FlixChatter Review: Cinderella (2015)

CinderellaPosterGrowing up watching Disney fairy tale movies, I have to admit Cinderella wasn’t my favorite heroine. Over the years though, as there are more and more adaptations of this quintessential underdog story (more so than any other Disney “princesses” it seems), the more I appreciate the animated classic. Lately the cinematic trend is reinvention, giving a classic tale a new twist or perspective, such as Snow White & the Huntsman and Maleficent, and so naturally I thought we’d see the same thing with Cinderella. Well, it turns out that this film stayed true to its classic story, you could even say it paid tribute to the animated film, with some surprises thrown in. But by going the conventional route doesn’t mean it’s dull and boring, in fact the opposite is true. There’s something so lively and refreshing about Kenneth Branagh‘s vision that even some of its most sentimental moments aren’t without charm.

Being that it’s the origin story of Cinderella, the movie begins with young Ella whose blissful existence is cut short when her dotting mother suddenly fell ill. Before she passed away, she instilled in her daughter to ‘have courage and be kind,’ a life motto young Ella takes to heart. And so, as life kept coming at her with one terrible blow after another, especially after the arrival of her stepmother and two step-sisters, Ella never gives up hope. I was skeptical at first about Lily James‘ casting in the titular role, but I quickly warmed up to her. There’s a pleasant countenance about her that makes her believable as a benevolent and sweet-tempered girl equipped with inner strength to face the cruelty inflicted upon her by her new *family.* Instead of running away from her problems, she choose to endure.

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Ella’s no damsel in distress either. I love how her sweet and swoon-worthy meet-up with the dashing Prince, who refers to himself as Kit to hide his true identity, reveals her independent spirit. “Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it’s what should be done,” she tells Kit in protest of him hunting deer for sport. The prince was immediately smitten by her, perhaps he’s also impressed that she rides her horse without a saddle! Richard Madden effortlessly steals Ella’s heart, and every maiden in the audience, with his impossible good looks and almost indecent sex appeal. As if the filmmakers weren’t sure of that, they had to outfit him in those distractingly tight white pants! I don’t know why they need to digitally enhanced his blue eyes though, I mean he’s already hunky enough with his eyes the way God made ‘em!

Cinderella_PrinceCharming cinderella_prince_firstmeetIn any case, I like that he fell for her whilst Ella’s still dressed as a maid, though I actually think she’s the most attractive this way, so fresh-faced and full of life. Unlike the animated version, the Prince also gets a back-story here, and the father/son relationship depiction is quite moving. The Ella-Kit meet-up is my favorite scene of the entire movie! Yes, more so than the entire ball scene or even the transformation scene. In fact, I’m not too fond of Cinderella’s look for the ball — her hair is huge, the ball gown is huge, it’s just overwhelming. Overall there’s more chemistry between her and the Prince in that brief meet-up.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be Cinderella without the wicked stepmother and Cate Blanchett is an absolute delight to watch in the role. Looking as stunning and regal as ever, the great Cate was scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness. The Aussie thespian is obviously having fun with the role, there’s a twinkle in her eye and sense of mischief as she relish in being bad.

Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera are ok as the two vile stepsisters, they’re a bit over the top at times, yet not nearly as memorable as Cate was even when she was standing still. It’s fun seeing Helena Bonham Carter being the comic relief as the fairy godmother and the film’s narrator. Derek Jacobi adds Shakespearean gravitas as the Prince’s ailing father, whilst Ben Chaplin is affecting as Cinderella’s doting father. In attempt to making the cast a little more diverse, Branagh cast Nonso Anozie as Captain (who’s in his previous movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and the guests at the ball are racially-diverse.

