Breaking Emotions Blogathon: Smiles & Thrills

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

SMILES and THRILLS

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

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

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


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

Ok, so here are my picks:

SMILES

Casino Royale Bond and Vesper’s banter in the train

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

How to Train Your Dragon –  a touch of friendship

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

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The New World – Pocahontas & John Rolfe

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

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

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THRILLS

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

Inglourious Basterds – Opening interrogation scene

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

Jurassic Park – We’re back in business!

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

Mission Impossible 4 – Burj Khalifa scene

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


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

Guest Post: Ted ranks his favorite Quentin Tarantino films

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[rtm’s note: With the recent casting of Jamie Foxx in Tarantino’s upcoming film Django Unchained, Ted looks back on some of his favorite films from the Tennessee-born director. Also check out Ted’s review of Django Unchained script.]

QT is one of my favorite directors working in Hollywood today and yes I do think he’s a hack but he’s a damn good hack. He’s able to combine his favorite genre films from the 60s and 70s and put in own spin on them. With the news that he’s going to make a western, I thought I should list my favorite films of his. I’ll only list films that he was the sole director, I’m not going to list films or TV shows that he co-directed, co-wrote or starred in. Also, I won’t go into the plot of each film since readers of this site probably know QT’s films pretty well. In order, below are the films:

1. Pulp Fiction
I actually didn’t care for this film the first time I saw it. I thought it was weird and well just plain sucked. So a couple of years later, I decided to give it another shot since it got nominated for so many Oscars. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it the second time around and it’s now one of the few films I’d call a masterpiece. I have seen this film countless times now and I’m still waiting for it to come out on Blu-ray. Highly recommended if you’ve never seen it.


2. Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino spent over ten years writing the script of this film and I think it was well worth it. I love this movie, all the performances were great, especially Christoph Waltz as the sinister Col. Landa. QT said when he first wrote the script, he wanted to cast big named stars in the movie. He wanted Sly Stallone as the Basterds leader then Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis and Adam Sandler will play the Basterds. He wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger as Landa and the film was going to be more action oriented. Of course around this time, those actors were still making $20mil per movie so he figured there’s no way he can cast them all so he decided to re-write it. When he finally was ready to shoot the movie, he met with Leo DiCaprio and offered him the Landa role but Leo told him to cast an actual German for the role instead. We have to thank Leo for that suggestion.


3. Kill Bill
I know there are two films but I count them as one because originally the film was supposed to be released as one movie.  After The Weinstein Bros. saw the film, they told QT to cut it into two so they could make more money from it. Great move since both films earned around $70mil each, had they released it as one, they’d only make $70mil. QT’s take on the kung-fu and spaghetti western was just awesome; he even played homage to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More.

I thought Uma Thurman got robbed for not getting an Oscar nomination for her role as The Bride. A little tidbit about the second film’s ending, in the script there’s a big fight scene between The Bride and Bill. The scene would’ve taken place right after their conversation near the end of the film. The fight was going to be on the beach and Bill’s demise was quite brutal, I think that’s a correct word for it. Rumors been going around that QT actually shot the scene but he didn’t like it and decided to not use it. Of course he never confirmed or denied those rumors. So hopefully we’ll get to see it in the near future.

4. Reservoir Dogs
I didn’t see this film until after I saw Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, by then I was in the QT fan club and wanted to see all of his work. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started watching this film but was quite surprised of how much I enjoyed it. The film has very intense torture scene, I still having a hard time sitting through it even if I watch it today. But I thought the way the scene ended was quite ingenious; I definitely didn’t see it coming.

5. Jackie Brown
QT’s take on the Blaxploitation genre was very good but it wasn’t well received by the critics or audiences. I think many people were expecting another version of Pulp Fiction even though he kept telling people that isn’t. I remember a guy I used to work with at a video store, he was so excited to see this movie and I kept telling him it won’t be like Pulp Fiction and he said he knew that going in. Well after he saw it, he told me it sucked because it wasn’t anything like Pulp Fiction. I thought it was funny and just laughed at him. I’ve only seen this movie once; it’s definitely one of my least favorite films of QT. I’ll see it again once it comes out on Blu-ray.

6. Death Proof (part of Grindhouse)
I enjoyed this film but can’t say it’s good because the film was pointless and didn’t have any plot whatsoever. Going into this film, I expected to see his version of Halloween or Friday the 13th, but what I got was a movie about pretty girls talking nonsense and they kept talking and talking and talking. Although I thought the chase scene at end was awesome and the little twist was pretty cool too. I can’t recommend the film to anyone unless you’re a huge die-hard fan of QT like I am.


Well those are my ranking of QT’s films, from best to worst. What do you think? If you’re a fan of QT, how would you rank his films?

