Thursday Movie Picks: Amateur Sleuth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… AMATEUR SLEUTH.

This is a fun topic and there are tons to pick from! I always like to mix classic and contemporary movies, so that’s what I’ll do again here.

SPELLBOUND (1945)

Spellbound Poster

A psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.

Any chance I can talk about Gregory Peck I’ll jump at it, ha! This is the film I fell for the ridiculously handsome classic actor with a swoon-worthy deep voice, who was only 29 at the time in his fourth feature film. It set off an obsession for the next year, now I owned pretty much ALL of his movies!

Gregory Peck Ingrid Bergman Spellbound

Can’t believe it’s a decade ago since I saw this, I have to rewatch this soon. It’s actually the first time I saw Ingrid Bergman as well, and both of them light up the screen as they fall in love. I like the double mystery of solving Peck’s character’s amnesia issue through psychoanalysis, and figuring out the killer of the real doctor. Classic Hitchcock in terms of direction, camera work, visual style, mood, etc. featuring a brief but memorable the dream sequence by Salvador Dali. I also love Miklós Rózsa‘s astounding score, perhaps my fave of all Hitchcock movies. The final sequence is indelible as well, which has been copied many times over by other filmmakers.


REAR WINDOW (1954)

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A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

I hadn’t planned on picking two Alfred Hitchcock films here, but well, he was the master of mystery noir. This one also features one of my fave classic actors, James Stewart, and another classic beauty Grace Kelly. 

This is definitely one of the best films confined in a single location, and the set design is absolutely astounding. Apparently the set was constructed specially for this movie, on the whole they built about 30 apartments and about half was fully furnished! I also love the costume design by the legendary Edith Head (notably all of Grace Kelly’s gorgeous dresses), I’m shocked she was NOT nominated for an Oscar for her work here.

Rear Window Costume Design

This movie was my January 2015 Blindspot pick, and I loved it! Despite the lighter, playful tone, the film packs a lot of interesting themes about psychology, human nature that are intrinsic in most of Hitchcock’s films.


BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

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After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption.

I gotta include one of my favorite comic-book films here. Bruce Wayne aka Batman is an amateur super sleuth and crime fighter. The first of Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight trilogy shows Bruce’s foray as a detective, teaming with up with Gotham City’s police commissioner Gordon. I LOVE the dynamic between Christian Bale and Gary Oldman, two of the best actors working today.

Batman Begins -Batman Commissioner Gordon

Batman didn’t just bring down crime lord Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) but also exposed the real villain Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the radical leader of League of Shadows who wants to destroy Gotham. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think of this film as a noir thriller that happens to have a superhero character in it, and I’m excited that the upcoming THE BATMAN will show the caped crusader in his detective mode than what we’ve seen in other films!

ZODIAC (2007)

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In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.

I caught this one almost a decade after its release, which apparently didn’t do too well at the box office. It’s surprising given the star-studded cast, but then again this was a year before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man and long before Mark Ruffalo became his fellow Avenger as the Hulk. Interesting how the three leads have now become Marvel stars!

Jake Gyllenhaal Robert Downey Jr

At almost 2.5 hours long, this David Fincher murder mystery is more of a slo-burn film but an effective and suspenseful one. There are some lighter moments too between Jake Gyllenhaal and RDJ, as the film focuses on the life of the detectives on top of being a whodunnit type film. The sinister part is that the story is based on real events in the San Francisco Bay area, adapted from Robert Graysmith’s non-fiction book of the same name (Gyllenhall played Graysmith in the film).


So which are YOUR favorite movies about amateur sleuth?

Thursday Movie Picks – Oscar Winners Edition: Best Actor and Best Actress

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Oscar Winners Edition: Best Actor and Best Actress

Ok since there’s no rules as to which time period to pick from, I selected one classic and one contemporary actor and actress who I think are worthy winners. For the fun of it, I also picked one actor + actress who I don’t think deserve to win on the year they’re nominated.

