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?

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FlixChatter Review: American Hustle

AmericanHustlePoster

Based on the ABSCAM scandal of the late 1970s, con-artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser are forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.

When I first heard David O. Russell was making this film, I was immediately drawn to it mainly because of the cast. It’s combining the best of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and just like many of O. Russell’s films, this one is one wild but entertaining ride. Right from the start, the movie gives me the giggles as it shows a good 10 minutes or so of Christian Bale‘s Irving Rosenfeld meticulously putting on his toupee. That alone is worth the price of admission if I were to pay full price at the cinema. I mean, it’s as if retro Mr. Bruce Wayne has been enjoying too much of his um, retirement. Bale is in his transformative role once again, gaining 55 pounds for the role, going the opposite route of what he did for The Fighter. He’s convincing as always, what with the Jersey accent and full-on con-man smarmy-ness, though at times his amazing transformation actually takes me out of the story a bit.

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The film shows how Irving became the con-man that he was, which he seems destined to be since he was a kid. It’s as much a story about Irving as it is about Sydney Prosser, his lover and partner in crime, played with wild abandon by Amy Adams. Posing as a British national, Sydney is seductive and perhaps even more cunning than her lover. Inconsistent British accent aside, Adams totally disappears into her role. Hard to believe this is the very same innocent Giselle from Enchanted. She also has a sultry chemistry with Bale, in fact, I tweeted right after the movie that there’s more sparks between her and fat, balding Batman than with the Man of Steel earlier this year ;)

As Irving and Sydney’s cunning schemes grew bolder, inevitably it caught the attention of the Feds and ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) soon got both working for him, hustled them into exposing Jersey power brokers and mafia underworld. It seems like an enchanting proposition but of course things are never as simple nor easy as they seem. It’s later revealed that Irving has a sexy but unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who makes things even more complicated as the plan progresses. The 22-year-old once again displays that she could effortlessly portray someone much older than she is and hold her own against actors twice her age. Her deliberately campy performance steals scenes every time she appears, especially the bit involving a microwave.

AmericanHustle_Stills2

The story seems to shift the focus between the developing relationship of Richie & Sydney, as well as Irving and Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). The latter ends up revealing Irving’s sense of humanity, what’s left of it at least, as he gains more sympathy for Carmine. The film plays like an ensemble cast of sort, with not one but a trio of protagonists (Irving, Sydney and Richie) with power plays entwining between the three of them. Though Cooper still has a long way from becoming one of my favorite actors, I’ve grown to appreciate him more and he does have dramatic as well as comic timing. There’s a cameo from Robert DeNiro which is one of the film’s highlights, though Michael Peña is the scene-stealer here in a brief but hysterical supporting role. I’ll let you see it for yourself what role he’s playing. Oh, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. is a hoot as Richie’s boss as well, that was an interesting casting that works pretty well. I think the cast is what makes this movie so enjoyable. I know a lot of people compare O. Russell’s direction style to Scorsese’s. Now, even if there’s some similarities, I don’t know why someone of O. Russell’s stature would ever need to copy someone else’s work.

What I think is the flaw of the film is the slightly off pacing and lack of emotional gratification. Through all the topsy-turvy scenarios, I don’t really have any emotional connection with any of the characters. Though the 1970s set pieces, costumes, vibe, etc. is convincingly retro, I didn’t always feel so immersed in that world as I had hoped. So in the end, it never became anything more than a fun and amusing ride featuring solid performances. Given the premise, there are crazy situations involving sex, drugs and a whole lot of scheming, but having seen The Wolf of Wall Street though, that one makes American Hustle looks like a PG-13 movie!

“I believe that you should treat people the way you want to be treated, didn’t Jesus say that? Also, always take a favor over money. Effin’ Jesus said that as well.” – Irving Rosenfeld

The screenplay was originally titled American Bullshit by Eric Warren Singer and was listed at #8 on the 2010 Black List of un-produced screenplays. O. Russell ended up co-writing the script for this one, which features some riotous dialogue and fun use of music. I especially enjoyed the scene of Rosalyn cleaning her house whilst singing Live and Let Die, complete with vinyl yellow gloves on. I had fun with this one, it’s as amusing as you’d expect and more freakishly hilarious as I thought it’d be. I don’t even mind watching this again when it’s out on dvd.

fourreels
4 out of 5 reels

So have you seen American Hustle? I’d love to hear what you think!

