The morning after … Oscars 2014 – Recap and Reflections

Oscars2014Recap

Happy Monday everybody! Soooo… how many of you stayed up late to watch the Oscars last night? Well I live tweeted for the most part, I find that it’s easier than doing a live blog. As the Oscar attendees got ready this Sunday, I went to brunch, gym, prepared dinner and went downstairs to my entertainment room an hour before the ceremony started.

Well, first things first…

The Winners!

These are the 14 I predicted, which I got all correct except one for Best Documentary:

  1. Best picture: “12 Years a Slave”
  2. Best director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
  3. Best lead actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
  4. Best lead actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
  5. Best supporting actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
  6. Best supporting actress: Lupita N’yongo, “12 Years a Slave”
  7. Best animated feature: “Frozen”
  8. Best feature documentary: “20 Feet From Stardom”
  9. Best foreign-language film: “The Great Beauty”
  10. Best adapted screenplay: “12 Years A Slave”
  11. Best original screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”
  12. Best original score: “Gravity”
  13. Best cinematography: “Gravity”
  14. Best original song: “Let It Go,” from “Frozen”

Gravity won the most awards tonight, with seven Oscar. Wahoo!! So it won for Best Cinematography (yay Emmanuel Lubezki!), Best Editing, Best Score (congrats Steven Price!), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and the first Mexican filmmaker ever to win, Alfonso Cuarón was named Best Director. If only it also won Best Picture, but ah well, I already knew it’d be a split.

Favorite Winners of the Night

FaveOscarWinners2014
Congrats Cate, Matt, Jared, Spike, Lupita and Alfonso!
[happy dance] :D
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Red Carpet Stuff

These are my two favorites:

BlanchettOscarDressI REALLY love how she wore this unabashedly sparkly feminine dress with such panache. I LOVE her dress simply because of the way she wears it.

NyongO_OscarDressI LOVE how Lupita Nyong’O handles color. She has been making one amazing dress choice after another. I’m not super crazy about the shape of this pale blue dress, but she carried it off so well. And that bandeau made her look like Cinderella at the ball! She’s just too cute for words.

I quite like the rest of the acting nominees (sorry, not crazy for Meryl Streep or June Squibb‘s dress to be honest)

ActressNomineesRedCarpetDress

Dapper men on the red carpet!

BenedictHemsworth_RedCarpet

Before the ceremony even begun though, Benedict Cumberbatch already WON Oscars 2014 with THIS awesome photobomb:

BenedictPhotobombU2

Favorite Speeches:

“I love you mom …Thanks for helping me to dream.” — Jared Leto, acknowledging his mom and brother in his acceptance speech. VERY cool that he showed love for his family.

“No matter where you come from, your dream is valid.” — Lupita Nyong’O. No matter how , acknowledging his mom and brother in his acceptance speech. VERY cool that he showed love for his family.

“Films with women at the helm are not a “niche”, but do, in fact, make money.”  – Cate Blanchett, championing women in film in her defiant acceptance speech. Yes, you go girl!!

There’s no vid of the actual acceptance speech, but this is a clip of her in the Winners Room:

Matthew McConaughey‘s speech was rather odd at times, but I’m glad he thanked God, which is apparently a rare thing at the Oscars according to this website. He said he needed three things to survive: God, family and someone to look up to as a hero.

“First off, I’d like to thank God, because that’s who I look up to. He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand … [He has shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late (British actor) Charlie Laughton, who said, 'When you got God you got a friend and that friend is you."

He got no applause for that, which I'm not surprised at all, this is Hollywood after all. In any case, it turns out that hero is himself 10 years down the line...  "My hero's always 10 years away ... I'm never going to attain that. That keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing." He also thanked his wife, children, mother and his gumbo-loving late father. And hey, he didn't leave out his signature 'awright, awright, awright.' Classic!

My all time fave speech of the night is Alfonso Cuarón's all the way. He's just so humble but hilarious:
“For many of us making this film was a transformative experience ... For a lot of people that transformation was wisdom. For me it was just the colour of my hair." But the funniest bit was when he thanked the *wise guys* at Warner Bros, before quickly correcting himself with saying 'wise men' Mwahahaha!!



Highlights

  • First award given I’m super stoked about… but not really surprised. FROZEN for Best Animated Feature. Wahoo!! Nice to see a female director up on stage, too.
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  • Absolutely love Joseph Gordon Levitt & Emma Watson… Best Presenter Couple of the night. Sooo adorable, I wonder why they don’t just date in real life!
    JGL_EmmaWatson
  • Matthew McConaughey looks dapper and quite a gentleman presenting with the very odd looking Kim Novak. That’s what’s excessive plastic surgery do to you folks. But Matthew seems very gracious and gentlemanly throughout.
  • The Oscar Selfie that crashed Twitter! It broke record as the most-shared image with 2 million retweets over the course of two hours of the telecast! Nice to see that these celebs can be goofy just like us!
    OscarsCelebsSelfie
  • Lupita Nyong’O winning Best Supporting Actress. YES!! She did such an amazing job as Patsy in 12 Years A Slave. I was hoping either she or Sally Hawkins would take home the gold. I’m happy Nyong’O won and her speech was awesome. You go girl!
    LupitaOscarWin2014
  • Bill Murray‘s tribute to his friend… “Oh, we forgot one,” says Murray before he announced Best Cinematography. “Harold Ramis, for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.”
  • Spike Jonze won Best Original Screenplay, YAY!! So well-deserved, I wouldn’t even mind Her winning
  • I have to admit the whole Pizza Delivery shenanigan is absurdly-wonderful! It’s so out of character for the traditionally more button-up ceremony that made it all the more fun. Ellen actually ordered pizza and the delivery guy obviously had the time of his life going to the Oscars! Imagine delivering pizza to Han Solo/Indiana Jones himself, man!!! Earlier Harrison Ford seemed grumpy when presenting an award, so maybe he was just starving!
    PizzaAtOscars2014

    Thanks to FanSided for this awesome GIF!

    PittPizzaOscars2014

    Brad Pitt handing out plates is just priceless!

  • Chris Evans presenting… I thought he looked sooo good I barely registered what it was he’s presenting. I think it was a bunch of clips about heroes?? Well I guess it’s fitting coming from Captain America himself.
    ChrisEvansPresenterOscar2014

So how did Ellen do as host?

EllenOscar2014Host

Well I happen to enjoy her hosting duties. I thought she was hilarious but not mean-spirited. Hope she’ll be back next year.

She started off by making fun of the L.A. weather “It has been a tough couple of days for us here. It’s been raining.” Ahah yeah, we barely made it ABOVE zero here where I live.

Here are some of my favorite jokes:

“I’m not going to say who looks the most beautiful, but it’s clear. It’s Jared Leto. I mean, he’s the prettiest. Boy is he pretty. Nominated for best supporting actor, and Matthew McConaughey also pretty by the way but a different, like a rugged, dirty, a dirty pretty, like a rugged dirty pretty. Good dirty, not bad dirty. Both nominated for Dallas Buyers Club, a very important movie. It deals with the serious issue of people who have sex at rodeos. Don’t do it.”

“A little background on Bruce [Dern]. His grandfather was the governor of Utah, his great uncle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and his Godmother was Eleanor Roosevelt. And here you are among us tonight. What went wrong?”

“One of the nominees is Her and by Her, I mean Meryl Streep.”

The whole Pizza bit was hilarious!! So ok the show went a bit longer but THIS was fun and I don’t mind it one bit. I mean, between the A-list selfie that broke Twitter, ordering pizza and collecting money in a hat, it feels like the *people’s Oscar* this year, more casual and goofy than usual.
PizzaOscar2014“I don’t have any money. Sandy [Sandra Bullock] you have money. You got a lot of money. Where is Harvey Weinstein? Harvey? “ Mwahahahaha!

