Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. First things first… well, Twitter erupted with geekgasm yesterday when the third Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer dropped. I have to admit I dug it enough I watched it three times in a row during my lunch break. I’m lucky to have the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display at the office ;)

I wasn’t super excited about the first two trailers but now I’m slowly getting more enthusiastic about this sequel. Though I’m much more excited about Captain America 3 that opens May 2016.

For those who’re averse to comic-book stuff, no fret. Far from the Madding Crowd also opens on the same weekend (May 1).

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.


I never read Thomas Hardy’s famous novel that the movie’s based on but I like the look of this one, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Carey Mulligan is lovely & talented, and this is from the director of The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, which was one of my top 10 films of 2013.

So are you excited for either one of these?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Oliver Stone’s thriller SNOWDEN. The film is currently shooting in Munich, before moving to locations around the world.​ Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden before he became the NSA whistle-blower – Edward was an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.

Levitt_SnowdenThe movie also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant … and Nicolas Cage! Hmmm, I wonder which role he’d play, and most importantly which hairdo he’ll be sporting ;)

In any case, I’m not convinced yet about Levitt as Snowden, here’s what my casting wish for the role:

I knew the chance of Richard being cast is slim to none, he’s just a big enough name yet for such a role. Now, I’m not exactly a big Oliver Stone fan as director, we’ll see how much creative liberties will be taken for this movie. I think if you want to see the real Snowden, just watch the excellent doc Citizenfour instead.

What’s your initial thoughts of SNOWDEN?

3. Well, Cinderella hasn’t even opened yet and the interweb has been abuzz with the casting of yet another live action Disney adaptation, Beauty & The Beast. Apparently it’ll be a musical, with Emma Watson as Belle, who was cast months ago. Well, this week we’ve got casting news of the Beast himself AND its villain, Gaston: Dan Stevens and Luke Evans respectively. Behold the gorgeous all-Brits main cast:

BeautyandBeastCast

I actually just rewatched some clips of the animated feature not that long ago and looking at the drawings below, I’d say the casting is pretty spot-on physically. Though Stevens would likely have to undergo long hours in the makeup chair to get all big and furry as Beast, which is too bad that they have to cover up that handsome face!

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I personally like this casting. These are impossibly beautiful actors but fortunately they can act and have charismatic screen presence. It’d have been horrid if they cast say, Alex Pettyfer and Liam Hemsworth for example. Not convinced with Bill Condon as director though, but I haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, so I suppose he has experience directing a musical.

What do you think of this casting bit?

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4. Oh for the times they are a-changin. Nothing could be truer for media distribution landscape, as companies like Amazon and Netflix are entering the foray. Well, this is creating some interesting *shake-up* as four major theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, the Cary Fukunaga drama starring Idris Elba that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service (per Variety).

Apparently the reason is that “… they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.”

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A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

NetflixLogoWell, since I have Netflix, it doesn’t bother me much, but this news certainly made me pause a bit. What if it’s the kind of movie I’d LOVE to see on the big screen? There’s only a handful of indie theaters near me, so there’s a likelihood none would even show such films. How big of a game changer this will become remains to be seen, but we might know sooner rather than later. Netflix also announced similar plans to the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that’s supposed to be out in August. It’s also partnering with a bunch of celebs on various projects, the latest is a partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio on documentaries that will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

What are your thoughts on this development?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog!

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We’re seeing some interesting Artificial Intelligence films lately (Her, Ex Machina). Chappie is out soon too. As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from Short Circuit! But as a grown up I’d have to pick Her‘s Samantha, such a clever film.

So, what’s your favorite cinematic AI?


Well, that’s it for the March 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Music Break: Disney’s Animated Classic CINDERELLA (1950)

CinderellaPrince_posterOne of the screenings I’ll be going to later this week is the live-action adaptation of Cinderella. Now, I mentioned in this post that having grown up watching all those Disney Princess movies, naturally I’m curious to check it out.

I know what you’re thinking. Do we have to have a live action version of this? Probably not, but whether we like it or not, that’s the trend we have here. We’ve seen a live-action reimagining of Snow White, so you know other Princesses would soon follow. I have a feeling I’d enjoy this one, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing, Helena Bonham Carter as fairy godmother and Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, not to mention the eye candy factor with the dashing Glaswegian Richard Madden as Prince Charming. You know I have a thing for the Scots ;)

I doubt that it’d ever replace the animated classic as my favorite though, so in light of the new movie, I thought I’d highlight the wonderful music by Paul J. Smith and Oliver Wallace. Even sixty five years after its release, this quintessential classic fairy tale still retains its magical charm. To this day I still fondly remember the songs and would often find myself humming to them, even though it’s been years since I saw the movie.