Happy Thanksgiving! 28 Movies I’m thankful for in 2013

GiveThanks_PacificBeach

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! It’s the first time I’m spending Thanksgiving apart from my dearest hubby, as he’s in Jakarta, Indonesia and I’m here in sunny San Diego, but I’m thankful nonetheless. It’s been such a blessing to spend time with my BFF whom I’ve been friends with since Junior High! I should make a list of Great Friends in Movies in her honor, kind of like what I did for my loving hubby a couple of years back: What I’m Thankful For – My Loving Husband and also my list of Wonderful Movie Husbands. Did you notice that Christian Bale‘s John Rolfe in The New World kept popping up? I mentioned him again on this Breaking Emotions: Smiles :D

Now, I’m thankful to be a movie blogger and I’m especially thankful for the friends I’ve made through blogging, and getting press accreditation that gives me access to advanced screenings (Thanks to everyone at ALLIED!). So with those, as well as the two Film Festivals in town: TCFF and MSP Int’l Film Festival, it’s truly been a great year for me as a movie lover. I’m not as hugely prolific as other bloggers but still, there are probably far more films I could list here. But since it’s the 28th today and that number represents a good 2013* sampling based on what I’ve seen so far, let’s just go with that.

MoviesImThankfulFor

Here they are in alphabetical order:

12 Years a Slave
A harrowing and unflinching depiction of human cruelty but it also offers us the beauty and power of the human spirit. I’m thankful for Steve McQueen‘s skillful direction and Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s brilliant performance.

August: Osage County
This film makes me thankful for my family, no matter how nutty and chaotic we think we have it. Beauty amidst chaos. There’s something so out there yet relatable about this dysfunctional family tale, and the amazing performances made this so disquieting yet entertaining.

Austenland
I had so much fun watching this on the big screen. It was hilarious and sweet, yes it’s cheesy and goofy at times but that’s kind of the point. It’s an homage AND a spoof in one, and as a Jane Austen fan, it was a blast to watch.

Captain Philips
There are stories that truly made me grateful for being alive and well, and this is one of those films. It’s wonderful to see an old favorite performer (Tom Hanks) in top form and a brand new face making his mark for the first time (Barkhad Abdi).

Disconnect
A story that really makes you take stock and reflect at our own lives and what’s going on around us. It also introduced me to an amazing British actress Andrea Riseborough who impressed me in all three films I saw her in (the other two were Oblivion and Shadow Dancer)

Fast & Furious 6
Not every movie has to aim for an Academy Award. This one sets out to be a thrilling action with over-the-top spectacle and it delivers! I also like the underlying message about taking care of one’s friends and family.

Gravity
A technical marvel that offers one of the most emotionally-gratifying story I’ve seen this year. We take so much for granted the simpler things in life, but after seeing this, even just inhaling air into our lungs feels like an amazing privilege. Thank you Alfonso Cuarón for making such a masterful work we’d appreciate for years to come.

Her
A movie I barely knew anything about yet I was floored by how much this affected me. It’s such a unique love story. It’s disturbing, thought-provoking, soul-stirring, with a haunting quality that would linger long after the credits roll. I’m always thankful for films that remind us what it means to be human, so thanks Spike Jonze for making this, and Joaquin Phoenix for your soulful performance!

In A World …
Lake Bell‘s debut is real comedic gem! I really like the story of the voice over industry, which I’m surprised it hasn’t been tackled before as that material makes for a comedic gold. I hope she continues to make movies, as Hollywood could use more female filmmakers.

Iron Man 3
To be honest I was rather blase about this one but somehow Shane Black managed to still inject a fresh approach into this bankable Marvel franchise. Robert Downey Jr. once again proves why he’s the best paid Marvel superhero as his charm and wit never fails to entertain. Plus Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley add so much to the fun playing baddies.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The themes of racial injustice is how much we have overcome but also that the US still have a long way to go. I was so moved by Cecil’s journey as a person as well as a loyal Butler serving under five American presidents. It’s a poignant, touching and heart-warming portrayal that’s also humorous and lively.

Man of Steel
I’ve seen it three times by now and though I didn’t fall in love with this one as I did with Donner’s first Superman film, there are still a lot to love here. For one, Henry Cavill‘s version the kind of Superman I can actually identify with, his hu-MAN aspect is actually far more intriguing than his SUPER one and his relationship with both his Kryptonian and earthly family are beautifully-realized.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
I know I’ll always be thankful for any film with Idris Elba in the leading role. Especially when it’s a role that showcases his chops and versatility as an actor. I have to admit I feel a bit guilty drooling over him as he’s playing Mandela, but really can you blame me? Who knew Mandela was so darn hunky? ;)

Monsters University
Thanks Pixar for taking me back to the adorable citizens of Monstropolis! Sully, Mike & co. are still a blast to watch, especially little Mike Wazowski as a dorky green-eyed monster in grade school, complete with his teeth retainer! It really made me appreciate the gift of friendship as the movie took us into the journey of how Mike & Sully first become friends.

