Trailer Spotlight: Ocean’s 8

It’s the last week before Christmas and the present comes early! I’ve been excited for this all-female Oceans flick for some time. Normally I’d say we don’t need another reboot/sequel/spinoff what-have-you… but y’know what, this year (well, any year really), an extra dose of girl power is extra awesome. 2017 is the year of Wonder Woman, and 2018 will be the year of Wonder Women. I mean this is as close as we’re probably gonna get to an all-female Avengers flick!

This is the one to watch just for the cast. Bullock + Blanchett + Bonham Carter … just those three alone is enough to shell out full price cinema ticket (if I had to pay that is). My hubby and I watched this right after dinner and he’s as pumped as I am to see this [is it any wonder I love my man?]

So Sandra Bullock is playing Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, I wonder if this all-female Oceans flick idea happened when she and George Clooney were filming Gravity four years ago. In any case, buh-bye Clooney, Pitt, Damon & co. and hell-o ladies!! Fresh out of prison, Debbie Ocean plans a big heist at the Met Gala in NYC. What a team she’s put together: Lou (Cate Blanchett), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Constance (Awkwafina), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), and Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Too bad Elizabeth Banks dropped out of the cast, though I don’t mind Jennifer Lawrence isn’t in this (apparently she was offered a part).

Per IMDb, the eight main cast has won four Oscars, two Emmys, eight Grammys, six Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, and 10 SAGs combined. Woo wee! #girlpower

I totally forgot about Richard Armitage in this, he didn’t have a single line in the trailer so I have no idea who he’s playing. I barely noticed James Corden either until I saw it a second time. No matter though, forget the boys, it’s all about the ladies whoopin’ it up!

Not sure how involved Steven Soderbergh is on this spinoff, but given his track record with bad ass female in his movies I’d imagine he’d approve. This time we’ve got Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) in the director’s chair and he wrote the script with Olivia Milch (one of Variety’s 10 screenwriters to watch in 2016).

I’m always up for a heist flick and this seriously it looks like a riot! The worst thing about this is the wait… June 8 can’t come soon enough. Well now I now what I’ll be anticipating come Summer movie season!


What say you? Thoughts on Oceans 8’s first trailer?

10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

Top10ActressesBnr

As part of a continuation to the Top 10 Actors I’d See in Anything post, I figure I’d do the same list for the fairer sex. If anything, my love for actresses seem to be more constant than for actors, not sure why but aside from some new discoveries, I’ve been a fan of most of these actresses for a decade or longer. Again this idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are Blog. The same as the actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in literally anything because there are some movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

Top10Actresses_KST

Ever since I saw her as Fiona in Four Weddings & A Funeral years ago, I’ve always been fond of the English actress. There is an air of mystery about her, as well as a certain sadness, which made her perfect for her Oscar-nominated role in The English Patient. She’s always wonderful to watch in anything, even in bit parts in lesser-known films like The Heir Apparent, Mission: Impossible, Easy Virtue, Nowhere Boy, etc. Her dramatic talent is irrefutable, but I think she’s got comedic chops too, as she displayed in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’d love to see this lighter side of her in other movies. Wish she’d gotten more leading roles, instead of being cast in awful movies like Bel Ami against sub-par leading man Robert Pattinson.

Favorite Role: Fiona in Four Weddings and A Funeral
Least Favorite Role: Virginie in Bel Ami

9. Carey Mulligan

Top10Actresses_Carey

The first thing I noticed about miss Mulligan is her soothing speaking voice in Never Let Me Go. I already liked her even before she showed up on screen. There is a pleasant countenance about her that I like, as well as a certain childlike innocence that she displayed in An Education. Even when she plays unsympathetic characters like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and the acidic-tongued Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis, you can’t totally despise her. When I saw her in Never Let Me Go, I somehow didn’t realize she was Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice! She’s quite a chameleon. Can’t wait to see her in Far from the Madding Crowd next year.

