Sunday, 26 February 2012

White People Are Bad.

There are so many films based on a very simple premise: One person goes against the convention to help a minority. We've seen it in Avatar, Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas and many, many more. A common way to portray this is with a historical story of a white person helping an ethnic minority despite society frowning upon it. That’s what The Help is.

Skeeter (Emma Stone) lives in Mississippi in the 1950s. She lives in a society where ‘coloured’ people are inferior and work as maids and gardeners to make their keep. She’s just got a writing job, writing a cleaning column for a local newspaper and asks her friend Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly) if she may get advice from her maid Aibileen (Viola Davis). As Skeeter grows close to Aibileen she realises how terribly Aibileen and her best friend Minny (Octavia Spencer) are treated by their employers, especially by Elizabeth’s friend Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). She decides she will write a book about being a maid in a racially unfair society from the perspective of the help. She starts interviewing Aibileen and Minny about what it is like working for Elizabeth, Hilly, and Minny’s new employer Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). The book has to be written secretly as the interviews are against Mississippi law but Skeeter carries on regardless.   

I only chose this photo because I love Emma Stone.

There is not a single bad performance in this movie. Emma stone is absolutely outstanding in her main role. A different role to what we're used to from her. She is strong and just generally a good actress. If there wasn't such strong competition for Best Actress, she'd have a nomination. But the real stars here are Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis. Both of them take roles of characters in a very difficult time in history. A time where it is hard to put yourself in that position and imagine yourself suffering in the way that minorities did then. They both deserve an Oscar statue in their hands. The bit that really won me over for Viola Davis was a moment when a negro man is shot and the fear slowly creeps up on Aibileen until she's running in blind panic. I was utterly convinced by her performance. All of the supporting cast were fantastic as well. Jessica Chastain was stunning as the enthusiastic but self concious Celia Foote begging to be liked by the rest of her society. 
The help's jobs also including dragging their employers home.

 The writing is witty and charming but also entirely heartfelt and touching. The only issues I have with this film are ones involving the technical elements being a little to cliché and generic. I would like a little more riskw with my story but otherwise I have very little else to say. A generally good film that I would definitely recommend to all. 

Best Bit? Skeeter's mother's scolding of Hilly. Classic and uplifting. 

9/11 Happened And It Was Sad

Movies often use worldwide events as a basis for their plots. Look at any war film ever made. The issue with these sorts of movies is they must be handled right. Think about [Robin Williams’ movie] about the holocaust. It was not handled right and therefore was not very good. Unlike Schindler’s List which handled the holocaust right and is considered a masterpiece in film. Today’s film takes a heavy and recent event that shocked the world: September 11th. This is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) loses his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) who was in a meeting when the World Trade Centre was hit. This leaves him alone with mother, Linda, (Sandra Bullock) and his Grandmother (Zoe Caldwell). Thomas used to set up little missions for Oskar to carry out which would teach him plenty as well as encouraging him to talk to more people, something he found hard. Oskar is a bright kid but also a very emotional one. After his father dies, he doesn’t enter Thomas’s room for a year. When he eventually does, he finds an envelope with a key. The only clue to where it leads is the name Black. Hoping that it’ll lead to something his father left - as a mission, perhaps – Oskar sets off to find what the key opens. Along the way he meets hundreds of people and gains some help from a man he simply knows as ‘The Renter’, who does not talk.

Oskar's social issues meant he couldn't talk to people normally.

I want to start with the good aspects of the acting. Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow Are absolutely brilliant. It really is a pity that they all have fairly small parts. Hanks perfectly captures the emotions of his character. Half of his performance is voice and through his voice you can hear every thought and every emotion. Max Von Sydow is really the star of this movie and is rightly nominated for Best Supporting Actor with a good chance of winning.  The lack of speech makes it far harder to portray what he wants and yet he makes it seem effortless. The most in depth character of the film. Unfortunately, there is one large let down for the acting/ characters in this movie. Doubly unfortunately, that is the protagonist. Oskar is one of the most frustrating and annoying characters I have come across. He is rude, loud, and believes he is superior to everyone he talks to. He’s horrible to his mother, extremely rude to his doorman, and completely controlling of The Renter, despite his attempts to help. This may not be Horn’s fault. It may be more to the writers/director. I mean, who gives a kid a tambourine? They’re incredibly annoying on their on their own, let alone when a kid is shaking them constantly. I feel no emotional attachment to him, which is what the film relies on.