Mud
There’s something so gratifying to see a talented actor gets a comeback of sort and seeing Matthew McConnaughey in the past couple of years is like seeing him making the most of his second chance at [acting] life. This beautifully-shot film also features marvelous portrayal of unlikely friendships between two young boys and Mud, a man w/ a shoddy past.

Nebraska
Yet another film that makes me appreciate the intricacy of family, that there’s grace even in the most complicated and frustrating relationships. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this film as much as I did, so that’s always something to be thankful for. Bruce Dern and Wil Forte are such an unlikely pairing that paid off big time. The father-son relationship is as convincing as it is endearing. Plus June Squibb is a hoot with her irreverent frankness.

Pacific Rim
Thank you Guillermo Del Toro for such unabashedly fun action movie that’s entertaining to watch over and over! I have seen this movie five times already and I still get this big grin on my face every single time. Yes it’s cheesy but it’s GOOD cheese, so I’m not ashamed that I’ve become a Jaeger groupie :D Special thanks to Ramin Djawadi for his super awesome, electrifying score!

Rush
It’s a movie that literally lives up to its title for giving us an adrenaline rush from start to finish. The racing sequences are amazingly-shot and gives us a sense as if we’re right there where the action is, but the dramatic story between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda are just as intriguing to watch.

Star Trek Into Darkness
I already said before that I was thankful to JJ Abrams for making me care for the whole Star Trek universe. I’m especially thankful for Benedict Cumberbatch casting as a sexy villain, he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. It’s also fun to see Capt. Kirk and the Enterprise crew, certainly one of my favorite ensemble cast of recent memory.

Stoker
I had trepidation about watching this as the director had made some really violent films in the past, but I’m glad this one was still within my comfort level. Stoker is a gorgeous thriller with an eerie atmosphere that REALLY gets under your skin.

The Act of Killing
No doubt one of THE most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, yet I’m thankful that director Joshua Oppenheimer made this eye-opening documentary that exposes my home country’s darkest past. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen and in a land where originality is as hard to find as needle in a hay stack, this is a film that every cinephile should make a point to see.

The Angels’ Share
I had the privilege of seeing this Scottish indie gem just a day before my interview with its writer Paul Laverty. It was a joy to watch newbie Scottish actor Paul Brannigan shine in a heist comedy of sort, funny with plenty of heart.

The Armstrong Lie
A well-made documentary that’s as eye-opening as it is beautiful to look at. Alex Gibney got an unprecedented access into one of the biggest sports scandal in history. Yet as disturbing as Lance Armstrong’s doping violation was, it’s the abuse of power and ugly betrayals that struck me the most.

The Hunt
If you want a roller-coaster emotional ride, look no further than this astutely-made Danish film. It’ll make you in awe of its beauty (the acting, cinematography) as well as incredibly angry at how cruel humanity could be as director Thomas Vinterberg immerses you in the protagonist’ plight. Mads Mikkelsen is absolutely brilliant in his understated yet intense portrayal of a man being persecuted publicly for a crime he didn’t commit, and more heartbreaking of all, cast aside by his own friends.

The Kings of Summer
This film made me so thankful of the beauty of nature and friendship, however fragile it can be. A beautifully-shot coming-of-age story that’s peppered with meaningful and hilarious moments. Great script, performances, scenery and soundtrack — it’s got all the ingredients to make an entertaining film that I don’t mind watching again.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
It’s always nice to see a new face on screen, especially someone as charismatic as  London-born Riz Ahmed. He shines as the protagonist in this cultural drama under Indian director Mira Nair‘s careful direction. Though it deals with a political/terrorism theme of 9/11, this is ultimately about a journey of a brilliant Pakistani young man caught between two worlds in a time where prejudice and distrust runs rampant.

Thor: The Dark World
A robustly entertaining film that’s also thigh-slapping-ly hilarious.  Any movie that features the undeniable charismatic Tom Hiddleston is something to be thankful for, in fact I’d be even more grateful to Marvel Studios if they’d just make a Loki movie already… and soon! 

World War Z
I never thought I’d put a zombie flick on my thankful list, let alone one with Brad Pitt in it! But I quite enjoyed WWZ as it’s more of a political thriller than a slasher/horror flick. The story was intriguing enough that I’m actually interested to see how the planned sequel is going to pan out.

* Note that a few of these films might’ve been released in 2012 outside of the US but I went with the US release dates which were all in 2013.


So HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my friends who are celebrating! But you don’t need to have a Thanksgiving holiday to be grateful about something.

So what are some of the 2013 movies you’re most thankful for [so far]?