Favorite Role: Kathy in Never Let Me Go
Least Favorite Role: Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Jessica Chastain

Top10Actresses_Jessica

I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago that miss Chastain sort of came into my cinematic view pretty suddenly. I hadn’t heard of her even six months prior to that, and seems that in an instant she churned out four very distinct performance within the span of a couple of years: The Debt, Tree of Life, Coriolanus and The Help. Then she impressed me once again in Zero Dark Thirty, displaying strong dramatic chops that’s entirely different from the other roles I’ve seen previously. Seeing her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby sealed it for me that she has to be on this list. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, but in an unconventional way. She’s the kind of actress who I think gets even more interesting the longer you look at her. Can’t wait to see her in crime drama A Most Violent Year opposite Oscar Isaac!

Favorite Role: Eleanor Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Least Favorite Role: N/A

7. Marion Cotillard

Top10Actresses_Marion

What is it with French women that made them so beguiling? Miss Cotillard certainly has screen charisma that appeals to both sexes, and though she’s impossibly beautiful she’s not Bimbo-like at all. Like Kristin Scott Thomas, I also find her a bit mysterious which adds to her appeal. I guess I find people with *sad* eyes more intriguing, perhaps it’s that tortured-soul quality I find very appealing in men as well. She gave such a heartfelt performance in Inception, and she’s my favorite performer even in the all-star cast musical NINE. In fact, her two musical renditions are superb as she shows not only her dramatic prowess, but also her amazing vocals & dancing ability.

Favorite Role: Adriana in Midnight in Paris/Luisa in NINE
Least Favorite Role: Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises

6. Sandra Bullock

Top10Actresses_Sandra

Like a lot of people, I first noticed Sandra in Speed and I’m instantly a fan. Whether it’s action stuff like The Net, Demolition Man, or rom-coms like While You Were Sleeping, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, etc. Sandra is so watchable. Though she also excels in serious dramas like The Blind Side and Gravity, I think I like Sandra most in comedies as she’s just so darn lovable in them. I don’t think Miss Congeniality would’ve been as watchable without her in the lead. She’s also hugely entertaining in interviews and her fun, down-to-earth personality absolutely shines in candid conversations. She’s one of those rare movie stars who seem so approachable that you could imagine her as your best friend!

Favorite Role: Annie in Speed/ Lucy in While You Were Sleeping
Least Favorite Role: Kate in The Lake House

5. Emma Thompson

Top10Actresses_Emma

I think I’ll always be a fan of Emma given my undying love for 1995’s Sense & Sensibility. I’ll always be grateful for her amazing screenplay and her lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood. Before that, I’ve already liked her in Much Ado About Nothing and The Remains of the Day. Her segment in Love, Actually with Alan Rickman is my fave of the entire film, and she’s wonderful in Stranger than Fiction and in the romantic drama Last Chance Harvey. Her comic-relief performance in Harry Potter is a lot of fun to watch, too. Her latest role in Saving Mr Banks shows she definitely should’ve gotten more leading roles. Playing someone so uptight and controlling seems so far away from her laid-back and goofy, but then again, Emma has a knack for playing eccentric characters.

Favorite Roles: Elinor in Sense & Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Sarafine in Beautiful Creatures

4. Dame Helen Mirren

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Though I had seen Dame Mirren in Gosford Park, it’s not until The Queen that she REALLY came to my attention. She truly won me over with that performance and so every time I saw her name attached in something, I’d want to check it out. Since then she’s impressed me in State of Play, The Debt, The Last Station, and even the goofy action comedy RED & RED 2 where she displayed her bad-assery as a femme fatale. She’s the best thing about the Hitchcock film adaptation as Alma Reville, even her animated character Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University is fun to watch! Can’t wait to see her in a thriller opposite one of my fave British thespians Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky!

Favorite Roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen
Least Favorite Role: N/A

3. Dame Judi Dench

Top10Actresses_Judi

Like Helen Mirren, I became familiar with Dame Judi in her latter works. In fact, it’s her most mainstream role as M in Goldeneye that got my attention. She outshone practically every male actor in that role previously, and she delivered such a scene-stealing performance she upstaged even Mr Bond himself! I have to say part of me wish she had been M in earlier Bond films as I’d love to see him going toe to toe with another theater thespian Timothy Dalton as 007!