How to make the worlds most annoying child:
Give him social issues and a tambourine.

As I mentioned a moment ago, I feel the negative aspects of this movie are almost completely down to the writers and the director. I’ve not read the book, so I cannot speak for how it has transferred to the screen. But I must say, I don’t like the way they used the disaster that was 9/11. I don’t mind movies using it, as long as it is used well and handled rightly. This isn’t. Tom Hanks’ character could have died in a car crash and the story would have made just as much sense. The use of 9/11 was for completely emotionally exploitive reasons. It was like the movie was screaming: ‘THIS IS SOMETHING REALLY SAD THAT HAPPENED! FEEL SAD!’ It was just trying too hard to evoke an emotional reaction but instead it simply became uncomfortable to watch. The film was too long for such a simple premise. I found myself really bored and there was nothing special in any of the technical elements.

Honestly, I don’t recommend this. I’m actually rather angry that it was nominated for Best Picture over the likes of Drive, Tintin, Shame and, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. There is something good here; a decent premise done completely wrong. Three or four great performances but a horridly annoying protagonist. It just all comes together wrong. A more accurate name for it would be Extremely Long and Incredibly Dull.

Best Bit? The phone call between Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock is probably the most emotional scene in the entire film. Genuine emotion and some great acting. Also, when The Renter and Oskar visit a particularly angry Black together and The Renter has a little bit of fun ringing the doorbell over and over again.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Film History In Paris

Recently, children's movies have not had the best reputation for being the most intelligent films around. But here we are with a children's film nominated for eleven Oscars, including Director, Screenplay, Score, and, of course, Best Picture. Can a children's film really be that good? Can it live up to that hype? Let's have a look at Hugo.

Orphan, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in a train station in 1930s Paris. He winds all the clocks in the building without anyone knowing he's there. But he has a secret. Behind the walls, where he lives, he has a broken automaton that his father (Jude Law) bought at a museum before he died. It is mechanical man who is supposed to be able to write with a pen. Unfortunately, it's broken, but Hugo has been trying to fix it by stealing parts from toy maker Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) and avoiding the watchful eye of the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who has a thing for arresting orphans. The automaton is missing one key part. A heart shaped key. On his journey to fix his mechanical friend, he meets Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), Georges' god-daughter. He introduces her to movies, much like his father did for him, and she introduces him to books, with some help from Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee). It turns out that she and her god-father have more of a connection with the automaton than was apparent and this leads the two children on an trip of discovery into the history of film making, with Georges as their guide.

Hugo had been fighting for his Hogwarts letter for months.

Another film that requires a young protagonist and Asa Butterfield is great. Admittedly, is far from perfect, but  with a bit of time, he will grow up to be a fine actor. Much like his co-star Chloë Grace Moretz has done. Already her CV has such a solid range in it and Hugo will only add to that. An absolutely wonderful performance from her, as per usual. In fact, all the performances were exactly what should be expected of a multiple Oscar nominated movie. Ben Kingsley was outstanding. He was perfect for his role as a man whose dreams had been ruined by the war, leaving him in a toy booth. Sacha Baron Cohen was brilliant as the antagonist, or the closest thing to an antagonist. He is a perfect mix of hilarious and frightening. Just what is needed for the baddie of a children's film. 

The opening weekend of Hugo had a  massive turnout... 