Breaking Emotions Blogathon: Smiles & Thrills

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Last week I took part in Mettel Ray‘s BREAKING EMOTIONS blogathon on Tears and Surprise. Check out my entry if you haven’t already. It was a lot of fun to do so naturally I’m game to do another one. Now the emotions for this week are …

SMILES and THRILLS

Continuing with the theme of two opposites, this week’s first emotion is SMILES – now, I had put down laughing at first but again, I’m a bit of a weirdo and I ended up liking the word smiles a bit more. But the idea is still the same, I’m looking for scenes that have made you laugh and smile in the most happiest way possible. May it be the two lovers finally coming together, may it be a dog or a cat being all cute – everything positive and joyful will be suitable for this emotion.

Second one is a bit more dangerous and it’s that THRILL one gets watching a movie, it’s that inner excitement (again a word I wanted to use but it was too long) that will get you on the edge of the seat. Maybe it’s an explosion or a car chase or just the villain entering the building, what scene gets your blood going with adrenaline while sitting in the theater or at home. The dictionary I have says that thrilling itself means shaking, so, what makes you shake in awesomeness with a word “wow” running through your mind.

Check out Mettel Ray’s post on Breaking Emotions: Smiles & Thrills


It should be obvious for posts like these, but just in case, if you haven’t seen any of these, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Ok, so here are my picks:

SMILES

Casino Royale Bond and Vesper’s banter in the train

I absolutely adore this scene! It’s one of my favorites even amongst the dozens of Bond movies I’ve watched over the years because for once Bond is genuinely dazzled and stirred by a woman’s intellect as well as her beauty. Vesper barely revels any skin in this scene, but yet she oozes sex appeal. Vesper ‘overcompensates by wearing slightly masculine clothing’ as Bond puts it, and later the table is turned as Vesper nonchalantly makes a sarcastic remark about Bond’s ‘perfectly formed ass.’ It’s a stimulating banter that Daniel Craig and Eva Green performed with aplomb. Such a fantastic scene that never fails to bring a smile to my face every time I watch it.

How to Train Your Dragon –  a touch of friendship

I always love stories of unlikely friendships and there is nothing more unlikely than a little boy and a dragon. Toothless is unbelievably adorable that I wish I could have one as my own pet! The scenes where Hiccup slowly gets to know the Night Fury dragon are the best, especially the drawing scene … Toothless is trying to draw Hiccup using the tip of a tree branch and as Hiccup walks closer to him, Toothless makes a gesture ‘don’t step on the line!’ The moment Toothless lets Hiccup’s hand touches his face is so sweet and deeply moving, it’s as if Toothless gestures to him ‘I trust you now.’ John Powell’s score makes the whole scene even more awesome!

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The New World – Pocahontas & John Rolfe

The last 20 or so minute of this 2.5-hour film with John Rolfe and Pocahontas brings such joy to me as I LOVE the tentative relationship between the two. It’s such a contrast to the more passionate yet tumultuous relationship between her and Captain Smith. After Pocahontas married Rolfe and goes to England, the supposedly-missing Smith was able to track her down. Rolfe lets his wife goes and meets him, though in one scene Rolfe is shown to be in torment, perhaps fearing the worst that his wife would leave him now that Smith is back.

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The way Terrence Malick sets up this scene is just brilliant in its minimalism. There’s barely any words spoken but the body language speaks volumes. The moment Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) catches up to Rolfe as she walks back into the house, she just hugs his left arm from behind, clutching it so tight as if to say I’m here… with you… and nothing would keep us apart. Rolfe’s subtle reaction when she does this is priceless… he pauses as if he couldn’t believe his luck. It wasn’t a celebratory reaction where he suddenly takes her in his arms and kiss her or anything like that but it’s apparent that he’s ecstatic…  It’s apparent how much Rolfe loves his wife, and the fact that she now has chosen him after all must’ve brought such indescribable euphoria. Though it’s a small role, I consider this one of my all time favorite Christian Bale performance… I wish he’d do more romantic roles like this one!

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THRILLS

Now for this emotion, I decided to forgo any kind of ‘chase’ scene, be it car, boat, planes, horse, what have you. I might actually made a separate list specifically on thrilling chase scenes at some point ;)

Inglourious Basterds – Opening interrogation scene

You don’t always need an action scene to create a thrilling sequence. This opening scene is basically just two people sitting on a table talking… but the way this interrogation scene is set up is so darn intense that my nerves was stretched to its snapping point. Col. Hans Landa is a rather soft-spoken Nazi officer but his polite mannerism actually makes it the scene all the more suspenseful! It’s the quintessential ‘edge of your seat’ scene that had me gripping the arm rest and my poor husband’s arm. The bar scene in this movie qualifies as well, but I chose this one as I like the sheer simplicity, but yet so meticulously-crafted to maximize its impact.

Jurassic Park – We’re back in business!

