Everybody’s Chattin’ + February Viewing Recap

EverybodysChattin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to reviews!

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


FebruaryRecap2015

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

BLOGATHON:

In with the New: Remakes Better than the Original

Thursday Movie Picks #32: Oscar-Winning Movies

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

New-to-me Movies:

Jupiter Ascending

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Predestination

Nightcrawler

Theory of Everything

Frank

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

Rewatches:

Belle

Somewhere in Time

Pride & Prejudice

Face/Off

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Phantom of the Opera

Movie of the Month

SunsetBlvdPosterSunset Boulevard

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


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

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

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

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

Father/Son Relationships (Biologically Related)

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

Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989)

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

Frequency (2000)

Frequency_CaviezelQuaid

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

Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska_FatherSon

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

 


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

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

MarchReleases

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

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

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

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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

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

Cinderella

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

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

The Riot Club

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

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

RiotClubBoys

Seymour

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

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

Chappie

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

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


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

February 2015 Blind Spot: Sunset Blvd. (1950)

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

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

SunsetBlvd_Still1

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

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

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

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

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

SunsetBlvd_Still2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SunsetBlvd_Still4

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

SunsetBlvd_Still3

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

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

SunsetBlvd_Still5

5Reels


2015BlindSpotCheck out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films


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

 

Oscars 2015 – Recap, Reflections on Best & Worst Moments

Oscars2015

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

Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

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

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

///

Red Carpet Stuff

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

Travolta_Johansson_Oscar2015

These two dresses are my two favorites of the night:

LupitaOscars15

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

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

A few other favorites …

LadiesOscars15

Dapper men on the red carpet!

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

GentlemenOscars15

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

Aniston_Stone_Oscar2015

Favorite Speeches:

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

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

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

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

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

Innaritu_Oscar15

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

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

Fave Moments

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

awesome2

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

LadyGaga_Oscar15WHOA!! I didn’t see THIS coming …

Gaga_Andrews_Oscar15

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

AdeleDazeemOscar2015

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

Hands down my favorite moment ever from last night:

 

So how did NPH do as host?

NPH_Oscar2015

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

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

Oh and THIS moment with David Oyelowo is pretty cute.

Oyelowo_NPH_Oscar15

Worst Moments:

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

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

RobinWilliams_Oscar15

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

THR_OscarCover

 

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


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


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


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

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

OscarInteractiveMap


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


OscarPredictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will & should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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

Who will win: Interstellar
Who should win: Interstellar

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

Who will win: Citizenfour
Who should win: Citizenfour

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

Who will & should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

 


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

Thursday Movie Picks #32: Oscar-Winning Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

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’s topic is…

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The Oscar-winning movies can include winners of Best Picture, Best Animated Film and Best Foreign Film, but I ended up sticking with the main Best Picture winners. As I was thinking of doing a Top 10 list on this topic, you could say that these films would make my Top 5.

So, here are my picks of three films that deserve all the accolades they’ve received and I don’t hesitate calling each of them a masterpiece.

Casablanca (1942)

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Oscar Facts: Won 3 Oscars out of 6 nominations

I had the good fortune of finally seeing Casablanca for the first time two years ago (as I documented here), as part of TCM Theatrical re-release. Robert Osborne, the longtime TCM host, introduced the film and gave some background, which is cool. Unfortunately, he also spoiled the plot – I think he just assumed everyone had seen the film. But even with that snafu, I was so engrossed in the story right from the start. It’s got everything you could want in a movie – intrigue, romance, humor, great music, exotic setting, etc. But most importantly, at the heart of it is the engaging and unforgettable love story, beautifully-realized by Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. There’s really so much to appreciate in this film that I can’t possibly write in a paragraph or two.

The world will always welcome lovers ♬ As time goes by ♪

 The world will always welcome beautiful stories, too and that’s why Casablanca will always stand the test of time.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)

Oscar Facts: Won 11 Oscars out of 12 nominations

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Here’s another Hollywood epic that shall stand the test of time. This is one of the first American films I saw as a young girl with my late mother and it made a huge impression to me then. I was in awe of the visual grandeur and all the epic action scenes, especially the chariot race. I have re-watched it countless times since and even with the technological advancement of movie-making, few scenes from today’s movies could match the intensity and the panoramic spectacle of the chariot scene, it’s 40-min of pure adrenaline rush that I wish I could witness on the big screen one day.

