Skyfall

Director: Same Mendes

Nominated: Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

I was a bit jaded about another Bond film considering just how rubbish Quantum of Solace (Marc Foster, 2008) was. I also have some issues with this reboot because they disregarded all the things that make a Bond film a Bond film, like not driving Aston Martins, or having his drink shaken not stirred. Having said that as long as I treat the films as Action movies instead of part of the James Bond franchise I enjoy them … Well with the exception of Quantum of Solace! And I think Daniel Craig is excellent as Bond, he has that controlled sex appeal that is so intrinsic in Bond. And a closely restrained anger that marks him apart, he takes things a lot more personally. Skyfall has redeemed the Bond franchise for me – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Skyfall Daniel Craig Naomie Harris Javier BardemSkyfall has a bold start leaping right in with an epic chase scene that has a shocking result! I mean how can you start a Bond film and have him injured within the first 10 minutes? But then that’s the tone of this film. A lot of shocking moments happen especially towards the end with a particularly moving incident that changes the face of the franchise. Naomie Harris is excellent, a solid strong female character perfectly capable of living in this dangerous world. And I love the reveal about her at the end.

Javier Bardem is so wonderfully creepy as Silva, with his homosexual advances towards Bond and his Oedipal issues surrounding M. And then there is his appearance – why do all baddies have an awful blond haircut? The move towards more cyber-based terrorism is expected and yet still carried out well.

The sound is well executed and contains both the iconic Bond theme and has similarities to the music used in earlier Bond films. But nothing tops the theme song, beautifully evocative, sung by the extremely talented Adele. Skyfall is memorable and right up there with the best songs – often the best theme songs are attached to the best Bond films. You can tell the projected success of the film by the reaction to the song …incidentally Quantum of Solace had an awful song. For me it has already won, and deserves to win Best Original Song out of those nominated.

We are slowly discovering more about Bond’s past, none more so in this when we escape to his family home, Skyfall, a desolate place in Scotland. It is beautiful in is desolation. And some of the most beautiful shots come from the destruction of his old home. The cinematography with all the shots lit with the rosy glow of the fires are stunning. The set pieces do not disappoint especially the tube train crashing through a tunnel roof (which terrified me!)

I really enjoyed Skyfall and like the direction the Daniel Craig films are now moving in, what with the re-introduction of central characters like Ben Whishaw as the indelible Q. Plus finally we see an absolutely gorgeous Aston Martin, even if only for a little while before its systematically destroyed in a firefight.Skyfall

Silver Linings Playbook

Director: David O. Russell

Nominated: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing

I really enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook. It’s an excellent cast with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence being ably supported by the exceptional Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver … all of whom have been rightly nominated in the best acting categories. Chris Tucker also excels as the patient determined to get out of the hospital.

I know I’ve said it about a lot of the films nominated at this years Oscars but it’s a bold subject matter to tackle. Mental health still seems to be somewhat a taboo subject and people still seem afraid to broach the matter. Silver Linings Playbook tackles issues of mental health head on; the film revolves around how it affects the individual as well as those surrounding them.

Bradley Cooper’s Pat suffers from undiagnosed Bi-Polar disorder, something he has lived with his entire life that is only really recognized when he reacts extremely badly to finding how wife cheating. The explosive changes in mood are startling and create a somewhat unpredictable film. I like that they kind of focus on the little things that Pat obsesses over like his reaction to his wedding song and wearing a garbage bag over his running gear to aid weigh loss.Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence is creating a sterling career with every role she decides to take on, and this film is no different. Tiffany is brilliant, completely messed up and yet compelling to watch. She has a brashness ness that I loved. And despite being a mess she is the best thing that happens to Pat in a long time. Both Pat and Tiffany have no filter when they talk which makes their conversations and interactions refreshing, honest and let’s face it amusing.

The relationships between Pat and his parents are interesting to watch and have a sort of truth to them. They’re not really sure how to handle Pat’s illness and the associated mood swings but they remain strong and do the best the can with something they don’t really understand. Seeing De Niro back on screen is awesome and I love that he has elements of craziness about him to, his obsessions on game days leaning towards OCD as Pat points put.Silver Linings Playbook Jackie Weaver Robert De Niro

Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best films I’ve watched in the run up to the Oscars and I definitely up there in my pick for Best Picture. And I would love it if Jennifer Lawrence managed to scoop the Oscar for Best Actress because I think she is incredibly talented and deserves some recognition for it … plus I may also have a very light girl crush on her.