In any case, here are my picks:

FAVE BEST ACTRESS WINNERS

Vivien Leigh – Gone With the Wind (1939)

Scarlett O’Hara is not exactly an easy woman to love, she’s practically an anti-heroine which in and of itself is quite revolutionary. Vivien Leigh was primarily a stage actress and was in a few plays with her second husband Laurence Olivier. She’s perhaps one of the first classic actress I’ve seen growing up… I must have been in my pre-teen when I first saw Gone With the Wind, and I’m still in awe of her performance to this day. To think that she almost didn’t get the role as producer David O. Selznick considered her to be ‘too British’ at one time. I can’t imagine another actress in the role.

Helen Mirren – The Queen (2006)

Ok so I pick another British actress, I didn’t exactly plan for that. I wanted to include someone from the 2000s and the one I thought of right away is the Dame’s performance as Queen Elizabeth I. Of course by now there have been another great memorable performance of the Queen in her later years (Olivia Colman in The Crown), but I think Helen Mirren’s portrayal is still an iconic one. Her physical transformation with the wig and glasses, complete with her facial expression and slightly downturned mouth, voice delivery, everything is just spot on. Even the Queen’s OCD behavior was accounted for based on Mirren’s research. Per IMDb trivia, Mirren was so convincing that by the end of production, crew members who had been accustomed to slouching or relaxing when they addressed her were standing straight up and respectfully folding their hands behind their backs.

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Least Fave Best Actress Winner

Gwyneth Paltrow – Shakespeare In Love (1998)

I still think it’s practically scandalous that Paltrow won over Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth. I mean, generally speaking Blanchett can run circles around Paltrow all day long, but I’ve seen both films and in no universe did Paltrow gave a better performance in their respective films.


FAVE BEST ACTOR WINNERS

Gregory Peck – To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Is it a surprise I picked this gentleman? If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’d know I was obsessed with Mr. Peck a few years ago and have blogged about him repeatedly. This was actually his fourth Oscar nominations following The Keys of the Kingdom (1945), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and Twelve O’Clock High (1949). I’ve seen them all and they’re all terrific Oscar-worthy performances, but I think Atticus Finch so tailor-made for him that he practically become the character and be forever be known for that role. It’s no surprise The American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century and Peck’s performance certainly helped cement that in history.

Jamie Foxx – Ray (2004)

When I first saw this film years ago, I was so blown away by Foxx’s performance. I think this was the first time I saw him in a lead role and man, did he kill it. He was so dedicated to the role that he attended classes at the Braille Institute, and he also had to wear eye prosthetics to make him look authentically blind for the entire shoot. I can’t imagine having to endure something like that, AND have to act at the same time.  Plus the musically-gifted actor also played the piano himself, though it was Ray Charles’ voice that was heard in the film. His win marked the first actor to win Best Actor in a music/musical movie since Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964)

Least Fave Best Actor Winner

Roberto Benigni – Life Is Beautiful (1997)

I loved the film but honestly I didn’t think Benigni’s performance was Oscar-worthy. Especially given he was nominated alongside Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and Edward Norton in American History X. His Oscar speech was a hoot though irritating at the same time. In any case, his win marked only the second time that an actor had directed himself in an Oscar-winning performance, the first was Laurence Olivier for Hamlet (1948).


So which Best Actor and/or Actress winners are your favorite?

FIVE FILMS FOREVER Blogathon

New year, new blogathon – say hello to ‘Five Films Forever’ blogathon … spearheaded by my friend Claire from Cinematic Delights.

The challenge:

You wake up to eerie silence. You call out ‘Hello?’ but no-one answers. You’re alone except for a film projector and speakers with infinite battery life and five of your favourite films at the foot of the projector. You have nowhere to be so start watching the films. What are they, where are you and how will your story play out?