There are SO many thrilling scenes in this film that it’s really tough to choose from. I was going to put the Raptor in the Kitchen scene as that one was unbelievably gripping, but I like that this one was going back and forth between the Laura Dern’s character Ellie trying to get the electricity back on and her husband Alan (Sam Neill) with the two kids as they’re climbing the temporarily-off electric fence!! I couldn’t sit still watching this scene, and when you think things are under control — ‘We’re back in business!’ — your worst nightmare just jumps right at you! Spielberg is relentless in piling up thrill after thrill here that still holds up even 20 years later.

Mission Impossible 4 – Burj Khalifa scene

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Even though I know full well Tom Cruise is not going to plunge into his death, this scene still makes my palms sweaty! Far more gripping than any car/chopper/train/boat chases Agent Ethan Hunt’s ever been involved in the previous three movies. Now THIS is worthy to be called Mission Impossible and Cruise is such a daredevil actor himself that he actually did his own stunts! It never fails to give the ultimate adrenaline rush every single time I watch it, makes me wish Brad Bird is back doing MI-5 again!


What do you think of my picks? Which scenes would YOU pick for smiles and/or thrills?

Follow-up Question of the Week: Favorite FICTIONAL biopics?

Hello everyone! As I’m still working on my review of Lee Daniels’ The Butler that’ll be up tomorrow, biopics are still on my mind this week. Thanks to Chris from Terry Malloy Pigeon Coop and Nick from Cinematic Katzenjammer for bringing up this topic on the comments of yesterday’s post on favorite biopics.

When I did my post, I excluded documentaries from the discussion but I didn’t think of fictional biopics, which are actually made quite often in Hollywood. I do think it’s a separate sub-genre than straight biopics that are based on real life individuals. Nick brought up Forrest Gump, in which Tom Hanks winning an Oscar for playing the fictitious protagonist, and Big Fish in which Albert Finney & Ewan McGregor plays a fantastical character Ed Bloom. I’d think that The Great Gatsby is a fictional biopic on a larger-than-life character Jay Gatsby.

FictionalBiopics

Of course I can’t leave out my own personal favorite, Ben-Hur. Perhaps one of the most epic of all fictional biopics, shrewdly mixing the fictitious Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur with historical events, i.e. Christ’s crucifixion. As far as music-themed ones, you might consider Velvet Goldmine a fictional musical biopic as the character Brian Slade is based on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. It’s a bizarre and amusing film for fans of Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor, and a must for Bowie fans too naturally.


So for today’s question, what’s your favorite FICTIONAL BIOPIC(s)?

Memorable Movie Birthday Scenes to celebrate my big day

Hello friends! Today happens to be my birthday so I’m taking today off from work as part of my birthday present to myself :D

A few years back I chose a birthday-related movie to mark the occasion, which was David Fincher’s excellent-but-underrated thriller The Game. I highly recommend that if you haven’t seen it already.

AshleyBday_GWTWWell, for today, I thought I chose five memorable movie birthday scenes which happens to be from five of my favorite films. I wish could embed the clip, but I’d have included this one from Gone with the Wind. It’s the celebration of Ashley Wilkes’ birthday where Scarlett O’Hara suddenly showed up as everyone was singing ‘Jolly good fellow’… wearing the sexiest red outfit hand-picked by Rhett Butler himself. If you’ve seen the film you know why it’s such an uncomfortable scene but definitely a memorable one.

Anyway, here are the four other embed-able birthday scenes, involving four great characters from four different genres!

Happy Birthday Bruce Wayne!

Great soiree and Bruce looks dapper in this tux… too bad Bryan Mills, er Ra’s Al Ghul has to be such a party pooper!!

Happy Birthday Bilbo Baggins!

Life in the Shire sounds so awesome! The hobbits sure knows how to party, and having Gandalf the Great supplying the fireworks entertainment can’t be beat!

An Unexpected Guest at Honey’s Birthday

I LOVE, LOVE this scene from Notting Hill. It’s one of my favorite rom-coms ever (leave it to the Brits to make a rom-com nary of schmaltzy scenarios). Emma Chambers as Hugh Grant’s kid sister is pure comedic gold!

Another continuation of that scene that’s equally hilarious is this one with the always so reliable Hugh Bonneville.

A Birthday Toast from a Count

Well lookie here… two of mankind’s saviors in one party :D Jim Caviezel (two years before he was cast in The Passion of the Christ) as the mysterious Count giving a then 18-year-old Henry Cavill on his birthday. I wonder if that’s how he later became Man of Steel? ;) I actually whispered to my husband during this scene that Cavill should’ve become Superman when he grows up. Yes I know, I should be a casting agent, ahah.

Well, hope you enjoyed these clips, folks! Kindly leave a comment, and better yet, share away :D


Feel free to supply your own favorite Birthday scene in the comments.

