Oscars/Golden Globes Film Reviews Part III

February 21, 2009 in Movie Reviews

I’ve done it.  I finally managed to watch all the Oscar/Golden Globe nominated films I could possibly get to before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday!

Here’s the third instalment of my short Flixter film reviews and possibly the best of the lot!  The first instalment can be found here (Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler, The Reader, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, In Bruges, Pineapple Express, Burn After Reading, Tropic Thunder, Changeling, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight and Kung Fu Panda) and the second here (WALL-E and Gran Torino).

Again, ratings are out of 5 stars.

rachel-getting-married1Rachel Getting Married (3.5 stars)

Years of suppressed family emotions explode around a family wedding. Well-written script with some clever dialogue and witty interactions, even though this type of drama would not be everyone’s cup of tea. A remarkable performance by Anne Hathway (I didn’t know she could act this well) and a solid supporting cast. Not all of it worked but enough of it did.

doubt1Doubt (3.5 stars)

Extraordinary performances all round (Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as always, but Amy Adams really stole the show as the doubting nun), but it was an obvious play adaptation with lots and lots of talking. The characters were extremely well defined, though I couldn’t help but feel there was a certain clunkiness in the way things panned out. Not to take away too much from this film because it tackles many of the themes very cleverly through subtle actions and explosive dialogue.  Doubt is indeed an apt title for this film.

milkMilk (4 stars)

True story about the first openly gay public official in America.  Pretty incredible movie and a ridiculously superb performance by Sean Penn. It was entertaining, informative, frightening and enlightening all at the same time. Hard to believe it was only 30 years ago that this happened in our world. I particularly liked the ending where they showed the real life counterparts of the actors.

revolutionary-roadRevolutionary Road (4 stars)

It’s hard to know where to begin with a movie that explores the essence of life, love, marriage, children, work, dreams, hopes and reality. It is so rare to see such a brutal, honest, emotional portrayal of suburban and married life, no matter what era. Granted, some people won’t get it for one reason or another, but those that do will find a story that will resonate with them for a long time. All performances are outstanding – I know Kate Winslet has gotten all the attention for this role and The Reader, but Leonardo DiCaprio is really her equal in this film, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the same recognition. Michael Shannon was also brilliant and stole every scene he was in.

benjamin-buttonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (4.5 stars)

A strange premise but an ultimately rewarding film. The make up and special effects are the best I’ve ever seen, both the ageing and the de-ageing stuff is just phenomenal. The film works not really as a running narrative but rather as a series of moments, like its tagline. I found it very captivating to go through the journey of life with this bizarre character, through his ups and downs, flaws and all. There are some minor problems and it is a tad too long, plus Brad Pitt wasn’t truly able to capture the nuances of the ageing process (he acted like the way he looked rather than the age he was) – however, I think when it’s all said and done this is one of the more memorable movies in recent years.

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NB: Just a few words about my rating and review system.  First and foremost, they are taken directly from Flixter, so are always short.  I don’t like to discuss too much plot in my reviews because I think it ruins a movie.  Which is why (even though I can’t help but watch them) I generally dislike previews because they tend to give away too much by revealing the best bits and almost always contain spoilers.  I also hate long reviews that reveal too much plot (this happens a lot these days in reviews I read) – what’s the point of telling everyone what the entire film is about?  With my ratings, they are out of 5 and are entirely subjective, always decided on the spot based on gut instinct after viewing.  I never re-adjust a rating afterward and I don’t compare them to previous ratings – hence two films can have the same rating but I may think one is better than the other.  Also, I tend to find there is a significant difference between 2.5 stars (below average) and 3 stars (good) and 3.5 stars (pretty good) and 4 stars (excellent), more so than other half-star differences.

Lastly, the only 5 star film reviewed in these 3 posts is The Wrestler, which I think is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.  For the Best Picture Oscar nominees, The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are tied with 4.5 stars, but I think the latter is the film I prefer.  Though it is a moot point anyway since Slumdog Millionaire is going to win!

BAFTA Winners!

February 8, 2009 in Entertainment

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The winners of the last major film award ceremony before the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), have just been announced!

I must say there weren’t many surprises, if any.  The big winner was of course Slumdog Millionaire, which came away with 7 awards (including Best Film) out of 11 nominations.  Danny Boyle, Kate Winslet and Heath Ledger also continued their strong runs to now look like certainties at the Oscars next month.

Full list of winners below.

Best Film: Slumdog Millionare

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Best Actress: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best British Film: Man on Wire

Best Original Screenplay: Martin McDonagh (In Bruges)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Editing: Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Production Design: Donald Grahan Burt, Victor J Zolfo (The Curious Case of Bejamin Button)

Best Costume Design: Michael O’Connor (The Duchess)

Best Make Up/Hair: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Film Music: AR Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Sound: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Non-English Film: Il y a longtemps que je t’aime

Best Animated Feature Film: Wall-E

Orange Rising Star Award: Noel Clarke

Most Promising Newcomer: Steven McQueen (Hunger)

Best Short Animation: Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death

Best Short Film: September

Surprise! Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t win this time

February 2, 2009 in Entertainment

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The best image I could find online

For quite some time it seemed Slumdog Millionaire was going to sweep all the major awards on its way to capturing the Best Picture (and Best Director) Oscar next month. 

But it wasn’t to be.  At least not at the Evening Standard British Film Awards handed out last night.

Slumdog Millionaire lost out to Hunger for Best Picture, and Danny Boyle lost out in the Best Director category to Stephen Daldry for The Reader

Other winners included Michael Sheen for Frost/Nixon and Pat Shortt for Garage (joint Best Actor winners), Tilda Swinton for Julia (Best Actress, beating out Kate Winslet), Martin McDonagh for In Bruges (Best Screenplay) and Sally Hawkins for Happy Go Lucky (the Peter Sellers Award for Comedy).  Slumdog didn’t go away empty handed though – Mark Digby, the production designer of the film, won the award for Technical Achievement.

Most people (at least outside of the UK) have probably never heard of these awards.  However, according to Wikipedia, it is one of the most important film awards in the United Kingdom (along with the BAFTAs and the British Independent Film Awards).  So is this an indication that we should now have doubts about Slumdog Millionaire taking out the top prize at the Academy Awards?

Not so fast.  If you take a look at this award’s previous Best Picture winners over the last few years, you’ll see that its correlation with the major US awards (eg Oscars, Golden Globes) is very low.  Previous winners such as Control (2007), United 93 (2006), The Constant Gardener (2005), Vera Drake (2004), Touching the Void (2005) (you get the point) have not exactly been Oscar front-runners.  So I think while it’s nice to see some other films getting recognition, Slumdog Millionaire and Danny Boyle should still be favourites at the Academy Awards next month.

 
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