20 Thoughts on 2020 Golden Globes’ Memorable Moments

Happy Monday everyone! Did you watch the Golden Globes last night? I was late to watch the telecast, so I missed the entire opening monologue. Here it is…

Well he did say ‘Let’s all have a laugh… at your expense.’ Ok I don’t exactly subscribe to Ricky Gervais‘ beliefs and his brand of comedy can be brutal, but I have to agree about keeping politics off acceptance speeches.


I don’t have the energy to do a lengthy post this time so I’m just going to post 20 commentaries in tweets/gifs … starting with THIS:


First winner of the night happens to be one of my favorite actors… who I hope will get a cinematic comeback real soon! My heart goes out to him and Australians who are impacted by the devastating bush fires.

In any case, I thought John Lithgow was good as Roger Ailes, though he’s far more memorable to me as Churchill in The Crown.


Tom Hanks‘ reaction to Gervais’ brutal opening monologue… definitely the first popular meme of 2020.


Mr. Aquaman just raised the temperature of the room by his um, unconventional black tie attire…


The great news: Jason Momoa was presenting.
The bad news: He already put his jacket on.

But hey, the Queen aka Olivia Colman always gave such a delightful speech!!


As an Indonesian growing up watching mostly Hollywood/European films, I’m so used to subtitles. I’d take that any day over dubbed movies!!


Everyone’s favorite ‘everyman’ deservedly won the Cecil B. DeMille award… and crying over how blessed he feels for his family. Tom Hanks is not just the nicest guy in Hollywood, he’s a class act.


Former Bond-turned-Colonel-Sanders Pierce Brosnan had turned up earlier introducing his two sons as Miss, er Mr. Golden Globes (???)… but it’s his second appearance with Will Ferrell that’s far memorable. Suddenly I’m hungry for some fried chicken!!


Ok so yeah Brad Pitt won Best Supporting Actor in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but all people were waiting for was Jen Anniston‘s reaction during his speech, so here we go…



I haven’t even seen a single episode of Fleabag yet I’m glad to see it won!! (that show is on my to-watch list!)


If I have to make a comment about fashion at the Globes last night, it’d be that I LOVE Ana De Armas‘ sparkly sapphire dress.

I enjoyed seeing her and Daniel Craig in Knives Out, so it’s cool that they’re working together again in No Time To Die.


I have to say I didn’t quite love the JOKER’s score but I’m thrilled to see a female composer win last night!!! It still doesn’t make up for the lack of any female director nominated though, HFPA! Not even a little bit.


Thank you Ellen DeGeneres for all you do… and for constantly making us laugh. That was a wonderful montage that showcased why she absolutely deserved the Carol Burnett Award.


Note to self: Must. Watch. Succession.

Can’t believe I just realized Sarah Snook is on that show!! Been a fan of this Aussie actress since Predestination.


Ha!! We all want to SHIP these two!!


I’m happy to see Taron Egerton‘s continued meteoric rise! He’s a fun bloke and obviously super duper talented! Even in a frivolous action flick like KINGSMAN he was so watchable. LOVE his gracious, genuinely emotional acceptance speech… he acknowledged the young fellow nominee Roman Griffin of Jojo Rabbit AND thanked his mom… classy! Elton John’s reaction pure joy of seeing him win said it all.



I predicted Joaquin Phoenix would win and I think he deserved it. I do think he’s rambling on his speech but he did make Adam Driver laugh (the only actor in the room who I’d believe doesn’t have any beef with anyone if he lost an award).


And the last award goes to…

I haven’t seen 1917 yet but I’m now really curious to see it! Looks like a real innovative filmmaking style, and I sure hope Roger Deakins FINALLY win Best Cinematography at the Oscar!!


So, what are YOUR thoughts on the 2020 telecast?


FlixChatter Review: JOKER (2019)

There seems to be a sudden influx of villains getting their big screen treatment lately (there’s Venom last year, Birds of Prey trailer is just released highlighting Joker’s own girlfriend Harley Quinn, and Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opens two weeks after Joker). But the again, antiheroes have always made such intriguing protagonists.