Later on, after most of the pizza were consumed, she continued on the joke about paying for them!
“So I borrowed Pharrell’s hat, and I thought I’d pass it around and get some money for the pizza.” *She then proceeded to get money from the likes of Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt, she basically cajoled Brad Pitt to give her more than the $20 bucks he initially threw in the hat. When it came to Lupita Nyong’o, she opened her tiny purse and gave her a lip gloss instead. Ellen threw it in her pocket saying, ‘It’s your lip gloss? Ok now that’s gonna be worth something.”
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So how did I do on my predictions?

Well, I did better than last year as I got 13 out of 14 predictions right. But really, this year has been quite predictable. I think the only TRULY nail-biting major categories were Best Supporting Actress, but I think Lupita Nyong’O has been gaining a lot of traction this award season.

American Hustle got ZERO awards despite a whopping 10 nominations! WOW, talk about a complete shutout. According to this TIME article, Only two films have ever received worse snubs: 1977′s The Turning Point and 1985′s The Color Purple, which were each nominated for 11 awards, but didn’t win a thing. Other films that share the dubious distinction of receiving 10 nominations with no wins are 2002′s Gangs of New York and 2010′s True Grit. Ouch.

But hey, don’t feel sorry for the losing Oscar nominees as none would go home empty handed. Apparently the Oscar’s goodie bag is  worth $85,000, ranging from gifts from $6 to $16,000. The strangest gift yet? $2,700 “O-Shot” procedure to help a woman’s sex drive [????], you can read about the rest of the gifts here.

Now, even though I was pulling for Gravity to win Best Picture, I’m not terribly disappointed that 12 Years of Slave won. It’s cute seeing the usually solemn director Steve McQueen leaped on stage as he was cheered by his cast and crew!

McQueenLeap12YearsOscar2014

Least fave moments:

Bette Midler singing Wing Beneath My Wings. I don’t hate the song, but I REALLY didn’t like her singing it tonight, especially after such a beautiful theme of Somewhere In Time of In Memoriam. Same with Idina Menzel‘s live rendition of Let It Go. I personally prefer the First Time in Forever song anyway, but Menzel’s singing was so pitchy and she looked like she was struggling with the song that it was cringe-worthy! Glad that it won Best Song though.

Seeing this pic of Philip Seymour Hoffman… still can’t believe he’s gone :( I appreciate The Academy showing his photo last and the longest though, but still, that can’t bring him back …

PSH_MemoriamTribute


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

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions & Reminiscing on Best Actor/Actress Nominees’ Early Roles

TheOscarsLogoThe film industry’s biggest night is just three days away. Dozens upon dozens of award ceremonies have taken place in the past few months, culminating on Sunday with the Academy Awards! I figured I’ll join in on the fun of predicting who will win the Oscars, split into two categories. The ‘Should Win’ here who I’m championing to win based on what I’ve seen. Nothing scientific here, the winning predictions are based on what I’ve read/heard, other awards up until now, as well as pure gut instincts. So here goes:

BEST PICTURE
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Gravity”

Have you checked out the Bloggers Roundtable Post over at Keith’s blog? Thanks Keith for inviting me to take part with my favorite bloggers!

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón

BEST ACTOR
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
Should Win: [Since I haven't seen Dallas Buyer's Club] Chiwetel Ejiofor

BEST ACTRESS
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
Should Win: Cate Blanchett

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win: Jared Leto
Should Win: Michael Fassbender

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should Win: Sally Hawkins

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “Her”
Should Win: “Her”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Captain Phillips”

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Will Win: “Frozen”
Should Win: “Frozen”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Will Win: “The Square”
Should Win: “The Act of Killing”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Will Win: “The Great Beauty”

Should Win: “The Hunt”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Should Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

Reminiscing on Acting Nominees’ Early Roles

Now, I’d like to do something different this year than simply predicting the winners. I was inspired by something I saw a couple of nights ago whilst I was at the gym. ABC always airs interviews with the acting nominees and show clips of their previous films. Well, it made me reminisce on the first time I saw each of the Best Actor/Actress nominees and how I felt about them then. For the purpose of this post, I’m only focusing on the leading category for this post. So allow me to walk down memory lane for a bit.

OscarBestActressNominees

Amy Adams

AmyAdamsJunebugFirst saw her was in Catch Me If You Can but for some odd reason, I didn’t remember her until much later after I saw the film. She had a small role as a Southern Belle type hospital nurse whom Leo DiCaprio’s character proposed to. But the role that really impressed me was Junebug where she also played a Southerner, a young mother to-be who thinks that her baby would solve her marital strain. It’s a bit of an odd film but I definitely remember her in that, and clearly the Academy did too, as it earned her first of five nominations.

Cate Blanchett

CateBlanchettLOTRIt was her role in the mega blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that made me notice the Aussie thespian. I absolutely loved her voice as she narrated the story. After that I went back to watch her Oscar-nominated role Elizabeth, which to this day I still think she’s far more worthy of the Oscar win than Gwyneth Paltrow was in Shakespeare in Love. I’ve never NOT been impressed by her performance since, I’m constantly in awe of her versatility and chameleonic quality, convincingly speaking whatever accent is required of her. Balancing small films like Little Fish, Veronica Guerin to a big-budget production like The Aviator, she seems to be able to do it all effortlessly. Even in a terrible movie like Indiana Jones 4, she’s still very watchable.

Sandra Bullock

SandraBullockSpeedI might’ve seen Sandra in Working Girl TV series but for some reason I didn’t realize she’s the same girl in Speed! I didn’t recognize her with her big wavy hair, ahah. So I have to say it’s her big break in the hit action flick, which was also Keanu Reeve’s breakthrough role, that made me notice her. I liked her straight away and I’ve always been fond of her since. She might not have Blanchett’s range, but she more than make up for it in congeniality – no surprise that she made two movies bearing that sentiment as it’s so tailor-made for her. I’m one of the few who didn’t mind that she won Best Actress for The Blind Side, but her dramatic chop is stretched even further in Gravity.

Judi Dench

JudiDenchGoldeneyeOne of British finest Dames has had a long career in various stage, TV and film work before she made history as the first female M in the James Bond series. So I first noticed her as Bond’s snarky boss in Goldeneye, who aptly and memorably calls him a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Bravo! Only three years later she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in Shakespeare in Love despite being on screen for a mere 8 minutes. The one British monarch role I absolutely love her in was Mrs. Brown where she played an older Queen Victoria who found friendship in her servant Mr. Brown as she was mourning her husband’s death.

Meryl Streep

MerylStreepKramervsKramerAn acting living legend has a staggering 17 Oscar nominations (3 wins), the most of ANY performer of all time. The first time I saw her was in Kramer vs. Kramer when I was a kid, where she won her first Best Actress Oscar. That film was indelible as I remember being quite frightened by the scene where her kid fell in the playground, being carried home by her on-screen husband Dustin Hoffman. I haven’t seen a lot of her work and to be frank, she’s not really a favorite of mine even if she’s always impressive in everything I’ve seen her in. I definitely enjoyed seeing her as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, that’s really a fun role for her where she gets to be this larger-than-life meanie without being cartoonish.

…..