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Now I’m not exactly fond of this silly mice voice singing, but this scene is just so darn cute and heartwarming. It’s so quintessentially Disney but I can’t help being swept away by Cinderelly’s adorable creature friends ;)

Now here’s the new Cinderella‘s trailer music by Nick Murray which is quite pleasing to the ear, but I can’t wait to hear the official soundtrack by Branagh’s longtime collaborator Patrick Doyle. I LOVE Doyle’s work as he made one of my favorite soundtrack ever, Sense & Sensibility.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Have you seen this Disney classic?

FlixChatter Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

NightcrawlerPosterSeems that I might be the last person who hasn’t seen Nightcrawler and I’m even gutted I didn’t see this on the big screen. There is something so mesmerizing and disturbing about this film which is in keeping with the theme of the gawker mentality that the small-screen media capitalize on.

Set in the nocturnal underbelly of the City of Angels, the film begins with a desperate but resourceful thief Lou Bloom who can’t seem to catch a break. That is until he witnessed an accident on a highway and came across a freelance camera crew (Bill Paxton) who film crashes, fires and any kind of mayhem, that a lightbulb went off in his head. Lou says several times in the film that he’s a fast learner and he’s not exaggerating. Within days of acquiring some camera equipment and a police scanner, Lou went to work and quickly sneaked his way into the dangerous and competitive world of night-crawling – these are the people who take pictures and film horrifying events to deliver them in time for the morning news.

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“If it bleeds, it leads!”

That’s the mantra Lou lives by and he approaches his newfound profession in a mechanical precision, almost robotic way. He’s always been a methodical guy, he waters his plants, iron his shirt as he watches TV, there’s almost a certain regime if you will, in how he conducts his life. His work ethic doesn’t resemble as a human being, the way he approaches victims as if they’re nothing but soul-less objects for him to profit from. When he actually talks to a living-breathing fellow human, he also has this robotic quality in that he doesn’t see the person across from him as having any kind of emotion. His salesman-like delivery is both creepy and hilarious, in fact, Jake Gyllenhaal‘s gaunt, bug-eyed face still gives me the creeps days after I saw this film. I’m still astonished that Gyllenhaal wasn’t nominated, as it’s truly a tour de force performance. I read that the 35-year-old actor literally starved himself to play the role, losing 30 pounds as he visualized himself as a hungry coyote. His look definitely gave a certain realism to his character, but there’s more to it than that. His speech delivery and the precise mannerism of how Lou behaves, such as not blinking for a long period of time, really gets under your skin.

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As Lou continues to rise to the top, he took deliberate measures to get what he wants. Along the way he recruits a down-on-his-luck young man, Rick (Riz Ahmed), as his assistant. It’s appalling how Lou treats the hapless and homeless guy like dirt, but we shouldn’t be surprised that he does so, given what we know about him thus far. Lou seems to have met his match in Nina (Rene Russo), the beautiful older news director who buys Lou’s footage. But before she even realizes what happens, Lou backs her into a corner, figuratively and literally, as he feeds off her vulnerability and fear of working in such a notoriously competitive field. That entire scene at the Mexican restaurant gives me the heebie jeebies and the script is so taut that even without Lou so much as touching Nina, the whole scene still makes your skin crawl.

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This is another astounding directorial debut in recent memory and would perhaps rate as one of the best debut by a screenwriter. Dan Gilroy co-wrote The Fall and The Bourne Legacy, which strangely enough wasn’t that great in terms of script, but here he shows not only his screenwriting chops, but also his talents behind the camera. The way he filmed mostly at night, there’s an eerie, haunting quality that adds to the suspense. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time even though there’s not that much action going on throughout.

The chase towards the end is utterly exhilarating not only because of the car chase itself, but the manic energy that Lou displays throughout. He proceeds to drive like a maniac despite Rick’s protest to slow down, and in a way we live vicariously through him in the way he views Lou. Unlike the preposterous car chases in movies like say, Fast & Furious, the scene is tinged with realism because even amidst all that action, Nightcrawler is still very much a character-driven film. When we think that the movie’s gone off the rails, Gilroy reminds us that Lou is still in control, for the detriment of those around him.