  • My fate: Where have you been deserted – are you adrift like Hanks in Castaway or are you an end of the world survivor like Smith in I Am Legend?
    It’s way too depressing to imagine myself as the lone survivor in an end-of-the-world scenario… so let’s say I end up adrift in an island somewhere in the Caribbean, but somehow I gained access to an empty vacation house equipped with a state-of-the-art home projector theater system 😉 AND an adorable cat to keep me company! 😺
  • My finale: How will your time alone end? Will you be saved by Spielberg or will you live happily ever after on your own like Disney?
    After a few months of soaking up the sun and enjoying everything the vacation house has to offer, my blissful holiday  castaway period comes to an end when a cruise ship suddenly docks and the Tom Bateman lookalike captain rescues me back to civilization! 😍

  • My five films: What are the five films you would happily watch for the foreseeable future and why?

I had participated in a similar blogathon over a decade ago where I had to pick 8 films that I’d take with me if I were stranded on a desert island. This is a lot harder as I have fewer movies to pick. Looking back at that post, those films are still my favorites but out of that list, there is only one I’d still include in this list.

So here are my FIVE FILMS picks:

1. Roman Holiday

I knew I had to include one classic movie in my collection, and given my love for Gregory Peck, it kinda narrow things down for me 😉 This William Wyler rom-com is one of those movies that’s guaranteed to lift your mood whenever you watch it. The plot may seem straight out of a Disney princess movie but there’s SO much more and it’s deeper than meets the eye… radiant Audrey Hepburn played a princess of an unnamed European country who falls for a handsome, charming American journalist. An eternally enchanting film with a poignant ending that sticks with you long after the end credits.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I enjoy a good superhero movie, so you’ve got to look among the MCU. Well, the Captain America movies make up one of the best trilogies ever and The Winter Soldier is the best of the three. I’ve watched this movie over a dozen times… it’s so immensely watchable, full of amazingly-crafted action scenes that I can watch on repeat. The friendship between Capt and Bucky is the heart of not just the trilogy, but it strongly impacts the storyline of The Avengers as well.

3. The Gods Must Be Crazy

After enjoying a delightful rom-com and a dynamic action movie, it’s time for a genuinely hilarious comedy. It’s really not a tough pick for me as I’ve loved this 80s classic since I was a kid. I used to watch this with my late mom and two brothers and it still made me laugh out loud to this day. The story of a traveling Bushman who encounters modern civilization is simply brilliant. There’s a certain timelessness to its humor, the witty script and slapstick comedic scenes (courtesy of N!xau as Xi and Marius Weyers as Mr. Steyn) always makes me cry with laughter. To this day I’d still say ‘ayayayayay’ whenever I remember this movie 😀 Oh and that Land Rover is a character in its own right!

4. Monsters, Inc.

When you’re all alone in a desert island, you’ve got to have something to constantly lift your spirits. I love Pixar movies and Monsters, Inc. is one of my all time favorites! Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) is one of my top 10 Pixar characters, and the movie still remains one of the best from Pixar even two decades later. I actually rewatched this recently and I loved it even more. There are so many details I appreciate now that I missed back then… but the genius is in the story (script by Pete Docter, natch) and the memorable characters.

5. Sense & Sensibility

Well, this last pick should be no surprise to most of you. After all, this is my favorite film of all time… one I’ve watched countless times and one that never fails to move me. Elinor Dashwood and Colonel Brandon are two of my all time favorite cinematic characters… in fact, I love the latter much I actually named my lead character in my film Hearts Want after him (Lily Brandon – there’s also the ‘li’ from Elinor).

Sense & Sensibility is actually not my fave Jane Austen novel (that would be Persuasion), but Emma Thompson‘s script and Ang Lee‘s direction actually elevated the material and made it work perfectly for the screen. The agony of unrequited love & ecstasy of finally finding love is realized so beautifully, all mixed in with sharp wit and humor that makes it so fun to watch every time. It’s also a gorgeous movie to get lost in… isn’t escapism what everyone wants in a movie? The acting, scenery, costumes, art direction, music, etc. all work harmoniously to make this a timeless masterpiece. I certainly don’t mind watching this on repeat if I ever get stuck somewhere.


So what do you say, friends? What 5 movies would YOU pick if you were stranded? Let’s hear it!

Musings on Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind documentary

I’ve subscribed to HBO for a month so I could watch season 3 of Westworld. Well, I finished on Friday night and this documentary’s key art on the HBO’s interface and decided to watch it.

