Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Which I Review Argo

You know, maybe I should just call this blog, In Which I Do Stuff, because that's all my posts seem to be titled with. It's not even a conscious decision, it just sort of happens.
Anyway, on to the point at hand: Argo.
Well, let's see here.
So I saw the movie, and in short, I really really liked it. A lot. This is some quality cinema.
Ben Affleck, who stars in the movie as well as taking on directing duties, takes a subject that some might find boring or pretentious and makes a genuinely interesting and intense movie.
The film takes place during the Iranian hostage crisis, something most people under the age of 20 or 25 know next to nothing about. I myself had little knowledge of the actual event when I went to the theater, but luckily, the film does a great job telling the story from the beginning. Everyone starts the movie on the same page.
The basic plot is that there are six refugees who escaped the American embassy in Iran when the protestors broke in. These six refugees are currently staying in the Canadian ambassadors house. The CIA has to find a way to get them out. One bad idea after another, and then one man comes up with the best bad idea: Sneak into Iran on the pretense that we're filming a sci-fi movie. What follows is a tense race against time, with a surprising amount of laughs, and wonderful catharsis.
The coolest thing about Argo is that it doesn't resort to loud pounding music or lots of blood and guts to make the movie feel intense and thrilling. The score, composed by the brilliant Alexandre Desplat, is quiet and intense, with lots of Middle Eastern influences, which greatly adds to the atmosphere and makes the movie. It's interesting, because in all technicality, this is a very quiet movie, but I was consistently on the edge of my seat.
The acting is all fantastic. John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, and the always fantastic Alan Arkin are some highlights, although Affleck does well here too. All the actors portraying the six refugees are very good as well (I don't really feel like listing off six more names, but please check them out, their pretty sweet).
Oh, and a very small side note, since most of the people who are reading this are probably my freind's mothers, this is another one of those R-rated movies that would've been PG-13 had it not been for the language. Take that into consideration if you go. There is very little violence, and it's not bloody at that, but it's pretty intense.
Anyway, really good stuff here, one of my favorite movies of the year, easily. Don't miss it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Which I Review Les Miserables (While Crying)

Tom Hooper, director of Les Mis, also directed one of my favorite movies ever, The King's Speech. So going into Les Mis, I had a lot of expectations. Having read Victor Hugo's masterpiece and never seeing the musical, I was pretty curious how this was going to turn out. I am so so relieved and glad to tell you that I loved it.

The singing is all great, emphasis on Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. For those who have heard harsh criticism for Russel Crowe, he is not as bad as everyone is saying. Amanda Seyfried is also surprisingly good, considering I only ever see her as her character from Mean Girls. Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks are perfect. Aaron Tviet is also lovely. Seriously, it is harder to imagine a better cast for this movie, they handle the material so well. And Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen add just enough humor to remind you to stop crying, if only for five minutes.

There is a grand sweeping epicness to Les Mis even when it's at it's most wretched. That by no means softens the blows these characters take, but makes the story more effective to the audience. I can honestly say I've never sobbed more at a movie in my life. As I mentioned before, Anne Hathaway delivers the most heart-wrenching performance of any sort I have ever seen. There was not a dry eye in the theater when she sang I Dreamed A Dream. Samantha Barks is also another excellent performance, and from what I understand, she's been playing Eponine for quite a while now. And really, there are not enough words for Hugh Jackman's excellence. Jean Valjean is no easy task to take on as an actor and he aces it.

As someone who had never heard the songs before the movie, I was blown away by how amazing this music is. Again, this isn't so much a note on this version as the musical itself. This music is wonderful and powerful and fits together beautifully. It manages to strike the balance between honesty and theatricality. Go listen to "I Dreamed A Dream" or "On My Own" or "Stars" or even "Drink With Me". It's perfect for the musical. Fun to listen to, and provides  perfect insight into these characters. I was a complete wreck when the Barricade Babes who have a much more fancy, dignified, and French name  in the book and musical, sang "Drink With Me" because it was perfect. I especially loved reading the latter chapters at the barricade in the book, which only makes it more sad. But moving on. I'm not going to cry again writing this.