Since then, I’ve seen Dame Judi in a variety of roles: biopics like Mrs. Brown, My Week with Marilyn and Philomena; and a fair share of literary adaptations like Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and her 8-minute Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love. I LOVE her in the lovely drama Chocolat, as well as in the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Recently I saw her in Ladies in Lavender, teaming up again with her real-life BFFs Maggie Smith after nearly 20 years (in A Room with a View). I always enjoyed seeing them together, so I can’t wait to see the ‘Marigold hotel’ sequel!

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, M in Bond movies
Least Favorite Role: N/A

2. Emily Blunt

Top10Actresses_Emily

 

Though she didn’t get the lead role, it’s safe to say that miss Blunt was the breakout star of The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so deliciously devious in her comic turn that was so fun to watch. But I think it’s her performance in the lesser-known Jane Austen Book Club as a French teacher that made me a fan. She’s my favorite character in the film and I really sympathize with her despite her flaws.

Finally I saw her in a leading role in The Young Victoria and once again I absolutely adore her. Interesting that she plays the same character that Judi Dench played in her later years in Mrs. Brown, which is also my fave role she’s done. Emily stuns even in bit parts, i.e. playing Tom Hanks’ young lover in Charlie Wilson’s War. Since then I’ve seen Emily in a variety of roles: The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, and most recently Edge of Tomorrow. She had a more action-packed roles in the last two films, perhaps in an attempt to shed her English-rose image. I think she fits well in drama, comedy or action, which shows her versatility and on-screen appeal.

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria
Least Favorite Role: N/A

1. Cate Blanchett

Top10Actresses_Cate

Ahhhh… the Great Cate. I absolutely love this woman. Similar my first intro to Carey Mulligan, I too fell for Cate’s soothing narration in The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I LOVE her as Galadriel, perhaps one of the most famous characters she plays in her illustrious career.

What I LOVE about the Melbourne-born thespian is her chameleon ability to play virtually ANY role from all walks of life. Whether it’s a fearless Irish journalist (Veronica Guerin), working class ex-heroin addict (Little Fish), troubled NY socialite (Blue Jasmine), a wounded wife shot on an overseas trip (Babel), an English monarch (Elizabeth) or Hollywood royalty (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), there’s NOT a role Cate couldn’t pull off. She can do any accent flawlessly, and her voice is just so pleasant to listen to. Ok so I still haven’t seen her in her Oscar-nominated role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but no doubt she’s also convincing in portraying the opposite sex.

Borrowing from my Birthday Tribute post, Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

Can’t wait to see her in Kenneth Branagh’s life-action adaptation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother next year!

Favorite Roles: Galadriel in LOTR, Veronica Guerin
Least Favorite Role: Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skulls

 …

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! I’ve been a fan of most of these for a while, but there are some newbies added based on their performances this past year (Mbatha Raw & Pike). A lot of the actresses here hugely underrated, but just like a lot of my male crushes, I guess I have a penchant for the under-used and under-appreciated ones. Anyway, here they are in my fave role each of them has done so far:

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  1. Helena Bonham Carter
  2. Angela Bassett
  3. Eva Green
  4. Rebecca Hall
  5. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  6. Julia Ormond
  7. Rosamund Pike
  8. Saoirse Ronan
  9. Maggie Smith
  10. Kate Winslet

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So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actresses you’d watch in practically anything 🙂

A Fisti Recast-athon: The Devil Wears Prada, Gravity, and Michael Clayton

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Now THIS is a blogathon I can’t wait to take part! Andrew over at A Fistful of Films blog just had a brilliant idea for a recast-athon, similar to what I did here but this time with a slight twist. I’ll let him explain in his own words…

Here is my issue with Hollywood. It seems like these talented women (the men have it much easier) are either relegated to minority-necessary casting (like, we NEED a black actress in this movie because the character is a slave) or they get shoved onto television, where they flourish in short-lived TV shows that the average cinephile has probably never heard of.  It is very rare that a top rate director is going to use an actress of color in a role that doesn’t call for one. Obviously, there are a lot of biopic nominations going on all over the place, but taking those out…look at some of these roles and tell me if they couldn’t have been filled by an actress of color.