In case you’re not aware of this, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker character is NOT based on the comics. It’s an origin story of man named Arthur Fleck who would later become the DC super-villain, and so exists in the same universe as his future arch nemesis Batman in a decaying Gotham City. But writer/director Todd Phillips (who co-wrote the script with Scott Silver) sets the film in the 70s and 80s, an alternate timeline where it can stand alone and wouldn’t disrupt the current (and future) DC superhero movies.

The film opens with Arthur preparing to work as a street clown, holding a sign for a furniture store promoting liquidation sale. He’s suddenly attacked by a bunch of teenage punks who break his sign and beat him up in an alley. To say Arthur is a down-on-his-luck guy would be an understatement. Calamity seems to constantly befallen him as he struggles from paycheck-to-paycheck while living in a cramped apartment with his frail mother Penny (Frances Conroy) with her own delusions of grandeur. “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” He asks a social worker. From his visit here, it’s revealed that he’s once admitted to a psychiatric department and is now on seven different medications, none of which help his distorted mind which in his own words is ‘always filled with negative thoughts.’ The first act of the movie pretty much follows Arthur encountering one bad day after another, which initially was captivating, even hypnotic, thanks to Phoenix’s committed performance.

I feel that the movie works largely because of Phoenix’s no-holds-barred approach to the role. He lost so much weight (apparently losing 53 pounds, a la former Batman Christian Bale for The Machinist)–using his physicality practically within an inch of its life. Phoenix also methodically researched patients suffering from Pathological Laughing Disorder that causes them to laugh uncontrollably, and the result is eerie. One can’t help but wince (in both pity and horror) watching him laugh maniacally, as he struggles to contain himself. As mesmerizing as Joaquin is in the role however, his magnetic quality soon wears out thanks to Phillips’ overbearing direction. There are countless scenes of him baring his skeletal frame as he descends into madness, and a plethora of extreme close-ups of his face makes me feel claustrophobic. Even in superhero films like Batman or Superman, there are moments where the hero is off-screen so you can spend time with supporting characters that helps tell one cohesive, layered story. But Philips seems as obsessed with his antihero as much as Arthur worships his idol, TV personality Murray Franklin (a somewhat brilliantly meta casting of Robert De Niro, given the heavy influences of his 70s/80s crime dramas).

But despite having such a strong supporting cast here, all of them are basically reduced to cameos. There’s no room for depth whatsoever for any of them, as the focus is always solely on Arthur. Joaquin is literally in every. single. frame. of the film… all the extreme close ups are almost suffocating, it made me wonder afterwards if perhaps it’s to hide the banality and shallowness of the plot? There are moments that are truly gripping, the stand-up scene at a comedy club (which becomes the catalyst for the final act) comes to mind, but there are also plenty of slow, tedious moments where my mind wander a bit. It doesn’t help that the soundtrack by Hildur Guðnadóttir is often distracting in many scenes that would benefit a quieter music, creating an ominous cacophony that unnecessarily heightens the film’s bleak, joyless tone.

Stylistically, the film is impeccable. The 70s/80s setting is an homage to Phillips’ favorite gritty crime dramas such as Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, which style/tone he heavily borrowed. Even the first violent scene in the subway harkens back memory of The French Connection. The cinematography by Lawrence Sher is stunning despite the decidedly grimy environment, while costume designer Mark Bridges creates a unique look that’s colorful yet dark/ominous at the same time. I also have to give props to the Makeup department team, a crucial area considering the protagonist’s reliance on face mask. Yet the makeup makes the most of Joaquin’s features without hampering an actor’s most important tool, his expressions.

Narratively however, I’m just not too impressed with. While I appreciate that the movie grounds itself in reality–at least showing a semblance of real world as opposed to something fantastical, while also toying with what’s real and what’s not, in the end it’s not as complex as it thinks it is. I believe the fact that Phillips leverages such an iconic comic-book character with such a huge appeal makes the film inherently intriguing. If the film had been called Arthur Fleck and all the Batman references taken out, I’m not sure if the reception would’ve been as strong. That said, those expecting a strong connection with the Dark Knight would be disappointed, as Bruce is just a young boy here. There is a memorable encounter between Arthur and Thomas Wayne however, and the script even toys with a preposterous idea SPOILER ALERT! [highlight to read] that Arthur could be his illegitimate child (thus making him future Batman’s half brother!!), which made me go ‘whoa!’ END SPOILER.