OscarBestActorNominees

Christian Bale

Bale_MidsummerNightsDreamI honestly can’t remember when I first saw Bale in movies. I know it’s long before he don the cape as the Dark Knight, and it wasn’t his movie big break as a child actor in Empire of the Sun as I saw that after Batman. So it could very well be his small supporting role in Midsummer Night’s Dream as I saw that one on the big screen. It’s interesting to see the ever-so-serious Bale in a Shakespearean fantasy comedy. I barely remember what the whole story was about but I remember how dreamy he was in it, hard to imagine him doing a fluffy role like that, but I think he should just to break things up from all the solemn and dark stuff he does nowadays.

Bruce Dern

BruceDernNebraskaThis is the only time in a long while where I haven’t seen any of the work of an actor prior to the one being nominated. I have heard of him but somehow I just never saw him in anything. I have to rectify that situation at some point as I was quite impressed by his performance in Nebraska. People constantly tell me he’s played great bad guys in his younger days, so I just have to check those out!

Leonardo DiCaprio

LeoDiCaprioGrowingPainsI’m always amazed and in awe at Leo’s career trajectory as I first saw him in one of my favorite series Growing Pains! He was so dorky looking but even then you knew he was special. After that I never saw any of his film roles until Titanic, in which I had a slight crush on Jack Dawson (which teen girl wasn’t?). So of course I saw a bunch of his films after that, even the really obscure one like Total Eclipse as a French poet (sans the French accent) where he even had a gay sex scene with David Thewlis. Leo even did a Western in The Quick & The Dead, though by that point I was already crushing on Russell Crowe who never looked better in a film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

EjioforChildrenOfMenFirst time I noticed Ejiofor was in Children of Men, though I might’ve seen him in Inside Man as well before that. A year later I saw him in American Gangster, with fellow hunky Brit Idris Elba, both playing Americans on opposite sides of Denzel Washington’s character. I’m so glad he’s now getting more recognition, hopefully it’ll bring more leading roles for Ejiofor, as he obviously has the chops. Interesting that both him and Elba has also played leading roles in Mandela-related films, Ejiofor was the lead in this dramatic gem Endgame.

Matthew McConaughey

McConaugheyWeddingPlannerThe role I first took notice of this Southern hunk happens to be in one of my guilty pleasure rom-com The Wedding Planner opposite J-Lo. I thought he was sooo darn hunky and sweet in that movie. I think I might’ve seen him prior to that on Boys on the Side but I can’t remember what he even looked like in that movie. Funny that he was in a sci-fi movie about dragons with fellow 2014 nominee Christian Bale in Reign of Fire, and back then he got top billing over the lesser known Bale. I skipped a bunch of McConaughey’s movies for a while, I have to admit I wasn’t a fan until I saw him in The Lincoln Lawyer. Nice to see his career renaissance – aptly coined The McConissance – of late, he’s poised to win this Sunday.


Thoughts on my predictions? More importantly, would you share your first cinematic memory with any of the Best Actor/Actress nominees?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Musings on BAFTA Awards 2014

Hi everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? It’s another long weekend for me as I got Monday off for President’s Day. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as Winter storm is brewing as I’m typing this, glad I didn’t have to drive in this Wintry condition.

Before I get to my thoughts on BAFTA, here’s a summary of what I saw this weekend:

How’s your Valentine weekend? Hope you didn’t have to endure see Winter’s Tale. If you’ve read my review, then consider it a warning. I know it’s early, but it could easily end up being one of the biggest duds of 2014.

AustenlandBannerRobocopPoster

On V-day, my hubby and I opted for a simple dinner and a movie, home cinema to be exact. I’ve been wanting to re-watch Austenland since I saw it last August and so that’s what we did. I still enjoyed it and my hubby liked it, too, there’s a reason I love my man ;)

On Saturday night, we went to see RoboCop, a second time for my hubby as he went with Ted last Monday. He liked it well enough he didn’t mind seeing it again with me. Y’know what, I quite enjoyed it. It’s not as violent as the first one, and it’s not an all-out action movie either. In fact, there’s quite a lot of backstory for the character that made me care about the ‘man inside a machine.’ There’s a lot of heart in this reboot, the humanity aspect as well as his relationship with his family is explored quite well I think. Joel Kinnaman is pretty good in the lead role in that he’s got a commanding presence and effortlessly likable. I might actually give this 3.5/5 if I were to review it, and I agree with Ted that Gary Oldman is my favorite performer in the ensemble, he just always elevates everything he’s in.

BAFTAlogo

I completely missed seeing this LIVE yesterday. I was out and about that by the time I realized BAFTA’s on, it’s already too late. So this morning I was playing catch up on the winners via The Guardian. Let’s start with the acting honors:

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

BAFTA_ActingWinners

Thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and Cate Blanchett in the Best Leading Actor/Actress category. Both did a superb performance in 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine respectively. I had been rooting for Sandra Bullock before I saw the Woody Allen film, but once I saw Cate’s performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that she should be sweeping all the awards. Classy Cate paid a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman … “Phil, your monumental talent, generosity and unflinching quest for truth in art and life will be missed by so many people. You raised the bar continually so very, very high and all we can do in your absence is try to continually raise the bar. Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud.” [per Deadline] We truly missed a great talent, but it really took one to know one.

Congrats to Barkhad Abdi, what a year it’s been for the former Minneapolis limo driver! Though I think he did a fine job opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, I had wished that Daniel Brühl would get the honor. Same with Sally Hawkins who should win instead of Jennifer Lawrence who’s absent from the festivities. I’m more disappointed in that than Brühl not winning. I’m REALLY hoping the Academy does right by Hawkins and give her the well-deserved honor.

BAFTA_HelenMirren

Oh… one of my top 3 favorite British Dames Helen Mirren was honored the BAFTA Fellowship Award, yay!! I LOVE that Prince William joked that he should call her ‘Granny,’ referring to her award-winning portrayal in The Queen. I read about her charming speech in that she offered her gratitude to a great teacher who encouraged her to be an actor.

BAFTA_BestDirector_Film_Winners

Now to the question of Best Film of the Year.

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best British Film: Gravity

Seems that there still is no clear winner and come Oscar I think it’ll still come down to a thriller set in space and a slavery drama. Interesting that there’s a Best Film and Best British Film category, which went to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity respectively. As quoted by Deadline, Alfonso Cuarón said backstage that, “There are rules that make a film eligible for Best British Film. Gravity definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally! — and a couple of American stars. It was shot in this country, developed in this country, and with cutting-edge technology developed by British artists.” I have no qualms about the eligibility stuff, obviously the BAFTA deems it eligible and that’s that. Gravity deserves all the kudos, it won six out of the possible 11 noms, including Best Original Score, Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Visual Effects, Sound AND Best Director honor for Alfonso Cuarón. It’s my number 1 film of the year so I’d be happy if it sweeps the Oscars as well!  

Other BAFTA winners I’m thrilled about: 

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby

BAFTA_JoshuaOppenheimerHuge congrats to Joshua Oppenheimer for winning Best Documentary!! It’s the only documentary that I included in my Top 10 films of the year, and Joshua was gracious enough to grant me an interview. I told him I would be rooting for him come award season, so I’m super thrilled that he’s also up for an Oscar! I love that he dedicated his award to his anonymous crew, “I dedicate this award to them. This film couldn’t be made without people who risked their safety and changed their careers to work on it. Professors, human rights leaders. … They stopped everything they were doing to work on the film, knowing they couldn’t take credit for their work.”  [per Deadline]

Yay for FROZEN, another one of my Top 10 favorites! It’s no contest they will win Best Animated Film at the Oscar, it’s a shoo-in at this point. The production design and costumes of The Great Gatsby are definitely the major highlights of the film so kudos to Catherine Martin! Seems that she’s gotten far more honors in her husband Baz Luhrmann‘s films than Baz himself.

