Thursday, March 30, 2006
Felt bored. Felt musical. No comments, because I may just end up repeating myself.
01. Finding Nemo (Thomas Newman)
02. Brokeback Mountain (Gustavo Santaolalla)
04. The Hours (Philip Glass)
07. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Klaus Badelt)
08. The Terminal (John Williams)
09. Syriana (Alexandre Desplat)
10. Monster’s Inc (Randy Newman)
Monday, March 27, 2006
On a night playing Poker with three bawdy men, Andy Stitzer (the excellent newcomer to the Frat Pack scene, Steve Carell), a geeky toy-collector reveals that he has never done the dirty. Digs and mockery ensue, but the men also vow to get Andy to end his shameful virginity and find him a woman. Chest waxing and loose women follow, as well as a whole lot of male self-deprecation in Jud Apatow’s silly, sweet and appropriately raunchy romantic comedy.
As a protagonist, Andy is a deeply likable, if slightly kooky guy. He rides a bicycle to work. He carefully paints his toy figurines, whilst chatting to them. And he only has eyes for Trish, an eBay entrepreneur from across the road. Trish is played by Catherine Keener, and it is her chemistry with Steve Carell that elevates this film above the generic gross-out formula. Their romance is presented in a careful, convincing way, without holding back on the jokes, but cleverly using Andy’s virginity as both a convenience (the couple spend their time doing other things, such as conversing, flirting, or kissing) as well an obstacle (Trish cannot wait to get into Andy’s pants, but he’s still scared), that, only solidifies the belief in the pair’s love for each other.
The supporting cast, whilst not quite to the standard of the leads, hold their roles well. Paul Rudd is funny is the guy who is still hung up on his heartless ex-girlfriend, whilst Romany Malco also amuses, though his character does nothing to dispel the African American infidel stereotype. However, despite that little hiccup, 40-Year-Old is extremely well written, for it blends comedy, drama and romance deftly, as well as creating two leads that we care about, amongst the bawdy humour, which, at some points, proves to be the movie’s low point.
There are other flaws too, of course. There are lines that begin “I know you’re gay because…” which only manage a raised eyebrow, and the less said about that weird singsong at the end, the better. The running time of 2 hours is also to be questioned (romcoms are always like, 90 mins. Didn't you know that?) But for its faults, The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a hilarious film, sometimes painfully so, but one that never fails to entertain.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
He continued to give consistently good performances in 2002, with Moonlight Mile and The Good Girl, two projects that he was really too good for. There was a blank space of woodenness with The Day After Tomorrow, before the year in which Jake was the “it” guy, 2005.
2005 was a great year for him. In Proof, he was solid, rather than spectacular, as Gwyneth Paltrow’s love interest, which manages to gain her trust, and then lose it. If the sound of him talking Maths was a little odd, his vivacity in a pretty plain role completely redeems that.
Jake is currently filming Zodiac, directed by David Fincher. I have high hopes for it, though am slightly worried on hearing how he had to retake a scene about 100 times. Doesn’t sound too promising, really.
So, to summarize, Jake is blessed with looks, talent, a great variety of film roles. At 25-years-old, he is already a BAFTA winner. Well done!
Top 5 Films
01. Brokeback Mountain
02. Lovely & Amazing
04. October Sky
05. The Good Girl
01. As Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain
02. As Donnie Darko in Donnie Darko
03. As Anthony “Swoff ”Swofford in Jarhead
04. As in Joe Nast in Moonlight Mile
05. As Homer Hickman in October Sky
Saturday, March 25, 2006
One more thing. This will prove to be quite an eclectic list. You probably won’t find many people who cried at Kung Fu Hustle and not at Schindler’s List, but that’s just the nature of personal opinion. Embrace it.
01. Brokeback Mountain
Romance, the genre that will incite all the emotions, in particular the sad ones. Such a rule is epitomized in Ang Lee’s heartbreaking film, where lovers Ennis and Jack were doomed before they even began. You’re really spoilt for choice at scenes to cry at in this film, whether it be Jack’s look of utter self-loathing as he drives away from Ennis and into the arms of a prostitute, Ennis’ desperate, quiet brooding at Jack’s shirt, or the heart wrenchingly pathetic “I wish I knew how to quit you!” What all these have in common is that they are driven by two men’s love for each other, one that, in such a time and place, could not exist without devastating consequences. That we grow to care about the leads so much only builds to the pain.