“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them?”

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In this Indiewire article, Dan Gilroy joked following a screening that this is “…about the triumph of the human spirit…it’s a feel good film.” Very funny Dan, as nothing could be further from the truth. I was screaming at my TV during the finale and I think the director deliberately wants us to feel disturbed by the unsettling story. But with any kind of industry fueled by consumer demand, this film is as much a commentary on the TV news business as those who choose to watch these kinds of graphic coverage.

The night cinematography by Robert Elswit is excellent in its use of ambient lighting, it adds so much to the tone of the film. It’s definitely one of the best-looking films shot in L.A., right up there with Michael Mann’s Heat and Collateral. I have to mention again the superb acting by Gyllenhaal who hopefully will score an Oscar one day, but props also to Russo and Ahmed in memorable supporting roles. Nice to see Russo in top form and actually gets a role worthy of her talent. I was impressed by Ahmed in The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the British actor shows his amazing versatility playing an entirely different persona.

If only I had seen this film sooner, it’d definitely have a place in my Top 10 list. Nightcrawler is a brilliantly-crafted Neo-noir that has a lingering effect long after the end credits. The film was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, written also by Gilroy. I think it merits at least a few more nominations in the acting category AND a Best Picture nod. It’s THAT good.

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What do you think of Nightcrawler?

Guest Post @ Digital Shortbread Blog – My review of Night Train to Lisbon (2013

This review is my contribution to Bite Sized Reviews over at @ Digital Shortbread Blog

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Night Train To Lisbon is a historical-tinged drama where a chance meeting leads a Swiss Professor to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Based on a best-selling novel by Pascal Mercier and directed by Danish director Bille August, the film stars Jeremy Irons in an understated yet engaging performance.

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Though Iron’s Raimund is the protagonist, it’s Jack Huston who’s also a standout in the film. He’s fantastic as the young doctor Amadeu as there’s a mysterious quality about him, and there’s quite an alluring chemistry between him and Mélanie Laurent. The always enchanting Charlotte Rampling is marvelous as a woman who’s personally connected to Amadeu and fiercely protective of their past.


Check out my full review by clicking the image below

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Everybody’s Chattin’ + February Viewing Recap

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February is a short month so I’m going to have to combine two posts in one.

Let’s start off with some lists and non-review posts

Wandering Through The Shelves Blog has yet another intriguing topic for this week’s Thursday Movie Picks: Father & Son Movies

Drew has been spotlighting Xavier Dolan, which he concluded with an open letter to the Canadian filmmaker

I love fun top 10 list – Nostra just picked his Top 10 Time Travel Movies!

For his Wedding Anniversary, Michael listed his fabulous 80s music picks for his Soundtrack of My Life series

Now on to reviews!

  • Stu reviewed adventure drama Tracks
  • Mikey reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service  
  • Mark reviewed indie horror It Follows
  • Margaret reviewed Birdman (which deservedly won Best Picture, yay!)
  • Josh reviewed Jupiter Ascending
  • Rodney reviewed found footage thriller As Above So Below
  • Steven reviewed one of my all time favorites, Ben-Hur
  • Abbi posted her Film Friday reviews, including Selma & Cake


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It still hasn’t been a very productive month of movie watching for me, but there are lots more movies released in March so hopefully I’ll have a longer list to report at the end of the month :)

BLOGATHON:

In with the New: Remakes Better than the Original

Thursday Movie Picks #32: Oscar-Winning Movies

Thursday Movie Picks #33: Movies about Father-Son Relationship

New-to-me Movies:

Jupiter Ascending

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Predestination

Nightcrawler

Theory of Everything

Frank

I’ve written my review of Nightcrawler to post next week. Suffice to say I think Jake Gyllenhaal was robbed! Theory of Everything was quite moving and I’m glad the story is as much about Jane Hawking than Stephen Hawking’s struggle with ALS. It’s definitely a juicy role for any actor, and something that The Academy usually loves, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Eddie Redmayne won. I’ll update this list tonight after I figure out what to watch after dinner, today’s technically still February ;)

Rewatches:

Belle

Somewhere in Time

Pride & Prejudice

Face/Off

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Phantom of the Opera

Movie of the Month

SunsetBlvdPosterSunset Boulevard

Yet another Blindspot list make my Movie of the Month!
It’s a pretty easy choice though, it’s definitely earned its classic status. As for contemporary films, I’d put Nightcrawler as my pick of February.