  • Nina Sayers (Black Swan)
  • Nic (The Kids are All Right)
  • Cindy (Blue Valentine)
  • Megan (Bridesmaids)
  • Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Cheryl (The Sessions)
  • Dolores (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Jasmine (Blue Jasmine)
  • Ryan Stone (Gravity)
  • Ginger (Blue Jasmine)

So here are the RULES:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.


I LOVE this idea! I often think the same thing too that a lot of these roles could’ve easily been done by so many non-white actresses. I love that Drew focuses on actresses as non-white MALE actors certainly do get it easier than the female counterparts. It’s a shame really as there are SO many talented & beautiful actress of color out there who remain so underutilized. So here are three actresses who I think could’ve given an equally good performance in these Oscar-nominated roles:

FistiRecastathon_Angela

Angela Bassett as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

BassettMirandaPriestlyI have always been a big fan of miss Bassett. In fact, I have sort of a girl crush on her from Waiting To Exhale. She obviously epitomizes a strong, perceptive, no-nonsense woman but she has a certain vulnerability as well that make me think she’d be great as Miranda. Bassett is nine years younger than Meryl Streep, but I don’t think age is an issue here. In an era where Lucky Fashion Magazine’s editor in chief and Banana Republic’s creative director are of Taiwanese and Korean descent respectively, why not have a Black woman play a Fashion Mag editor in the movies?

I think Bassett would rock the role with her dramatic chops, and she also has a playful side and a rockin’ body that’d look phenomenal in high fashion. As Meryl portrays Miranda less as a sadistic monster of a boss but more of a fierce/demanding figure, I think Bassett can do the same given her naturally-likable persona.

Bonus: It’d be cool to see gorgeous British actress Naomie Harris in the role of Andy Sachs, the naive college grad who moved to NYC and lands a job as Miranda’s co-assistant.

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I’ve been impressed by Naomie in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and I’d LOVE to see her in more prominent roles. She’s even more beautiful than Anne Hathaway but I think she could be made up to look more like the girl-next-door.

FistiRecastathon_Michelle

Michelle Yeoh as Ryan Stone (Gravity)

YeohRyanStoneWhen I first saw the trailer of Gravity, I was a bit surprised to see Sandra Bullock as Biomedical engineer Ryan Stone on her first space shuttle mission. She just wasn’t the actress I had in mind in the role, though she did a great job in the end and I think her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Now, I read that Natalie Portman was originally the first choice for the role, but heh, if only Hollywood would think outside the box once in a while. I think an actress who’d suit the role nicely is Michelle Yeoh. It’d somewhat coincide nicely the fact that in June 2012, Chinese space pilot Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space.

Yeoh is actually two years older than Bullock at 52, though both look at least 10 years younger than their age. I always think of the former Miss Malaysia is hugely underrated, despite having churned out great performances in Crouching Tiger, Sunshine, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and recently, The Lady.

I think her martial-art training and dance background would help with the rigorous physicality required for the role. She also has the dramatic chops to pull off the quieter moments of desperation that Stone encounters when she was all alone in space. I really think Yeoh would’ve done a wonderful job in the role and the film would’ve had an ever bigger International appeal given her popularity in Asia.

FistiRecastathon_Viola

Viola Davis as Karen Crowder (Michael Clayton)

ViolaDavisKarenChowderI had put down miss Davis in this role before I saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them where she played a tough but compassionate NYU professor. But now I’m more convinced she’d have been awesome in the role. As she is now playing yet another sharp-witted character, a tough-talking, shrewd defense attorney/law professor in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, you know she would be perfect as the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate.