Scenes Spotlight: The Dark Knight’s Interrogation and Harvey Dent Dinner scene

It’s only been four years since The Dark Knight opens, but it feels like ages. I’m watching it as I’m typing this, though this post has been in my draft folder since I read this Hero Complex article a few months ago. Well, since I’m hugely anticipating the final installment of Christopher Nolan‘s supremely lucrative Batman trilogy, it seems like it’s as good a time as any.

Hero Complex editor Geoff Boucher asked Nolan to pick his favorite scene from The Dark Knight and he answered quickly,

Nolan: To be honest, it’s pretty easy for me. The scene that is so important and so central to me is the interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker in the film. When we were writing the script, that was always one of the central set pieces that we wanted to crack.

This is the scene where Batman nearly lost it… he’s pushed to the limit like he’s never been before. In the article, Nolan shared that he couldn’t find a moment “…where you actually worry that Batman will go too far. A moment where his rage might spill over and he would break his rules.” But The Joker clearly had such power to get into anyone’s skin, including our dark knight. He’s just so ruthless and has absolutely nothing to fear. And all for no real motive, just like Alfred’s story about the Burmese ruby, it proves that indeed ‘some men just want to watch the world burn.’

Even his outlandish appearance makes you squirm, the way he moves, constantly licking the side of his made-up mouth… it’s all very disturbing. And I think it’s amplified tenfold in this scene.

This might be one of the most bright-ly lit scene in the whole entire movie. Instead of the common dark interrogation room, we’ve got a stark room with a harsh, bright light and you see every single detail of both Batman and The Joker. Nolan said that the Batsuit was specifically designed for the scene in a way that it would hold up to the scrutiny of that glaring light.

What I like about this scene is that it’s got humorous elements – hence an easy target for a spoof just on Batman’s voice alone – but it’s also highly sinister, wicked, merciless as The Joker holds the answer to the lives of two people our hero holds dear. So it’s extremely personal for Batman, I mean, one doesn’t go THAT berserk if it weren’t personal, and you just feel for him, his agony. No wonder he’s all ‘bottled-up fury’ as Mr. Boucher said in the interview. I mean, most people might not survive such pressure! Both Heath Ledger and Christian Bale are in top form here.

I like what Nolan said at the end of that article that sums up this scene perfectly: How do you fight someone who thrives on conflict? It’s a very loose end to be left with.

***

You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain

That’s one heck of a great quote… and Aaron Eckhart is just brilliant in this role, absolutely brilliant. I feel like his character, just like Bale’s himself, is drowned out by people’s adulation for Ledger. And while that’s warranted because his Joker’s performance is truly iconic, there are other memorable characters that makes this film so rich.

Now, there’s a plethora of favorite scenes from The Dark Knight that would warrant its own top ten list, that truck flip scene is one of my top 20 scenes I could watch over and over, it’s just pure adrenaline rush! But the dialog is what makes a movie stand the test of time, and the conversation in this dinner scene is most fascinating to me. It’s not only the first time two of Gotham’s most powerful meet: Bruce Wayne and District Attorney Harvey Dent. Unbeknownst to him, Dent ends up defending the masked vigilante right in front of the man himself, and he believes that the Bat-man is on Gotham’s side. Thus, for the first time Bruce is hopeful that perhaps one day his city might not need Batman. That night he too, believes in Harvey Dent…


I LOVE this scene! It makes it all the more tragic what happens to Dent at the end… nobody at the table knew that philosophical quote he uttered here is the harbinger of things to come.


So have you been watching Nolan’s first two Batman movies before The Dark Knight Rises? What would you be YOUR favorite scene(s) from The Dark Knight?

Rental Pick: The Flowers of War (2011)



Ruth’s note: Thanks to FC’s contributor Cecilia Rusli for this review. This film is now available on DVD/Blu-ray. View more information on the production of this movie as well as the trailer.



It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen a Chinese movie at the cinema as I am getting less interested to see their martial arts movies all over again. When The Flowers of War played at the local cinemas in Indonesia, I heard good reviews about it and yes the fact that Christian Bale is one of the cast pretty much made me curious. This film tells the story of an American, John Miller (Christian Bale) who has to stay with school girls and prostitutes during attack and rape by Japanese army at Nanking in 1937.
The film with a combination of war, Asian army, and an American leading role that I remember pretty strong is The Last Samurai where I found the Japanese Ken Watanabe did a very good job with Tom Cruise. Now at The Flowers of War, Christian Bale succeeded in building a good emotion with the Chinese cast which consist of prostitutes and the students he met at the church. The conflict happens from the beginning of the film created a strong bond between the characters on the movie.
Watching The Flowers of War leaves me with mixed up emotions. I laughed at some of the hilarious scenes, and also weep a couple of times at the heartbreaking scenes. Director Zhang Yimou created these sadistic and heartless Japanese army very well that it was painful to see. Brutal and bloody actions have officially made this film not recommended for kids. Regardless of some of the silly and cheesy drama scenes, all that I felt is this emotional built up that starts from the very beginning all the way until the end of the movie as it’s wrapped beautifully. It’s not just strong at the dramatic part, I also enjoyed the war tactics with explosions and shotguns at the beginning of the movie.