Hope you enjoyed today’s post… enjoy your weekend everybody!

Thursday Movie Picks #33: All in the Family Edition – Movies featuring Father & Son Relationship

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Father/Son Relationships (Biologically Related)

Well, for this edition, I decided to pick three movies that I didn’t include in my Father’s Day Special post. Besides, I think this post should focus on biologically-related father & son stories. So here are my three picks:

Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989)

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No doubt it’s my absolute favorite of the Indiana Jones trilogy and it’s largely because of the wonderfully entertaining father/son story. When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing whilst in pursuit of the Holy Grail, Indy set off to search for him and together they end up working together to stop the Nazis. It’s absolutely perfect casting to have Sean Connery to play the role, despite only being 12 years older than Harrison Ford. Both of them are equally charismatic and somehow have the perfect personality and quirks that make them a perfect match as father and son. All the highlights of the movie feature the two of them, usually in a state of peril or impossible predicament that they somehow manage to come escape from. I can’t think of a better chemistry between two actors and that’s what makes them so entertaining to watch. But it’s not just all fun and games, there’s some genuine dramatic moments that truly test the bond between the two of them and challenge Indy’s own personal belief.

Frequency (2000)

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Family bond can transcend time and space. A rare atmospheric phenomenon somehow enables a NYC firefighter to communicate with his son 30 years in the future via HAM radio. There are films that deal with time travel and the huge ramification of changing the past. The sci-fi logic might be questionable but what I love about this film is the father/son relationship that’s genuinely moving and beautifully acted. The film started off more as a drama but the third act becomes more of a thriller as the two work together to solve a murder case. Both Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel are fantastic as the father and son, there’s a palpable & heartfelt bond between them despite not sharing a screen pretty much the entire movie.

Nebraska (2013)

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This black-and-white dark comedy tells the story of an senile, alcoholic man who insists on making a trip from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize. His estranged son ends up traveling with him as his stubborn dad simply refuse to believe that the sweepstakes letter was a shameless piece of scam. Despite their testy relationship, the journey gave them a chance to reconnect. Bruce Dern and Will Forte are both excellent in their roles, I’m especially impressed by the latter as I’ve only known him as a comedian. There are some extremely goofy scenes such as when the son tried to help his dad find his missing tooth around a railroad track, but there are some poignant moments between the two. It’s another wonderful family dramedy from Alexander Payne.

 


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Question of the Week: Which movie(s) are you looking forward to in March?

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Now that award season is officially over… we can all look forward to what else 2015 has in store for us. February is practically dead in terms of new releases, in fact I only saw Jupiter Ascending & Kingsman in the theater. But there are more intriguing stuff coming next month. I have rsvp-ed for The Second Best Marigold Hotel and Cinderella‘s screenings and Ted will be going to Chappie & Run All Night in the next couple of weeks.

I might rent Get Hard and Serena, but I have zero interest in seeing yet another Taken variation that Liam Neeson is doing, Run All Night. I mean it just looks so darn awful from the trailer, oh why’s Ed Harris doing in there?? [face palm] Oh and Sean Penn’s The Gunman is directed by the first Taken‘s director too, and so he apparently wants a piece of the action moolah from that bankable violent thriller. As for Insurgent, well I’ve completely lost interest in that Divergent franchise even though I quite like the first movie. So maybe I’ll rent that on a slow night.

Anyway, you can check out the full March Release schedule here over at IMDb, but here are some of the movies I’m looking forward to seeing:

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.

I LOVE the first movie, the ensemble cast is simply splendid. I mean you can’t beat Maggie Smith & Judi Dench, two of my favorite Dames, together again in a movie. This time we’ve got Richard Gere to spice things up ;)

Cinderella

A live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale about a servant step-daughter who wins the heart of a prince.

I grew up w/ Disney Princess movies so naturally I’m drawn to this. Plus I quite like Kenneth Branagh as director so he’s another draw for me to see it!

The Riot Club

Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.

All those gorgeous British boys doing VERY bad things. I dunno about you but that intrigues me ;) Plus I’ve had a crush on Sam Reid ever since BELLE (he’s in the far right in the pic below), and Jeremy Irons’ hunky son Max is in the main cast, too. It’s from the director of An Education, which I like, so hopefully it’ll be good!