02. Not one Less
There are two scenes in this film that really grabbed my heart here. One, the ending shot of all the children, so joyously receiving something as unimpressive as chalks, and two – the plea that the lead gives on TV. She starts, just asking a boy to return, but soon self-pity overcomes her emotions and she bursts into tears. And why not? She so bravely ventured into the big bad city, shamelessly asking everybody for help, and never receiving any. It’s a sad journey, and the reward – some small sum of pay, makes it more humbling.
03. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
An odyssey with robot boy David as he tries to get his mother to love him is as disturbing as it is sad. David risks his life in the face of capture repeatedly, because he was programmed to love, and that emotion is his driving force in everything he does. The final shot, in which he goes to sleep, getting what he wants, does nothing to ameliorate the unfairness of it all. David deserves so much better, and the wide-eyed innocence that Osment brings to his role characterises this.
04. The Green Mile
Like Shawshank, The Green Mile is an intensely sad prison movie, but unlike Shaw, there is no redemption for the most innocent of all, The Gentle Giant, John Coffey. Played by the excellent Michael Clarke Duncan, it’s soon clear that this man couldn’t hurt a mouse, let alone the two girls that he is accused of, and the calmness that he brings to the prison through his magic persona benefits all involved. He is so wonderful, that you really don’t think he will get execution, but sadly, he does, and the desperate fear in him, as well as the actual execution, is one of the grossest miscarriages of justice ever.
05. On the Waterfront
Though On the Waterfront, in its entirety, is not a tearjerker, Brando’s “I coulda been a contender scene never fails to bring me to tears in how years of repressed feelings come spilling out in an angry, resentful, and very moving monologue.
Blurry eyes here, too….
06. Grave of Fireflies
07. Dirty Pretty Things
09. Dead Man Walking
10. Finding Nemo
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Gold: Turtles Can Fly
Silver: Million Dollar Baby
Runners up: Vera Drake, A Very Long Engagement, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Kinsey
Gold: Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Silver: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Bronze: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Runners up: Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries), Soran Ebrahim (Turtles Can Fly), Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside)
Gold: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Silver: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Bronze: Uma Thurman, Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Runners up: Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), Avaz Latif (Turtles Can Fly), Audrey Tautou (A Very Long Engagement)
Best Supporting Actor
Gold: Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey
Silver: Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
Bronze: Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Runners up: Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State), James Garner (The Notebook)
Best Supporting Actress
Gold: Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda
Silver: Laura Linney, Kinsey
Bronze: Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Runners up: Patricia Clarkson (Miracle), Cate Blanchett (The Aviator)
Gold: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Silver: Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
Bronze: Zhang Yimou, House of Flying Daggers
Runners up: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), Alexander Payne (Sideways)
Best Original Screenplay
Gold: The Incredibles (Brad Bird)
Silver: Hotel Rwanda (Keir Pearson & Terry George)
Bronze: Kinsey (Bill Condon)
Runners up: Garden State (Zach Braff), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Gold: Sideways (Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor)
Silver: Before Sunset (Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Kim Krizan & Richard Linklater)
Bronze: The Motorcycle Diaries (Jose Riveria)
Runners up: My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski), Mean Girls (Tina Fey)
Music, Original Score
Gold: Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events (Thomas Newman)
Silver: The Motorcycle Diaries (Gustavo Santaollala)
Bronze: Les Choiristes (Christophe Barratier & Bruno Coulais)
Runners up: Birth (Alexandre Desplat), The Incredibles (Michael Giachhino)
Gold: A Very Long Engagement (Bruno Delbonnel)
Silver: The Passion of the Christ (Caleb Deschanel)
Bronze: House of Flying Daggers (Xiaoding Zhao)
Runners up: The Aviator, Collateral
Gold: House of Flying Daggers (Long Cheng)
Silver: The Aviator (Thelma Schoonmaker)
Bronze: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (Sally Menke)
Gold: House of Flying Daggers (Emi Wada)
Silver: The Aviator (Sandy Powell)
Bronze: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unforunate Events (Colleen Atwood)
Art Set Décor
Gold: The Aviator (Dante Ferretti)
Silver: House of Flying Daggers (Tingxiao Huo)
Bronze: A Very Long Engagement (Aline Bonetto)
Sound (& Sound Editing)
Gold: Ray (Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer & Steve Cantamessa)
Silver: The Incredibles (Randy Thom, Gary Rizzo, Doc Kane & Mark Silvers)
Bronze: House of Flying Daggers (Jing Tao & Roger Savage)
Monday, March 20, 2006
In the lead role, Joan Crawford is superb. In a time when melodrama was all the fashion, she goes all out in her performance, exhibiting a wide range of emotions. But despite the over-the-topness of her style of acting, she manages to make her character believable and accessible, and the audience are able to feel her love for her daughter, if not understand it. Veda is a black-hearted brat, and Ann Blyth captures the sneaky cruelty of her with frightening accuracy. The women are joined by an array of talented male players too.