The film began with the narration of Natalie Wood‘s own daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, who was only 11 years old when her mother died, saying that so much has been written about her mother’s mysterious death that it practically overshadowed who she was as a person. I think that’s a real tragedy because as I was watching the film, I learned just how accomplished she was as an actress.

Now, I personally wasn’t at all familiar with the legendary performer. I’ve only seen one of her films, Rebel Without A Cause, but news about her death surely hasn’t let up for decades. Even though I haven’t read up much about it, I did remember reading about her case being reopened as late as 2018!

Wood’s husband at the time of her death, Robert Wagner (known as RJ to those close to him), was never charged but was still a ‘person of interest’ in the case. But before we got to that case, the first two acts pretty much focused on Natalie’s story since childhood, born to Russian immigrants, and how she got discovered. She was one of the most accomplished child actors who’ve made a successful transition as a formidable Hollywood star. She began acting at the age of 4, got her first starring role at the age of 9 in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and received three Oscar nominations before she was 25.

It was really fascinating and moving to see all the archival footage and photos of Wood in various productions, from the not-so-well-known films to the iconic ones such as ‘Rebel’ and West Side Story. Interesting that one of the people interviewed said if she were alive today, she would’ve never gotten the role that made her famous as she played a Puerto Rican character in the famous musical. One thing for sure, Natalie Wood is much more than just a pretty face. Though she was definitely one of the most beautiful Hollywood stars, in her home life she’s shown as down to earth and a dotting mom. She was also intelligent and ambitious, and wanted to take charge of her career. One photo that strikes me the most is this one of her in a film board meeting sitting confidently at a table surrounded by all-male studio honchos. It’s definitely not the kind of photo I often associated with Natalie Wood, who’s often painted as a victim. So it’s good for her daughter to show the world a different side of her late mother.

Now, the third act did address her mysterious death. It’s the huge elephant in the room that everyone expects to be covered in the film. The one-on-one interview between Natasha and her stepfather RJ is no doubt the most emotional moments of the film, both of them looked quite emotional talking about her death. Robert himself was quite candid when talking about their careers. Though he was more famous when they first met, soon her career far outpaced Robert’s, which became a strain to her marriage. Even Robert himself admitted to being so jealous when, after their first marriage ended, she started dating her Splendor in the Grass‘ co-star Warren Beatty. But never did the film ever paint Robert as the guilty party in her death. If anything, it showed how much Natalie loved him and vice versa. I learned that she ended up marrying him twice after both had remarried after their divorce.

It’s clear that from Natasha’s and the doc’s director Laurent Bouzereau‘s perspective, Wood’s death was a tragic accident. Natasha and her younger sister Courtney even said that it’s hurtful to them that the media, and Natalie’s sister Lana Wood, constantly pointed their finger at their stepdad RJ. That fateful night started with RJ having an argument with Natalie’s co-star in her last film Brainstorm, Christopher Walken, but then RJ couldn’t find her, which led to him instigating a search involving the coast guards, etc. But even with the film covering some of the details about that fateful night, we’re still left in the dark about what happened to Natalie. We probably will never know the real truth, only Natalie would know… as Walken himself said at the end.

It’s definitely an intriguing documentary for film fans, especially if you’re a fan of her work. Given it’s produced by her own daughter, it feels personal and full of heart. I’m never bored in the entire 99-minute running time as the film seamlessly combines archival footage and talking heads featuring the who’s who of classic cinema: Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, George Hamilton, Elliot Gould, etc. There are also a myriad of photos and clips from her family, as well as those of her famous parties featuring famous Hollywood guests. I mean, according to IMDb, the pallbearers at her funeral were Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, Elia Kazan, Gregory Peck, David Niven and Fred Astaire.

I’m glad I watched this beautiful tribute to a legend that’s equally fascinating and heart-wrenching. I can’t help feeling sad as I’m watching it… Natalie Wood was such a stunning bright star who left us far too soon. I’m glad I got to see just how much she meant to her family as well as her legacy in the film world.