RiotClubBoys

Seymour

Director Ethan Hawke explores the life and lessons of piano teacher Seymour Bernstein.

I heard about this after I saw Predestination and it sounds like a great doc! I love that Hawke is doing a personal project like this, I hope this arrives on Netflix soon.

Chappie

In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

I proceed this one w/ caution even though I LOVE sci-fi that deals w/ man vs robot relationships. I was quite disappointed w/ Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium so hopefully this has more of an engaging and emotional story like District 9.


So which March movie(s) are you most excited about folks?

February 2015 Blind Spot: Sunset Blvd. (1950)

SunsetBlvdPosterAs the Oscar ceremony is still fresh in my head, I thought it’d be interesting to see this iconic film for this month’s Blindspot. It’s always fascinating to see a film about Hollywood and the narcissistic nature of that industry, and there’s not a better commentary of that than this timeless classic.

The story is told in a flashback, with the narrator telling his own story. As the film opens, the narrator’s fate is already revealed, I’m not going to say what happens just in case some of you still haven’t seen it. Let’s just say it instantly made me curious just why and how he got there. It’s a familiar story that’s superbly told. Two people on opposite spectrum met on a fateful day when a down-on-his-luck screenwriter had a flat tire whilst fleeing from repossession folks seeking his car. As luck would have it, Joe Gillis (William Holden) ends up in the mansion of a faded silent star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), immensely wealthy but desperate for a comeback. It’s a toxic relationship from the start, one that you know would not end well.

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Apparently director Billy Wilder came up with the story as he was inspired by those grand Hollywood houses in L.A. with former silent film stars still living in them. He wondered just how they spend their time and how they deal with losing their celebrity and box office appeal. Well, I’d imagine this story could’ve easily been a biopic.

It’s really quite a tragic story as it starts off as a desperate situation and it goes on a downward spiral from there. Neither Norma nor Joe is exactly the most likable people, they basically use each other for their own personal gain. But you can’t help being drawn to their twisted story and feel pity for them.

It’s a thought-provoking tale of how far fame could corrupt people and drive them into absolute madness and self-destruction. Joe might seem as if he was only a victim but he too was driven by the desire of living a good life even if it’s based on a lie. The strength of Sunset Blvd. isn’t so much the plot twist or mystery of what’s going to happen next, but in the character study and psychology of the story.

SunsetBlvd_Swanson_HoldenCasting wise, it’s absolutely spot on. I can’t imagine anyone else but Gloria Swanson in the role of Norma. According to Wiki, she shared many similarities with her character. Not only is she the same age as Norma (around 50 when she made this film) she was once a famous silent-screen star who lived extravagantly in a Sunset Blvd mansion. Unlike Norma though, Swanson wasn’t obsessed for a comeback, but surely she must’ve been able to relate well with the idea of losing one’s fame. She is deliriously creepy here, chewing the scenery every time she’s on screen.

William Holden fits nicely into the role of the desperate screenwriter and he certainly has that matinee-idol look for the part. He handles the disillusionment of his character well, and there’s such an apparent fear in his eyes when he realizes Norma was falling in love obsessed with him. His ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ expression when he’s looking all dapper in a custom-made tuxedo is palpable. His style of acting is very laid back here, I don’t know if that’s his style but it offers quite an amusing contrast to Swanson’s intense and decidedly over-the-top performance.

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But it’s the cameos that adds an extra dose of realism and amusement. Buster Keaton and a few other actual silent-stars of that era had a quick cameo in the card game scene in Norma’s mansion. But it’s the iconic filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille extended cameo that’s the real highlight. Mr. DeMille played himself working in Paramount Studio in what looks like to be The Ten Commandments set. It’s a key revelatory scene about Norma’s diva reputation and her inability to transition into talky pictures. But the moment people recognize who she was, it feeds into her obsession of fame and being the center of attention.

This is a good looking film with fabulous dramatic lighting and elaborate sets. The B&W, German-expressionist cinematography by John F. Seitz adds that noir touch. He worked with Wilder previously on Double Indemnity. But what’s even more memorable are those iconic quotes:

“I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!”

“All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,”

Those two from Norma are what people remember most, but I also love this one from Joe about the predicament of actresses that’s still being talked about today in contemporary Hollywood:

“There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.”