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The production design is really something to behold. This is easily one of the best looking movie I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not just talking about the beautiful cast. The costume design by Sandy Powell is simply amazing, especially Cate’s jewel-toned, richly-embroidered dresses, blending 1940s with 19th century style. Everyone’s talking about Cinderella’s gorgeous ball dress – and Lily James’ teeny-tiny waist – but I think Cate’s outfits are equally breathtaking to look at. Oh and those glass slippers… well, that’s fairy tale for ya, the funniest bit was when the fairy godmother say they’d be comfortable, ha! Apparently they’re made of real Swarovski crystals fit only for mannequins. So the scene of Cinderella having those on is made possible by the magic of CGI.

Chris Weitz‘s script might seem simple and conventional, but it’s quite challenging to somehow make the story fresh without making it unnecessarily dark or edgy just for the sake of it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Patrick Doyle‘s gorgeous music and Branagh’s longtime collaborator once again delivered! The music fits the genre perfectly, it has that elegant, sweepingly lush feel to it, but also with a bit of whimsy.

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But the biggest kudos has to be given to Kenneth Branagh and his impeccable directing style. He somehow made something *old* feels new again. I think it starts with his vision for the main characters, with an empowered Cinderella who, despite being mistreated, remains true to her moral principles. In this article, “[Branagh] likened it to the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.” Ok so that might’ve been a bit of a stretch, but I get the point. The love story feels richer and more emotionally involving because you believe there’s more than just the obvious physical attraction. Branagh’s quoted in the article as saying, “When you watch this film, you see Cinderella is such an amazing woman. My biggest thing was how do I create a man that is worthy of her?” I came away from the movie thinking that Cinderella rescues the Prince just as much as he rescues her.

I enjoyed this movie so much I just might see it again on the big screen as it’s such a visual treat. But I wouldn’t say it’s style over substance, there’s a nice balance of drama, humor, and even action to please the young and the young-at-heart. Though the movie is infused with such an infectious sense of optimism with its bright, lush colors and lavish set pieces, there are genuine poignant moments to keep it grounded. The scene when Ella receives news of her father’s sudden passing is one of those scenes that made me tear up.

If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d say give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised. I think I’d get the Blu-ray as I could see myself enjoying this for years to come.

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Have you seen Cinderella? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?

St Patrick’s Day Special: Five memorable scenes set in beautiful Ireland

HappyStPatricksDayAre you wearing green today? Today we’re all Irish, right? ;) I celebrated last year’s St Paddy’s Day by paying tribute to some of the best Irish actors working in Hollywood today. Today I thought I’d set my eyes on some gorgeous Irish sceneries in movies, which is always one of the best things about the film itself. Ireland is one of those places I haven’t got the good fortune to visit, hopefully one day in the near future I could spend hours walking in those wonderfully lush hills. For now I guess I’d just admire the scenery on screen.

CircleOfFriends

I saw this years ago and I’ve always thought of it fondly. Set in 1950s Ireland, Minnie Driver starred in this coming of age story on an Irish university student, Benny Hogan and her circle of friends, Nan and Eve. Chris O’Donnell is quite dreamy as the handsome lad Benny’s in love with. The scene of their first kiss is wonderfully moving and sweet, you can’t help but root for the two to be together. I can’t find the exact scene but it’s in this fan-made vid below. The scenery of Ireland countryside is absolutely gorgeous, the film is set on location in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

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PSILoveYou

When I visit Ireland one day, I just might have to go on a P.S. I Love You tour. Yep it does exist! Wicklow National Park is soooo gorgeous, I LOVE the scene when Gerry & Holly first met as she was trying to get the the park she’s already on, ahah. The scenery is so picturesque it’d distract you from Gerry Butler‘s hilarious Irish accent, ha!


LeapYearI have to admit that the Irish scenery – and the beauty that is Matthew Goode – is what kept me from turning off this mawkish drivel.

Goode_LeapYearThe premise alone should put off anyone, even the most loyal rom-rom fans, I mean a girl who believes it’s tradition to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day?? [facepalm] And of course she’s gonna end up with the gorgeous Irish dreamboat ;) But ok, let’s focus on the positive, one of which is the scenery really that makes the movie so worth watching, especially the scene at Ballycarbery Castle. 