I think Hollywood might be reluctant to cast an actor of color in such an unsympathetic role, but I think it’d be a challenging and fun role for someone of Davis’ talent. Chowder is ruthless and even callous, willing to take a life when her cause demands it. But she’s also suffering from a mental breakdown and tough she appears tough and in control in the outside, on the inside she is crippled with anxiety and fear. Though I LOVE Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance, I can totally see Davis pulling off such an inner conflict with aplomb. Davis’ adept use of subtle body language as well as her magnetic screen presence would also work wonder for such a role.


What do you think of my recast-athon picks? If you were to do your own recasting, who would YOU pick?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & 28 Days (2000) mini review

Happy Sunday everyone! It finally felt like Spring is actually around the corner here in my neck of the woods. The good news is we can forgo the long johns and parka, but we now have to put up with dirty cars as the roads and slushy roads from melting mountains of snow.

Well, no cinema trip this weekend but it’s been a great week as a film fan as I got to see Divergent two weeks early and also got to interview author Veronica Roth and cast member Ansel Elgort (who’d be starring with Shailene Woodley again in the upcoming drama The Fault in our Stars). I’m still transcribing the Q&A so stay tuned for it next week!

Here’s what I saw this weekend:

28 Days (2000)

A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a stolen limousine.

I’m not exactly sure why we rented this movie but if you haven’t seen this yet and was curious to see Viggo Mortensen here a year before he became Aragorn, note that the actor’s billing on IMDb is misleading as his character’s screen time is so small it’s more of a cameo! Dominic West had more screen time than him as the obnoxious & drunk boyfriend of Sandra Bullock‘s character. Now I like Sandy and that’s one of the reasons I saw this, but even she couldn’t save the movie.

28DaysStills

I felt like the story could’ve been told so much better and have more depth to make it memorable. I’d say you’d like to see a movie about characters in a mental institution, I think you’d be better off renting Girl, Interrupted. I think making this subject matter and make it a comedy seems ill-advised. It’s not THAT funny to begin with and the serious moments just didn’t make any real impact. I think the one saving grace is perhaps Alan Tudyk as a gay German rehab patient. I wish he had more screen time as he’s hilarious and the movie seems to pick up every time he appears. Oh, there’s also Steve Buscemi who’s always watchable, but it’s a bit odd to see him playing it completely straight as the former-alcoholic-turned-counselor, it kind of seems like a missed opportunity, ahah. Oh, as for Mortensen, well he is practically wasted as a supposedly famous baseball player who has a knack for watching soap operas. Yes it sounds funny but it’s really not that hilarious as it’s being played in the movie as his character didn’t even appear in the soap re-enactment scene towards the end.

I can’t say I recommend this one unless you’re a die hard Sandra Bullock fan. But I wish I had rewatched While You’re Sleeping instead.

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2 out of 5 reels


I also re-watched a couple of old favorites this weekend …

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I LOVE this romance drama by Mexican director Alfonso Arau. Yes Keanu Reeves seemed an unlikely romantic lead but I think he’s lovely in this movie and has a nice chemistry with Italian/Spanish actress Aitana Sánchez Gijón. I’ve always admired the gorgeous cinematography, it turns out it was the work of recent Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki! I still love this movie, it’s one of my fave unconventionally-romantic movies!

CasinoRoyalePoster

Daniel Craig‘s fantastic intro to the Bond franchise has become one of my all time favorites. It’s still the one to beat out of the three he’s done so far IMO. The action, the scenery and the music are all superb, plus it features my fave Bond girl Vesper Lynd. I’d rather see Eva Green here than in the 300 sequel, and based on Ted’s review, good thing I skipped the movie.

… and a new-to-me Wes Anderson movie released seven years ago:

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I’ve been curious to see this one for some time, but after seeing Keith’s review on Friday I thought I’d rent it this weekend. As I was writing my review of Grand Budapest Hotel, it gives more perspective into Wes Anderson’s filmography. Stay tuned for my review of both of his movies later this week!