This film is quite a bold story to be told in that era as it doesn’t exactly paint the film industry in a flattering light. According to IMDb trivia, studio mogul Louis B. Mayer was upset by the film for that very reason. Big kudos to Billy Wilder for having the guts to do this, and for co-writing the marvelous script (with Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr.). Despite the tragic story, the film isn’t sullen or somber. It’s atmospheric and even eerie at times, but it also has some humorous moments and Holden’s narration has some snarky wit about it. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny but certainly lots of moments that made you chuckle, especially that midnight chimp funeral scene. “It was all done with great dignity. He must have been a very important chimp, the great grandson of King Kong, maybe.” Ha!

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There’s a subplot of romance between Joe and script reader Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), as the two end up secretly working together on a screenplay. The love story is perhaps what gave Joe back his conscience, if you will, though it’s a little too late. I have to mention the shadowy figure of Max (Erich von Stroheim), Norma’s loyal butler who’s key in keeping Norma’s delusion of grandeur alive years after her audience had left her. The revelation about his character took me by surprise, I think that was one of the few moments that really hit me out of left field.

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So they were turning after all, those cameras. Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her.

I’m glad I finally saw this iconic and timeless piece of cinema. As the end credits roll, I was mulling over that this film defies genre convention. It’s a film noir that’s also a dark comedy and psychological drama. I love how Wilder’s films always deal with the human condition. It transports you into another time and place, whilst at the same time make you ponder on the themes and symbolism that’s relatable to us, whether we want to admit it or not. You could consider this Billy Wilder‘s magnum opus that will stand the test of time.

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2015BlindSpotCheck out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films


Have you seen Sunset Blvd? Well, what did YOU think?

 

Oscars 2015 – Recap, Reflections on Best & Worst Moments

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Quick confession: I’m not a huge fan of Oscars red carpet, or red carpet in general. So I only tuned in a half hour before the show. It’s funny but the second I turned on the TV, Michael Keaton was standing next to the chirpy blond presenter. He seems effortlessly at ease, LOVE that guy and I’m so rooting for him to the end! As I did last year, I went to Zumba, had dinner, then went down to my basement.

Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

  1. Best picture: Boyhood  Birdman
  2. Best director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood) Alexandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  3. Best lead actor: Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
  4. Best lead actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice
  5. Best supporting actor: J.K. Simmons –Whiplash
  6. Best supporting actress: Patricia Arquette –Boyhood
  7. Best animated feature: Song of the Sea Big Hero 6
  8. Best feature documentary: Citizenfour
  9. Best adapted screenplay: The Theory of Everything The Imitation Game
  10. Best original screenplay: Birdman
  11. Best original score: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  12. Best cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman
  13. Best original song: “Glory” from Selma
  14. Best Make Up and Hair Styling: Foxcatcher The Grand Budapest Hotel
  15. Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  16. Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
  17. Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Well, I got 12 out of 17 predictions right. I’m actually surprised to be surprised by the winners, if that make sense at all. I mean, I honestly thought Boyhood would sweep the awards, well at least in Best Director and Best Picture. I haven’t seen the film yet so I’ve been #TeamBirdman from the start. I literally screamed at the top of my lungs [sorry neighbors!] when I heard Iñárritu‘s name called out… I was ecstatic still, I did NOT see Birdman‘s Best Picture win coming …

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Red Carpet Stuff

Firstly, can someone explain what the heck is going on here?? John Travolta is feelin’ frisky tonight eh? Scarlett Johansson‘s post-baby figure is PHENOMENAL! Dayum girl, and that haircut is bad ass!!

Travolta_Johansson_Oscar2015

These two dresses are my two favorites of the night:

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Lupita Nyong’O was my red carpet fave last year too. Wow she’s still the reigning queen of the red carpet with this amazing custom-made pearl gown. YOWZA!! Can’t beat her pearl dress, but it’s her elegant swagger that makes her so dazzling.

RosamundOscars15
Yet another gorgeous new mom,Rosamund Pike just had a baby back in December!! She’s wearing the color of blood for her first Oscar nomination, how appropriate! She looks absolutely stunning and I LOVE the rose textures all over her gown.

A few other favorites …

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Dapper men on the red carpet!

Look at the three dapper Chris-es in the center (Evans, Pratt & Pine), hmmm where’s Hemsworth??

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Forget best-dressed peoples…  these two ladies WON the red carpet with their unabashed display of affection. LOVE the spontaneity of this shot, I didn’t know Emma StoneJennifer Aniston are best buds, VERY cool!