Ondine

Ok so I’ve actually never finished watching this one, though it’s been on my Netflix queue for ages. It sounds like another one of those films to see just for the scenery and atmospheric, moody harbor in County Cork. Colin Farrell is a convincing romantic hero and here he plays an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his fishing net whom his daughter believes to be some mythical creature. The film is like a love letter to his homeland from Irish director Neil Jordan.

VeronicaGuerin

This film takes place mostly in Dublin and we get to see the less glamorous side of the Irish capital. In fact, the gritty cinematography shows the dingy streets and slums of the city as the late Irish reporter Veronica Guerin took on a dangerous cause of exposing Dublin’s powerful crime barons and drug lords in the mid 90s. It’s one of Joel Schumacher‘s better works, featuring the great Cate Blanchett in yet another chameleonic role. Being shot on location definitely adds much realism to the gripping and tragic story.


The Secret of the Kells

Even in animated form, Ireland is absolutely breathtaking to look at. This mythical, ethereal film would be a great one to watch on St. Paddy’s Day, given that the story has such deep Irish roots. Per Wiki, the story is based on the story of the origin of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament located in Dublin, Ireland. It also draws upon Celtic mythology. Apparently the filmmaker Tomm Moore and the artists who drew the film were inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s works, so they decided to do something similar to Studio Ghibli’s films but with Irish art. There are too many great scenes to mention, basically the entire film is absolutely gorgeous.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone! So what’s your favorite film(s) set in Ireland?

Thursday Movie Picks #35: Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

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

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. Today the theme is… 

Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

Well, I’ve been sick the past few days and I’ve actually written a much longer post for this but for some reason WordPress did NOT save my draft so I lost it all :(

Ever After (1998)

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A reimagining of the classic Cinderella story – with Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy god-father

What if Cinderella were real? That’s the main premise here, showing the Brothers Grimm talking to a Grand Dame telling them the story of Danielle de Barbarac and showing them her glass slippers. I’ve always had a fondness for this movie despite Drew Barrymore‘s laughable *British* accent. But hey, she more than makes up for it w/ her charm. She has a lovely chemistry w/ Dougray Scott as the dashing Prince Henry. I like that Danielle is no Damsel in Distress, but when she absolutely needed help, there’s Leonardo da Vinci to the rescue! Anjelica Huston is fun to watch as the wicked stepmother, and

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

PansLabyrinth

In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already written a much longer stuff here but lost it in the WP snafu. This is definitely NOT a feel-good fairy tale, as it’s mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Part terror, part wonder, Guillermo Del Toro has crafted a spellbinding fable with amazing set pieces and special effects. But the story is as rich and intriguing as the visuals. As the young protagonist, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) has that wide-eyed innocence that serves as a stark contrast to the brutal world she’s trying to escape from. There’s something so wonderfully organic and mystical about this film, though the unflinching brutality warrants its R rating. There are plenty of weird and downright freaky creatures, the faun and pale man (played by Doug Jones) are key characters here, but the scariest character is no doubt Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Perhaps one of the messages is that the real *monster* of real life actually look like you and I.

Cinderella (2015)

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When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods.

Yes, another Cinderella story, but as far as live-action adaptation is concerned, this could be a new favorite. I’m borrowing from Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics consensus here: “Refreshingly traditional in a revisionist era, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella proves Disney hasn’t lost any of its old-fashioned magic.” Precisely. I think Disney made the right call in NOT making this another reimagining of a classic story, thought there are some subtle *twists* about the main characters that still fit nicely into the story. It’s a gorgeous and lush production, on that front alone makes this a wonderful movie to see on the big screen. Lily James and Richard Madden fit their roles as Cinderella & Prince Charming as perfectly as those Swarovski glass slippers fit our heroine’s nimble feet. But the inspired casting is Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness.


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

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?