There’s a clever storytelling device that has been adopted for this movie, of telling the story of Mildred’s life back in flashbacks. That, aided with Mildred’s narration, gives the film a hard, film-noir, edge, and there is plenty of 40s style suspense presented to us by capable hands. Under the direction of movie luminary Michael Curtiz, this is further accentuated. But Mildred Pierce is in essence a melodrama (Max Steiner scoring? Hello?), and an extremely fine one too. Though the characters we meet are all quite detestable, Mildred, brought to us with perfect care by Crawford, is one that we’re rooting for throughout.
Marlin, a nervous and neurotic clownfish is heavily overprotective of his son Nemo, who only wants to explore the sea in its entirety. When Nemo gets caught by a scuba diver and taken away, it is up to Marlin to swallow his own fears and find Nemo. The ensuing search and rescue organized by the him is a mass effort by swimming and flying creatures of all sizes and personalities, such as a threesome of vegetarian sharks, a fish with short term memory and an aged turtle, all helping him realise the error of his ways in restricting himself to just his home.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Quintessentially British, uber-classy and without a stinker on his CV, Lean works with British actors and concepts, creating masterworks on potentially dull topics (eg marital boredom). Trains also play a large part in his films, as they often help the plot along. Indeed, I’m thinking in particular of Brief Encounter, where the two protagonists meet outside the train station. He also has an eye for gorgeous visuals - note the beautiful cinematography of Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago.
There are a few ways to check whether you’re watching Lean film, and the first is this – it’s an Alec Guinness film that’s not Star Wars. Lean frequently casts Alec Guinness, and together, the two form an excellent double act, giving Lean some excellent opportunities for direction, and Guinness some fabulous performances. But it isn't just Guinness that Lean can coax great performances out of - under his direction, 11 performances have gone on to be nominated for an Oscar, and Lean has gotten great work from the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Celia Johnson, Peter O'Toole and John Mills.
However, though I adore the likes of Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, it is in my opinion that Lean’s best films are all his most underrated ones. His take on Great Expectations was a brilliant one, that stayed completely true to the novel, and coaxed a marvellous performance from John Mills. Summertime is a classy counter piece to Brief Encounter, featuring one of Katie Hepburn’s best performances and some pretty scenery. And let’s not forget This Happy Breed, his first colour film, which showed a family through the war. Nostalgic, distinctive, and funny, it is the underseen gem of the 40s.
01. Lawrence of Arabia
02. The Bridge on the River Kwai
03. Brief Encounter
04. Great Expectations
05. Doctor Zhivago
01. Brief Encounter
02. This Happy Breed
03. Lawrence of Arabia
04. Hobson’s Choice
05. Great Expectations
07. The Bridge on the River Kwai
08. In Which we Serve
09. Blithe Spirit
10. The Sound Barrier
Friday, March 17, 2006
As the disturbed and fragile Dave Boyle, Robbins manages to transcend his own towering stature to and show the small, quivering victim that he is. By turns astonishing and disquieting, Robbins has given marvellous work here, the only series rival to his work in Shawshank.
12. Emmanuelle Devos as Nola in Kings & Queen
Her face remains nonchalant but we are still able to feel her every emotion. How is it possible? Devos is a magician - Devastating, luminous, ugly and beautiful, Devos is a mountain of charm, and an international star in the rising.
13. Heath Ledger as Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain
As the bruised and brutal Ennis, Ledger is the embodiment of quiet malaise. With such buttoned-down emotions, it could be easy to miss the performance entirely, but I’ve noticed it. Who would have thought that a cheesecakey actor like Ledger could pull of such a amazing performance, with those painful, furtive eyes, and inarticulate persona, the very embodiment of Ennis del Mar.
14. Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill
She’s the Goddess of cool, but Thurman also manages to humanise her assassin character, with depth and humanity. It would be so easy to overlook the acting in a film like this, but witness the shock and upset when she sees her daughter for the first time, contrasted with the dispassionate take she leads when killing, and see that a significant amount of talent was required in this role, and not just in the fight scenes.
15. Presley Chweneyagae as Tsotsi in Tsotsi
As the no-good street hoodlum Tsotsi, Chwen goes through great character developments in the story, as he finds redemption in a little baby. His body language depict these changes, and though subtle, his violent, traumatic childhood is formidable. Formidably unforgettable.
16. Julianne Moore as Laura Brown in The Hours
Delicately capturing the essence of Laura Brown, Moore underplays her emotions with such refinement and nuance that are what come of her when she’s forced into her disagreeable, claustrophobic surroundings. Astonishing, astonishing, performance.
17. Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray
Foxx shines in the role he was born to play. Nobody else could play Ray but Jamie, and nothing more can be said. He is Ray Charles. A glittering, wonderful transformation.
18. Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich
As the mundanely normal Erin, Roberts nails the good, bad, and ugly sides of her character, but in doing so makes her work seem even more special. Do we want a film about a great Goddess who can save people just like that? No, we want to see trials and tribulations, and that we do.
19. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Okwe in Dirty Pretty Things
Ejiofor broods commendably in a shattering and career-defining performance as the man trying to survive. His eyelids show his fatigue, his body language speaks of his restlessness, but it is what is unsaid, and shown in his facial expressions that is the most upsetting – the secrets that he does not want known.
20. Audrey Tautou as Senay in Dirty Pretty Things
As a desperate immigrant living life on the edge, Tautou injects a heartbreaking vulnerability into her performance. Her initial wide-eyed enthusiasm to explore the country escalates into a desire to escape from the unfair regime, and throughout, Tautou never falters in her perfect performance.
Soon to come: The final 10.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
In many movies you see the stereotypical family with a dog, or a cat. In most Disney films there will be a singing animal, singing its troubles away. But animals deserve so much more than just to be in the background, so today, I will take a look at animals in film.
In Howard Hawk’s delightful comedy, Bringing Up Baby, Baby is a leopard with a penchant for escaping, and in his misdemeanours and scatterbrained Katie Hepburn and uptight Cary Grant’s attempt to find him, they are drawn closer together. Nyssa the leopard is great, and very cute, even when fierce, and their romance, though fitting, owes a lot to her/him.
Another animal that brought love, although of a different kind, was Kes, the kestrel in Kes. Billy Casper, an under performing schoolboy with a neglectful mother and violent brother, is seemingly beyond redemption. That is, until, he finds an injured kestrel, and starts caring for him. Soon, Kes proves to be the embodiment of everything that Bill never had – love, friendship, and hope. That their beautiful friendship is hard lived is heartbreaking, but his impact on Billy is easy to see.
Heartbreak comes in another film, arguably Disney’s most mature piece of cinema, The Lion King. There are messages aplenty abound, about people’s roles in life, and being grateful for what you have, and they are presented beautifully with lions. Here, Simba is a naïve, ambitious cub, bowled over by the apparent joys of being a king. However, it’s not all gravy as he discovers, with uncle Scar murdering his own father, making it Simba’s job to get justice. The voice actors for this film are amazing, as are the songs, namely Elton John’s “Can you feel the love tonight.”
Under the ground, and under the water, is my favourite animated film of all time, the delightful Finding Nemo. It’s a very cute cartoon, but it’s also deftly written, with some smart anthropomorphism using fish – Marlin is the good but over-protective father, Nemo is the excited child, desperate to prove their strength in the world. That Nemo finds that he was wrong is one thing, but in Marlin’s quest to find his son, he discovers that, perhaps, his fussiness was not entirely right either. The witty one-liners and exciting pace make this piece appeal to adults, the message that children can be adults too bode particularly well with kids.
To look at dogs, I was torn between writing about My Dog Skip – a slight but wonderfully played look at how one dog made such an impact on a young boy’s life, and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, a hilarious Ardman animation with one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. So honours will be bestowed to both movies.
Disney will undoubtedly bring us more tales of creatures and their features, live action films will use a dog and a cat now and then as a device to help the comedy along. But, as I say, they deserve better, and these 6 films I have mentioned are some great examples of when an animal gets a starring role they deserve.