I can’t honestly say I enjoyed Armour. At 127 minutes, it was a little long, and it felt long because of the deliberately slow pace. And the sense of inevitability just added to the pain and anguish. It’s a film I can certainly appreciate for its filmmaking brilliance, performances and ability to strike hard at the audiences’ emotions, but it’s not a film I would recommend to people looking for something to lift their spirits. Probably also best to avoid if you are old or depressed.
I’m not usually a fan of romantic comedies or romantic dramedies or comedic dramas or whatever you want to call them, but Silver Linings Playbook easily tops my list of “whatever they are” for 2012. Funny and odd yet warm and heartfelt, not to mention powered by possibly the best ensemble cast of the year, it is a worthy Best Picture nominee that ticks the right boxes and pulls the right strings.
The slant of Silver Linings Playbook is mental illness, a risky angle that paid off when it could have easily backfired. Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a seemingly regular dude who has lost a lot of weight while being in a mental institution after suffering a breakdown (for reasons that are later explained). He returns home to his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Aussie Jacki Weaver, and continues to hope to rekindle his relationship with estranged wife Nikki. He sees his shrink and goes about making people uncomfortable until he meets kindred spirit Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Best Actress Oscar for this role), a young woman battling her own mental demons. And so begins an unusual, quirky and volatile friendship that directs both damaged characters onto a journey of healing.
It doesn’t really sound like enthralling cinema, but the sharp script (based on the book of the same name by Matthew Quick) and direction by David O Russell (The Fighter) elevates Silver Linings Playbook far above your average comedy or drama. It is a rare feat when both the jokes and the drama are spot on, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that was hilarious but not crude, dramatic but not melodramatic, sweet but not saccharine. Silver Linings Playbook achieves all of these.
This film, as is the case with all good films, is driven by its characters and their relationships. Of course, Pat and Tiffany dominate, but all the supporting characters have a story to tell as well. Pat’s father is a superstitious wreck, while Pat’s friends Ronnie and Veronica are in a struggling relationship that I’m sure will ring true to a lot of couples. Even Chris Tucker, who plays Pat’s friend from the mental institution, is an interesting fellow I wanted to see more of.
The characters and their relationships are driven by the phenomenal performances. I never thought of Bradley Cooper as much of a thespian, but he’s really convincing and makes Pat a likable protagonist you want to root for. I think it is by far the best performance of his career.
Jennifer Lawrence (sigh…). Just when I thought I couldn’t like her any more than I already do, she pulls off last year’s best performance as Tiffany, a beautiful, seductive, explosive and manipulative woman who has no idea how to deal with her pain. She’s that good, and with all due respect to the other Best Actress nominees, Lawrence is absolutely a deserving winner. Kate Winslet’s spot as my fave actress is in grave danger.
I don’t even need to mention the typically brilliant De Niro, though Weaver, whose role is smaller than I expected, struck me as a weird Best Supporting Actress nominee. Sure she’s good, but she wasn’t really given much of an opportunity to shine.This wasn’t like Animal Kingdom where she would grab you by the balls and never let go.
Anyway…I don’t need to say much more except that Silver Linings Playbook is worthy of all the critical acclaim. Some may be put off by the mental illness aspect of it, others by the quirkiness or the more predictable elements of the plot (and I admit, there is a sense of inevitability about the outcome, especially as it draws closer to its conclusion), but it’ll be a tough task to find a better 2012 romantic comedy or romantic dramedy or comedic drama or whatever you want to call it.
In typical me-fashion, I am blogging about something that happened almost a month ago. That’s right; I’m talking about the 85th Academy Awards.
This recap is really for my own selfish benefit because I don’t want to forget it in case I never get invited again. Not to the Oscars, of course (though I still hold out hope that this could still happen some day – as soon as I have the time and money to write, produce, direct and star in my own film, Tommy Wisseau-style), but to be a consultant on its Taiwan telecast.