But visuals alone doesn’t make a movie and the personal redemptive story of Judah Ben-Hur is just as riveting. I love that it tells the story of Christ through the eyes of the protagonist and how an encounter with Him ultimately transforms his life in a profound way. It’s truly as epic as a film could get, a feast for the eyes as well as for the soul. Though it’s 3.5-hours long, it’s so well-worth your time and I know it’s one that I appreciate more and more every time I watch it. Both Charlton Heston in the title role and Stephen Boyd as friend-turned-foe Messala are superb, with a supporting cast

But this is truly William Wyler‘s towering achievement. He’s considered by his peers as a master craftsman of cinema, and rightly so. I just read on IMDb that Wyler was an assistant director on the 1925 version of Ben-Hur, who knew he’d go on to surpass that film in so many ways three decades later.

Gladiator (2000)

Oscar Facts: Won 5 Oscars out of 12 nominations

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I have dedicated a post for Ridley Scott’s magnum opus a few years ago and even today he still can’t reclaim the glory of this Roman epic. I’m going to self-plagiarize myself here as I still carry a torch for this film and each repeat viewing reminds me just spectacular it is. Gladiator is a visceral spectacle that offers a thrilling blend of intellect and physical strength.  Massively entertaining and memorable, it lived up to the promise of Maximus himself: “I will give them something they have never seen before.“ Oh yes, we’re definitely entertained.

I LOVE that both the hero and the villain are equally-matched in terms of how intensely they’re portrayed on screen. Both Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix gave tremendous performances, culminating to a thrilling and emotional finale worth cheering for. Like the two films I mentioned above, this film ticks all the right boxes to be considered a classic. Visually and emotionally satisfying, it also boasts one of the greatest soundtracks ever by Hans Zimmer. It’s the soundtrack that’s been copied many times over but never surpassed.

BONUS PICK:

Gone with the Wind (1939)

GWTW_OakTreeI just had to include this film as it’s also one of my earliest intro to Hollywood films and even eight decades later, this film is still being talked about. I’d call it a monumental classic, showing the best and absolute worst of American history during the civil war era. Some people didn’t care for the melodrama and it seems overindulgent at times thanks to producer David O. Selznick‘s constant meddling, but few films are as beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted as this one. There are just too many iconic scenes and dialog from this film, some of them I have highlighted here on its 75th anniversary. Whether you’d end up liking it or not, this is one of those cinematic gems every film fan should be compelled to check out.


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

Guest Post: Sundance review of SLOW WEST

Special thanks to Iba from I Luv Cinema for her Sundance review!

Ah, the western – on its surface, it would seem it is not to my favorite cinematic genre. But upon further examination, I must admit it has produced some of my all time favorite films (High Noon, Unforgiven, The Searchers, The Ox Bow Incident). At their best, westerns have the potential to provide an insightful glimpse into the human condition. Or, they could just simply be well executed, rock-em, shock-em, shoot-em-ups.

I am still not sure that Slow West will enter the pantheon of the films in this genre that I hold in the highest of regards, but I will concede that I enjoyed the film.

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Set in the sweeping expanse of the western frontier of 19th century America (but shot in New Zealand), Slow West is the journey of young Scot nobleman Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he leaves his homeland in search for his love Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius). Along the way, he runs into a variety of characters – most importantly Silas (Executive Producer Michael Fassbender), who is to be his guide. It is clear that Silas is an opportunist of sorts, but how far down the rabbit hole is the question we will ask ourselves, and later discover over the course of the film.

Slow West combines the wild serenity of the environs, with moments of explosive (and sometimes surprising) violence – even by Western standards. And, in the midst of all this, the film finds instances of irony that will make you laugh out loud – seriously, I laughed for at least two prolonged periods.

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While this film may not lay out the big moral questions of those previously mentioned films that I love so much, there is a sequence at the end, which, based on how you view it, may serve as a reminder of what has been gained and lost on this journey propelled by young love.

In addition to the love story, the “stranger in a strange land” theme pervades throughout – so it is apropos that the film is lensed by a “stranger” of sorts – Scottish-born, BAFTA-award winning writer-director John Maclean (Pitch Black Heist). Slow West marks his full-length feature (and Sundance) debut.

It would be remiss of me not to credit the work of all the actors involved for a job well done. Mind you, Smit-McPhee and Fassbender are the central protagonists, but the film felt like a truly collaborative experience.

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In the end, I feel that Slow West is a film that is accessible even if you are not a particular fan of the genre. Or, if like me, you have yet to truly discover how much the genre has to offer you cinematically.

* Slow West was the 2015 Sundance winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize: Drama.

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Review by Iba @
ILuvCinema


What do you think of Slow West? Are you keen on seeing it when it’s released near you?

