Oscars 2019 – Reflections on winners, memorable moments

Quick confession: I’m copying this post from 2015. Well whaddayaknow, four years later, I am still loyal to tradition of watching the Oscars in my PJs live tweetin’ with my laptop!!


Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

  1. Best picture: ROMA Green Book
  2. Best director: Spike Lee Alfonso Cuarón
  3. Best lead actor: Cristian Bale Rami Malek
  4. Best lead actress: Olivia Colman
  5. Best supporting actor: Sam ElliotMahershala Ali 
  6. Best supporting actress: Regina King –If Beale Street Could Talk
  7. Best animated feature: Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse
  8. Best adapted screenplay: Can You Ever Forgive Me? BlackKklansman
  9. Best original screenplay: The Favourite Green Book
  10. Best original score: Black Panther
  11. Best cinematography: A Star Is Born ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón)
  12. Best Foreign Language Film: Shoplifters ROMA
  13. Best original song: Shallow (A Star Is Born)
  14. Best Film Editing: BlackkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody
  15. Best Make Up and Hair Styling: VICE
  16. Best Production Design: Black Panther
  17. Best Costume Design: Black Panther
  18. Best Sound Editing: First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
  19. Best Mixing: First Man  First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
  20. Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War First Man

Well, I did a pretty awful job this year, ahah. I only got 7 right out of the 20 categories I predicted.

The one I’m surprised by the most is Mahershala Ali as his first Best Supporting Actor win was just a few years ago, but hey I’m by no means disappointed.

 

Red Carpet Stuff

I didn’t actually watch this LIVE on TV, just following Twitter for the Oscars red carpet coverage, as I do year after year.

These are some of my favorite dresses of the night:

I LOVE seeing colors on the red carpet. There might be some I missed but of the ones I saw in my timeline, these are the ones that I think are the prettiest.


I feel like Cate Blanchett often wear sea-foam green color on the red carpet and she looks absolutely gorgeous in this floral number. Amy Adams looks like a mermaid in that pearl gown and it highlights her figure nicely. Michelle Yeoh & Angela Bassett both proof you can look perfectly glamorous at any age!

Dapper men on the red carpet!

Well, let’s just get to the main event shall we?

Favorite Speeches:

Olivia’s reaction when she heard her name was priceless… then came her speech. Endearing. Adorable. Humble. Hilarious. Moving. If there’s a Best Speech award, this Queen wins it hands down!

“God is Good ALL the time… and ALL the time, GOD IS GOOD!” – AMEN Regina King!!

I so wanted Ruth Carter to win because I adore every single one of those Black Panther costumes!!!

This is the one category I want A Star Is Born to win… Shallow is a beautiful, emotional song and boy… that Oscar performance was something else!


Fave Moments

Woo wee!! Captain America is my fave hero of the MCU… and Chris Evans is the absolute embodiment of him. Not to mention he’s looking dapper af!! 😉

I literally just watched BlackKlansman last night, just in the nick of time before the Oscars telecast. Thrilled to see it won Best Adapted Screenplay! But that great moment is topped by Spike Lee jumping Samuel L. Jackson on stage before he received his award. Yeah!!!

Confession: It’s only my second Spike Lee movie (yes I gotta rectify that soon, starting with Do The Right Thing!)

Is there a more iconic musical performance duo??

Final Thoughts

I know lots of people are upset with two of the categories… Best Actor (Rami Malek) and Best Picture (Green Book).

Haven’t seen BohemianRhapsody yet but can’t help but really astounded/baffled/ bewildered by Malek’s win. Was hoping anyone but him in this category, especially Bale.

As for Best Picture… well I actually enjoyed Green Book and didn’t learn about the controversies until later. I still stand by that it’s a good movie (it’s on my Top 10 of the year) though after having seen BlacKkKlansman last night, I think that Spike Lee film should’ve won over Green Book!!