Lincoln

Director: Steven Spielberg

Nominated: Best Picture, Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score, Sound Mixing

Lincoln Daniel Day LewisI am not a fan of Lincoln. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not American and do not have that sense of patriotism and love of Lincoln, or if it’s just the film itself, but I found it boring. I also think that attempt to create tension within the film doesn’t work because you know what the outcome of the film will be … everyone knows that Lincoln abolished slavery, ended the Civil War and was then assassinated, making the whole lead up to those events redundant.

I did like the way Spielberg approached the assassination. You see someone at the theatre and assume that you’re about to witness the first assassination of America’s president when in actuality you don’t. You just see the heart-breaking reaction of his youngest son when the news is broken on stage.

I found the film long and tedious but did appreciate a number of the performances. Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant as always despite looking ridiculous in his congressional wig. Sally Fields is lovely and has enormous strength as Mrs. Lincoln. The visual resemblance between Daniel Day Lewis and Abe Lincoln is remarkable and I suppose it’s a good performance but it just didn’t feel it.Sally Field Daniel Day Lewis Lincoln

For a film that revolves around abolishing slavery and equalizing rights for Blacks there are noticeably few black characters and certainly none of any substance. Indeed the few characters of colour we do see, Lincoln’s servants and Tommy Lee’s housewife come lover, have very light skin.

While I didn’t like the film I can see it doing well at the Oscars because if there is one thing that the Academy does well is congratulate itself. Although having said that I have given up trying to guess which way the Academy will go because they do like pulling random wins out of the bag (“It’s a hard life for a pimp” as Best Song?!)

Zero Dark Thirty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Nominated: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound Editing

Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark Thirty is another film that is quite difficult to watch because it’s based on real life events. Straight away you are reminded about the horrific events that set the whole chain of events in motion. The opening 5-10 minutes are simply a black screen with recordings from 9/11 playing over the top. From that you gather that it’s going to be a very tense film. 9/11 never really leaves you even if you weren’t there – just when it drops out of your consciousness something brings it back to forefront with startling clarity.

Jessica Chastain is excellent as the young CIA operative hell-bent on finding an elusive courier, convinced that he is the key to finding Bin Laden. She starts out as someone uncomfortable with her surroundings and the things taking place around her but hardens as the film progresses. She becomes more isolated as various attacks reduce her friendship base and throws herself into the search for Abu Ahmed with more and more fervor, having to fight against her boss for the facilities she requires to effectively carry put the task.Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain

I’m not one of these people who is naive enough to think that the authorities managed to gather information without the use of torture (certainly in the early days before the detainee restrictions were out in place). There was no way radicals would have given up information lightly. It’s just something I never really gave much thought to but Zero Dark Thirty pushes it in your face. Right at the start you see detainees being water boarded which is extremely uncomfortable to watch. Yet having said that I like the fact that Bigelow did not shy away from portraying some of the less pleasant aspects of the search for the most wanted man on the planet.

Bigelow is a clever director covering horrific events in a tactful manner. We never see the attack on the World Trade Center, but then we don’t really need to as the images are burned into everyone’s minds, and therefore play instantly when listening to distress calls from that fateful day. She does a similar thing with the London bombings. We follow a double-decker and already you kind of know where this sequence is going, then the date flashes up and if you didn’t realize before you do now. But we don’t actually see the bus ripped apart at the seams. Bigelow waits for it to pass just behind a tree line then explodes, and all we see is the aftermath, using archive footage.

Zero Dark Thirty Night VisionIt’s a long film but then it covers a fairly lengthy time span and the somewhat fruitless search for Bin Laden all these past years. The tone of the film changes rapidly once the location is discovered and the tactical strike team is assembled. It becomes more frenzied and urgent. It even takes on an entirely different aesthetic born out of the realities of a night-time strike. Large portions of that section of the film are shot through the night vision goggles of the tact squad. The whole film leads up to events that we know actually took place and were of great importance in the ongoing battle against terrorism and yet the end is kind of anticlimactic. I think by that point we, like Chastain’s Maya, are just drained form the entire experience.

The Master

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Nominated: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress

The MasterA very short blog entry this time round and it’s mainly because I just didn’t enjoy The Master – it was just a little too bizarre for me. I know that the creator of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, inspired Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character and despite how Anderson says the film isn’t about the “religion” the whole film was marred by the association. I am of the view that Scientology isn’t a religion but bears far more resemblance to a cult and this film hasn’t really changed that view.

I found it an uncomfortable watch with many of Dodd’s processes becoming repetitive in the extreme and go on for an unnecessarily long time. The fanatical, almost blind faith of his followers disturbs me. They seem to have little to no individual thought, instead parroting the views of The Master, Dodd. Except Freddie, Joaquin Phoenix, and Dodd does everything he can to condition him so that he follows ‘The Cause’, ultimately removing everything that makes the character interesting.