Trailer Spotlight: Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’ starring Christian Bale

I don’t usually post a trailer spotlight so early in the week, but I’ve been waiting for this movie since back in 2011! Knight of Cups was also on my most-anticipated films of 2013, alas it’s Terrence Malick we’re talking about here. But looks like we WILL see this one in 2015 as apparently the film will now open at Berlinale, Berlin Film Festival, next February.

I was already sold on this film when they cast Christian Bale and the incomparable Cate Blanchett. There’s something about Bale’s look in this film that really appeals to me. At the time, all that’s known about the premise is that it’s the story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess. Check out the trailer:


Well, per Deadline we’ve not got the full synopsis:

“Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep. Rick’s father used to read this story to him as a boy. The road to the East stretches out before him. Will he set forth?”

I must say I’m quite mesmerized by the trailer. But then again, Malick’s films are always chock full of gorgeous, poetic and evocative imagery. He’s working with his longtime cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki again so we can expect another visual spectacle.

Somehow though, this one doesn’t seem as cryptic as his previous films. The story seems to be a cautionary tale or even just a commentary about the repercussion of hedonistic lifestyle.

“You don’t want love… you want to love… experience.”

“You have love in you… I know it.” 

Of course with Malick, he tends to communicate via metaphors and such, so who really knows how accessible and comprehensible this film is.

With the bass-heavy paired with all kinds of debauchery and decadence in the first half, and later with a more soul-stirring classical style, it’s such a beautifully-cut trailer that I hope the film itself will live up to. As I’m watching it, it made me think that Malick should perhaps do a short film. I think if you take out all the reflective long shots, this story could potentially be told under 20 min. Heck, given his penchant for leaving so much stuff in the cutting room floor, you’d think short films would be his forte.

The cast is pretty eclectic, though some of them are barely featured in the trailer. For sure we’ve got Natalie PortmanJason Clarke and I hear Antonio Banderas‘ voice on there. The rest: Brian Dennehy, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Armin Mueller-Stahl and apparently, the voice of Ben Kingsley.

I’ve seen four of Malick’s films so far and I actually like all of them to varying degrees. Even though I didn’t quite comprehend Tree of Life, there are still a lot to like about it and I appreciate Malick’s poetic style. That reminds me, I should rent To The Wonder at some point. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m anticipating this now, even more so than before.


What do you think of this trailer? 

10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

Top10ActressesBnr

As part of a continuation to the Top 10 Actors I’d See in Anything post, I figure I’d do the same list for the fairer sex. If anything, my love for actresses seem to be more constant than for actors, not sure why but aside from some new discoveries, I’ve been a fan of most of these actresses for a decade or longer. Again this idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are Blog. The same as the actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in literally anything because there are some movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

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Ever since I saw her as Fiona in Four Weddings & A Funeral years ago, I’ve always been fond of the English actress. There is an air of mystery about her, as well as a certain sadness, which made her perfect for her Oscar-nominated role in The English Patient. She’s always wonderful to watch in anything, even in bit parts in lesser-known films like The Heir Apparent, Mission: Impossible, Easy Virtue, Nowhere Boy, etc. Her dramatic talent is irrefutable, but I think she’s got comedic chops too, as she displayed in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’d love to see this lighter side of her in other movies. Wish she’d gotten more leading roles, instead of being cast in awful movies like Bel Ami against sub-par leading man Robert Pattinson.

Favorite Role: Fiona in Four Weddings and A Funeral
Least Favorite Role: Virginie in Bel Ami

9. Carey Mulligan

Top10Actresses_Carey

The first thing I noticed about miss Mulligan is her soothing speaking voice in Never Let Me Go. I already liked her even before she showed up on screen. There is a pleasant countenance about her that I like, as well as a certain childlike innocence that she displayed in An Education. Even when she plays unsympathetic characters like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and the acidic-tongued Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis, you can’t totally despise her. When I saw her in Never Let Me Go, I somehow didn’t realize she was Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice! She’s quite a chameleon. Can’t wait to see her in Far from the Madding Crowd next year.