I was also really surprised how well some of these characters were done despite this being a two and a half musical. Victor Hugo created a lot of characters that I spent about 1500 pages with prior to the movie (two years ago to be exact). Like I said, Jean Valjean is no easy task, and Javert is done very well too. This isn't so much a note on Hooper as it is a note on the original musical. I'm impressed with how well you're acquainted with these characters even though you only get to see them for short amounts on time, i.e. Fantine. Effective characterization is always helpful, and it's employed usefully here.

Anyway, whereas Hooper's King Speech was quietly minimalistic, Les Mis is  big in every sense of the word, and that's not a bad thing. Go see it, because there will never be a better musical set in post-revolution France ever.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Suppose I Should Discuss The Oscar Nominations

Actually caring about the Oscars is kind of turning out to be the worst relationship of my life.
Because they don't matter. They don't. And yet, I care.
Which is why I am making this post.
Here goes nothing.

As I sit here in my currently crippled state (theater audition; long story, not one for this blog), depressed, anxious about going back to aforementioned terrible horrible school, and a bit sad that I definitely did not make the cut for also aforementioned musical, I am looking at this list, smiling, gasping, and in all honesty, caring.

So predictions and thoughts and whatnot.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

So let's see here, this is a pretty predictable bunch.  A lot of these are directed by people who have before, or have been nominated, i.e. Kathryn Bigelow, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hooper, Quentin Tarantino. However, my money is on Lincoln or Argo to win. Possible upsets are Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables. If I could have picked these, Skyfall would have been put into a tenth slot. I really had hopes for that one. Also, I'm a little surprised to see The Dark Knight Rises snubbed. I'm not the biggest Nolan fan, but I thought it was a commendable and thought-provoking movie. Also, where is The Hobbit? Rarely have I enjoyed a film more. I know I'm a super fan, but coooome ooooooooooon.

Bradly Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables
Joaquin Pheonix for The Master
Denzel Washington for Flight

Okay, anybody who does not feel like losing twenty bucks has their money of Daniel Day-Lewis. And if it's not himn, it'll be Hugh Jackman or Denzell Washington, no question.

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Emanuelle Riva for Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (She's only 9!)
Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Alrighty, let's see here. Jessica Chastain is definitely the forerunner here, with Jennifer Lawrence and Quvenzhane for second and third choices. Also, was Silver Linings Playbook really that good? I mean, really? I thought it kind of looked liked a chick flick. Maybe I'll have to go see it now. Side note: The Actress category is interesting because it contains both the youngest, Wallis, and oldest, Riva, actresses to be nominated ever. Pretty interesting.


Alan Arkin for Argo
Robert de Nero for Silver Linings Playbook
Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Yeah, okay, nothing unusual here either. Tommy Lee Jones or Christoph Waltz will get it. I would've liked to see Tom Hardy's Bane from Dark Knight Rises here though. In the words of another critic, Tom Hardy can do more with 20% of his face than most actors can do with all of theirs. I thought it was a truly interesting take on an interesting character, one that deserves recognition more than for just a weird voice. Also, wher eis Javier Bardem for his performance in Skyfall. I was genuinely scared and fascinated of his character when ever he was on screen. That guys got mad skill. Sad to see it snubbed.

Amy Adams for The Master
Sally Field for Lincoln
Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

If Anne Hathaway does not win this, there is no justice in the world. I have not seen Les Miserables (yet), but I listened to Anne Hathaway sing I Dreamed A Dream one night, sitting alone in my bedroom, and I literally was sobbing by the end of her solo. She deserves it. Also, she was extremely dedicated to her role as Fantine, facing a lot of scrutiny in the media and handling it all very well. I think she has this one in the bag.

Michael Haneke for Amour
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
David O. Russel for Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Benh Zeitland for Beasts of the Southern Wild

While Lincoln is a front runner for nearly everything right now, I'm going to be a rebel and say the Ang Lee will probably get this one. Life of Pi was once deemed unfilmable. Well, obviously it's not. So yeah. Ang Lee. Props. Even though I haven't seen the movie.