The ending makes it hard not to feel that the filmmakers glorify evil and his abhorrent deeds (something the studio, director and lead actor have denied vehemently). But as Arthur was ‘saved’ by a bunch of hoodlums in clown masks, having been provoked/energized by what he did LIVE on national tv, he suddenly becomes a hero for the marginalized and those ignored by society. It may not be the filmmakers’ intention to hold this character up as a hero, but it sure appears as exactly that in the finale. I find it hard to refute that notion seeing Arthur, which by then has taken up the Joker identity, dressed in full Joker’s colorful regalia and iconic bloody smile, dancing euphorically on top of a car, as throngs of clown-masked men cheer him on.

If there was a commentary about the haves and the have-nots in Gotham, it’s only mentioned fleetingly, there’s no compelling sociopolitical message to be found here. Despite his utter disdain for the wealthy, how has Arthur himself care for or support the have-nots? He’s too busy wallowing in self pity, filled with rage and hell-bent on violent revenge. He fantasizes about his crush Sophie (Zazie Beetz) down the hall, but doesn’t give a hoot the fact that she is a single mother and also barely scraping by. The filmmaker doesn’t seem to care for the likes of her either, other than for the purpose of advancing his character’s narrative. Ultimately, Arthur lives in his own bubble, trapped by his narcissistic mind that he can’t possibly see the suffering of others. Thus, it’s rather incredulous that a fraught-minded person like Arthur would become someone who could inspire the masses in this way. Thus, that final scene seems to come out of nowhere, it doesn’t feel earned nor arrives at organically.

While one could argue that Joaquin is as phenomenal as Joker as Heath Ledger was (though I wouldn’t say he topped Ledger’s performance), I’d say that the fact that Christopher Nolan chose NOT to give the Joker an origin story in The Dark Knight actually makes him more effective. He’s a true agent of chaos, as Alfred Pennyworth says he’s the kind of man who, ‘can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with… a man who just wants to see the world burn.’ There’s a calculating, sly, even sophistication in Ledger’s Joker’s megalomaniacal ways, who’s always in control and two steps ahead of his adversaries.

Arthur’s Joker however, is a tragic character… a mentally-unstable loner who supposedly becomes evil because of circumstances. This film blatantly connects his homicidal urges and violent retributions to the fact that society wronged him, i.e. being bullied, unable to get meds due to social services getting cut, etc. It’s as if the film skirts responsibility and steers the blame away from Arthur, no matter how heinous his crime, painting him more as a victim than perpetrator. One would be hard-pressed not to see the danger that such notion could be used as an excuse for certain people inciting chaos and revenge on those they deem as ‘deserving the violence,’ hence the US military issuing warning against possible shooting at Joker screenings. There’s even extra beefed-up security at the press screening, which I think is warranted.

One might argue the number of violent scenes here is actually not as much as those depicted on cable tv these days. But given the character’s sheer unpredictability, the heavy sense of dread makes it feel like it’s more vicious. I definitely discourage parents from bringing their kids to see this, not even young teens. This film earns a hard R for a reason. Now, it’s always debatable whether art incites violence, and I for one thinks it’s a slippery slope whenever there’s a call for art censorship. By the same token, every content creator must be at least being mindful of how its creation could be interpreted as, and in this case, how it could inspire something that causes harm or be used to justify vigilantism.

Setting all that aside, the big question is, did the movie live up to the hype–even my own given my excitement when the first Joker trailer was released? Well, it certainly turns out to be a chilling origin story of a tragic character, but more so because of Phoenix’s performance than the film’s direction. Yet I find it tough to root for his character, despite initially feeling sympathy towards him. It’s an unrelentingly grim and utterly bleak affair from start to finish, it’d be tough to put on a happy face after you watch it. The irony isn’t lost on me that a movie featuring a character who thinks his purpose is ‘to bring laughter and joy to the world’ turns out to mostly devoid of either. In terms of re-watchability, this is not one of those films I’m keen on revisiting.