Allow me to take a step back and explain. A few weeks ago (well, a month and a few weeks ago), a colleague recommended me to one of the two TV stations with rights to broadcast the Oscars in Taiwan. These stations will air the Oscars (at least) twice – live in the morning (Taiwan time) and again at night with subtitles. Each producer will have a team of dedicated translators who will work tirelessly all throughout the day to get those subtitles ready in time for the second telecast.
Sounds easy, or so I thought, but it’s actually a lot of work. It’s more than just direct translations from English to Chinese — there could be a lot of obscure film, TV, music, pop culture or fashion references that need to be researched and confirmed; jokes, slang words or accents that are difficult to understand for non-native speakers; or just a lot of indecipherable mumbling and hollering that even most native speaker don’t get. All of it has to be impeccably translated, verified and matched with the recorded footage. While there are bits of scripted material and lists of names that will be translated in advance, the vast majority of the work is done on the day, on the spot.
Where did I come in? Well, notwithstanding the dozen or so high-quality translators they hired for the day, they still needed someone with English as their native tongue who knew a thing or two about the movies. Just in case. The pay, as is usually the case in Taiwan, is not great, but to be honest I would have done it for nothing. I’d have to take a day off work, but I knew the experience of being a part of an Oscars telecast was too good to pass up.
We started early. By the time I arrived at 7:30am, the two rooms dedicated to the challenge were already filled with translators plugging away and preparing for the dreaded red carpet (which would be re-broadcast with subtitles after the ceremony in the rerun later that night). The rooms themselves were small and crowded. One was crammed with tables and laptops for the translators, while the other was crammed with couches and a TV for people like me.
This is the TV I watched the broadcast on
The day itself was a blast. Very long but extremely enjoyable and insightful. It was fun to watch the Oscars live for once (it’s usually on during work hours in Sydney and it was impossible to avoid finding out the winners before getting home) and with a group of people who have a passion for film.
For the majority of the live broadcast I was glued to the TV with our other consultant, a radio personality in Taiwan who once tutored Chinese actress Gong Li (you know, the one with the icy stare from Memoirs of a Geisha and Miami Vice) in English for a year. Apparently she is…um…nice — in person, that is.
Gong Li stares
Every now and then we would hear a call from the other room for “er duo” (literally “ears”), and we would go scampering over to assist. Sometimes it would be to decipher the name of a fashion brand (especially during the red carpet), or the punchline of a joke, or the name of a person mentioned during the acceptance speeches. Sometimes it was just a whole lot of gibberish from William Shatner or Queen Latifah.
Shatner tearing it up at the Oscars
The only real “work” I had to do all day was to help transcribe a couple of songs from the opening act of host Seth MacFarlane – so that the translators could use them to do the Chinese subtitles. On this point, I am disappointed to say, I could not, for the life of me, figure out one of the lines in MacFarlane’s final song, Be Our Guest, in which he tried to make fun of the name of the nine-year-old Oscar-nominated star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhane Wallis.
Southern Wild had some luck, it was made for 50 bucks
With a star whose name looks like a …?
After listening to it about 50 times, none of us could figure out what the heck Quvenzhane’s name looks like. It didn’t really matter in the end because the Chinese translation simply needed to convey that her name was difficult to read or pronounce, though I must admit that the line really bugged me for the rest of the day. After researching on Google and Twitter I still couldn’t find a single person who knew what he was referring to.
(A few weeks later, an article I read suggested that he had compared the name to “a vision test” – which could be correct, but even watching it again now I still think it doesn’t quite sound right. Check out the video of the entire opening below – the line comes in at around the 13:44 mark.)
Anyway, the rest of the broadcast went along very smoothly, with Ang Lee’s win for best director, naturally, drawing the biggest emotional high. It was probably the only time during the day that everyone stopped whatever they were doing and just watched the man they call “the pride of Taiwan” (along with basketballer Jeremy Lin, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, and any other Taiwanese person or person with Taiwanese heritage who has ever done anything remotely newsworthy in the world – though one must wonder why Justin Lin, the Taiwanese-born director of the last few entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, has barely gotten a mention).