We can debate endlessly about who should or more deserving to win, etc., but y’know what, it makes me glad to see the diversity of the winners. Here are four of the acting category winners…

Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Regina King, Mahershala Ali – Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

Let’s hope the diversity and inclusion extends to FEMALE FILMMAKERS in the future!! Come on The Academy, there are a plethora of great work by female filmmakers worth to be in the Best Picture category, especially Leave No Trace.

Lastly, about the host-less Oscars… I don’t really miss it, but hey if we have to have a host again, we should have these three funny ladies host next year!


So what’s your thoughts on the 2019 Oscar winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?

Eclectic Weekend Roundup: Great Expectations (1998), About A Boy (2002), Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

Well there goes the weekend… it seems to fly by so fast as it always does. I’m super excited for my upcoming trip to Montréal next week, we’ll be there for four nights and then three nights in Québec City. The Airbnb flats we’ll be staying at are gorgeous and they’re both right downtown too! I’ll be doing a Canada-related post next week just before my temporary blogging hiatus.

Well, this weekend I ended up watching quite a bit of movies! Two of them are ones I thought I had seen before, but when I saw it I realize I had not seen them. Have that ever happened to you? Maybe it’s my hapless memory playing tricks on me, as I remember some scenes vividly but maybe I just saw clips of them a long time ago. Anyway, here’s my quick thoughts on those films.

Great Expectations (1998)

GreatExpectations1998Somehow I didn’t realize this Charles Dickens’ modern adaptation was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Believe it or not but I’ve never read Dickens’ novel but I knew they had made a ton of liberties with this adaptation, even changing the protagonist’s name from Pip to Finn and instead of becoming a wealthy Gentleman, he became a successful artist. But the essence of the story remains, as was the plot about unrequited love between Finn and Estella (Ethan Hawke & Gwyneth Paltrow).

I think both are perfectly cast. Hawke’s got that pinning look down pat every time he looks at Paltrow, and she definitely captured that ‘icy rich girl’ aura. The entire ensemble is stellar, with Chris Cooper, Anne Bancroft, Robert De Niro rounding up the cast. The cinematography was gorgeous and of course when I looked it up it was done by the genius Emmanuel Lubezki. My favorite part is definitely the music by Patrick Doyle which I have highlighted in this post.

I think the film itself was good but not as great as I had hoped considering the talents involved. It does make me want to see the more conventional adaptation set in the same era as it is in the book, thankfully there’s the 2012 BBC version with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter on Netflix!

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About A Boy (2002)

AboutABoy2002I seem to have a distinct memory of having seen this one so I might have a long while ago but my memory of it is scant so it feels like I had just seen it for the first time. This is a coming-of-age story with a twist as the 12-year-old Marcus is the one who helped 38-year-old Will grow up.

Hugh Grant is wonderful as Will, a cynical, immature young man who holds no job whatsoever and is living off of the royalty of her dad’s famous Christmas song. It’s so cute to see Nicholas Hoult as a dorky kid back then, as he’s now grown up to be a tall and good looking young man. I love the two female cast here too, Toni Collette as Marcus’ unstable hippie mom and Rachel Weisz as Will’s love interest.

Based on a novel by Nick Hornby and directed by brothers Chris & Paul Weitz, I really enjoyed this one. Yes there are predictable moments throughout, but it’s got genuine humor and a big, big heart. 

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Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

UnderCherryMoon1986Now, I saw this one simply because Prince had directed AND starred in it. My pal Becky (Prairiegirl) lent me the dvd she rented from Netflix and though the movie’s *won* a bunch of Razzies, I simply had to see it out of sheer curiosity.

Gigolo Christopher Tracy (Prince) and Tricky (Prince’s real-life pal Jerome Benton) are two friends from Miami who’s scamming rich women in the French Riviera. But of course Christopher and Mary, one of the girls he was supposed to scam end up falling in love. The story is so cheesy and inherently silly, but it’s still amusing to watch simply because it’s Prince!