Have you seen JOKER? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: You Were Never Really Here (2018)

Lynne Ramsay’s movie making career could’ve ended after she abruptly quit Jane’s Got A Gun and sued that movie’s producers. That kind of public dispute between a director and producers probably would’ve ended many filmmakers’ career in Hollywood. But after a seven-year hiatus, Ramsay is back with another dark-themed film that could put her career back on track.

As the film begins, we see Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) finishing up some sort of a task and we later found out he’s rescued a kidnapped child from some very dangerous people. With small clips of flashbacks, we learned that Joe is a disturbed person who has a rough childhood. As a grown-up, his career as a military man also scarred him. He keeps hearing the voices of the dead people he’d witnessed while in the service and constantly contemplates suicide. The only thing that keeps him going now is caring for his elderly mother (Judith Roberts). To earn a living, he uses his special skills to rescue young children from sex traffickers. For his next job, his handler John (John Doman) tells him that a senator’s daughter has been kidnapped and he’s willing to pay big bucks to get her back. Joe took the job and was able to locate the senator’s daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov). But once Joe rescued Nina, things went south quickly, and he realized he’s in over his head and some very powerful people wants him dead.

Based on the short novel of the same name by Jonathan Ames, Ramsay who also wrote the screenplay, kept the story solely on Joe’s point of view and his thoughts. Some scenes played out like a dream and other times, it’s something from Joe’s memory. This is my first time seeing Ramsay’s work and I do like her style. She’s obviously channeling the films of Kubrick, Malick and especially Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. In fact, some might call it a Taxi Driver for the 21st century. While I agree these two films shared similarities, I do think Scorsese’s version is a much better film. I’ve never read the book version, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the source material, but I felt like Ramsay could’ve expanded the story a bit more and give us some details of what’s really going on. I understand this is more of a character study, but I would’ve liked to see more characters’ involvement and thicker plot. I felt like when the plot finally gets going, the film is almost over. Now, maybe I think Ramsay just didn’t want to tell a straight-up revenge action thriller story and went the opposite of what was expecting. I respect her decision, but I still prefer to see story expanded a little bit more.

Performance wise, Phoenix is very good as the silent and violent character. He tends to mumble a bit too much though. It wasn’t an over the top performance and I appreciate that. He’s pretty on the screen 100% of the time and he kept my attention. The supporting characters didn’t have much to do since the story is all about Joe, but I did like Roberts’ and Samsonov’s performances.

I also have to give praises to Jonny Greenwood’s excellent score and Tom Townsend’s great cinematography. I thought the haunting score and beautiful cinematography really helped the film.

I really had high hopes for this film and even though it didn’t meet my expectations, it’s still a solid thriller. I found it to be a frustrating film but admired Ramsay for not going the generic thriller route. Maybe with a better screenplay, it could’ve been something special.

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So have you seen You Were Never Really Here? Well, what did you think?

Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

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. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

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I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

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I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’😀 I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

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All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

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. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

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As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

s I….

HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

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Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.

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This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.

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What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

[Last 2014] Weekend Roundup + Mini Reviews of The Trip To Italy, The Immigrant, Exodus: Gods & Kings and Into the Woods

Hello hello! Hope you had a lovely long Holiday weekend. It’s quite a nice and relaxing holiday for me, though it ended up being a pretty busy one hanging out with friends. I did fit in some movie-watching, even went to the cinema for Exodus though it was more of a last-minute decision when some friends invited us.

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Just a quick thought on each of them as I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to review them…

The Trip to Italy
It’s not as fun as the first film, The Trip. Perhaps I’m just getting tired of Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon‘s schtick and they’re really not very likable characters. The impersonations are getting a bit repetitive, but some are still fun to watch, especially when they’re talking about all the Bond actors. The Italian scenery and food imagery are truly drool-worthy however.