The film's real stand out element is its art direction. It's rightly nominated for an Oscar. Martin Scorsese and his production team have made an absolutely wonderful world for Hugo. There is nothing particularly magical about the plot but it feels like a magical journey. Probably done to reflect Méliès' logic that making movies was like magic. But the audience go on the journey with Hugo and it's like it is magic. The score was superb and the visual effects were spot on. Both elements are rightly nominated for Oscars. The cinematography is also nominated and it is beautiful. It is the most solid film in terms of surrounding factors.

In a world littered with computer generated chipmunks and dancing penguins, as well as their sequel, it's rare to find a children's film, not made by Disney, that is intelligent and enjoyable for all ages. Hugo is that rare film. A kids film that adults will like, and maybe even more than their kids.

Best Bit? There are so many wonderful bits. Here's two: When the children start reading about films and the audience are treated to a host of clips from early movies (The Great Bank Robbery etc) and when Georges Méliès is filming a movie and we see how his 'magic' was created. As a massive movie person, these were my favourite bits.

Friday, 24 February 2012

History In Paris

Every so often a film comes out that people are aware of, but no one seems to know what it is. For me, this was Midnight in Paris. I knew of it, but I wasn't sure what it was going to be or if it would even be any good. I sat down to watch it, completely clueless about what I should expect. Knowing it was nominated for four Oscars (Direction, Screenplay, Art Direction and Picture, and it being recommended to me by several people, I was getting rather excited for it. So does it live up to its, somewhat secretive, hype?

The film opens with a variety of shots showing Paris throughout the day, right through until midnight. We then get thrown into writer, Gil, (Owen Wilson) and his fiancée, Inez, (Rachel McAdams) life as they are visiting Paris. Gil wants to move to Paris once they are married but Inez disagrees. Gil truly believes that living in Paris will do wonders for his creativity so that he can move on from screenplays and write proper literature. While in Paris, the couple hit some speed bumps. Gil has problems with his novel, old friends Carol (Nina Arianda) and pedantic academic Paul (Michael Sheen) begin to take over their time, Gil and Inez’s parents disagree on very fundamental things. Gil gets stressed by all this and goes for a midnight stroll. On this stroll, he is picked up by a car on the dot of midnight that takes him back in time to the 20s, what Gil considers to be the Golden era. The film tells the story of a man meeting his idols and taking a journey of discovery in both art, and life. 

The Hangover Part III was going to be slightly more formal.
I think it is completely safe to claim that this is Owen Wilson's best performance to date. He is absolutely perfect in this role. Admittedly, Woody Allen did rewrite the role for him, but that's unimportant. He is a perfect combination of charming, lovable, accepting, and, most importantly, real. There's something very real about Wilson's performance. Gil is a hardly a character; he is completely believable as a real man. He comes to life through Wilson. The rest of the cast are excellent too. It's nice to see familiar faces popping up in supporting roles throughout the movie. Tom Hiddleston appears as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Alison Pill (a.k.a Kim (a.k.a the drummer) from Scott Pilgrim) is his emotionally unstable spouse. Adrien Brody appears as a very funny and surreal Salvador Dali, or DAH-LEE, as he exclaims when he meets Gil. Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard play important parts in Gil's adventures as Gertrude Stein and Adriana respectively. Also performing to perfection is Michael Sheen as Paul. His perfectly agitating character is a brilliant example of a person who does nothing seriously wrong except conform to all of your pet peeves. A nice guy who you cannot stand captured perfectly.

'I swear, the fish was this big'

This is screenplay writing at it's best. A solid contender for the Screenplay Oscar. The dialogue is completely flawless and smooth (except when it's not meant to be) and it touches every emotion the heart can feel. It blends fiction and fact sublimely. This is Woody Allen on form. The score and soundtrack are absolutely wonderful. There's either a French heart or an upbeat 1920s rhythm to every song that plays and it is an example of the music perfectly setting the scene in a movie. The camera work shows some glimpses of beauty. There's a wonderful tracking shot early in the movie that perfectly follows Gil, Inez, Paul, and Carol as they wander French monuments. It's cheating I suppose, to shoot a movie in Paris, as every shot is guaranteed to look wonderful. This is some of Woody Allen's best directing in a long time and will be placed just under the likes of Annie Hall and Manhatten.