4/5 stars


Have you seen this documentary? What are some of your favorite film(s) of Natalie Wood?

41 favorite cinematic things to celebrate my b’day

So today’s my birthday. I’ve been blessed to have been alive for 41 years! I have no qualms about admitting how old I am, heck you’re only as *old* as you feel and I feel forever 21 😉

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I was wondering what post to do for my b’day. I did a list of Favorite Films from Each Decade I Live Through last year and y’know what, I still love a bunch of stuff on that list. Just like many things in life, over the years you may feel differently about certain things and the same with cinema. You may grow to love something you weren’t into, or the other way around. So today, I want to highlight the enduring cinematic things that I still love to this day (and probably forever) … as well as new faves I discovered recently 😉

1. The oh-so-heartbreaking unrequited love in The Age of Innocence

AgeOfInnocence

2. Timothy Dalton as James Bond

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3. Nora Ephron’s rom-coms… esp. Sleepless in Seattle & You’ve Got Mail

4. Spellbound… for introducing me to the impossibly beautiful Gregory Peck
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5. Casino Royale & Eva Green as Vesper

6. Period dramas based on the works of my literary heroines: Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell (North & South) & Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

7. Emma Thompson’s brilliant screenplay for Sense & SensibilityElinorQuote

8.  Roman Holiday (1959)

9. Gladiator (2000)

10. Sam Riley as leather-wearing, Samurai-wielding, bad-ass Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

11. Tango scenes in movies

12. Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon (Sense & Sensibility)

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13. Superman: The Movie… Christopher Reeve shall always be MY Superman

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14. John Williams’ Jurassic Park‘s score

15. The Gods Must Be Crazy… movie from my childhood that still makes me laugh

16. Phantom of the Opera (2004)

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17.The beautiful period drama Belle… and its star Gugu Mbatha-Raw 

18. Harrison Ford & Sean Connery pairing in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade

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19. Julia Ormond’s Sabrina

20. Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester (BBC’s Jane Eyre 2006)

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21. The immensely under-appreciated Return to Me (2000)

22. Casablanca (1942)… a classic epic I’m glad I got to see on the big screen

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23. Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral

24. One of the first Hollywood films I ever saw… Gone with the Wind (1939)

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25. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) … guaranteed to make me laugh for years to come

26. The exquisite scenery of Not Another Happy Ending… Glasgow AND Stanley Weber

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27. Great journalism movies… i.e. All the President’s Men

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28. The Bourne Trilogy

29. John Barry’s music for Somewhere in Time

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

31. Heath Ledger & Christian Bale in The Dark Knight

32. Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton (BBC’s North & South 2004)

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33. The musical scenes of The Sound of Music (1965)


34. Awesome movie car chases

35. Idris Elba (’nuff said)

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36. These 10 James Bond’s songs 

37. Hand-touching in period dramas


38. Disney Princesses Movies, especially Sleeping Beauty

39. Evocative rain scenes in movies i.e. this one from the sci-fi drama Franklyn (2008) w/ Sam Riley and Eva Green

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40. Paris in the movies

41. Last but not least… movies about writers, i.e. Sam Riley as Sal Paradise in On The Road

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Hope you enjoy walking down memory lane w/ me on my b’day. 

Thursday Movie Picks #42: All in the Family Edition – Father-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

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/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

I actually don’t really have much experience or memories of father/daughter relationship, as my dad was never really part of my life after my parents split when I was three. I was raised by my late mom and strong-willed grandma, the latter was a successful businesswoman revered by her family and peers. So in a way she’s as close to a father to me given her strict rules and occasional anger outbursts that used to petrify me but now that I look back, I find it kind of endearing.

Despite not having a biological father present in my life, I certainly appreciate father/daughter relationships in movies, here are three that left a big impression to me:

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

ToKillAMockingbirdI didn’t get to see this film until my intense Gregory Peck obsession days, but it’s truly the moment when the actor became the character. Talk about a dream dad. No matter how busy he is, town attorney Atticus Finch always have time for his kids and he genuinely enjoys their company — he doesn’t see time for family as a chore.