The moment Ang Lee accepted his Oscar for Life of Pi
Much of the real work would come after the awards ceremony ended. You would think with a dozen or so people each translating a different segment that it wouldn’t take all that long to translate every word uttered in a three-and-a-half-hour ceremony and the preceding red carpet show – but it does! It really is hard work.
I must mention here that the translators we had working on the subtitles were amazing. Since moving here a little more than a year ago I’ve often been appalled with the quality of the translations in Taiwan – even for official government documents, brochures and marketing campaigns. But the people they hired on this day were all brilliant; I’m sure they are some of the best translators in Taiwan. I was particularly impressed by their meticulousness and their abilities to pick up the nuances and fudge difficult lines into coherence. One of them was a subtitle specialist who had worked on more than 5,000 films and TV shows, including good old porn (which is, allegedly, a pretty stiff job given that much of the dialogue occurs during hardcore close-up scenes…).
I feel I really should write a post on the plight of translators in Taiwan some day because it’s a topic I’m sure many people are passionate about. In short, it’s a shitty industry because the pay is so low and the work is so often very very hard. There are plenty of translation agencies out there taking advantage of translators by offering ridiculously low rates of say US$0.01 a word. At the same time, there are a lot of hopeless translators vying for – and often scoring – freelance gigs because they are willing to work for peanuts in exchange for horrendous translations. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps dragging down both the quality and the price of translation work in the country.
But I digress.
Oscars day was fun, and it stretched well into the evening and beyond the 8pm start time for the re-run thanks to the final subtitles for the red carpet. Contrary to my understanding of how Taiwanese media treat their staff, all of us were well looked after, with all three meals taken care of throughout the day. I really hope there will be another opportunity to work with them again in the future.
Thoughts on the Oscars
Seth MacFarlane as host
As for the ceremony itself, I thought this year’s was one of the better ones. Seth MacFarlane received average to negative reviews for his performance, but I actually thought he was pretty good. Not gut-bustingly funny but amusing enough for the stuffy Oscar oldies, and nowhere near as uncomfortable as Ricky Gervais. Yes, the opening monologue was a little longer than usual, but I’ve always considered it the most entertaining part of the show, so no complaints from me.
As for the low-brow humor, including the “We Saw Your Boobs” song (in which all the actresses were clearly in on the joke) and some orgy comments from his teddy bear creation Ted, I don’t think any of it was unexpected. I mean, come on, the show’s organizers knew exactly what they were getting when they signed the creator of Family Guy and Ted – no one could say with a straight face that they had expected him to be Hugh Jackman and keep away from the crude jokes. No one can beat Billy Crystal, of course, but at least MacFarlane was better than the disaster that was Anne Hathaway and James Franco in 2011 (almost entirely the fault of the stoned latter) and the bizarre duo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin the year before.
My favorite parts of the opening monologue were those that received assistance from another star – the Star Trek segments with William Shatner and the Flying Nun skit with Sally Field. On the whole, however, it was one of the better openings in recent memory. As they say, it’s the toughest gig in Hollywood, so kudos to MacFarlane for at least having the balls to take it on when he knew he’d probably be savaged for it.
Seth MacFarlane as the Flying Nun
Winners and losers
Having finally watched all of the nine best picture nominees, I have to say that this was a strange year in which there was no real favorite because no film really dominated.
Argo, which won best picture, only had a single acting nomination (for Alan Arkin), while its director, Ben Affleck, didn’t even get a nomination. And let’s face it: it was a very very good film, but still one of the weaker best picture winners in Oscar history. At least it was better than Crash.
They may take away my best director nomination, but they can never take away this Oscar!!
On the other hand, you had Lincoln, which may have ticked all the boxes but was a bore that few would call the best film of the year. Amour was the token foreign film nominee that was far too depressing to win, and Beasts of the Southern Wild was a nice little fairytale (given its shoestring budget) that was too weird for a lot of people (including me).