A delightfully charming, exceptionally witty, and wonderfully satisfying piece of cinema. It is submerged in art and literature and drips culture but doesn’t require its audience to be pretentious art collectors. At points it’s hilarious and at others, very touching. A great story told in a fantastic way. Owen Wilson at his best and Woody Allen returning to form. A perfectly solid film. Completely enjoyable. Definitely one of the most all–round decent films of 2011. A must see. 

Best bit? This is really hard. There's a wonderful laugh out loud joke at the very end, but I'll go with the discussions over Picasso's Adriana; firstly in the 1920s and then again in 2010. Classic. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

From Book to Stage to Screen 2: The Horror

The second input into our 'From a book to a stage show to the screen day' originally comes from a book by Susan Hill and then went to the West End and is one of the longest running productions there. It now comes to screen in Hammer's return to the top of horror. How will one of the most famous and terrifying stage shows of all time compare on the screen? Let's take a break from the Oscars; let's look at The Woman In Black.

Lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), is being sent to investigate all the papers of the recently deceased Alice Drablow in her home, Eel Marsh House. The house is on a small island and separated from the mainland by a causeway which gets flooded when the tide comes in. The marshes surrounded the causeway are deadly and so it is only safe to travel it at low tide. Kipps' arrival in the village is unwelcome and the locals are less than warm towards him, but he soon befriends Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds), who offers him food and a bed while he carries out his work. However, it seems there is a less friendly welcome for Kipps at the house and it seems he is not alone on the deserted island. The locals become even more wary of Kipps and it appears there's a dark curse over the village in the form of a vengeful ghost. Kipps takes matters into his own hands in the hope he can return to his son happily.

Kipps thought taking out a ghost would be child's play.

As his first big performance on screen since the end of Harry Potter, many people were questioning whether he was going to stand up to the challenge and not be Harry. I'm pleased to announce that he is not Harry Potter any more. That being said, he is still a very British character who is unfortunate circumstances and fighting a force that has powers beyond his comprehension. So you will be forgiven if you find it too Harry Potter-ish. Also a great performance from Ciarán Hinds as the upbeat but secretive Daily who helps Kipps out. Though the best turns come from Liz White as Jennet Humfrye (a.k.a. the woman in black), who is genuinely chilling throughout the movie, and all the villagers who show their fear, frustration, and anger in every line, every word, and every action. Nothing to criticise really in the form of acting, however nothing outstanding.

Daily finally discovered 'The Scary Door'
Like a lot of horrors, it is made or ruined in the handling of the technical elements. The building of suspense, the catharsis, the jump scares, and the way these are created. Fortunately, Woman in Black nails almost all of these on the head. The tension created in the long, dark pauses when we see a shadow or hear a noise and adventure with Kipps to find out what it was. The dramatic irony was used to a brilliant standard and the feel of classic horror throbbed throughout the movie. However, it also fell at a couple of hurdles. The fear of the unknown, to my mind, is the most prominent fear. That's what makes audio scares so effective: you don't know what's causing the sound. this movie relied to heavily on visual scares and obvious scares every now and then and at those points, the whole building of suspension was wasted.

The film is really chilling and will more than likely make you jump or have trouble sleeping. While there is much to improve on, as far as modern horrors go, it is an outstanding achievement. A definite recommendation for horror fans. Fans of the book or stage show will leave wanting to re-visit those previous areas of media. Just don't expect the same story. It is the definition of adaptation of a text.

Best Bit? I feel in a horror, the best bit is the scariest. The bit that made me jump most involved a single hand print on a window. Go see it to see what I mean.

From Book to Stage to Screen 1: The Oscar

As well as this Oscar special thing I've got going on, I thought I'd mix things up and add a second special. Today is officially 'From a book to a stage show to the screen day.' Personally, it's my favourite holiday. The first film we're looking at today has been nominated for six Oscars including Best Cinematography, Best Score, and, obviously, Best Picture. It relies entirely on animal performances and a protagonist who has only ever been in a low rated T.V. series. Not exactly the making of a Best Picture film.