So this is the last major award ceremony before the Oscars on March 2nd. BRING. IT. ON!


So what did you see this weekend? Thoughts on the BAFTA winners?

FlixChatter Double Reviews: The Monuments Men

MonumentsMenPoster

Happy Friday everyone! Today we’ve got another double review of a film which release has been delayed for a couple of months. Originally, this was to be released last December during awards/holiday season, but director/star George Clooney actually asked the studio for more time for post-production due to the special effects weren’t ready. Sarah and I went to the screening last Wednesday, here’s our take on it:

Sarah’s Review

When I was visiting Germany last year and killing time waiting for my train back to Dusseldorf from Cologne, I was struck by a postcard in one of the gift shops with a Google earth type of photo of Cologne in post-World War II Europe. The entire town was decimated by repeated bombings but somehow the 13th century Cologne cathedral still stood tall amidst all the destruction- as if saved only by the grace of God. “The Monuments Men,” the new movie co-written and directed by George Clooney, tells the story of curators, archivists and art historians from thirteen countries whose mission it was to save some of the most culturally significant works of art from Nazi destruction near the end of World War II. In a Napoleonic-like move, Adolf Hitler often ordered his armies to claim some of Europe’s greatest art treasures for his planned “Fuhrer Museum” to be built near his boyhood home in Austria. (Did you know Hitler was a failed art student? Neither did I. When George Stout, an American art conservationist played by George Clooney in the movie, shows one of his paintings to the newly assembled group, one of them remarks, “Hitler did that? It’s not bad.” However, James Granger, played by Matt Damon and based on Metropolitan Museum of Art Director James Rorimer, says, “Well, it’s not good.”) When the fall of the Third Reich became a reality, Hitler commanded his men to destroy everything and the group that has become known as the Monuments Men swung into action, embarking on “the greatest treasure hunt in history.”

MonumentsMen_Stills1
As a self-proclaimed history buff who has studied and visited many of the places in the film, I really wanted to like this movie but it felt like this great story got lost in a mishmash of a film trying to be a combination of Hogan’s Heroes, Saving Private Ryan and The Da Vinci Code. Call it a movie with an identity crisis- it was like it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama. SPOILER ALERT! (Without giving too much away, one example is a scene where one of the Monuments Men gets shot and it’s obvious he’s going to die. However, in the next scene he is cracking jokes. Umm, hello? It’s wartime and you’re dying.) The cast, which also includes Bill Murray and John Goodman, do what they can but ultimately can’t save this one. About the only person who seems to understand the gravity of the situation is Claire Simone, the museum curator turned spy played by Cate Blanchett. When showing Matt Damon’s character some of the Nazi’s re-possessed goods, he asks incredulously, “What is all this?” “People’s lives,” she solemnly replies. Her scenes were a breath of fresh air.
MonumentsMen_Damon_Blanchett
This movie does do a couple of things well. It helps put you in the moment where these men unearth thousands of stolen, priceless artifacts. What must it have been like to gaze upon these famous artworks and know that you had a major role in securing them for future generations to enjoy? And it also provides a powerful reminder of what we were fighting for- not just art, but our culture, history and way of life. Two scenes brought this home to me: the first near the beginning of the film where you see the beautiful landscape of Paris decorated with Nazi swastikas and the second toward the end of the film where you see Nazi soldiers indiscriminately torching some of what they had stolen. Maybe it was these ideals that frustrated me the most about this movie- it was okay, but it could have been so much better.
The movie is based on a 2010 book of the same name by Robert Edsel and it did make me want to learn more about this fascinating point in history. Also, in a local connection, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has put together a self-guided tour identifying items from its own collection saved by the Monuments Men or with other World War II related stories. As our temperature doesn’t want to rise above zero lately and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free, this seems like a great idea! As for the movie, it piques your interest but doesn’t quite hold you in its grasp.

TCFF_reviewer_Ruth


2.5 out of 5 reels

Ruth’s Review

When I first heard about this film, the subject matter intrigued me more than even the ensemble cast. Truthfully, seeing Matt Damon and George Clooney with their megastar smiles in the trailer, it felt like an Ocean’s Eleven heist type of flick, but with Nazis. Hmmm, it turns out that first impression wasn’t that off-base after all.

Seems that the film has everything going for it to be a truly great WWII drama. Clooney is after all a reputable Oscar-nominated director/writer/actor, a triple threat on top of being one of the biggest movie stars in the universe. He’s got the clout to assemble a bunch of Oscar-caliber International cast and crew, who are more than up for the task to bring this amazing wartime tale to life. But yet, even halfway through the film, it just left me wanting. For something so monumental in history, the film just doesn’t do the story justice.

To call this film uneven would be putting it mildly. There’s a tonal hodgepodge that makes it quite hard to really grasp the weight of the mission of the men (and women) involved. Art historian Frank Stokes, played by Clooney himself, preaches to the audience the significance of this art-rescue mission and how noble the cause was for humanity that it was worth a person’s life. Yet the way the film’s played-out lacks the gravitas of that sentiment. At times it’s just too lighthearted for its own good that it loses its impact. I’m not saying that mixing drama with comedy can’t work, I mean there are great films that finely tread the line between drama and comedy, but I’m not sure it works well here.

MonumentsMen_Stills2

There’s a scenario where one character accidentally stepped on a land mine, but it’s treated like a humorous scene. I guess there ought to be an SNL skit where the Monuments Men don’t know which foot to stand on. Seems that Clooney himself realizes the challenge of getting the tone right, as this article from The Wrap points out  “If we get the tone right it will be a really fun film …” he said. Well, the film is not without its shares of fun, but I think if the tone were right, it would’ve been a great film.

Performance-wise, seems that the cast are having a good time making this which is fun to watch. Clooney and Damon are pretty good but I’ve seen much better work from both of them. It’s amusing to see Bill Murray being Bill Murray, Bob Balaban with his deadpan humor and Jean Dujardin being his irresistible charming French guy that he is. Now, as much as I got a kick watching them, I barely knew about any of them nor any of the other characters in the film. Why did they sacrifice their lives for this mission? Is it simply their love for art, or was there something more? As a result, I couldn’t connect with any of them no matter how hard I tried. Even during the most dire circumstances, it didn’t incite lump-in-my-throat kind of emotion, and this coming from someone who cry easily at movies. I think Cate Blanchett‘s character, the only female cast who’s the most solemn of the whole bunch, is the only one who lends credibility to the story. But still her character’s not explored as well as I would like, either.

This is Clooney’s fifth directorial effort and he also co-wrote it with his screenwriting partner Grant Heslov.  Seems that the filmmakers’ heart are in the right place and the film is not without its poignant moments. I just wish those moments are more consistent instead of just in few and far between. I don’t think that even if this were released just in time for Oscar season that it would’ve been in the running. It’s not a terrible film however, I’d recommend it as a rental if you love the cast. But if you want to really know who the Monuments Men are and their mission, I’d think there are documentaries on them that’s more satisfying and compelling. As it stands, it’s quite entertaining with a tinge of poignancy, though it lacks a certain level of artistry that’d give us a lasting impression.

TCFF_reviewer_Ruth

threereels
3 out of 5 reels


What do you think folks, agree/disagree with our review? Well let’s hear it!

Monthly Viewing Roundup & Favorite Film of January 2014

MonthlyViewing_Jan

Good riddance January!! Boy it’s truly THE coldest month I’ve had in my 20+ years living in MN, though December 2013 is not any warmer at all either! On Groundhog day yesterday, Groundhog Phil saw his shadow in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pa. so I guess we have six more weeks to contend with of this dreadful Winter. Heh, I don’t mind so much if we could do away with the crazy subzero temps.