So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on the movies I mentioned above?

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions & Reminiscing on Best Actor/Actress Nominees’ Early Roles

TheOscarsLogoThe film industry’s biggest night is just three days away. Dozens upon dozens of award ceremonies have taken place in the past few months, culminating on Sunday with the Academy Awards! I figured I’ll join in on the fun of predicting who will win the Oscars, split into two categories. The ‘Should Win’ here who I’m championing to win based on what I’ve seen. Nothing scientific here, the winning predictions are based on what I’ve read/heard, other awards up until now, as well as pure gut instincts. So here goes:

BEST PICTURE
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Gravity”

Have you checked out the Bloggers Roundtable Post over at Keith’s blog? Thanks Keith for inviting me to take part with my favorite bloggers!

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón

BEST ACTOR
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
Should Win: [Since I haven’t seen Dallas Buyer’s Club] Chiwetel Ejiofor

BEST ACTRESS
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
Should Win: Cate Blanchett

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win: Jared Leto
Should Win: Michael Fassbender

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should Win: Sally Hawkins

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “Her”
Should Win: “Her”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Captain Phillips”

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Will Win: “Frozen”
Should Win: “Frozen”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Will Win: “The Square”
Should Win: “The Act of Killing”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Will Win: “The Great Beauty”

Should Win: “The Hunt”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Should Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

Reminiscing on Acting Nominees’ Early Roles

Now, I’d like to do something different this year than simply predicting the winners. I was inspired by something I saw a couple of nights ago whilst I was at the gym. ABC always airs interviews with the acting nominees and show clips of their previous films. Well, it made me reminisce on the first time I saw each of the Best Actor/Actress nominees and how I felt about them then. For the purpose of this post, I’m only focusing on the leading category for this post. So allow me to walk down memory lane for a bit.

OscarBestActressNominees

Amy Adams

AmyAdamsJunebugFirst saw her was in Catch Me If You Can but for some odd reason, I didn’t remember her until much later after I saw the film. She had a small role as a Southern Belle type hospital nurse whom Leo DiCaprio’s character proposed to. But the role that really impressed me was Junebug where she also played a Southerner, a young mother to-be who thinks that her baby would solve her marital strain. It’s a bit of an odd film but I definitely remember her in that, and clearly the Academy did too, as it earned her first of five nominations.

Cate Blanchett

CateBlanchettLOTRIt was her role in the mega blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that made me notice the Aussie thespian. I absolutely loved her voice as she narrated the story. After that I went back to watch her Oscar-nominated role Elizabeth, which to this day I still think she’s far more worthy of the Oscar win than Gwyneth Paltrow was in Shakespeare in Love. I’ve never NOT been impressed by her performance since, I’m constantly in awe of her versatility and chameleonic quality, convincingly speaking whatever accent is required of her. Balancing small films like Little Fish, Veronica Guerin to a big-budget production like The Aviator, she seems to be able to do it all effortlessly. Even in a terrible movie like Indiana Jones 4, she’s still very watchable.

Sandra Bullock

SandraBullockSpeedI might’ve seen Sandra in Working Girl TV series but for some reason I didn’t realize she’s the same girl in Speed! I didn’t recognize her with her big wavy hair, ahah. So I have to say it’s her big break in the hit action flick, which was also Keanu Reeve’s breakthrough role, that made me notice her. I liked her straight away and I’ve always been fond of her since. She might not have Blanchett’s range, but she more than make up for it in congeniality – no surprise that she made two movies bearing that sentiment as it’s so tailor-made for her. I’m one of the few who didn’t mind that she won Best Actress for The Blind Side, but her dramatic chop is stretched even further in Gravity.