31 Days Movie Meme Day #10: Movie I ended up loving

A movie you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving:
Inglourious Basterds

The marvelous IB opening sequence

When the buzz for this movie started even months before it opened, I had no interest whatsoever in seeing it. I’ve never been a Tarantino fan and though I enjoyed Pulp Fiction, I’m not familiar with his work. Plus, Brad Pitt’s mug all over the poster isn’t what I’d consider enticing. But then a girlfriend—whom I thought are more into chick flicks—said how much she enjoyed this movie. My guest blogger and loyal FC reader Mike also raved about it, I mean rave with a capital ‘R,’ marveling about QT’s masterful filming style and how spectacular the opening sequence was.

Needless to say I was intrigued and you know what, they were right. I loved the movie! If you read my glowing review in five parts, clearly I was pleasantly surprised by it. Despite some of the violence and highly suspenseful scenes, I was blown away by the story and the distinctive way it’s presented.

The lethal beauty Shosanna Dreyfus

Though Pitt got top billing, the movie really belongs to Christoph Waltz! He deserved all the kudos for his bravura performance, a perfect mix of menace and whimsy. I just wish French actress Mélanie Laurent had gotten her share of nods as well as her performance was equally amazing. The always-watchable Michael Fassbender also delivered a memorable performance as Lt. Hicox, an English soldier who goes undercover as a German Captain.

In any case, I’m glad I gave the movie a chance. In fact, I was rooting for it to win Best Picture, alas, another movie that didn’t blow me away walked away with the Oscar. Oh well, I stand by this one and out of the 10 Oscar nominees last year, Inglourious Basterds is definitely one I wouldn’t mind watching again.

Which Oscar’s Best Picture winner(s) are great for repeat viewings?

Three more days until Oscar time! I was going to publish my Oscar chatter post on my winner picks vs. predictions on the major categories, but allow me to digress. I had an email conversation earlier today with a colleague/friend of mine and she confessed how The Hurt Locker is not something she’d enjoy watching because she finds war movies really depressing. Then another colleague who might be going to see Precious with her friends told me she was a bit reluctant about it after reading about how some scenes might be too painful to watch. This is the same colleague who couldn’t keep her eyes open during A Serious Man last weekend. All three of those movies I mentioned are up for Oscar this year, which begs the question: are the Academy Best Picture nominees the kind of films that are really enjoyable to watch? What I mean by ‘enjoyable’ is that they’re the kind of flix that don’t make your skin crawl or depress/bore the heck out of you that you actually don’t mind, or even look forward to, watching them again.

Looking back at some of the older movies that won Best Picture, the Academy is notorious for nominating ‘powerful’ movies that aren’t necessarily ‘entertaining.’ For me, there are only a handful of past winners that I actually enjoy watching them over and over again: Gone with the Wind (1939), Ben Hur (1959), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965).

But amongst the contemporary best picture winners (let’s just say those released in the 80s up until now), I only count Gladiator (2000) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) as those I can definitely re-watch again, in fact I have all of the dvds in my collection. I’m sure The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1976) or Titanic (1997) are popular picks in that category. As for the rest, either I don’t have interest in seeing them or they fall in the category of ‘great movies one would only watch once’ because they’re just too overwhelming, disturbing, emotional or a combination of all three. So for me, those would be something like Schindler’s List, The Last Emperor, Braveheart, and The Silence of the Lambs. They’re all worth-watching but I don’t think I can bear watching ’em again.

Of the ten nominees this year, three of them I wouldn’t mind watching again: Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Avatar (which in fact I have watched twice!). You know how I feel about The Hurt Locker, so suffice to say no repeat viewing on that one for me.

Anyway, how about you, readers? Please do share which previous Best Picture winners you could really watch over and over again, or which one(s) fall under the ‘great movies you’d watch only once’ category.

FlixChatter Review: Inglourious Basterds

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Ok, 2 down, 10 more to go. As I mentioned in my Oscar nom musings, I’ve got twelve movies to catch up on by Oscar time (both nominated for Best Picture and those that feature Oscar-nominated performances). In the past 2 weeks, I finally caught this one and The Hurt Locker, here’s what I generally think of it.

Since the movie is divided into five chapters, I thought I’d break down my review into five main parts just for the heck of it. Now, I’m not hugely familiar with Tarantino’s work, nor did I know much about his movie influences as this LA Times article pointed out. I have no qualms with him ‘borrowing’ certain aspects from obscure or foreign movies, as long as he’s able to make those scenes his own with his own actors and approach/style, which is exactly what he did in this movie.

Before I continue, here’s the plot:

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds”, led by Lt. Aldo Raine, are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.

PART I: The Story

Before I saw this I expected it to be an ultra-violent anti-Nazi flick, a revenge fantasy with Tarantino’s brand of panache and style. Well it was all that indeed, but it’s also so much more. The Basterds are absolutely hell-bent on revenge, but there’s more to the story than what Lt. Aldo (Brad Pitt) and the gang are up to. Their mission is cleverly interwoven with the story of Soshana Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent), the sole survivor when his family was ambushed early on. There are many layers to the story, one knotty predicament after another — thanks to the shrewdness of Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) — keeps on unfolding until it builds to a gratifying climax.