Favorite Role: Kathy in Never Let Me Go
Least Favorite Role: Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Jessica Chastain

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I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago that miss Chastain sort of came into my cinematic view pretty suddenly. I hadn’t heard of her even six months prior to that, and seems that in an instant she churned out four very distinct performance within the span of a couple of years: The Debt, Tree of Life, Coriolanus and The Help. Then she impressed me once again in Zero Dark Thirty, displaying strong dramatic chops that’s entirely different from the other roles I’ve seen previously. Seeing her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby sealed it for me that she has to be on this list. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, but in an unconventional way. She’s the kind of actress who I think gets even more interesting the longer you look at her. Can’t wait to see her in crime drama A Most Violent Year opposite Oscar Isaac!

Favorite Role: Eleanor Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Least Favorite Role: N/A

7. Marion Cotillard

Top10Actresses_Marion

What is it with French women that made them so beguiling? Miss Cotillard certainly has screen charisma that appeals to both sexes, and though she’s impossibly beautiful she’s not Bimbo-like at all. Like Kristin Scott Thomas, I also find her a bit mysterious which adds to her appeal. I guess I find people with *sad* eyes more intriguing, perhaps it’s that tortured-soul quality I find very appealing in men as well. She gave such a heartfelt performance in Inception, and she’s my favorite performer even in the all-star cast musical NINE. In fact, her two musical renditions are superb as she shows not only her dramatic prowess, but also her amazing vocals & dancing ability.

Favorite Role: Adriana in Midnight in Paris/Luisa in NINE
Least Favorite Role: Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises

6. Sandra Bullock

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Like a lot of people, I first noticed Sandra in Speed and I’m instantly a fan. Whether it’s action stuff like The Net, Demolition Man, or rom-coms like While You are Sleeping, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, etc. Sandra is so watchable. Though she also excels in serious dramas like The Blind Side and Gravity, I think I like Sandra most in comedies as she’s just so darn lovable in them. I don’t think Miss Congeniality would’ve been as watchable without her in the lead. She’s also hugely entertaining in interviews and her fun, down-to-earth personality absolutely shines in candid conversations. She’s one of those rare movie stars who seem so approachable that you could imagine her as your best friend!

Favorite Role: Annie in Speed/ Lucy in While You Were Sleeping
Least Favorite Role: Kate in The Lake House

5. Emma Thompson

Top10Actresses_Emma

I think I’ll always be a fan of Emma given my undying love for 1995’s Sense & Sensibility. I’ll always be grateful for her amazing screenplay and her lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood. Before that, I’ve already liked her in Much Ado About Nothing and The Remains of the Day. Her segment in Love, Actually with Alan Rickman is my fave of the entire film, and she’s wonderful in Stranger than Fiction and in the romantic drama Last Chance Harvey. Her comic-relief performance in Harry Potter is a lot of fun to watch, too. Her latest role in Saving Mr Banks shows she definitely should’ve gotten more leading roles. Playing someone so uptight and controlling seems so far away from her laid-back and goofy, but then again, Emma has a knack for playing eccentric characters.

Favorite Roles: Elinor in Sense & Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Sarafine in Beautiful Creatures

4. Dame Helen Mirren

Top10Actresses_Helen

Though I had seen Dame Mirren in Gosford Park, it’s not until The Queen that she REALLY came to my attention. She truly won me over with that performance and so every time I saw her name attached in something, I’d want to check it out. Since then she’s impressed me in State of Play, The Debt, The Last Station, and even the goofy action comedy RED & RED 2 where she displayed her bad-assery as a femme fatale. She’s the best thing about the Hitchcock film adaptation as Alma Reville, even her animated character Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University is fun to watch! Can’t wait to see her in a thriller opposite one of my fave British thespians Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky!