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The Immigrant
The main draw for me is the cast, especially Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard. Two things that this movie have going for it are the performances and the intriguing story. I’m not generally fond of Jeremy Renner and here he’s just ok, not as compelling as the other two actors. The star is definitely Cottilard who remains alluring no matter how destitute they made her up to be. Now, if only the pace and direction had a bit more life to it. It felt overlong and tedious, even if the actors were able to hold my attention for the most part. The finale did pack an emotional punch, but I wish it had been more evenly-handled throughout, especially since the story strikes a chord with me.

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Exodus: Gods & Kings
Now, Ted’s given a full review of this but since I just this earlier today, I figure I’ll give my own two cents. Well, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought. Perhaps having a very low expectations helps, but I’m glad to say I didn’t find it boring even if it certainly lacking that *epic* touch I expected from Ridley Scott. Performances are good, especially the two leads Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, but Scott took way too much liberty with the story and character of Moses. There are too many to mention here but let’s just say this story is more inspired by the Biblical tale than an actual adaptation. It’s one thing if a reimagining of the centuries-old story actually enhances the adaptation, but in this case, the alterations are much to its detriment and much of it just don’t make sense. Still, I don’t think this was an abomination as some critics describe it but I think keeping the integrity of the story would’ve served this film better.

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I have to admit I’ve actually never heard of Stephen Sondheim‘s play before this film, apparently it’s been around for nearly 3 decades. But since I grew up watching a ton of Disney fairy tale movies, the idea of reimagining some of Brothers Grimm fairy tales intrigues me. I’m all about crafting a twist to a classic story, so long as they do a good job of it. Alas, I feel that Into The Woods might be a much better fit as a stage performance as it’s all about showmanship instead of a compelling narration.

The main players are comprised of the Baker & his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), and the wicked witch (Meryl Streep). The rest are basically supporting characters: Jack and his mother (Daniel Huttlestone and Tracey Ullman), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Johnny Depp’s in a glorified cameo.

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Not a bad cast at all, and I must say they all did a good job singing and performing the songs. Some fare better than others of course, Kendrick could’ve done well on the stage version of this with her beautiful voice and Streep also has quite a lovely voice. Much have been said about her performance as the witch, but seems that at this point she could just be reading a restaurant menu poetically and they’d shower her with a plethora of awards. I think she’s rather over-the-top here, though that’s perhaps the direction she was given. Her song has the most memorable melody of the entire movie, but I don’t think her performance itself is THAT extraordinary. I think my favorite has to be Pike & Magnussen’s (the two Prince brothers) hilarious and unabashedly campy rendition of Agony. Ironically, it’s the least agonizing rendition of the rest and it got the whole theater cheering for its flagrant goofiness. Corden has the most screen time aside from Streep and I think he’s a good and likable actor that’s able to hold his own. He has a nice chemistry with Blunt, who’s always lovely to watch no matter how little she has to work with.

Overall though, I just can’t get into the story. It’s convoluted for no apparent reason and the third act just got too somber and dark for its own good, which seems disconnected from the lighter scenes that precede it. In fact, the stories don’t feel well-connected at all, they just seem randomly thrown together for amusement sake. Much like the equally star-studded ensemble of Nine, Rob Marshall seems more adept at assembling a bunch of fabulous crews and actors but he’s inept in making the most of the performers to tell an engaging story. I’ve only seen three of his work, including the overrated Chicago which I don’t think deserve the Best Picture Oscar. In fact I wish it hadn’t, as it encouraged Marshall to think he’s a great director.

As I walked out of the theater, I wonder if it had been ill-advised to adapt this material on the big screen. I mean if they absolutely had to adapt it, perhaps Disney should’ve gotten someone who’s more of a bold visionary filmmaker. Someone who could breathe some real sparkle (to match all that fairy dust) into this adaptation and make it entertaining in the process. As it is now, the movie is mere window dressing with gorgeous set pieces, pretty costumes and lovely songs, but it inspires more of a ‘huh?’ reaction than ‘wow.’

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Well, have you seen any of these films? What did you think?

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

Bale_Equilibrium

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

Blunt_JaneAustenBookClub

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

Bassett_WaitingToExhale

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.