As a huge fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, it’s also fun to see her in big screen debut at the age of 26. She looked so gorgeous and fresh, and though she and Prince didn’t really have a good chemistry together, the moment the two characters saw each other for the first time was quite a hoot. She was draped in a bath towel in the middle of her own lavish birthday party and Prince was dressed in one of his extravagant suits that shows his lower back.

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Though I can’t say it’s a good movie, I still think it’s quite watchable and you could even say this is one of those so-bad-it’s-good variety. There are scenes of Prince playing piano, singing and dancing, so it’s definitely well-worth a watch for his fans. Though he did direct another feature film after this one (the sequel to Purple Rain), I’d say filmmaking wasn’t really his forte. Even Kristin herself didn’t speak kindly of this movie (per IMDb trivia) and I can’t say I blamed her. Oh, apparently Terrence Stamp was going to play Kristin’s dad but he was replaced by Steven Berkoff (Bond nerds like me would know him as a Bond villain in Octopussy).

All in all I didn’t regret watching this one. The retro costumes and Mediterranean scenery are beautiful. Apparently it was shot in color but presented in black & white.

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Besides these three films, I also rewatched Captain America: Civil War again in IMAX 3D and I actually like it even more. I appreciate the stuff I enjoyed from the first viewing even more so this time around, and I wasn’t as bothered by the slow start.


So what did YOU watch this weekend? Anything good?

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The morning after … Oscars 2014 – Recap and Reflections

Oscars2014Recap

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

Well, first things first…

The Winners!

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

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

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

Favorite Winners of the Night

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

These are my two favorites:

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

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

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

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Dapper men on the red carpet!

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

BenedictPhotobombU2

Favorite Speeches:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Highlights

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

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

So how did Ellen do as host?

EllenOscar2014Host

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

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

Here are some of my favorite jokes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McQueenLeap12YearsOscar2014

Least fave moments:

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

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

PSH_MemoriamTribute


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

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Musings on BAFTA Awards 2014

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

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

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

AustenlandBannerRobocopPoster

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

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

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

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

BAFTA_ActingWinners

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

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

BAFTA_HelenMirren

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

BAFTA_BestDirector_Film_Winners

Now to the question of Best Film of the Year.

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

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

Other BAFTA winners I’m thrilled about: 

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

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

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

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


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

Musings on Dolby Atmos Cinema Sound Technology

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Dolby Labs has been supplying Hollywood films with their audio system for years, the first film to have use its technology was Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. By the mid 70s most major Hollywood films started using Dolby sound and today it’s still the most widely use surround sound system in theaters across the world. It’s also a stable in home video such as DVD and Bluray discs. Although the last couple of years, Bluray have been using Dolby’s competitor, DTS or Digital Surround Sound as the primary sound coding for movies in that format. DVD still uses Dolby Digital.

Dolby always try to come up a new surround sound format to get the audiences back into theaters, throughout the 70s and 80s, Dolby Surround Sound were used in most Hollywood produced and some foreign films. But in the early 90s, they came out with a new sound format simply called Dolby Digital and the first film to have been recorded in that format was Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. My first experience hearing Dolby Digital was in 1995 when I saw Crimson Tide, right then and there I fell in love with this new surround sound. A few years later, they came out with another surround sound format, this one was called Dolby Digital EX and the first film to have used that sound was Star Wars Ep.1 and I was fortunate enough to have experience hearing that sound in a theater and again I fell in love. Well fast forward to 2012 and Dolby decided to introduced the world to another surround sound format, this one is called Dolby Atmos and the first movie to have been encoded with this new sound was Pixar’s Brave.

I’ve been reading about this new format for months now but since I don’t live in a big city, I wasn’t able to experience it until our local theater Showplace ICON here in Minneapolis, MN decided to revamp the theater and included Dolby Atmos. The movie I saw was Gravity. So what is Dolby Atmos you might ask. Well if you really want to know all the technical stuff about it, you can check out Dolby’s site where they explain in more details.