Favorite Roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen
Least Favorite Role: N/A

3. Dame Judi Dench

Top10Actresses_Judi

Like Helen Mirren, I became familiar with Dame Judi in her latter works. In fact, it’s her most mainstream role as M in Goldeneye that got my attention. She outshone practically every male actor in that role previously, and she delivered such a scene-stealing performance she upstaged even Mr Bond himself! I have to say part of me wish she had been M in earlier Bond films as I’d love to see him going toe to toe with another theater thespian Timothy Dalton as 007!

Since then, I’ve seen Dame Judi in a variety of roles: biopics like Mrs. Brown, My Week with Marilyn and Philomena; and a fair share of literary adaptations like Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and her 8-minute Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love. I LOVE her in the lovely drama Chocolat, as well as in the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Recently I saw her in Ladies in Lavender, teaming up again with her real-life BFFs Maggie Smith after nearly 20 years (in A Room with a View). I always enjoyed seeing them together, so I can’t wait to see the ‘Marigold hotel’ sequel!

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, M in Bond movies
Least Favorite Role: N/A

2. Emily Blunt

Top10Actresses_Emily

 

Though she didn’t get the lead role, it’s safe to say that miss Blunt was the breakout star of The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so deliciously devious in her comic turn that was so fun to watch. But I think it’s her performance in the lesser-known Jane Austen Book Club as a French teacher that made me a fan. She’s my favorite character in the film and I really sympathize with her despite her flaws.

Finally I saw her in a leading role in The Young Victoria and once again I absolutely adore her. Interesting that she plays the same character that Judi Dench played in her later years in Mrs. Brown, which is also my fave role she’s done. Emily stuns even in bit parts, i.e. playing Tom Hanks’ young lover in Charlie Wilson’s War. Since then I’ve seen Emily in a variety of roles: The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, and most recently Edge of Tomorrow. She had a more action-packed roles in the last two films, perhaps in an attempt to shed her English-rose image. I think she fits well in drama, comedy or action, which shows her versatility and on-screen appeal.

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria
Least Favorite Role: N/A

1. Cate Blanchett

Top10Actresses_Cate

Ahhhh… the Great Cate. I absolutely love this woman. Similar my first intro to Carey Mulligan, I too fell for Cate’s soothing narration in The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I LOVE her as Galadriel, perhaps one of the most famous characters she plays in her illustrious career.

What I LOVE about the Melbourne-born thespian is her chameleon ability to play virtually ANY role from all walks of life. Whether it’s a fearless Irish journalist (Veronica Guerin), working class ex-heroin addict (Little Fish), troubled NY socialite (Blue Jasmine), a wounded wife shot on an overseas trip (Babel), an English monarch (Elizabeth) or Hollywood royalty (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), there’s NOT a role Cate couldn’t pull off. She can do any accent flawlessly, and her voice is just so pleasant to listen to. Ok so I still haven’t seen her in her Oscar-nominated role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but no doubt she’s also convincing in portraying the opposite sex.

Borrowing from my Birthday Tribute post, 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.

Can’t wait to see her in Kenneth Branagh’s life-action adaptation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother next year!

Favorite Roles: Galadriel in LOTR, Veronica Guerin
Least Favorite Role: Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skulls

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! I’ve been a fan of most of these for a while, but there are some newbies added based on their performances this past year (Mbatha Raw & Pike). A lot of the actresses here hugely underrated, but just like a lot of my male crushes, I guess I have a penchant for the under-used and under-appreciated ones. Anyway, here they are in my fave role each of them has done so far:

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  1. Helena Bonham Carter
  2. Angela Bassett
  3. Eva Green
  4. Rebecca Hall
  5. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  6. Julia Ormond
  7. Rosamund Pike
  8. Saoirse Ronan
  9. Maggie Smith
  10. Kate Winslet

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So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actresses you’d watch in practically anything :)

FlixChatter Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

HTTYD2Poster

I caught on to How To Train Your Dragon (2010) a bit late in that I waited until the Blu-ray to see it. Once I saw the exhilarating flying sequence, I wish I hadn’t missed the theatrical release. So I’m definitely glad I finally got to see the sequel on the big screen and what a treat it was!