Aniston_Stone_Oscar2015

Favorite Speeches:

“We made a film, black and white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation, and here we are at this epicenter of noise and all the tension… Life is full of surprises” — Pawel Pawlikowski, director of IDA

By far the funniest speech of the night, can’t blame him for his exuberance. I kind of feel guilty for not having seen IDA yet.

The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” – Citizenfour’s Lauren Poitras

.@johnlegend moves the crowd to tears with his powerful Oscars speech. pic.twitter.com/UhmNezO1zN

Redmayne_Oscar15
Now, I wasn’t rooting for him but I have to admit I was moved by Eddie Redmayne’s ecstatic and his can’t-believe-I-actually-won reaction when he gripped his Oscar tightly in his hand. I predicted he’d win and I knew that no matter how much I wanted Michael Keaton to win, it just wouldn’t be in the cards. But hey, the dude seems cool about it. I think Eddie wanted to win more badly than anyone else.

Innaritu_Oscar15

Hilarious nod to his pal Alfonso Cuarón who deservedly won last year for Gravity, in case some of you forgot.

What a great come back to Sean Penn’s uncalled for ‘green card’ comment [see below under WORST moments]. Seriously, I thought I couldn’t dislike a guy more, but Penn is relentless in being so unlikable.

Fave Moments

The LEGO Movie‘s Everything is Awesome musical number is so exuberantly fun and joyful! Some of the dancers came out carrying the LEGO version of the Oscar statuettes in response to their egregious snub. Take THAT the Academy!

awesome2

Common and John Legend‘s performance of GLORY… it was a glorious performance. Common_Legend_Oscar2015I know people are mocking the standing ovation and people tearing up over that song, but it’s uncalled for. The song is genuinely moving rendition of an important and VERY timely film. It’s a well-deserved win and followed by a defiant speech.

LadyGaga_Oscar15WHOA!! I didn’t see THIS coming …

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I can’t say I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga so I had no idea she could sing so beautifully! What’s even more beautiful is the Dame herself Julie Andrews coming on stage looking genuinely verklempt over Gaga’s performance and hugged her. LOVE it!

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Glom Gazingo! Idina Menzel, aka Adele Dazeem got her revenge on John Travolta. But this hilarious moment is also one of the creepiest. What’s w/ all the face-touching John??

Hands down my favorite moment ever from last night:

 

So how did NPH do as host?

NPH_Oscar2015

 Can’t say I’m impressed with Neil Patrick Harris. I think I only laughed a couple of times as he seemed so self-aware all night that the joke just seemed off. Even when he showed up in his tighty whities as a spoof to Birdman, it didn’t feel all that spontaneous compared to last year’s pizza delivery thing. I definitely like Ellen more as host, I just think she is funny without trying too hard. Oh and I didn’t care for his subtle-not-so-subtle ‘treason’ jab against Ed Snowden after Citizenfour won Best Documentary.

I did enjoy his ‘Oscar prediction’ bit but I think that’s due to the Oscar writers kind of summarizing the most amusing moments of the night.

Oh and THIS moment with David Oyelowo is pretty cute.

Oyelowo_NPH_Oscar15

Worst Moments:

Sean Penn making us wait for the final award of the night, Best Picture, only to be followed by a distasteful *joke* about green card, sheesh! Yes I know he worked with Iñárritu on 21 Grams so the two are likely friends, but still, it’s just inappropriate and offensive.

Seeing this pic of Robin Williams… still can’t believe he’s gone :(

RobinWilliams_Oscar15

 


So did you watch the Oscars last night? Thoughts on the winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?

Counting down to 87th Academy Awards – Winner Predictions + various Oscar tidbits

Happy Oscar Weekend everybody! To those who give a ballyhoo about Oscars or award season in general, hang in there, award season is almost over ;)

I usually feel like Oscar ceremony sneaked up on me, but this year I’m glad it’s finally here! Part of it is really so we can all move on, but I’m also curious who’d finally win the top honors. It’s the cinematic Superbowl, the one big *sporting* event for those who don’t care about sports, such as yours truly. It’s an amusing diversion really, so I never get too riled up when things don’t go my way [as is often the case]. Mild rants are warranted though, and that’s just part of the fun & frivolity of it all.

I was scouring the interweb and found some nifty Oscar-related stuff, so I thought I’d share ‘em before I get to my predictions.