The story, however, is exactly the sort of thing the Academy love. If you're unfamiliar with it, allow me to enlighten you. Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) lives on a farm with his mother, Rose, (Emily Watson) and his father, Ted. (Peter Mullan). Times are rough and they're in need of a new plough horse. Ted heads to the market to buy one and puts a bid in for a complete unsuitable horse. However he gets involved in a bidding war for the creature with his landlord and slight rival, Lyons, (David Thewlis) and wins with the bid of 30 guineas. Rose is furious at his decision but Albert takes responsibility for raising the horse and claims that they will be able to plough their extremely rocky field. Albert names the horse Joey and they bond instantly. They overcome plenty of challenges together but Ted still can't pay rent. As World War I comes around, Ted sells Joey to the army, much to Albert's argument. Joey goes off to the front line in France under the care Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), and seems to bring out the human nature of everyone he encounters. Albert swears that they will be reunited again and as the war continues, Albert also goes to the front line, but long after he last saw Joey. But that doesn't mean they won't fight to find one another as well as protecting those around them.

Trying to teach a horse to samba was more difficult than expected. 
Fine performances from the entire cast. It was nice to have so many familiar faces pop up throughout the film. Actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and David Thewlis all provide small but needed inputs to the overall film. Young protagonist, Jeremy Irvine, put in a great turn as Albert and is probably the most understandable and developed character in the entire movie. We don't just see him raising a horse and going to war, we see him grow up and become a young man. Plus, if his relationship with Joey - or anyone for that matter - wasn't convincing, the whole emotional spine that the film is built on, would be crushed. The real stars of the film are most definitely the animals. 14 horses played Joey, but the main horse was called Finder. As well as Joey, there is Topthorn; a large black horse who is essentially the closest thing to a friend of Joey's. These two horses have a better on screen relationship than many humans in other movies. This seems to be the year for animal performances with these horses (and a goose) as well as the dog in The Artist.

Albert always had a thing for cloth. 
Now, this film is absolutely beautifully shot. The way Spielberg flicks in between intimate moments between characters and wonderfully epic panning shots across a wasteland of  war is flawless and sensational. However, here's where the film drops. The score was also epic and, while at times, very fitting, it lacked the country heart that I so felt it needed. On top of this, there was never really enough time for any massive character developments. I feel there was way to many superfluous shots of unneeded action which could have been time spent developing characters. Particularly towards the end, a lot of characters decisions or changes of heart seemed too sudden and therefore unbelievable.  The only other thing that frustrated me was the choice to not have the German or French characters speak their native language, but just with accents. (Which sometimes slipped anyway.) This wouldn't bother me so much as it is a family film and kids don't want to read subtitles, but I admit I got frustrated when orders were given in German by a man who had just been speaking English. It's either one or the other Mr. Spielberg. Make your mind up.

Overall a good film. There are moments of absolute genius and moments that aren't. There are particular scenes that stand out miles above the rest due to small factors. (Such as the lighting in the final scene.) And yes, I did well up every now and then. A film that is suitable for all the family and has a strong, decent narrative. It's easy to follow and easy to be absorbed into.

Best Bit? My personal favourite moment was the Cavalry's first charge in enemy terrain. The way the horses rise out and burst forth from the field was cinematic gold.

Friday, 17 February 2012

2011: Life Odyssey

It's been a while since there has been a film that is quite like the one we are looking at today. In fact, the last film I think that is at all similar to it is 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's got the same visual effects supervisor, Douglas Trumbull and everything. A film about life and our world. It's nominated for three Oscars. (Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Director.) It's called The Tree Of Life.

A rather difficult movie to sum up since it has a non-linear narrative. Focus is definitely needed. The story is of a family in Texas in the 1950s, particularly focusing on Jack (portrayed by Hunter McCracken as a child and Sean Penn as an adult) and his relationship with his mother, Mrs O'Brian (Jessica Chastain), and his father, Mr O'Brian (Brad Pitt). It focuses mainly on the innocent childhood of Jack leading into his more delinquent years and his adult life. The film is supposed to symbolise him as a lost soul in the world trying to find answers to the big questions and struggling with faith. Also, there is plenty of metaphorical scenery that establish plot points.