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Basically, a typical theater have a 5.1 or 7.1 surround speakers set up, center, left/right and sub-woofer speakers are hidden behind the screen and the surround speakers are placed on the left/right and back of the theater. But with Atmos, they included additional speakers on ceilings to make it a more immersive experience (see image at the top). Now before I experienced this new sound format, I didn’t think I would hear any difference from other surround sound, to me I still think IMAX’s loss-less surround is still the best in cinemas today. Well after experiencing it, I think it may be one of the most immersive surround sound I’ve ever heard. I first saw Gravity at digital IMAX theater and I thought the surround sound there was perfect. Boy when I went to see it with the Atmos sound, it totally blew me away.

“Just as 3D offers added visual dimension, Dolby Atmos creates a virtual reality of sound, which fully immerses the audience in the aural journey,” Gravity‘s director Alfonso Cuarón said in a statement, as quoted by LA Times.

The separation of each surround channel was so discreet and clear that I felt I was in space with the character in the movie. The opening scene where the music came on and then the title of the movie appears was loud (not in a bad way) and clear that I felt the sound in my stomach and chest, it’s hard to explain but you have to experience it to know how it feels. Also, when some of the characters speaks, the sound was able to place their voice where it should be. For example when Clooney’s character was talking in one scene, he’s in top left corner of the screen and we hear his voice from the top left corner of the theater, it’s pretty cool! I know most surround sound can do that effect but with Atmos, you feel like his voice was right behind you, it’s so clear and didn’t feel like gimmicky to me at all. I think this sound format goes well with the spectacle you see on the screen, especially 3D effects. The explosions and clashes also sounded so realistic that you’d think you’re in the space ship with Sandra Bullock. If there’s a theater in your area that’s equipped Dolby Atmos, I’d highly you go check it out, it’s an quite an experience. Now I think this kind of surround sound only work with spectacle movies like Gravity, Thor, The Hobbit and other big tent pole pictures. I don’t think it would sound any different if they use it for comedies or dramas.

Currently Dolby Atmos is only available at the cinemas, there’s been some discussions that Dolby might consider bringing it to home theater and I can’t wait for that to happen. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to see more movies with this new soundtrack. Now I still think IMAX’s lossless surround sound is still the best but maybe I’ll change my mind once I see more movies with Atmos sound. In fact, I’m looking forward to comparing the two when I go see The Hobbit 2, it will be shown at both IMAX and Atmos equipped theaters.


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Well that’s my thoughts on Dolby Atmos, have you seen a movie with this new surround sound format? Would love to hear what you think of it.

FlixChatter Review: Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY

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One of the power of great movies is that it gives us ‘escapism,’ a relief from whatever problems we have in our daily life for an hour or two. But a truly great film gives us something more… more to take in, to marvel at, and to reflect on. Gravity, to me, is one of those films.

When the film starts, we’re introduced to the two main characters of the film, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer in her first space mission, and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney being his gregarious self), a veteran astronaut who’s much more comfortable being in space. They’re working on repairing a space shuttle and things seem to be working just fine. The mood’s playful as Kowalski’s talking to the folks down in Houston (voiced by Ed Harris) and joking around. It’s an effective exposition that help the audience get acquainted with these two characters before their real journey begin.

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Suddenly Houston warns them to abort their mission as an exploded Russian satellite comes speeding through their orbit. There’s barely any time for the crew to move to safety when flying debris rips their shuttle to shreds and Stone ends up drifting into space, spinning uncontrollably. When I first saw the trailer, I have to admit I wasn’t immediately intrigued by it. It looks like just another space thriller, I thought, but when I saw it in context, I had a totally different reaction. The suspense felt all too real that I remember feeling panic-stricken like Bullock’s character in the film as things go haywire on screen, made even more tense by the haunting score.