Music Break: Ten Favorite Oscar-Winning Film Scores

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The Oscars is just a week away, folks! Well, a week ago, as I was listening to 99.5 Classical MPR they were playing my favorite score from Titanic and I knew I had to make a post of it. For this post I’m focusing more on the instrumental themes instead of the songs, hence my exclusion of Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, etc. Y’know, I’m still surprised that some of my all time fave scores did NOT win an Oscar, i.e. Gone with the Wind, Superman, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, The Hours, and The Passion of the Christ, just to name a few. Heck, the one I considered one of the greatest scores ever, Somewhere in Time, wasn’t even nominated! But its composer John Barry had been nominated six times. John Williams, the reigning champion of the most-nominated composer ever with 44 (he beat Alfred Newman who had 43 noms) have made some truly iconic scores, but my faves did not win, so I only included the one I love the most.

Thanks to Wikipedia for making it easy for me to see the winners all the way from the 1930s. Now, I’ve seen most of the films the scores appear in, with a couple of exceptions (Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves). So in any case, here are my Top 10 Fave Oscar-Winning Scores, in order of release:

BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

Ever since I saw this as a young girl with my late mother, few films have touched me as much as Ben-Hur did and Rozsa’s score is one of the reasons it’s such an enduring epic.

 

Lawrence of Arabia – Maurice Jarre

I actually just saw this film two years ago but I’ve heard the soundtrack years before and it’s remained one of my favorites!

 

Out of Africa – John Barry

Ahhh John Barry… nobody could create a more lush and devastatingly gorgeous music that pierces your soul. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m actually afraid the music would actually eclipse the film itself.

 

The Little Mermaid – Alan Menken

I grew up listening to all Disney Princess songs and I somehow identified with Ariel’s loneliness and her yearning to belong in someone else’s world. Mr. Menken is an absolute musical genius in that he somehow could capture the sentiment of her character.

I also have a special fondness for the Caribbean-influenced style of Under the Sea. I LOVE the little crab Sebastian so much I actually bought the tiny stuffed animal, and I’m still using The Little Mermaid‘s beach towel to this day 😀

 

Schindler’s List – John Williams

Perhaps one of the most hauntingly-beautiful music ever conceived. I never NOT tear up whenever I listen to this. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solo adds so much to the piece, making it ever so unforgettable.

 

Beauty & The Beast – Alan Menken

I was just listening to this the other day and out of all the music in the wonderful album, this has to be my favorite. Yes, it even beats the more popular Tale as old as time. The scene itself of the Beast’s transformation is beautifully-done and it always packs such an emotional punch.

 

Dances with Wolves – John Barry

Another one by John Barry, can’t you tell I absolute LOVE this man’s work? I really should see this film already, as I’ve listened to the soundtrack more often than I can count.

 

Titanic – James Horner

THIS is the piece that was played in Classical MPR on my way home from work last week. I’m glad they chose to play Take Her to Sea Mr Murdock instead of the massively popular My Heart Will Go On. I always remember the first time I beheld the majestic ocean liner on the big screen and there’s a lump in my throat when that music came on. There’s such an energy to it, a joyful optimism of that day that’s so infectious, which makes the doom fate of Titanic later on in the film even more heart-wrenching.

 

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Howard Shore

I really think the soundtrack of the entire trilogy is simply exceptional. It’s just as epic as Peter Jackson’s creation and it really transport you into the realm of Middle Earth!

 

The Artist – Ludovic Bource

The strength of a lot of silent films is the soundtrack and The Artist is no exception. I love most of the tracks but this waltz is my absolute favorite. I LOVE Bérénice Bejo in the role, this music is as pretty and playful as Peppy herself, there’s such a wistful nostalgic vibe that takes you back to those Chaplin classics.


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break! Which of these Oscar-winning score(s) is your favorite?

Weekend Roundup & Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Valentine’s Weekend is awesome this year as it’s a company holiday on Monday for President’s Day, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend right? Hope you had a lovely V-day wherever you are. It was super cold Saturday night so we opted for some scrumptious Thai take-out and watched Nightcrawler, that’s the kind of perfect *night in* for us. I’ll have my full review of the Jake Gyllenhaal film but suffice to say it lives up to all the great reviews I’ve been reading.

It’s not surprising that the Fifty Shades movie shatters box office record, though it’s kind of sad such a movie is so wildly popular. There is no way I’d ever subject myself to what Aussie anchor Lisa Wilkinson calls ‘domestic violence dressed up as erotica’ and I’m convinced her review is far more entertaining that the film:


I re-watched two of my favorite period dramas, Belle and Pride & Prejudice, and my love for both films just keep growing. I did go to the cinema Friday night to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and here’s my review:

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I have to admit that the first time I knew about this movie was from this cool poster I saw at a local cinema. It has no info of the director nor the cast but the visual of an elegant closet is so Bond-like and ever so British. But by the time the trailer came out I thought it looked a wee bit silly, and so it wasn’t until the positive reviews coming out that I was excited to see it.