Jack had a rather bubbly personality.

A cracking performance (pun intended) from young Hunter McCracken. It's rare to come across movies that rely on a very serious performance from such a young actor but McCracken nailed it. Especially next to Brad Pitt's excellent portrayal of a dominating father. I personally preferred Pitt's performance here to his in Moneyball. It was shorter but there was something raw behind it... And also something that is a lot easier to relate to. I was disappointed that there wasn't more Sean Penn in the movie. His part could have been far greater with more time. As it was, he just seemed a little unused.

What really made this movie stand out was the technical elements. A very well written piece of film, layered in metaphors and subtext. It shows us all of creation and its complexity reveals how big those 'big' questions are and just how small we are. It inhabits the mind and digs out all of those unanswered questions and places them on screen for all to see. Kind of like a serious version of Monty Python's Meaning of Life. And the cinematography was like nothing I can think of. It was beautiful. It was constantly visually outstanding and obviously heavily thought about. Every shot had purpose. And it was all edited together so wonderfully. Terrence Malick, writer and director, obviously but more effort than most when creating this piece of art. That is what it is: art. Definitely a competitor for Best Director, as we all know the Oscars like to shock everyone. (Tom Hooper has an Oscar and David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky don't?)

The desert didn't really suit Sean Penn
As a piece of art, I would give this 5 stars. As a movie, it is incredible too. It was a completely absorbing 2 hours of film that moved swiftly from the story of evolution to emotional family disputes. The acting was brilliant and the film was beautifully shot. I was pondering about how good I thought it to be, but, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film gets better the more it is thought about. While it could be interpreted as a load of superfluous shots of rivers, it really is a profound and complex experience.

Best bit? A family domestic around the dinner table kicks off. Some of my favourite acting in the movie, even though it was brief.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Baseball Is About Money?

Every year there is a sports film nominated. Every year there is an underdog movie that gives us a little guy to root for as they stick it to the man. Every year there is a film about smart people doing something cool with their intelligence. This year, we get all of the above. This year they all arrive in one movie. This year, we have Moneyball.

Ex-Baseball player, turned scout, turned general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), is facing a tough time with his team. With his incredibly limited budget and bigger teams taking all his best players, he needs to make a change. While trying to gain new players, he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate who has moved into the Baseball world with radical ideas about analysing players. Beane hires him and together they begin a new way of choosing players with their limited budget, much to the anger of the more traditional scouts and the Athletics coach, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman). But Beane and Brand believe in their theory and they call it moneyball. (MOVIE TITLE!!!)

Brad got a group together to watch the other Oscar nominated  films.
This was the turnout for Transformers 3.

Brad Pitt, another of my favourite actors, is nominated for another Oscar (his fourth nomination, no wins), stars in this movie and in my opinion, was average for the majority of the movie. Now, he had moments were there were completely genuine emotions and moments were he really deserved an Oscar nomination. However, that being said, to me, he seemed very Brad Pitt-ish. More often than not he just seemed like he was doing the slight cocky attitude that is underlying in most of his characters. Obviously, I'm comparing him to the other Best Actor nominees and personally I thought he was not to the standard of George Clooney or Jean Dujardin. Jonah Hill, on the other hand, went miles away from his normal comfort zone. His normal role of the rude and fat friend that has way too much undeserved arrogance is completely thrown away. Peter Brand is smart, quiet, and shy. Up next to the big names in Baseball, he shows all his nerves and how uncomfortable he is there. He is out of his depth and he knows it. Definitely worthy of an Oscar nod and as only two of the nominees are in Best Picture nominated films, his chances with the Academy are put up. Also worthy of mention is stingy coach Art Howe, played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Billy Beane's daughter, Casey, played by Kerris Dorsey. Dorsey was really the emotional undertone of the movie. She hits you in the heart with an absolutely wonderful singing voice and adorableness.