PART 2: Direction

It’s quite obvious that Tarantino must’ve paid homage to old-school film-making style in the opening sequence. It’s a long continuous shot of just two people – a French farmer and Col. Landa – conversing. That scene runs for a good 10-15 minutes with the camera focusing between the two characters and not much else, yet the dialogue (switching from French to foreign-accented English) and the expression of the French farmer  is immensely tense. This is one of the three segments of the movie where I literally had to get away from the room and distract myself in order to calm my nerves. Of course after my husband assured me it wasn’t “that bad” that I came back and he re-wound the scene for me to watch. It’s an absolutely brilliant opening sequence that pretty much establish Christoph Waltz as one extraordinary actor. I was in for a surprise how much dialog-centric the script was, not so much a gore-fest merely to satisfy fans of the Saw franchise, despite Hostel director Eli Roth’s involvement. Yet, even the more talky scenes are so charged with suspense that my every nerve was stretched to its snapping point.

PART 3: Acting

The marvelous Christoph Waltz

There’s no doubt that Christoph Waltz is a revelation in this movie. He practically steals every single scene he’s in, he’s got that delicate combination of being comical yet deranged, a Nazi Patrick Bateman, but with less affinity for business cards surely. Many times during the movie I actually stopped and marveled how good his performance was, and the Austrian actor’s  knack for languages is even more mind-boggling, such a talent that’s as potent a weapon as any rifle. I could write an entire post on him the way I did for District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, he really is that good! According to NY Times, the Tarantino admitted “I knew Landa was one of the best characters I’ve ever written and probably one of the best characters I will ever write” and  thus “I literally had to consider I might have written an unplayable part.” Without Waltz, Tarantino might’ve given up making this movie and I agree, under less capable hands, Col. Landa would’ve been nothing more than a sadistic caricature villain. No wonder he’s nabbed just about every award given out this year, with last night’s BAFTA being the latest, and he’s definitely a shoo-in for Oscar.

Besides Waltz, the rest of the cast is also terrific. It’s no secret that I’m not a Brad Pitt fan, but he actually suited his character perfectly. Just like Ben Affleck, he’s got a real gift in comedy as I liked him more here than his more serious roles. Diane Krueger proves she’s more than a pretty face here, but it’s French actress Melanie Laurent that truly stands out to to me. Her scenes at the restaurant is such an exquisitely-controlled and affecting performance, her expression as Col. Landa finally leaves the room is one that stayed with me for a long time. She’s definitely overlooked in this year’s award season. Major eye candy Michael Fassbender is fantastic here and his bar scene is soooo full of suspense. LOVE a man in uniform and he definitely looks great in one. German actor Til Schweiger is quite good as one of Basterds’ allies, oh, even Mike Myers has a pretty memorable cameo.

Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender

PART 4: Accent, accent, accent

If I wrote this post about movie accents after seeing this movie, I’d have listed it as one of the best examples of using subtitles. The way a person speak is an integral plot point here so naturally the actors have to pull off the various accents believably. I really enjoyed listening to the different languages spoken here (most notably by Mr. Waltz who speaks French, German, English and Italian fluently), it makes the movie all the more richer and adds a tinge of ‘foreign film’ flavor to it. Accent truly becomes a matter of life and death during the meeting point of “Operation Kino” at the basement of a French tavern, it’s one of the most nerve-racking and violent scenes in the movie, but the dialogue is absolutely to-die-for. Best movie sequence I’ve seen in a long time!

PART 5: Other observations: music and costumes

1940s costume is utterly fabulous!

The music is as quirky as the film itself. It doesn’t exactly fit the period but it certainly fits the scene and when put together, it just works. I mean, you’d never think of pairing renowned composer like Ennio Morricone (Cinema Paradiso) with cuts from David Bowie, that’s exactly what Tarantino did. This L.A. Times blog wrote about the method of how the Tennessee native went about choosing the right song for a particular scene, and how unlike other directors, he doesn’t work with a songwriter to custom-made a song for his movies, “… he handpicks each song and painstakingly injects them into scenes instead of simply hiring a music composer to do the work.”

Tarantino also pays careful attention to the beautiful costumes in his first period film, as costume designer Anna Sheppard said in this interview. The fabulous 1940s fashion provides a nice distraction from all the violent scalping and shooting scenes, there’s almost a Cinderella moment (with a nasty twist of course) with Col. Landa slipping on her pump on Bridget von Hammersmark’s delicate foot. The red dress that Melanie Laurent wore at the pivotal night at the cinema is almost as memorable as her iconic performance.

All in all Inglourious Basterds is a glorious film that truly exceeds my expectation in many levels. If you have reservations about this as you’re not really a ‘Tarantino fan’, give it a chance. Trust me, you’d be glad you did.


What are your thoughts of this film?