This movie takes place five years after the first one so we see the protagonist Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) now all grown up. The island of Berk where he lives looks quite different from the first time we saw it, thanks to Hiccup and his dragon BFF Toothless, dragons and the Vikings community are now in perfect harmony. In fact there’s now a Dragon Race that looks like Harry Potter’s Quidditch with dragons as their broomsticks. At its heart, the story still belongs to Hiccup and his friendship with Toothless. They’re as playful as ever and Hiccup’s engineering genius would rival that of Bruce Wayne. He could even fly on his own with self-made dragon wings!

HTTYD2Flying

I really could watch these two play for hours! Toothless is especially adorable, it’s akin to watching those cat videos, you just can’t get enough! The filmmakers really did an amazing job with the design of the dragon creatures, but most especially Toothless with his big goggly eyes and cat-like mannerism. Even with a slew of new dragon species being introduced here, Toothless is still the cutest one of them all.

But a cute dragon and fun flying sequence alone does not make a film. Fortunately writer/director Dean DeBlois (who also co-wrote/directed the first one) crafted yet another fun adventure that’s as rousing as it is full of heart. A mysterious old enemy of Hiccup’s dad Stoick (Gerard Butler) threatens to steal all the dragons for his dragon-army. But whilst Stoick is hellbent on war (he is voiced by Leonidas after all), Hiccup reasons that perhaps diplomacy is still an option. On his way to find Drago (Djimon Honsou), Hiccup encounter a dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harrington) and Cate Blanchett’s character Valka who lives amongst a whole bunch of dragons. I feel that the less said about her character the better as it’s pretty integral to the plot.

HTTYD2_HiccupToothless

What I love about this one is that even though there’s quite a lot going on and there are more action scenes than the first one, the focus is still on the Hiccup/Toothless relationship. There is a strong familial storyline here that makes it even more perfect for parents to see with their kids, but also the friendship theme that builds on loyalty and love. The battle of survival for Berk citizens puts Hiccup/Toothless’ friendship to the test, and there are some emotional scenes that really tug on my heart strings. It touches on a slightly darker theme here that is fitting with Hiccup growing up into adulthood.

The voice cast are truly wonderful. Baruchel is downright perfect as Hiccup and this could be one of Butler‘s best work in recent memory. Nice to see Cate Blanchett here and she embodies her character Valka very well. Stoick has a bit more screen time here that shows a different side of him. Kristen Wiig‘s Ruffnut had me laughing the way she is crushing on Eret. The way the camera keep zooming in on his muscled biceps is a hoot! There are genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout, so it’s not just Craig Ferguson‘s Gobber as the only comic relief.

HTTYD2_Stills

I have to mention how beautiful this movie is. The meticulous detail on the scenery and each and every single dragon is astounding. Animation technology has come along way even four years ago when the first movie came out but now the effects is even smoother. The flying sequence looks positively dazzling, it’s really meant to be seen on a large screen and I have to admit the 3D looks pretty darn good as well. Of course the music is a big part of the whole experience and John Powell did it again with his amazing score!

That said, I wouldn’t say this movie is perfect. I actually gave the first movie a full 5/5 rating, as I really couldn’t change a thing about it. But the sequel isn’t exactly flawless as I think the villain isn’t terribly interesting nor all that menacing. He also happens to be the only dark-skinned Viking and he happens to be the bad guy? Hmmm. It’s a small quibble however as overall it’s a pretty solid feature that builds on a lot of the great quality of the original. If Dreamworks could keep the quality of the third movie as good as the first two, it could rival Toy Story as the best animated feature trilogy ever.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 2? Do you like this more or less than the original?

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.
    ///
  • 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?

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?