Judi Dench

JudiDenchGoldeneyeOne of British finest Dames has had a long career in various stage, TV and film work before she made history as the first female M in the James Bond series. So I first noticed her as Bond’s snarky boss in Goldeneye, who aptly and memorably calls him a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Bravo! Only three years later she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in Shakespeare in Love despite being on screen for a mere 8 minutes. The one British monarch role I absolutely love her in was Mrs. Brown where she played an older Queen Victoria who found friendship in her servant Mr. Brown as she was mourning her husband’s death.

Meryl Streep

MerylStreepKramervsKramerAn acting living legend has a staggering 17 Oscar nominations (3 wins), the most of ANY performer of all time. The first time I saw her was in Kramer vs. Kramer when I was a kid, where she won her first Best Actress Oscar. That film was indelible as I remember being quite frightened by the scene where her kid fell in the playground, being carried home by her on-screen husband Dustin Hoffman. I haven’t seen a lot of her work and to be frank, she’s not really a favorite of mine even if she’s always impressive in everything I’ve seen her in. I definitely enjoyed seeing her as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, that’s really a fun role for her where she gets to be this larger-than-life meanie without being cartoonish.

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Christian Bale

Bale_MidsummerNightsDreamI honestly can’t remember when I first saw Bale in movies. I know it’s long before he don the cape as the Dark Knight, and it wasn’t his movie big break as a child actor in Empire of the Sun as I saw that after Batman. So it could very well be his small supporting role in Midsummer Night’s Dream as I saw that one on the big screen. It’s interesting to see the ever-so-serious Bale in a Shakespearean fantasy comedy. I barely remember what the whole story was about but I remember how dreamy he was in it, hard to imagine him doing a fluffy role like that, but I think he should just to break things up from all the solemn and dark stuff he does nowadays.

Bruce Dern

BruceDernNebraskaThis is the only time in a long while where I haven’t seen any of the work of an actor prior to the one being nominated. I have heard of him but somehow I just never saw him in anything. I have to rectify that situation at some point as I was quite impressed by his performance in Nebraska. People constantly tell me he’s played great bad guys in his younger days, so I just have to check those out!

Leonardo DiCaprio

LeoDiCaprioGrowingPainsI’m always amazed and in awe at Leo’s career trajectory as I first saw him in one of my favorite series Growing Pains! He was so dorky looking but even then you knew he was special. After that I never saw any of his film roles until Titanic, in which I had a slight crush on Jack Dawson (which teen girl wasn’t?). So of course I saw a bunch of his films after that, even the really obscure one like Total Eclipse as a French poet (sans the French accent) where he even had a gay sex scene with David Thewlis. Leo even did a Western in The Quick & The Dead, though by that point I was already crushing on Russell Crowe who never looked better in a film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

EjioforChildrenOfMenFirst time I noticed Ejiofor was in Children of Men, though I might’ve seen him in Inside Man as well before that. A year later I saw him in American Gangster, with fellow hunky Brit Idris Elba, both playing Americans on opposite sides of Denzel Washington’s character. I’m so glad he’s now getting more recognition, hopefully it’ll bring more leading roles for Ejiofor, as he obviously has the chops. Interesting that both him and Elba has also played leading roles in Mandela-related films, Ejiofor was the lead in this dramatic gem Endgame.

Matthew McConaughey

McConaugheyWeddingPlannerThe role I first took notice of this Southern hunk happens to be in one of my guilty pleasure rom-com The Wedding Planner opposite J-Lo. I thought he was sooo darn hunky and sweet in that movie. I think I might’ve seen him prior to that on Boys on the Side but I can’t remember what he even looked like in that movie. Funny that he was in a sci-fi movie about dragons with fellow 2014 nominee Christian Bale in Reign of Fire, and back then he got top billing over the lesser known Bale. I skipped a bunch of McConaughey’s movies for a while, I have to admit I wasn’t a fan until I saw him in The Lincoln Lawyer. Nice to see his career renaissance – aptly coined The McConissance – of late, he’s poised to win this Sunday.


Thoughts on my predictions? More importantly, would you share your first cinematic memory with any of the Best Actor/Actress nominees?

Musings on Dolby Atmos Cinema Sound Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

FlixChatter Review: Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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