Christian Bale managed to give the audience different perspective and emotions on his character throughout the film. The script surely supports it. Moreover, Bale shows that he could be paired perfectly with the Chinese actress Ni Ni for the romantic scenes and also with Tianyuan Huang for some hilarious conversations.

Paul Schneider who plays the role as John’s friend Terry did not really have much screen time in the movie. The character is plainly ordinary and he is just supporting Miller’s character as an American.

Personally I feel that The Flowers of War is worthy to be selected as China’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards 2012. It is a pretty brave film as it contains some controversies between Japanese, Chinese, and American but managed to bring a strong dramatic movie for the audience. Don’t watch it when you’re in a gloomy mood though, as this film will make you even more depressed.
– review by Cecilia Rusli
3 out of 5 reels


Has any of you seen this film? What do you think?

THIS JUST IN! The Dark Knight Rises Trailer 4

WHOA!!! I didn’t think it would be possible for me to get more pumped up about The Dark Knight Rises but Nolan just keeps upping the ante. This latest — and perhaps last — trailer is defintely PURE EPICNESS!!

Yes, yes I realize it’s the geek in me speaking with mouth frothing with excitement, but really, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed with this one. I like the story angle where Batman has been semi-retired for a number of years after his battle with The Joker, and so he’s sort of unprepared and obviously overwhelmed by the scale of the attack Bane and his ‘army’ set on Gotham. Christian Bale looks convincingly dumbfounded, discombobulated, even, though I’m loving his disheveled look with the long hair. So that plotline in itself is very intriguing and make you feel even more for our dark knight.

I’m not afraid. I’m angry.

But then he turns around and see Bane [shudder].

Seriously, that mano-a-mano between him and Bane is gonna be so thrilling and also chilling to watch. Tom Hardy’s massive build alone is intimidating enough, then there’s that sinister mask. Props for the Nolan brothers (Chris and Jonathan) and David S. Goyer for crafting yet another worthy villain to match our compelling hero.

I LOVE seeing Batman’s old compadres back, Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Looks like he gains a new one, the mysterious John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Of course it’s always lovely to see one of my favorite movie father figures, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). It’s even more clear Batman/Bruce needs Alfred more and more to ‘get back into the swing of things.’ I’m still not as enthused about Catwoman/Selina Kyle though I’m warming up to her more and more. That part about his *wife* leaving with his car is awesome!! It’s a much-needed comic relief amidst all the gritty intensity.

FIRE WILL RISE. Yeah, and so is my feverish anticipation. JULY 20 can’t come soon enough!!


What say you, friends? Is this epic enough for ya?

Special Anniversary Post: Nine Wonderful Movie Husbands

Today is my 9th Wedding Anniversary. Can’t believe we’ve been married that long, I feel like we just got married a few years ago! I’ve been blessed  to marry my best friend Ivan whom I still adore him as much — if not more — as when I first met him when I was only 19. I don’t really believe in the notion of a ‘soul mate’ but maybe he is mine as we’re both from the same hometown, went to the same Jr High, but yet we found each other thousands of miles away years later in Minnesota :D

Ivan and I in a gorgeous day in Venice

Now, I don’t mean to rant on my anniversary post, but as I was looking for a good list of great husbands in movies, I couldn’t find any. I did find some list of WORST movie husbands full of cheaters, psychopaths or wife beaters! There’s really not a lot of films depicting healthy marriages either, but you’ll be sure to find a plethora of those depicting troubled/doomed unions. Heh, I find that disheartening. But in any case, this post is my tribute to my gorgeous, loving husband who seems to only get better with age :D

If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you might notice that I included the four husbands I included in this list from Thanksgiving 2009. I added five more movie husbands that I think any woman would be blessed to have. The movie itself may not be perfect, but the husband portrayed here certainly seems that way.

John Rolfe – The New World

The Pocahontas-inspired story actually centers on her love affair with Capt. John Smith (Colin Farrell). But it’s the last twenty minutes of the 2.5-hour movie that touched me the most. Christian Bale’s John Rolfe fell in love with the grieving young woman after losing her first love, and eventually married her. His brief scenes with her show how patient and loving he was towards her, even until the end when their love is tested. Their scenes together are definitely one I can watch over and over again. It’s a testament of that Bale can play a hopeless romantic convincingly. I wish he’d tackle this type of role more often!