I'm going to skip around here. There are somethings that I know you guys are more interested in. So if I skip your favorite category, comment, and we'll pick each other's brains.

Wreck-It Ralph

While Brave will probably win this one, I myself was not very impressed with it, so I'm going to be a rebel once again and put Wreck-It Ralph down for this one. Frankenweenie also stands a good chance, especially since it seemed to have redeemed the legendary Tim Burton from his two remakes, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows.

Anna Karenina by Dario Marinelli
Argo by Alexendre Desplat
Life of Pi by Michael Danna
Lincoln by John Williams
Skyfall by Thomas Newman

It'll probably end up being John Williams (seriously, how old is that guy?), but I'd like to see either Desplat or Newman win. Skyfall had a score that, like the rest of the movie, was better than expected. I'm a bit sad to see Hunger Games snubbed here. I thought the score for that was actually perfect for the film and an interesting experiment in that Appalachian versus futuristic style. It mixed those two styles perfectly for the film.

"Before my Time" from Chasing Ice, by J. Ralph
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted, by Norah Jones
"Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi, by Bombay Jayashiri
"Skyfall" from Skyfall, by Adele
"Suddenly" from Les Miserables, sung by Hugh Jackman.

Skyfall. The end. Good-bye. Everybody go home.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman

Again, I'm surprised TDKR was snubbed here. That had excellent effects! I would like to hope that Avengers will one thing, but Prometheus, The Hobbit, or Life of Pi are the most likely contenders, with Snow White and the Huntsman being the clear under dog.

Welp, there. I cared. Sue me.
See you on awards night.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Which I Review Skyfall

Que theme music.

After listening to Adele's beautiful song on repeat, accidentally developing a huge crush on Ben Whishaw's portrayal of Q without having seen the film, sat through rave review after rave review, and seeing The Hobbit first, I can now boast that I have seen Skyfall.

Being a British culture junky, I kind of had a precursory knowledge of James Bond. You know, Sean Connery, sexy women, weird gadgets, cool music. But I decided if I was going to do this properly, I should probably watch a few of the films prior to this one.

So one viewing  of Live and Let Die, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace later, I considered myself ready-ish.

Okay, FINALLY, I sit down and watch the thing. And I liked it quite  a lot. It is rare that a movie lives up to it's hype. Skyfall manages it.
I feel a bullet list coming on.

-Okay, action sequences are superb. Very easy to follow, while still being impressively done. I especially liked the back-lit sequence. In a world where fight sequences are a dime a dozen, these manage to stand out.

-Acting wise we have a veritable primer in British actors doing what they do best. Judi Dench in her bajillionth turn as the grumpy and yet kind of likeable M.  Ralph Fiennes also has a small part to play that has so many spoilers attached to it that I can't even say anything about it, but he does well. As I already mentioned, Ben Whishaw's take on Q was getting a lot of buzz on tumblr, so no surprise here when he nails it and manages to add himself to my list of Geeky British Boys Whom I Will Watch In Anything, Especially Shakespeare (I will post that list some other time). Daniel Craig finally gets into the swing of things around here, with great results. Javier Bardem is especially hammy, but in a good way, as it's what the character requires. He's great to watch. You're always curious as to what his character is going to do next. Albert Finney does great with his ten minutes as well.

-Storyline wise, there's actually quite a bit going on, but also plenty of chances to showcase the fantastic action sequences. I especially enjoyed the Skyfall revelation. This movie revolves quite a bit around M, so be prepared for that. There's actually quite a bit of quiet drama thrown in to balance everything out, which is cool in my opinion.

-If there is one thing to complain about, I thought the holding tank scene with Silva and M is perhaps a bit too Avengers influenced. I mean, Avengers is not the only film to have an interrogation scene with one person behind glass, but the tanks looked basically the same and there was a lot of the same elements to it. I don't know, maybe that was just me. I mean look at it.

But either way, go see it! Really well done, and I can't wait to see where we go from here.