In any case, time for the recap.

I’ve had 23 posts so far this month, some of which are guest posts from my awesome collaborators. Thanks Ted, Jack aka Kevin, Conor, Sarah and Dave W!

Here are some posts you might’ve missed:

Film Reviews: Nebraska | 12 Years a Slave | Her | August: Osage County
TV Review/Commentary: The Returned | Early 2014 TV Season

The list of all list … my picks of

TOP 10 FILMS of 2013 and The Worst/Most Disappointing Films of the Year

top10best_2013

Award Season Coverage:

Blogathons: The Alphabet Movie MemeLCR’s Recast-Athon

New Films Watched:

Rewatches:

  • BBC Sense & Sensibility (2008)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

I’ve been um, preoccupied by Richard Armitage [yes I know, that's putting it mildly] so I’ve been catching up on some BBC Robin Hood solely for Sir Guy of Gisborne ;)

Yes I realize it’s a pretty s-l-o-w start in 2014 in terms of movie-watching. I only went to one advanced screening which was the new Jack Ryan movie, but hey, looking ahead to February, it’s already a pretty darn good start as I saw The Lego Movie and also saw Cate Blanchett’s phenomenal performance in Blue Jasmine this weekend.

LegoMovie_BlueJasmine

I’ve got three screenings scheduled for the next two weeks: The Monuments Men on Wednesday and Winter’s Tale next Monday. As the Robocop remake is scheduled the same day as Winter’s Tale, Ted will be seeing that one in my place.

Favorite Movie Seen in January 2014:

ItHappenedOneNightPoster

Glad I finally saw this classic Capra rom-com (view my full review). It’s easily my favorite viewing of January, so that’s definitely a fabulous choice for my BlindSpot list! Not sure which one I’ll watch next, perhaps a Jimmy Stewart film as I’ve been wanting to see more of his films for ages.


So, what movies did you get to see in January and which one is your favorite?

My Movie Alphabet Blogathon – Actors/Directors Edition

Thanks to Mettel Ray for starting this Movie Alphabet as part of her 400th Blog Post celebration! Her original list consists of movies, directors, actors and actresses, but to switch things up, I’d like to just focus on actors and directors for my list as I’ve done the film version in this Cinematic Alphabet a year ago. So for each letter in the alphabet, I choose to highlight those whose work and performances have become my favorite over the years. I might add honorable mentions later on but it’s taken me much longer than I thought to even just coming up with these, so without further ado, here we go:

A  – Audrey Hepburn

The epitome of beauty and class. I love Audrey ever since my mother brought My Fair Lady from her trip to Europe when I could barely speak any English. She’s such a captivating actress beautiful inside and out, I really admire her charity work outside of her iconic performance in many delightful films.


B – Ben Affleck

I never thought I’d  put Ben Affleck on any of my favorite list, but the only reason I’m putting him here is for his DIRECTING work, especially Gone Baby Gone and ARGO. I think he’s become one of the most talented directors working today.

C – Cate Blanchett

I love this beautiful and massively talented Aussie actress. I haven’t seen her in anything all year so I’m so looking forward to seeing her reprise her role as Galadriel in The Hobbit! I’m also excited to see her in Terrence Malick’s upcoming film Knight of Cups with Christian Bale! I think she might be in two films with Terrence Malick next year.

D – Denzel Washington

I just love how dignified his name sounds and he certainly is a classy actor, not to mention gorgeous. There are some films that don’t appeal to me until he’s cast, and even in so-so movies, Denzel is still great to watch. I think one of his best roles is Philadelphia and American Gangster (I have yet to see Training Day yet).

E – Ewan McGregor

Clearly I have a penchant for Scottish guys, especially the cute ones who can sing ;) I haven’t seen too many of Ewan’s work but I LOVE him in Moulin Rouge and boy, he could’ve easily have a singing career! He also sang in Velvet Goldmine in his earlier days but his role as the romantic poet Christian stole my heart. His duet with Nicole Kidman is just lovely!

F – Frances O’Connor

I just saw this Aussie actress in Lumpy at TCFF screening and was pleasantly surprised to see her in that film. I think she’s so massively underrated, I wish she had gotten more roles in Hollywood. I absolutely love her in Mansfield Park and also in the time travel adventure Timeline.

G – Gerard Butler

Speaking of cute Scots who can sing ;) Well I think it’s obvious who I’d pick for G right, he..he.. Seems like a lot of my crushes’ names start with G… Gregory Peck, Gabriel Byrne… but I think Gerry is the only one I’m most consistent on. It’s been interesting following his career over the years and even though he hasn’t got a hit yet lately, I think he’s a charismatic and talented actor, not to mention versatile! So yeah, I think I’ll be a GB fan for years to come.

H – Harrison Ford

It’s amazing how he almost quit acting after American Grafitti! Can’t imagine a more successful actor with so many lucrative franchises under his belt. I like him in action films, but he also shines in dramas like Regarding Henry. My all time favorite role shall always be Indiana Jones though, I mean, he’s the epitome of effortless machismo.

I – Ian McKellen

I was flabbergasted that Sean Connery turned down a high-paying job playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings franchise, but now I can’t imagine anyone else by Sir Ian McKellen in that role. His gravitas and THAT voice that can be both authoritative and soothing makes his performance so iconic. I also love his villainous turn as Magneto in the X-Men films, as well as his super creepy role in Apt Pupil.

J – Judi Dench

One of my three favorite British dames – along with Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith – the 77-year-old thespian has such a strong screen presence and an un-inimitable voice to boot! As I said in my Skyfall review, it’s the best casting decision ever to have her play M. She made the usually forgettable character so much more interesting, no wonder Mendes gave her so much more screen time in the latest Bond flick. I also love her softer side in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

K – Keanu Reeves

I love Keanu… or Chuck as my friend Mark calls him. Yes he’s not the most expressive actors but he’s got quite a screen presence and that certain unique-ness that separate him from the pack. He’s great in action flicks surely (The Matrix, Speed, Constantine, etc.), but I also love him as a romantic lead in A Walk in the Clouds. I just rewatched Point Break recently which was done 21 years ago, and seeing him in the 2012 documentary Side by Side, it’s amazing how this guy practically doesn’t age!

L – Lee Pace

Ok I just realize there are like five Hobbit-related people on this list, ahah, trust me it’s not intentional but clearly Peter Jackson has a keen eye for casting. I’m truly hoping that this highly-anticipated LOTR prequel will launch a few actors’ career, one of them is this super talented Oklahoma native who wowed me in The Fall and also Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. How this guy is not more famous than Ryan Gosling is beyond me!

M – Michael Mann

For someone as accomplished as Mr Mann, I’m surprised he’s not as prolific. He’s only got ten feature films under his belt, and out of the seven I have seen so far I’ve only been disappointed with this one. I’ve been watching his work as executive producer of the Miami Vice TV show which was one of my favorites growing up. But he’s done at least three that I’d consider a masterpiece: Heat, The Insider and The Last of the Mohicans; whilstthe other three are very, very good.

N – Nicole Kidman

I don’t always seek out every movie she’s in but she’s definitely a darn good actress. It’s quite interesting to see her transformation from a freckled-face redhead to a glamorous porcelain-skinned doll much like her character in The Stepford Wives. I really think she needs to lay off Botox or whatever it is she’s using, as I think she’s already very beautiful. She can be quite fierce if she wants to be, like in To Die For, but one of my favorite roles is the tormented courtesan Satine in Moulin Rouge.