I remember tearing up a few times as I watched Atticus interacting with his vivacious young daughter Scout (Mary Badham), displaying his affection and sharing his wisdom in the most natural way. It’s obvious that Scout needs her dad just like any young kid needs their father, but I think those moments are crucial for Atticus too, beyond just the familial bond. Being with his young daughter must’ve reminded Atticus of the purity and goodness of life amidst the darkness and brutality he faces every day in his job. I live vicariously through Scout in her moments with her beloved dad, and I certainly take his wise words to heart…

“…you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them…”

Apparently the father/daughter bond between Peck and Badham carried over beyond the film set. The two became close in real life and kept in contact for the rest of their lives, Peck always called her Scout.

Regarding Henry (1991)

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People remember Harrison Ford mostly for his iconic action roles as Han Solo or Indiana Jones and granted he’s fantastic in those roles. But I absolutely love his performance in Regarding Henry, which is a wonderful story about second chances. One of my favorite moments in the film are the ones Henry spend with his young daughter Rachel (Mikki Allen).

In his *old* life prior to the event that transformed him, Henry barely had time for his family. Suffice to say he didn’t really know his one and only daughter, he’s too busy being a hot shot lawyer and having affairs with his secretary. Interesting that Henry’s also a lawyer like Atticus but clearly he’s got his priorities out of whack. But he’s given a second chance to make it right and his daughter helps him do that. I LOVE all the scenes where she teaches him the most basic things like reading, as he’s back to being a kid again, literally. Ford and Allen have a wonderful chemistry, their scenes together are endearingly funny and so full of heart.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
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Whenever one hears Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, naturally we think of Elizabeth & Darcy’s relationship. But in Joe Wright’s film adaptation, I love the depiction of Lizzie (Keira Knightley) and her dad Mr. Bennett (Donald Sutherland). Clearly she’s her father’s favorite and he understood her much better than her mother ever did.

I LOVE this quote when Lizzie’s mother insisted that she married Mr. Collins…

Mr. Bennet: Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins… And I will never see you again if you do.

The scene towards the end when Lizzy asked her father’s permission to marry Darcy is also wonderful…

Lizzy: He and I are so similar.. we’ve been so stubborn

Mr. Bennett: You really do love him don’t you?

Lizzy: Very much

Mr. Bennett: I can’t believe that anyone can deserve you.  It seems I am overruled.  So, I hardly give my consent. I could have not parted with you my Lizzy to anyone less worthy.

Veteran actor Sutherland portrayed Mr. Bennett so perfectly, with such calming wisdom and compassion. The scene of him crying is so utterly moving, once again the chemistry of the cast work beautifully here.


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

 

10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

I LOVE LOVE this idea from Brittani that I came across earlier this week that I had to take part.

“Sometimes a simple look an actor gives is nothing short of brilliant,”

I totally agree with her sentiment. Sometimes the quietest, most subtle look or gesture has the power to generate the most emotional response, no words necessary.

It made me think of some of those scenes and really, there are SO many examples that it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10. The fact that I remember these scenes despite the length of time that’s passed since I’ve seen it means they definitely left a big impression on me. In fact, from time to time I still look on youtube to watch that particular scene again. Ok so technically there are 11 here, as I paired up one of them, but I think it still count as one as it happens in the exact same scene where the two actors interact with each other. Anyway, here goes:

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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I always have a fondness for this dystopian sci-fi thriller despite its flaws. Bale’s Preston came too late to save the woman he loves from being incinerated… and he had to watch her die right in front of him. Bale’s expression of utter despair just breaks my heart. It’s one of my favorite Bale performances from all the amazing work he’s done, even if the film itself is far from perfect.

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

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I LOVE miss Blunt and she adds so much gravitas and emotional complexity to her character of a French teacher going through an unhappy marriage. She’s just about to have a rendezvous at a motel with a hot, young student but something precludes her from taking another step. I don’t remember much about the entire film but I always remember this scene.