Well, the movie is VERY British indeed, both an homage AND a spoof to the 007 movies, and as a fan of the genre, that definitely appeals to me. Refined British gent Colin Firth plays as one of the Kingsman agents, Harry Hart, who’s as proper as he is bad ass. The first act was basically him recruiting a replacement for his fellow agent who died on a mission in the Middle East. Harry (aka Galahad) owed his life to Lancelot (another code name inspired by British Knights) and thus he felt compelled to recruit his friend’s teenage son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). The film moved along swiftly and director Matthew Vaughn infused it with tongue-in-cheek humor and a huge dose of riotous fun from start to finish. The whole sequence at a ski resort is very Bond-like, but think Roger Moore instead of Daniel Craig in tone, complete with a gorgeous female assassin wearing razor-sharp blades as prosthetic legs.

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Apparently this was based on a comic-book written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (the two also collaborated on Wanted). The story itself is actually pretty solid and not all about silly good fun. There’s a bit of a father/son bond between Harry and Eggsy, and a bit of a coming-of-age story in regards to Eggsy. During one of the intense Kingsman training, Mark Strong‘s character told him to ‘get rid of the chip on his shoulder,’ and Eggsy’s slowly coming into his own as the film progresses.

As the film’s master villain is Samuel L. Jackson, as internet billionaire Richmond Valentine that’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than Tomorrow Never Dies‘ lame media mogul Elliot Carver. He even has his very own henchwoman deadlier than Jaws & Oddjob combined, in the form of dark-haired beauty Sofia Boutella. Jackson is obviously having a good time playing Valentine. He speaks with an amusing lisp (which the actor apparently had in real life) and can’t stand the sight of blood. Of course he has to be some kind of a psychopath hellbent on *saving the planet* as it were, but in his own twisted way. It’s an interesting social commentary on how our addiction to our handphones just might lead us to our own demise. Apparently, the broadcast signal sent by Valentine to those hand phones cause people to become extremely violent.

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It’s yet another fun collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). This could very well be Vaughn’s version of a Bond flick, that is if the Bond producers would allow him to make a hyper violent R-rated film. I knew this would be violent but I didn’t know it’d be THIS violent, I mean there are some intense and extremely bloody fight sequences that made even John Wick seems tame. One sequence inside a church reminds me of this scene in 300 when Leonidas single-handedly fought all those Persians, but without the stylized slo-mo. I do think the foul language & violence are excessive, gratuitous and more graphic than it needs to be, even if the fight sequences are well-styled. There’s one crazy head-explosions scene that’s absolutely bonkers, set to the Pomp and Circumstance Marches no less! You can’t help but laugh in its absurdity and the fact that the filmmakers had the balls to do it. SPOILER ALERT: We’ve seen plenty of scenes of the White House exploding on screen, but never the Commander in Chief himself, especially one who is still in power!

I think what makes Kingsman works is its self-awareness and that it doesn’t to be a heavy movie. It’s ‘boys just wanna have fun’ type of flick, packed with wit, dry humor and of guns & gadgetry. The set pieces are great to look at, especially the Kingsman headquarter that resembles Drax’ mansion in Moonraker. And of course, those sleek, sharp suits that’s practically a character in itself. I saw Sam Jackson in a talk show the other day wearing one of the Kingsman menswear line that’s crafted especially for the film, dang that is some exquisite tailoring. It was fun seeing Mr. Darcy being so ridiculously bad ass here. I read that Colin Firth did most of his own stunts, which is quite impressive and somehow he still looked quite elegant doing it. “Manners maketh man” is his motto after all. I quite like newcomer Taron Egerton here as well, I actually think he might fit the role better than Kick-Ass’ star Aaron Johnson who was offered the role initially. It’s always nice seeing the always-reliable Mark Strong having a bit of fun here and there are also some amusing cameo from Mark Hamill and Michael Caine.

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Overall it’s definitely a fun spy flick that works in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Kingsman is gleefully over-the-top, relentlessly boisterous and unapologetically un-PC. If you’re a fan of Vaughn’s or Guy Ritchie movies, you should enjoy this entertaining twist of the spy genre. Though the ultra violence and some offensive content is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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So what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen Kingsman, what did YOU think?