Check out THR’s illustrative cover with all the Best Picture nominees done in Oscar statuette’s style.

THR_OscarCover

 

THR has been running the Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot series, revealing a glimpse into a few of the Academy voters’ thoughts on the race.


My favorite Oscar expert in the blogosphere, Josh @ Cinematic Spectacle posted 10 Things to Know Before the Oscar Ceremony


So apparently they’re making an Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in L.A.? Check out the building rendering here. IMDb presents a special look at Oscar history in support of that upcoming museum:


 Now this is pretty mind-boggling stuff. The Wall Street Journal posted this INTERACTIVE MAP of the major Oscar nominees. Basically it shows data of social media (mostly Facebook) conversation about the nominated films, actors and actresses and which movies and people are winning the FB Oscar “conversation” from Jan. 1 to Feb. 16.

If they were the Oscar voters, American Sniper and Bradley Cooper would’ve won by a landslide!

OscarInteractiveMap


If you’re like me and you haven’t seen ALL of the Best Picture nominees yet, well, Mashable has this handy guide as to WHERE to catch up with 7 essential films.


OscarPredictions

Well, with only 24 hours to go, I still have three more films I haven’t seen yet from the Best Picture nominees. I wanted to see Whiplash but it’s not available to rent yet on iTunes, so we saw The Theory of Everything instead. In any case, here are my predictions:

Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Who will win: Boyhood
Who should win: Birdman
Ok so I haven’t seen Boyhood yet but I really have a hard time imagining that it’d top Birdman for me.

Best Director
Alexandro G. Iñárritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

Who will win: Richard Linklater
Who should win: Alexandro G. Iñárritu
Ok so Linklater’s effort was incredibly ambitious so I have to give him kudos for that. But what Iñárritu did is just as unconventional and spectacularly creative.

Best Actor
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Who will win: Eddie Redmayne
Who should win: Michael Keaton
Ok I’m glad I finally saw Redmayne’s performance last night and he was impressive. Yet I’m still rooting for Keaton for many reasons. One of them is the fact that his role is the only one that’s not based on a real person and yet he’s able to create such an affecting and authentic performance.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard – Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Who will win: Julianne Moore
Who should win: Rosamund Pike

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Who will & should win: J.K Simmons
If Simmons is as good as everyone’s been saying – and the praise seems unanimous –then he ought to win. He’s done such great work in his career in various supporting roles. However, I can’t lie that I wish either Ruffalo or Norton would get it.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Who will win: Patricia Arquette
Who should win: Anyone but Meryl please! Other than that, I think Keira Knightley did a smashing job and 2015 has been quite a year for her playing against-type roles.

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman
Robert Yeoman – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski – Ida
Dick Pope – Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins – Unbroken

Who will & should win: Emmanuel Lubezki
Poor Mr. Deakins, the Susan Lucci of cinematographers with 12 nominations and not a single win yet. But what Lubezki did in Birdman is so magnificent and inventive.

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Who will win: The Theory of Everything
Who should win: The Theory of Everything
Having just seen this last night, I do think Anthony McCarten did an excellent job adapting Jane Hawking’s memoir.

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

Who will & should win: Birdman
No contest here, it’s one of the most imaginative stories in recent memory.

Best Make Up and Hair Styling
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

Who will win: Foxcatcher
Who should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
They certainly did an amazing job w/ Steve Carell’s face in Foxcatcher but I didn’t care for the makeup for Ruffalo and Tatum there. ‘Grand Budapest’ did a stellar job overall IMO.

Best Original Score
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

Who will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who should win: The Imitation game
I LOVE both Alexandre Desplat’s scores this year, but I give The Imitation Game a slight edge as it perfectly captures both the intelligence and the emotional aspect of the story.

Best Original Song
“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie
“Glory” from Selma
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Who will win: Glory
Who should win: Lost Stars
As Selma has no chance in winning Best Picture, it’s very likely the Academy would give this win as a *consolation* prize.

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Who will win: Song of the Sea
Who should win: Big Hero 6
I’m torn between How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6, I’d be happy with either win.

Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Who will & should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Who will win: Interstellar
Who should win: Interstellar

Best Documentary
Citizenfour
Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days of Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Who will win: Citizenfour
Who should win: Citizenfour

Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Maleficent
Mr. Turner

Who will & should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

 


So what do you think of these Oscar tidbits and predictions, folks?