Toby Stephens – Jane Eyre (BBC – 2006)
Toby_JaneEyreI have to include at least one out of a plethora of Toby’s masterful scenes as Rochester. The no-wedding scene is definitely one of the most emotionally-charged. Rochester’s anguish is so palpable here when ‘bride in the attic’ secret’s been revealed. He was so close to finally be with the woman he loves, but in a single moment, that elusive happiness is snatched away again. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s such mesmerizing beauty in his look of pain and agony. It takes a real craftsmanship to bring such tortured soul persona so beautifully and Toby does it with aplomb.

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

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Fireman: Ma’am, were you aware that your car was on fire?
[Bernadine nods her head while smoking a cigarette]

Fireman: Ma’am, did you start this fire?
[she puffs smoke and plainly looks at him]

Fireman: You know, it’s against the law to burn anything except trash in your yard.

Bernadine: [flicks off ashes from her cigarette] It is trash.

Miss Bassett is simply awesome, period. It’s been over a decade since I saw this film but I never forget Bernadine’s rage and heartache when her husband leaves her. She’s crestfallen, but yet she never loses that bad-ass sensibility. Her look says it all, ‘Don’t mess with Bernadine.’

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderI’ve always believed that Crowe got robbed of his Oscar in this film. As fantastic as his portrayal of Maximus was, the way he completely disappeared into Jeffrey Wigand is nothing short of astounding. This scene at the hotel room is mesmerizing, powerful and heart-wrenching and Crowe only communicates with his body language. There’s a bit of a dream sequence here that was crafted masterfully by Michael Mann, but it’s Crowe’s stillness and inner tumult that you won’t soon forget.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel_12YearsASlaveThis scene is one of the most haunting, which is saying something given how many heart-wrenching scenes there are in this film. At first Solomon didn’t join the other slaves singing Roll Jordan Roll, but somehow, halfway through the song, he started singing. His facial expression stirs up so much expression as I watched it. It’s as if he’d reached the lowest point of his life, losing all hope of ever escaping his fate as a slave… all the grief, desperation, anger and sense of helplessness is all there. Yet there is a glimmer of defiance in him, a flicker of hope still left in him that gets him through another day. Ejiofor deserved an Oscar win just for this scene alone.

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Peck_TheHolidayThe finale remains one of the most beautiful and poignant film endings ever. And I think Peck’s facial expression conveys so much. The restrained tears in his eyes, the rigid way he’s standing, it takes so much out of Joe not to say how he feels about Ann. Yet his expression speaks louder than words could ever do.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

Winslet_TitanicIt’s been ages since I saw Titanic but for some reason, this subtle scene of Rose during dinner with her family and Cal still stands out to me. There’s this glazed look on her face, like she finally stops caring about her privileged life that feels more and more like a prison. “That fire is gonna burn out,” Jack tells her at one point and it’s as if it finally sinks in that he is right and she wants out.

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Joaquin_GladiatorThis is truly one of the greatest scenes in film history IMHO. There’s just so much going on in this scene on psychological and emotional level. Of course Crowe is simply astounding in his ‘Maximus Decimus Meridius’ monologue but one thing that always struck me is Commodus’ stunned reaction. His lips quiver, eyes wide open with shock and his whole body trembles with a combination of rage and fright. It’s like ‘WTF! How could you still be alive?’ He knew at that moment, everything he’s planned so carefully is in shambles. As Lucilla said, at that moment, a slave did become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome, and it’s all written in Commodus’ face.

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

Cromwell_LAConfidential

Spacey_LAConfidential

There are certain phrases in movies that will forever be stuck in my head. “Rolo Tomasi” is one of them, and thanks to both Cromwell and Spacey for creating such an iconic and chilling scene. That’s the name Exley (Guy Pearce) gives the unknown murderer of his father just to give him a personality. “Have you a valediction, boyo?” Capt. Dudley Smith asked the dying Sgt. Jack Vincennes. It’s a powerful and totally unexpected response, and one he never thought would eventually lead to his own demise. Even nearing death, Jack still manages to deliver quite a blow to Dudley.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Please share your own picks of great acting defined by one look.