Very few of the characters are likeable, the only exception being Phoenix’s Freddie and then I only found him interesting because he manages to walk away from the cause. The relationship between him and Dodd is a strange one, and could be seen as having homosexual overtones to it. Freddie is a damaged character, due in part to his service during WWII and doesn’t fit neatly into society. He has an interesting view towards life, which is highly sexualized. There were moments in the film where I was unsure if they were really happening or just an illusion in Freddie’s head. Anderson has recurring images of the sea and a sand lady built on the beach during the war, which mainly appear during a particular period of transition in Freddie’s life. Phoenix makes for compelling viewing but I just couldn’t shake my feeling of unease, especially in any scene where Hoffman was spouting his diatribe, which unfortunately did not endear his character to me. The same with Amy Adams who, I usually find compelling. She is aggressive in her support of the cause.The Master Philip Seymour Hoffman

Life of Pi

Director: Ang Lee

Nominated: Visual Effects, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

So by now I’m starting to get to the big ones, the films that have garnered multiple nominations and in the biggest categories, the ones that really matter like Best Picture and Best Director.Life of Pi Richard Parker

Life of Pi is magnificent. The visuals are stunning and the tiger, Richard Parker, is wonderfully lifelike. A truly exquisite example of visual effects. Any Lee has done a remarkable job of taking a novel that was considered unfilmable and producing a rich and vibrant piece of cinema. I enjoyed the way he split the story up, having the older Pi regaling Rafe Spall‘s character with this remarkable tale. And most importantly having the tale play out on the sea, in a lifeboat. It must have been a grueling shoot for the young Pi, Suraj Sharma. Not only was he having to act against nothing, Richard Parker being added in post for obvious reasons, but he was almost constantly drenched, an unfortunate side effect of being shipwrecked with only a tiger for company.

And like the older Pi says at the end, which story do you want to believe and Rafe replays the one with the tiger, that is definitely the more interesting one. I would rather listen to a tale of shipwrecked tigers and mysterious floating carnivorous islands over an upsetting tale of how being shipwrecked removed people of their humanity and slowly butchered each other in the name of survival.Life of Pi Fish

Everything about this film is rich and vibrant and fantastical, from the production design to the sound. The cinematography is top class, especially when you think that a very large percentage of the film takes place at sea, and all the difficulties that must have arisen when shooting.

I enjoyed Life of Pi and I think it will do well at the Oscars but I’m not sure it’s up there with my personal contenders for Best Picture.

Life of Pi

 

The Impossible

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Nominated: Best Actress

The ImpossibleThe Impossible is a breathtaking film, both in the beauty of the resort and equally the destruction wrought upon it by a tsunami. Every single one of the tsunami scenes, from the initial roaring crash of that first wave to all the subsequent waves and scenes immersed under water are truly terrifying, and filled with raw power. And yet there is some beauty in it especially in the sequence where Naomi Watts is under water as she is about to go under in surgery, the lighting is stunning.

Ewan McGregor is exceptional as the father torn from his family. And I have discovered that I cannot watch him cry without bursting into spontaneous tears, so not a good film for me in that respect! He is one of my favorite actors with a hugely diverse film history and this is just another exceptional film to add to that incredible list. There’s a depth of strength to his performance, especially when he is sending his youngest sons away.

Naomi Watts (Maria) gives a stark and painful performance as her body is ravaged by the force of the tsunami. She has extremely expressive eyes, conveying her every emotion be it blinding pain, worry or forced strength to protect her son. It’s an extremely strong performance but for me it’s not the most memorable in the film by far.The Impossible Naomi Watts

For me the most powerful performances come from the three young boys, Lucas, Thomas and Simon (Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast). And of those three Lucas is outstanding. You expect highly polished performances from the likes of McGregor and Watts and yet they are blown out of the water by their young co-stars. Holland gives an incredibly strong performance, taking a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders, both as an actor in the film but also as his character Lucas. He steadfastly remains by his mum’s side and shows an immense resilience. He grows up instantly, the moment the tsunami hits the shore. He also remains extremely pragmatic, forcing Maria to climb the tree for safety. And yet at times we are reminded how young he is, for instance when he notices how badly injured Maria is, especially on her chest, turning away from the damage done. In more ways than one it is Lucas that holds the film together. He keeps his mum alive enough to get treatment, reunites with his brothers while searching for his dad, and along the way finds people’s missing relatives for them in the hospital as well. It’s an incredibly adult performance from this talented young actor and he is one to watch in coming years.

The Impossible is an incredible film, beautifully shot and emotionally charged. I was deeply moved by it as although this family came home whole so many others didn’t. The Impossible is a hugely emotional film, even more so because of the reality of it, and in the fairly recent past so the horrific events are still relatively fresh in people’s minds.