O – Olivia Williams

There are two Olivias I was going to include here, the other one was Olivia de Havilland who played Melanie in Gone With the Wind. But I decided to go with the one I’ve seen more of. I’ve only seen the London native’s work in supporting roles (The Sixth Sense, An Education), but they’re all very good. She was particularly good in a scene-stealing role in The Ghost Writer as the wife of a retired UK Prime Minister. I’m not too fond of the film but she was memorable.

P – Peter Jackson

He hasn’t made many films, but the Lord of the Rings is one of my all time favorite franchise, hence my anticipation for The Hobbit. I’m also one of those who likes King Kong, so I might still give The Lovely Bones a try one of these days despite the dismal reviews. Even when he’s not making films, he’s indirectly contributed to major hits like X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Prometheus, etc. through his visual effects company WETA Digital.

Q – Quentin Tarantino

As I’m not a fan of violent movies, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of QT’s films but I can’t deny his talent and brutal honesty for ‘copying’ other filmmakers work whilst still making them his own. Out of the three of his films I’ve seen, I think I like Inglourious Basterds the most. It’s one of those films I never thought I’d enjoy but it was definitely a pleasant surprise despite my nerves being stretched to its snapping point in more than one occasion.

R – Richard Armitage

I think if you’ve read this blog you should notice this tall, dark and handsome Brit gets a lot of mentions. In fact, I dedicated a post when he was cast in The Hobbit as Thorin! I fell for him in the BBC miniseries North & South, but he also wowed me in other series since – The Vicars of Dibley, MI-5 and Strike Back. I sincerely hope this role in The Hobbit will (finally) catapult his career in Hollywood. He’s far too gorgeous and too talented to only be confined in TV world!

S – Sean Connery

Ok, even as a Bond aficionado, I wasn’t exactly planning on putting two Bond actors back-to-back on this list, but hey, why not? Sir Sean was perhaps the most famous Scottish movie star when he was cast as 007 and having seen Dr. No recently, he certainly has the looks and swagger like nobody’s business. The former body builder is more than just a Bond actor though, he’s great in various roles such as The Untouchables, The Hunt of Red October, Just Cause, The Rock, and of course, his scene-stealing role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

T – Timothy Dalton

Here’s another Bond actor who’s sooo much more than his most famous role. In fact, even though he’s my favorite Bond (yes Daniel Craig is a close second), I absolutely adore him in a role that’s as far away as 007 as you can get: Mr. Rochester in BBC’s 1983 Jane Eyre. He’s wonderful in larger-than-life heroic roles like Julius Caesar, but I also love him as a baddie in The Rocketeer and the made-for-TV thriller Framed with David Morrissey. I’ve already covered how criminally underrated he is and how much I’d love to see him in a romantic thriller with the likes of a fellow seasoned Brit Helen Mirren, so I think my feelings for him is clear.

U – Uma Thurman

I haven’t seen Uma in anything lately but I quite like her in some roles. Her Oscar-nominated performance in Pulp Fiction made her a star and a cult classic status. Seems like QT knows how to tailor a role for her as she was memorably bad ass in the Kill Bill movies. She’s going to co-star with Gerry Butler in his upcoming soccer dramedy Playing for Keeps but curiously absent from all the promos for the film as they seem to only feature Catherine Zeta-Jones or Jessica Biel. Does that say something about her current star power??

V – Vanessa Redgrave

Did you know that Vanessa Redgrave was in a relationship with Timothy Dalton for fourteen years? Apparently they met on the set of Mary, Queen of Scots and were both passionate about Shakespeare, natch! I have been seeing her in a few films lately and she’s certainly a force on screen, from her younger years starring in Camelot all the way to her spectacular supporting role in Coriolanus. I love her in Letters for Juliet where she actually co-starred with her current husband Franco Nero.

W – William Wyler

Every time I go through his filmography, I’m always amazed at Mr. Wyler’s varied work. He’s one of those directors who can’t be confined into any genre as he could do tackle any one of them. Three of my favorite films of his are a Biblical epic (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ), a western (The Big Country) and a romantic comedy (Roman Holiday). I still need to see the war drama Mrs. Miniver, amongst a plethora of his other work.

X – Professor X

Ok, I don’t know of ANY actor/director with this name so I broke the rule a bit and feature one of my favorite characters instead. Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men franchise was played by two brilliant actor: Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy in the prequel X-Men: First Class. I LOVE both of their performances and the character itself is inherently intriguing and his relationship with his friend-turned-nemesis Magneto is the most compelling part of that franchise.

Y – Yul Brynner

Ok, there are very limited names that starts with Y so I chose Yul Brynner for his iconic performance in The King and I and The Ten Commandments. Apart from those two films I haven’t seen anything else he’s done. The Russian actor (his real name was Yuli Borisovich Bryner) has one of those ‘exotic’ look that made him quite versatile playing all kinds of ethnic characters. He’s also an accomplished photographer and often take pictures of the sets of the various projects he worked on over the years.

Z – Zhang Yimou

I had just become acquainted with his work a few years ago when I saw House of Flying Daggers and was treated to such a visual feast of vivid colors and breathtaking cinematography. His distinct visual style is legendary, which you might have seen in the Jet Li movie Hero or if you saw the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games Opening Ceremony in which he directed. His latest work was Flowers of War which I still need to see one of these days.


Well that’s my Movie Alphabet, folks. Hope you enjoy my list. If you haven’t done one already, I invite you to join in on the fun!

Memorial Weekend Viewing Roundup and LAMMY 2012 Updates

LOVE a four-day work week, don’t you? Well for us Americans, we enjoy an extra weekend day as Monday was Memorial Day. The weather was glorious on Monday so my friends and I spent most of the day outside picnicking at a small park.

I did do some blogging over the weekend as I got tagged to do the Best Actress Relay Race thing and also the Horseathon I signed up a few weeks back. So with the FCM Blogathon last week, that’s like 3 blog events in one week! :D It’s all in good fun of course, I enjoyed doing all of them.

Speaking of blog events, well I want to thank all of you who have voted for yours truly in the LAMMY 2012 Awards!

The nominations are in (which you can listen here or search for ‘LAMBcast’ on iTunes). I found out today that FlixChatter was amongst the seven nominees for Best Blog! WOW, that’s the one category I didn’t even campaign for as I didn’t think this wee blog would even qualify for the Big Kahuna. So THANK YOU friends [bowing head], I’m utterly grateful for simply being nominated, especially amongst such great company…

Congrats to my fellow nominees:
Stevee, Fogs, Ryan, Castor, Dylan and John!


While we’re at it, have you checked out the latest LAMB Acting School 101 featuring one of my fave actresses Cate Blanchett? No? Well, what are you waiting for? There are tons of awesome posts on the massively talented thespian.

Now, on to the weekend roundup…

I skipped the cinema again as there wasn’t really anything I really wanted to see. Moonrise Kingdom hasn’t made its way over to my neck of the woods. Apparently a lot of people went to see Men In Black III though, it made a whopping $70 mil domestically (over $200 mil worldwide), but according to EW, considering the $230 mil budget PLUS marketing and distribution cost, MIB 3 likely needs to take in at least $650 million just to break even!

So my weekend viewing consisted mostly of movie rewatch.

My girlfriends and I saw the 2008′s BBC miniseries Sense & Sensibility as one of my friends is really into Downton Abbey which also stars Dan Stevens. I really enjoyed this miniseries and it really was a pretty decent adaptation. But after watching this one, we all concluded just how superior the Ang Lee’s movie version is (my ALL TIME favorite movie, natch), and Emma Thompson’s script is just brilliant.

