Oscars Update 2

Puss In Boots

Director: Chris Miller

Dreamworks doesn’t seem to have the same magic touch as Pixar does although 2 of the films nominated in the Best Animated Feature category are produced by Dreamworks. Previously I have found that while Shrek (2001, Andrew Adamson) was funny the subsequent films just weren’t. And I found that to be the case with Puss In Boots as well. It just wasn’t funny – I didn’t laugh once or even really smile at all.

The concept is a bit stretched and I don’t think that the character of Puss is strong enough to carry an entire feature length film by himself. Turning classic nursery rhymes characters, such as Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill, into criminals is a novel idea but one that destroys characters from my childhood. I also really didn’t get the combination of humans and nursery rhyme characters – it just kept the fact it was a film in the forefront of my mind; I was unable to suspend my disbelief which in my eyes is the sign of an unsuccessful film.

Let’s hope that the other films in the Best Animated Feature categories have more to offer than Puss In Boots did.

Drive

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

First of all – how is Ryan Gosling not nominated this season?! He is incredible in both Drive and The Ides of March (George Clooney) … and quite easy on the eyes too!

Ryan Gosling plays the strong silent type really well and is almost monosyllabic. Gosling allows the action to take place around him, almost like the calm eye of the storm, while he watches and absorbs. Seems part machine in is precise and somewhat detached approach to life – reinforced by the choice of songs for the soundtrack. Also reinforced by his lack of name – throughout the film he is known only as the Driver, and indeed thats how he is credited on imdb. Driver has a trademark style with the driving gloves, which he makes cool, and the gold scorpion jacket. Carey Mulligan gives another beautiful performance (fast becoming the best young actress working right now.) Carey is the perfect partner to Gosling … equally comfortable and powerful while saying very little, preferring to embrace the moment rather than filling it with idle chatter.

One of the creators said “it’s both a family drama and a revenge story at the same time.” There is that feeling yet it manages to form a complete narrative rather than separate ones. Winding Refn is not afraid to have moments of silence – he embraces them. The tone of the film varies. The moments between Carey’s Irene and Gosling have a slow, sensuous and quiet presence while the revenge elements have a high-energy and face pace to them in keeping with Gosling’s professional driving style. It takes the time to show the slow development of a blossoming relationship thrown into turmoil by the return of the no good husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac)

The sound in the film plays a big role especially as there is much less dialogue than in some movies which creates quite an intense film. The sound becomes much more distorted and unnatural in the latter half of the film once the trouble begins. The latter half of the film brings the criminal undertone much more to the fore, beginning with a job gone wrong. It has a much rawer, visceral energy to it … and a massive increase in the violence. There is a cold efficiency in Gosling’s actions despite a barely concealed rage just under the surface.

I really enjoyed Drive and think BAFTA had it right when they nominated it for Best Picture. In fact I think it is a much worthier contender for Best Picture than something like Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen) and yet it is only nominated in the Sound Editing category at this years Oscars. It should have received many more nominations in my opinion. And that brings me nicely onto …

Midnight In Paris

Director: Woody Allen

I really didn’t enjoy Midnight In Paris at all. The art direction is a worthy nomination as the look of the film is actually quite beautiful and manages to juggle 3 different time periods effortlessly. Then again it is set in Paris which is a nostalgically romantic city  of beauty anyway.

Owen Wilson, as Gil, does the typical Owen Wilson thing of being overly enthusiastic and fast talking which you either love or you hate. I personally hate it and therefore find his performance repetitive no matter what the role. Rachel McAdams’ Inez is bitchy and shallow – the archetypal spoilt little rich kid – in a relationship with someone she doesn’t understand or really see. Tom Hiddleston makes a brief appearance as F. Scott Fitzgerald and is one of the stand out performances of the film. Though I can’t decide if it’s due to him being amazing or the rest of the cast being rather lack lustre. Either way he is one of the few things I like about Midnight In Paris.

I found the script to be convoluted and at times hard to follow. This was mainly due to the fact that unless you have a solid grasp of history – and especially Paris in the 1920s – than many of the references will pass you by. I mean I knew many of the big names that Gil encounters, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Cole Porter but not enough about them to get all the little points about their characters. Indeed I knew more about Lautrec and Degas in the 3rd period towards the end of the film. You sometimes lose track of all the different characters at times as well with more and more iconic artists being thrown into the mix.

I think that there were much better films nominated in other categories, let alone created in the last year than Midnight In Paris. I cannot really see what it is that justifies its Best Picture nomination other than the fact that it is directed by Woody Allen (also nominated for Best Director). If that is the case I can’t help but feel that the film has been put forward purely on the reputation of Woody Allen rather than on its own merit as an individual film.

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