Gravity is one of the most immersive cinematic experience I’ve had in a long time. I feel like I was being transported to another realm as I was watching the film. There are some humorous moments to help ease tension, but the action sequences were quite relentless and kept me at the edge of my seat. In fact, there are a few genuinely terrifying scenes that made me gasp for breath a few times. Yet there is a deep spiritual quality about it in its quieter moments as we’re alone with the character. As I learn more about Dr. Stone and being with her in her desperate hour, the humanity of the story becomes even more palpable. This isn’t a film about space as it’s about people, reminding us once again what truly makes us human. The ‘detachment’ and ‘letting go’ themes are metaphors for what we too encounter in our journeys on earth. 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.

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Cuarón may not be the most prolific filmmakers out there, as his last feature film was Children of Men in 2006. It’s one of my favorite science fiction films and is already a sci-fi classic. You’d think would be hard to top but somehow the Mexican director managed to do just that with this one. I can’t put into words just how striking this film is, the long takes throughout the films are stupendous to behold. We might’ve seen images of earth from above from various space documentaries, but somehow cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki makes the view look even more dazzling. I can’t speak about the technical aspects of the special effects but Cuarón has a way of making us feel as if we’re actually there, in space, with the astronauts. The degree of the visual realism is so incredible that it looked as if the film were actually shot in space. It’s hard to explain but during the detachment scene, there’s a subtle technique that enables us to “sense” the surroundings from Dr. Stone’s point of view.

On top of the visual artistry, the use of sound is unlike any other. I feel like the whole theater rattles a bit as the music roars but then the silence feels just as deafening. Kudos to Steven Price for his magnificent score, as it adds so much to the film. It starts off with a clasic orchestral style but then it switches to a heart-pounding, nerve-rattling tone as the terror unfolds on screen. I don’t describe hardly any film as being hypnotic, but I think it’s an apt sentiment to use here as I was absolutely transfixed.

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Despite its striking beauty and spectacular special effects, Gravity doesn’t fall into the trap of ‘style over substance.’ In fact, it’s one of those films that give you as much food for thought as feast for the senses, allowing us to marvel at the beauty of our universe but also the power of the human spirit. As a person of faith, I really appreciate the theme of rebirth and letting go of the past that serves as our own personal ‘chain’ if you will.  There’s a message of hope that resonates deeply with me, that in my darkest hour, I’m not really alone.

Another outstanding aspect of the film is the performances. Though Clooney’s name is on the marquee too, it’s ultimately Sandra Bullock‘s film and she owns the role of the brilliant but vulnerable Dr. Stone. Apparently she’s the third choice after Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman both passed on the film, but now I can’t picture anyone else in that role. I have always liked her as an actress and certainly has the talent and versatility to do well in both comedy and drama. Under certain guidance though, a director could take an actor’s performance to another level and that’s the case here. Suffice to say, her performance here easily surpasses everything else she’s done to date. I don’t think people would be crying foul when once again we’d see her name amongst 2014 Oscar’s Best Actress nominees.

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Speaking of Oscar, this will be the film I’d be rooting for. It’s a family project of sort as as Alfonso collaborated with his son Jonás Cuarón on the script. It’s definitely a career-best for pretty much for the Alfonso Cuarón, and this would easily be one of those films people would be studying in the future.

Final Thoughts: I’m running out of adjectives already to describe this film. One final observation – for a film set entirely in space with its harsh, dangerous environment, this is not a cold film. It’s perhaps one of the most emotionally-gratifying film I’ve seen this year, and it also boasts a finale that makes you want to get up and cheer. A triumphant film through and through. See it and experience it for yourself, on the biggest screen you can possibly find. For once I actually recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D, trust me, it’s worth it.

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5 out of 5 reels

Anybody else’s seen this yet? I’m very interested to hear what you think.