Les Miserables divided audiences and critics alike (I was more against it than for it), while Zero Dark Thirty was too “controversial.” Personally, my three favourite films of the best picture nominees were Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi, probably in that order.
If I were a betting man, I probably would have put my money on Life of Pi because it will probably go down as the most memorable of the lot, and plus Ang Lee won for best director, which I felt was totally deserved. But unlike many who have seen it I didn’t think it was that amazing. Django and Silver Linings Playbook weren’t perfect and were genres unlikely to win best picture, but they were by far the most enjoyable of the nominees.
At the end of the day, Argo probably won by default.
As for the rest of the major categories, apart from best director (for which I thought Spielberg was the favourite) and best supporting actor (Tommy Lee Jones reportedly had the odds on his side), most of the outcomes were predictable. Daniel Day-Lewis, the male Meryl Streep, rarely loses once he gets nominated. The annoying thing is that you know he totally deserves it every time. The only guy that really could have competed with Daniel Day out of the nominees was Joaquin Phoenix, and you know they were never giving it to him.
One of the best non-Ang Lee moments at the Oscars this year was when Jennifer Lawrence, who is on the verge of overtaking Kate Winslet as my favourite actress, won for Silver Linings Playbook. I thought Jessica Chastain was excellent in Zero Dark Thirty, but Lawrence really hit a home run with her performance and proved that her nomination for Winter’s Bone a couple of years ago was no fluke. To top things off, she stacked it on the steps while heading up to the stage. Right now she’s like the female Ryan Gosling – impossible to dislike no matter how hard you try – well, except he’s still looking for his first Oscar.
Jennifer Lawrence takes a tumble on her way to the stage
Anne Hathaway’s win for supporting actress in Les Miserables turned out to be the most “meh” moment of the night. Yeah, she was good, but she pretty much won for shaving her head and signing one song. I wasn’t anywhere near that bandwagon..
Christoph Waltz has now made it two for two in his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino. I think this is why his win surprised a lot of people, because few expected that he would win the same award for the same director two times in a row. All the nominees were great, but if we were being honest with ourselves we would admit that the guy who truly deserved to win didn’t even get nominated. Waltz won for playing a Nazi, so I don’t get any of this “too controversial” or “to villainous” argument against Leonardo DiCaprio, who absolutely should have taken home the golden statuette this year.
Let’s face it, Leo was robbed
One final comment about the best foreign film category, which to no one’s surprise was captured by Amour this year. I said the same thing a dozen years ago when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won it: how can a film in that category NOT be the best foreign film if it is the ONLY one also nominated for best picture? It may seem unfair to deprive films like Amour and Crouching Tiger of an Oscar win for best foreign film, but it also completely kills any chance the other nominees in the category have.
PS: On a side note, it was kind of ridiculous that last year’s best picture winner, The Artist, did not get a nomination for best foreign film because the award is actually “best foreign language film.” So despite being a French movie made by a French production company, with a French director and French stars, The Artist was ruled ineligible because the few words uttered in the film were, more or less, in English. Another reason for this is because each foreign country can only submit ONE film for consideration to the Academy, which is totally stupid too.
Artwork courtesy of Hubert Widjaya. See below for our discussion on the film.
If you like Quentin Tarantino films, then chances are you’ll love Django Unchained. To me, this film is in his top five all-time. Personally, I’d rank it above both the Kill Bill films and Inglourious Basterds, and I already think those films are freaking awesome.
Tarantino films are a unique experience you just can’t get with any other director out there at the moment. His subjects are imaginative and bold. His characters are captivating. His worlds are seductive. His humour is black and wacky. His violence is ridiculously over-the-top. And his dialogue is simply the best. Sure, his movies can sometimes make no sense and come across as self-indulgent, but you can always be sure that a Tarantino film is never boring.