We do agree that Dan Stevens is far more compelling and attractive as Edward Ferrars. But Greg Wise is still the better Willoughby compared to Dominic Cooper so I guess that even things out :)
… 

 


I also couldn’t resist rewatching one of my guiltiest pleasures… somewhat inspired by my pal Terrence’s Celebrity Crush Confession post :) Though he’s been somewhat absent for a while on this blog, I still carry a torch for Gerry Butler and this TV miniseries from 2001, Attila, reminds me why. He’s so ridiculously hunky as the king of the huns, his grey-green eyes never looked so piercing against his dark, tanned skin and that unruly jet black hair. Yes I’m well aware that the real Attila certainly doesn’t look like the 6’2″ Scotsman, but heh, historical accuracy be damned I say ;)

Seeing him here made me think he’s destined to play King Leonidas, his formidable screen presence is undeniable and he’s got this ruggedly regal aura about him that commands allegiance. Powers Boothe is great as his Roman friend/foe Flavius Aetius and Tim Curry provides some comic relief as the sneering Theodosius.
… 

One of my all time favorite sci-fi comedy, Galaxy Quest, is still as funny as the first time I saw it years ago. Man the cast is just awesome. I mean anything with Alan Rickman is bound to be awesome, plus there’s Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen AND Sam Rockwell in a brilliant spoof of Star Trek and you’ve got yourself a comedy gold! I had forgotten about Rockwell’s part but man he really should do more comedies, he was a firecracker in Iron Man 2, especially when he’s showing off all the crazy weapons.

There are so many hilarious scenes to choose from but I think my fave part is the launch sequence when the crew’s trying to get the ship off the dock and Tommy had no idea to pilot a real ship. It keeps veering off to the left and scratch the sides, making this annoying squeeeeeEEEeeeEEEEeeeeee sound. Rickman’s expression here is just priceless! I’m glad I bought the Blu-ray as I wouldn’t mind watching this one over and over.


Well, that’s my weekend roundup. What did you watch this weekend? Anything good?

The Ten Best Actress Of All Time Relay Race

Remember the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race I did back in March? Well, The King of Blog Series Nostra @ at My Film Views is at it again, this time with the female counterparts of the race.

Here are the entries from the other participants so far in the Actresses Relay Race:

My Filmviews » The Velvet Cafe » Martin Teller » The Movie Review Warehouse » Benefits of a Classical Education » Just Another Movie Blog » Film Actually

If you’re curious to see where the Top 10 Best Actor’s race is at right now, check out Nostra’s Update
Well, I’m honored to receive the baton from my pal Dan @ Public Transportation Snob. And here are the original rules of the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race from Nostra:

“I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!”

Here is the current list of 10 actresses as it stands now:

Cate Blanchett

Katharine Hepburn

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet

Viola Davis

Juliette Binoche

Judy Garland

Ingrid Bergman

……


Now, picking who I’d like to add is easy and since the one actress I thought of right away is already on the list (hint: the only Aussie on the list), the second one I had in mind happens to be one of her co-stars. Of course, with the fun of choosing who to add comes the arduous task of having to remove one from the list. But hey, that’s what a race is all about right? So with a heavy heart, I choose to remove…

Judy Garland

I’m truly sorry to have to remove a classic actress but between her and Barbara Stanwyck whose work I have not seen, I’m afraid I have to choose miss Garland. Yes I know, most of you probably will cry foul at me for not having seen The Wizard of Oz, but it’s one of those classics that have eluded me to this day and frankly, I don’t know if I will ever see it. Interestingly enough, the 1937 original of A Star Is Born, is said to have been modeled after Stanwyck’s rise to stardom (per IMDb trivia) and Garland was nominated for an Oscar in the 1954 remake. In any case, I have no doubt Judy Garland is a great actress with a wonderful voice and an iconic role, but again, there’s only room for ten, so that’s that.

Now, the easy part.

The actress I think deserves to be on this list is…

Judi Dench

Ok, I didn’t plan on replacing a ‘Judy’ with another one with an ‘i’ but as I’m thinking of a best actress of ALL TIME, my mind just keeps going back to the Dame. She may be petite at 5’1″ but there is nothing diminutive about the 78-year-old English thespian. With six Oscar nominations and one win, plus twice as many BAFTA awards for her work in both TV and films, she is a force to be reckoned with. Not many actress, even of her caliber, could nab an Oscar for only being on screen for 8 minutes! But she did it in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

I first saw her in Goldeneye as M [the first woman in that role, best casting ever!] but after seeing her in about 16 films, I realize that she’s as outstanding in period dramas as she is in an action thriller as those Bond films. I absolutely LOVE her performance as Queen Victoria in Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, and she often steal scenes even in brief parts, i.e. Pride & Prejudice as the high-and-mighty Lady Catherine de Bourg, the more lowly Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre and also as a curmudgeonly grandmother with a secret in Chocolat. She shines even in so-so films like Nine and My Week with Marilyn, and often is one of the best things about the film.

I wish I could say that I have seen her stage performance as she’s as celebrated as a stage performer as she is a film actress, if not more so. She’s been nominated and won the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award as well as other prestigious theater honor for her stage work. I hope she will last a while in this *race* as I do believe she’s one of THE best actress in the business with 100 titles under her belt!


Who’s next?

I’d like Anna from Defiant Success to continue the relay, who’s well-versed in classic and contemporary cinema. I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the list :)


So, what do you think of my decision? Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

Top Ten Favorite Actresses with the Smoothest Voice

As a couple of weeks ago I posted my Top Ten Favorite Actors Voices, I feel that it’s only fair to have a female equivalent to that.

Well, to be consistent with the male voices post, I’m going to single out one classic actor’s voice that I consider the best of the rest. That honor would definitely go to the exquisite beauty Ava Gardner, who happens to be Gregory Peck’s close personal friend and co-star in no less than three films: The Great Sinner, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and On The Beach.

On top of being ridiculously beautiful, Ava has this sexy, breathy voice that sounds so flirtatious and beguiling. It doesn’t seem to change as she gets older, in fact, her voice in The Great Sinner in 1949 and On The Beach ten years later she still sounds so sultry.

Here’s a clip from her first collaboration with Gregory Peck (Ava shows up at 1:15):

So anyway, here’s a shortlist of actresses whose rich, silky voice are as lovely as their looks. Here they are random order:


1. Cate Blanchett

Seems like people with great voices are involved in the Lord of the Rings adaptation somehow, as you might’ve noticed in the male version of this list. Well, I couldn’t possibly not include Blanchett as her narration in the Fellowship of the Rings intro is just superb. Her voice is so soothing with a great deal of poise. I’ve seen a number of her movies and her voice is one of my favorite part about miss Blanchett


2. Kate Winslet

Here’s another Kate whom I adore dearly. Both are beautiful, freakishly talented, and have a distinct honeyed voice I could listen all day long. The first time I heard Winslet’s voice was in Sense & Sensibility, which remains one of my favorite films of all time. I especially love this scene of the heartbroken Marianne reciting Love is not love as she watches her beloved Willoughby’s house from a distance. It never fails to move me to tears. Winslet also has a gorgeous singing voice, as you can see in this Alan Rickman post.


3. Emily Blunt

Did you know that Emily had a stammer as a kid? But at the age of 12, her teacher asked her to play a character with a different voice which ended up helping her overcome it. I enjoyed listening to Emily talk, in all her films I always notice it, such as this one in The Young Victoria. She apparently can sing, too, when she was dating Michael Bublé, she sang briefly at the end of the song Me and Mrs. Jones in his Call Me Irresponsible album.


4. Thandie Newton

The Zimbabwean-British actress’ got what I’d call an alluring voice. I’m not an expert in the various English accents but whatever it is she has it’s just so lovely to listen to. I sometimes would watch her interviews just to hear her speak, even though I’m not particularly fascinated by Thandie’s personality. Here she is with my favorite Scot who happens to sound as sexy as he looks, Gerry Butler, in Rocknrolla.