Weekend Viewing Roundup and World War Z review

Hello all, hope you have a great weekend. Today is the Autumnal Equinox, that is the first day of Fall! I’m sooo lovin’ the crisp, cool air of Autumn! 😀 So did you hit the theaters this weekend? Perhaps you went to see PRISONERS, billed as the first adult drama of the Fall season. If you’ve read Ted’s review from Friday, sounds like it’s worth a watch despite the long running time of more than 2.5 hours! As for me, I’d rather rent that film later on because of that running time.

Gravity_ThumbnailI did see Gravity last week and this is my quick thought on that film:

It’s perhaps THE best 3D film I saw all year and it’s one of those films that’s best to experience on the big screen or even IMAX. I can’t review it until its US release date of October 4 but let me just say it lives up to the hype. Always nice when that happens!

HTTYD_ThumbnailI also rewatched How to Train Your Dragon, which was as much fun as the first time I saw it. This is the fourth time we watched our Blu-ray, so the re-playability value is great. It always made us regret that we didn’t get to see this on the big screen! So when the sequel comes out next year, we’ll make sure to catch it on IMAX. The flying sequences with the Night Fury a.k.a. Toothless is spectacular!

Now here’s my review of…

WORLD WAR Z

WWZ_banner On Friday night, we managed to watch the unrated version of World War Z. I had been curious about this movie for some time and I heard complaints from people the fact that the film has a PG-13 rating. Now, having seen the unrated version which shows some of the really brutal scenes, including a hand getting chopped off with blood spluttering all over, I’d think that the film would probably make less of an impact in its toned-down version. Ted has posted his full review a few months ago so I’m not going to rehash the plot again. Besides, all you need to know is that a virus has somehow turned a large population of the world into the undead and it’s quickly spreading as every person who got bitten immediately turns into a flesh-eating zombie! Now, as a non-fan of the Zombie sub-genre, I wasn’t too keen on this film initially. But the more I read about it, including the numerous production issues and multiple rewrites, I’m curious how this film would turn out. Well, I actually quite like this one. I think the scale of just how catastrophic the zombie attacks are, devouring major cities in a matter of minutes, is pretty well-done. The personal story of Brad Pitt‘s character and his family isn’t as compelling as I had thought, and I agree with Ted that Mireille Enos‘ role who seemed intriguing at first ended up being nothing more than just the worried wife as her husband is out saving the world. WWZ_stills The film also has a pretty strong third act at a W.H.O. facility, which gives us a nice break from the herd of zombies as a small band of human survivors try to outsmart remaining zombies in a deserting wing of the UN building. Interesting to see Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as “W.H.O. Doctor.” As you know, a couple of months after the film’s release, the BBC announced he would be portraying the title role in Doctor Who. Pretty uncanny, huh? [SPOILER ALERT – highlight text below to read] One of the gripes I have with the movie is regarding the demise of the young virologist Andrew Fassbach who’s on mission to South Korea to find the source of the zombie outbreak. I mean seriously, with all of those zombies all around him, he actually perished when he tripped on the plane’s rear door and accidentally shot himself!! Unbelievable! Is this one of those last-minute rewrites that they didn’t even bother to figure out a decent way to go for the doctor?? I thought that was pretty lame that it took me out of the movie for a bit. Anybody else bothered by that?? I also heard that this finale is a result of one of those rewrites, which gives the audience a more hopeful ending. My impression is that the finale is a bit too good to be true, but I guess it’s got a perfect set up for a sequel. Props for Marc Forster for delivering an action-packed zombie thriller that’s both thrilling and suspenseful. Instead of a typical monster horror flick, World War Z is more in the vein of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion which also deals with an infectious disease that spreads quickly. I think the scariest part is that those two films make me think that this kind of calamity is perhaps not so implausible. Maybe we should give this CDC article a read then, you just never know, ahah.

Three and a half stars out of Five
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Well, that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU see this weekend?