Django Unchained is Tarantino’s take on the spaghetti western genre. The titular character, Django, played by Jamie Foxx (apparently Will Smith was Tarantino’s first choice) is a negro slave from the antebellum era who becomes a bounty hunter under the guidance of Christoph Waltz (who won his second Oscar for best supporting actor in his second Tarantino film). The dynamic duo go in search of Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), and when they track her down, devise a plan to rescue her from a vile slave owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Of course, no Tarantino film is really complete without Samuel L Jackson, who plays Leo’s loyal senior house slave.
In essence, Django Unchained is a fantasy hero film about a wronged black man who goes on a killing rampage against nasty white guys. There are parts that defy logic and reason, but who cares when you’re having so much fun?
The performances are ridiculous. Jamie Foxx is spectacular as the man who will stop at nothing to get his wife back. Christoph Waltz just beat Robert De Niro, Alan Arkin, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tommy Lee Jones at the Oscars, so you know he’s good. But damn, it’s a travesty that Leo was not at least nominated for the best supporting actor category this year. It’s one of his best performances ever, and if you gave me a choice between Leo and Christoph I’d probably pick Leo. He was just that good. Heartthrobs just can’t get a fair shake with the Academy.
As expected, the release of Django Unchained polarized viewers for its controversial subject matter and content. Spike Lee, before even seeing the film, declared it disrespectful to his ancestors for making light of slavery. Some complained about the crazy violence, even though most of it was applied in a comical kind of way. But what twisted the most panties was the excessive use of the “N” word. Now I don’t claim to be a historian, but I assume that’s the way they spoke back in those days. (That said, knowing how much Tarantino loves to use that word, I have a feeling that much of it probably was gratuitous.)
Whatever. Django Unchained was hands down one of the most entertaining films of the year. A little overlong as usual at 165 minutes, but all things considered still a near masterpiece.
Conversation with HW:
HW: G’day fellow film geek! In the pantheon of Quentin’s work how did you like his latest mind-blowing mash-up?
PJM: I loved it. It’s not quite at the level of his all-time greats like Pulp Fiction but it’s up there. Just for the fun factor I’d rank it above Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill. That’s how much I enjoyed it. What about you?
HW: In terms of discomfort, i.e. controversy factor, easily number one as it deals with slavery without flinching. Fun factor wise its equal to Inglourious Basterds. It has EASILY by far and away the best Tarantino film performance though in Leo. If not for him playing a racist southerner, he’d be a lock for Oscar nom and win…best villain since the Joker (Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight).
PJM: Absolutely. Leo was phenomenal. I actually thought everyone was great, except for Tarantino himself, of course. He still can’t act. I still reckon he made the film just so he and Samuel L Jackson can say the “N” word to their hearts’ content.
HW: Waltz was charming, and Foxx solid but Leo STEALS every scene he’s in…the best dialogue, the best accent and all delivered with a killer southern accent…my other fave Leo role actually uses another accent too — Blood Diamond.
PJM: That’s the thing with Tarantino — he’s like no other filmmaker out there. He excites me more than any director out there right now (cinematically speaking, of course…)
HW: Funny too…hes banking on, and is usually safe, in assuming that 90% oh viewers don’t know the films he’s ripping off…although there is a definite skill in mashing up genres.
PJM: What would you give it out of 5?
HW: If it weren’t for an absolutely pointless conclusion after the conclusion, I’d give it 9 out of 10…the super tense, brilliant, Samuel L Jackson stealing dinner setup, which ends with [spoilers!] would have brilliant conclusion…would have been a tighter film, with no fat…his second act of [spoilers!] adds nothing, and weakens the film.
PJM: I agree it was a little overlong and had some unnecessary fat to trim, much like Tarantino’s body in this film. I’m giving it a 4.5 out of 5 anyway. This is just the kind of film you don’t see anymore and who better than Tarantino to give it to us. I loved the dialogue, the performances, the action and the humour. Classic Tarantino.