5. Michelle Pfeiffer

Speaking of sexy voices, there’s not one more sensuous than Pfeiffer’s voice. Interestingly enough, her trademark on her IMDb page is listed as ‘husky voice’ and ‘cat-like eyes,’ hence she is the perfect Catwoman. I’m sure people who’ve seen The Fabulous Baker Boys would also recall her memorably sultry rendition of Makin’ Whoopee in that red dress on top of the piano. But since we’re talking about speaking voices on this list, here’s the scene of her in Batman Returns with Michael Keaton:


6. Carey Mulligan

When I saw Carey the first time in An Education, I noticed a couple of things right away. One is her strong acting ability, and the other is how euphonious her voice is. Then I saw Never Let Me Go months later and her narrating voice is just beautiful, there’s such melancholy and vulnerability in the way she speaks that sticks out in my mind. I think I’ve become a fan of hers partly because of her voice.


7. Helen Mirren

Yes I’m a card-carrying member of Dame Mirren as I mention her a lot in this blog. The 66-year-old Brit actually came from a Russian Aristocratic family who ended up moving London. I love her posh yet sympathetic tone in her voice, it’s distinctly memorable and easy on the ear. Well, the Oscar winner is apparently set to guest star on Glee as the “inner voice” of a character whose identity is still being kept a secret (per AceShowbiz). Interesting, I might have to watch that clip on YouTube. Now here’s a clip of her with Bruce Willis in RED:


8. Vera Farmiga

I’ve become a big fan of Farmiga ever since Up in the Air. But it’s her role in Source Code that makes me notice her voice as there’s a lot of dialogue between her and Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. Her voice is intelligent but yet infused with warmth and sincerity. She can also be playful and seductive like in Up in the Air and Henry’s Crime, in the latter she brought in her theatrical training where she got her start on Broadway.


9. Catherine Zeta-Jones

The beautiful Welsh actress is a trained singer and dancer, so perhaps she realizes the power of one’s voice as an actress. She won an Oscar for her supporting performance in Chicago, and most people probably remember her in that role, but for me, one of my favorite roles of hers is in The Mask of Zorro. I noticed right away what a pleasing voice she has, it’s sensuous with a hint of mystique about it.


10. Judi Dench

Whether in a period drama or an action thriller, Dame Judi’s voice commands attention. She’s a tiny woman (only 5’1″) with a booming, authoritative voice that one can’t ignore. But apart from that, I actually like listening to her voice, there’s a certain world-weariness combined with a no-nonsense attitude. I think it’s genius to cast her as M in Goldeneye, her scenes with Bond always brings a smile to my face as even 007 is just no match for her spunk and wit.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Rachel Weisz, Eva Green, Marion Cotillard, Famke Janssen, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Connelly, Jessica Chastain.


Well, what are your thoughts on my picks? As always, please do  share your own favorite actress(es) with the most pleasing voice.

Seven Favorite Cate Blanchett’s Performances

I began jotting this list right after I saw Hanna a few weeks ago, but since May 14th, is her 42nd birthday, it’s fitting to publish this today in her honor.

Catherine Élise Blanchett, the Melbourne-born actress seemed to be destined for greatness right from the time she graduated from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art at 23. In just about a year, she had already won Sydney Theatre Critic’s Circle Theatre award for Best Newcomer in Kafka Dances. The first time I saw her must have been in Elizabeth, and immediately I was in awe of her transcendent acting ability and striking screen presence. The film might not have been a masterpiece, but her performance was pretty darn close. The only thing more astonishing than her performance is how The Academy didn’t give her most-deserved Oscar that year.

I have since watched over a dozen films of hers and not a single one of her performances has been disappointing. Even in bad movies — not that she’s been in many of them — she remains a delight to watch on screen. Yes, even Irina Spalko in the ill-conceived Indy 5 doesn’t diminish my admiration of this great actress. Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

The many faces of the great Cate

As I said above, there hasn’t been a single disappointing performance from Blanchett, but these seven are the ones I enjoy the most from her, even if the film itself might not be the greatest. Please bear in mind I have yet to see I’m Not There (I know, I know, it’s in my Netflix queue!) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, so my list might look different once I’ve seen those. Anyway, here they are in order of the film’s release:

  1. The Virgin Queen in Elizabeth
    Blanchett tackled a complex role of Queen Elizabeth I seemingly with ease, from the monarch’s arduous ascension to the throne to her early reign. She’s so comfortable at the center stage, carrying the film on her delicate shoulders with such charisma that you’d be hard pressed to believe it was her first feature film. Both strong and vulnerable, it’s a dazzling breakthrough performance that’s worthy of an Oscar, even to this day, people still think she was utterly robbed (by Gwyneth Paltrow no less!).
  2. Kate Wheeler in Bandits
    Ok, so this isn’t one of the best crime comedy out there, but I thought it was quite entertaining and enjoyable. Cate pretty much stole the show from Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, the two bandits who fell for the run-away housewife they kidnapped. Sporting a spot-on southern accent, her quirky performance was such a hoot to watch. She definitely have a knack for comedy, something I wish she’d do more of to balance her more serious/darker roles.
  3. Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Interestingly enough, most of the actors I love, both men and women, usually have a distinct voice. I absolutely adore Cate’s narration right from the moment she spoke the words “It began with the forging of the Great Rings…” Her luminous beauty makes for a perfect elf-princess who’s wise as well as kind to those who oppose the great evil Sauron. She’s easily one of my all-time favorite character in the entire franchise, so I’m thrilled that she will reprise her character in The Hobbit next year!
  4. Charlotte Gray in Charlotte Gray
    Just another proof that Blanchett can play all kinds of nationalities believably, in this WWII romantic thriller, she played a young Scottish woman who joined the French Resistance to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who’s lost in France. I saw this film a long time ago, but I remember how good Cate was in this. This is the kind of role tailored for someone with her dramatic chops and she does the title role justice. I saw the trailer again earlier today and it made me want to re-watch the movie. Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup are both good in this as well.
  5. Veronica Guerin in Veronica Guerin
    Another title role and this time it’s a biopic of an Irish crime reporter who was murdered by the country’s drug lords in 1996. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. She looks the part and even does the Irish accent convincingly, which is what you come to expect from her. Don’t be put off by Joel Shumacher, it’s actually a great film with a great message of courage and risking one’s life for the good of others.
  6. Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator
    This is the role on everyone’s best-of list and it’s no surprise why. This is Cate at the top of her game, practically transforming herself into a classic Hollywood icon. It’s as if she belonged in this era with that side-part wavy hairstyle, those vintage clothes. Cate stole every scene she was in with her spot-on Hepburn’s mannerism and speaking voice. That dinner scene with Howard Hughes and her family is a downright classic! Finally the Academy recognized her stunning performance and awarded her a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  7. Marion Loxley in Robin Hood
    Sure this movie is quite divisive and not exactly Ridley Scott’s shining hour, but I quite enjoyed it and it definitely has its merits. As I said in my review, Cate’s casting is one of the movie’s major strength. She made me sympathize with Marion almost instantly, and her chemistry with Russell Crowe’s Robin is sweet and affecting. Their scenes together are wonderful to watch, but then again, we’re talking about two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood, not just the ones from Australia.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Susan Jones in Babel
  • Tracy Heart in Little Fish
  • Marissa in Hanna

So happy birthday to my favorite actress… looking forward to more wonderful roles in the future!

Dear readers, what are your favorite Cate Blanchett’s roles? Please list ‘em in the comments.