Paul Child – Julie & Julia

I just love Stanley Tucci, the man can do anything. Now this is one of his underrated roles which my friend Paula guest blogged for me in this Flix Character Spotlight. This movie is definitely all about the heroine that is Julia Child. But just like the phrase ‘behind a great man, there is a good woman,’ the same can be true vice versa. Paul Child was a loving and sympathetic husband who stood by Julia even before she became famous, and even when fame beckoned, he’s still supportive of her instead of becoming jealous of it like a lot of men would.

Duke – The Notebook

I’m probably the only woman on earth who isn’t head over heels in love with The Notebook nor Ryan Gosling. I do like parts of it, and mainly the love story of the older characters. James Gardner’s Duke shows how love transcends devastating circumstances. He never gave up reading their love stories over and over again to his Alzheimer-stricken wife Allie (Gena Rowland), giving us a whole new meaning and inspiration to what ‘in sickness and in health’ marital promise is all about.
….

Gerry Kennedy – P.S. I Love You

Gerry Butler might be a confirmed bachelor, but he sure can play a dreamy husband, dead or alive. Hilary Swank’s Holly can be quite a pill but Gerry handle her rants and mood swings in stride and sense of humor. His love for her even transcends death as he leaves notes from the afterlife to help her move on. Plus, any husband who’s willing to do this silly but sexy strip dance absolutely deserves to be on this list.

Oh btw, I LOVE this deleted scene when Gerry booked the vacation for his wife days before he died. They did a good job making Butler look frail and sick, but even in this delicate condition he still hasn’t lost his sense of humor!


…..

Bob Rueland – Return to Me

In this movie, David Duchovny doesn’t play the role of a husband for very long but in those brief scenes, he makes for such an adorable and supportive partner to his zoologist wife. He’s funny, charming, and sweet as can be. When he suddenly lost her, his grief was genuinely moving and heartbreaking that we all root for him to find love again. When he does, he was the epitome of a perfect boyfriend, too, which is a far cry from the womanizer role he plays in Californication.

Prince Albert – The Young Victoria

I always love a good period drama and this one is one of my favorite films about British Monarch. It takes a humble and loving man to take up the role of a queen’s husband. But Albert loves Victoria so much that it hardly matters. In fact, right from the start when they were playing chess, he understood her predicament and knew what a woman in her position would need.

Princess Victoria: You don’t recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Prince Albert: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.

It’s a heartwarming love story and it’s clear that Victoria relies on her husband’s support and love to carry through such a heavy burden of ruling a monarchy at such a young age. In fact, he’s instrumental in helping her build her self-confidence. It seems that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his wife.

Michael Green – When a Man Loves a Woman

I saw this years ago and I was quite taken by Andy Garcia’s performance. The film is quite heartbreaking, as do films that deal with any kind of addiction. Now, his behavior might not always be wise as he loves her too much to put his foot down and confront her addiction, but what matters is he sticks by her. He abides by the ‘through thick and thin’ vow of his marriage that’s often forgotten by people as soon as trouble strikes. I think even if addiction is not involved, anyone can relate to this story as no marriage is ever perfect.

Walter Fane – The Painted Veil

Now if you’ve seen this film, you might initially disapprove of Walter’s decision to take his unfaithful wife Kitty to China. It seems like a punishment for her initially and there’s perhaps an element of that in Walter’s mind but he obviously loves her so much and wants their marriage to work. I reviewed this film a while back, saying that it’s rare to find a movie that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. I do think that love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner in fact, it’s best experienced when you’d least expect it. The journey that these two go through together sends a hopeful message that nothing is beyond repair if we’re willing to take a personal reflection and seek forgiveness.

Carl Fredricksen – Pixar’s UP

I’ve featured this scene a year ago on this day for my 8th wedding anniversary, so Carl Fredricksen definitely has to be on this list. Who says animated films can’t contain a profound message, certainly Pixar films have done so and it’s filmed in such a delightful, charming way. Of course it’s not always a picture of marital bliss and sometimes it’s downright tragic. But the real beauty is how they shared every moment of sorrow, disappointment, as well as happiness together. I certainly hope Ivan and I will grow old together like Carl and Ellie :D


Now, I’m not one to give advice but if I could give just one tip to anyone looking to get married… it’s the same as the one I said last year and the years after that: ‘Marry not just the one you love, but the one you LIKE spending tons of time together with.’ 

Thank you my darling Ivan, for putting up with my antics, mercurial moods and endless blogging hours :D


So to help me celebrate this special day, do tell me what’s your favorite film that depicts a healthy marriage. Bonus if you could name your favorite movie husbands :D