'I just ordered 5000 of these fancy hats. Reckon we can sell them?'

Also nominated for Best Sound Mixing, Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. As far as editing goes, I don't think it tops other nominations, but surprises happen. With the sound, it was mostly nothing special. On the other hand, there are moments of sound, or lack of sound, that are breathtaking. The thwack of a bat followed by silence. The silence in between bursts of noise from Beane's radio. It can be outstanding. Camera wise, there was only one shot that I was significantly impressed with. Apart from that, there were plenty of generic long locker room shots, empty fields and ball parks. Finally, the writing, while good, does not live up to Aaron Sorkin's previous works (he won the Oscar for The Social Network last year) and I just felt that the dialogue was patchy.

Overall, it was a good film. A sport movie that doesn't involve much sport and the underdog is behind the scenes. A bit slow in points and everyone involved (with the exception of Jonah Hill) have done better work. If I was to predict its Oscar wins, I would predict the only one it's possibly going to win is  Best Supporting Actor. But then., they say the right people win Oscar's for the wrong films so perhaps it is finally Brad Pitt's year. I plan to put up a full prediction list when I have watched all the movies so stay tuned. 

Best bit? I must say, I loved hearing Beane's daughter sing but my favourite part was right in the middle of the movie when Beane and Brand have got their theory in full swing and the entire pace of the movie picks up for a few scenes.

Friday, 3 February 2012

It's Hard To Make Up One's Mind.

Let's take a break from all this Oscar milarky. (Mainly because because I have no way to watch Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close yet.) Instead, let's talk about a movie that I had to watch for my university course. I thought since I watched it, I may as well review it. The film we look at today is Closer.

The plot is both simple and complex at the same time. On the surface it is just a your average love triangle situation, or rather, love square. Obituary writer, Dan (Jude Law), meets American stripper, Alice (Natalie Portman) when she is hit by a taxi. After taking her to hospital and then for a quick tour of London, they fall for one another. As Dan tries to move up in the writing world with a book about Alice, he begins to fall for his photographer, Anna, (Juliea Roberts). When rejected by her, he turns to the internet and impersonates her on a chat room to Larry (Clive Owen). After some very explicit suggestions, he convinces Larry to meet 'Anna' at an aquarium. Larry goes and meets the real Anna in the world's most awkward first meeting ever. Despite this initial meeting, they fall for one another and claim Dan is their personal Cupid. But Dan's feelings for Anna are still there and as time passes, our four protagonists cross paths over and over again. Will they all contain their feelings or will they succumb to their desires.

Must... Resist... Fart joke... 

This movie contains one of my favourite actresses (as you probably know), Natalie Portman. She is probably the best performer in this move too. Plus she looks so hot throughout the whole film. That being said, I preferred her fully clothed with short red hair or long brown hair at the beginning and end respectively. But let's look at her acting. A wonderful portrayal of the most dedicated and loving character in the film. You can physically see her fall in love as well as see her heart break. Jude Law and Clive Owen are also fantastic (though you will find yourself arguing with friends over who is more attractive. The answer, of course, is Clive Owen). There is a slight competition between the two of them. It seems, at points, friendly, whilst at other times it seems like a true rivalry with malicious intent. Both do extremely well as egotistical men who can't stand someone being superior to them. To me, the only weak link was Julia Roberts but that might be because she was the most plain character. Though it is far easier to pick a weak link when there's only four primary cast members. That being said, the stand off between Anna and Larry is one of the highlights of the film.
The impossible shot of London. There's one too many monuments. 

My favourite thing about the entire movie, without a shadow of a doubt, is the script. It is very clear that this is a play text rather than an original screenplay. There's something very... Stagey about the dialogue. But it is extremely witty and quick but also heartfelt and dramatic. The arguments that erupt every few scenes are brilliantly written and you really get a sense of what is being felt. It is simply a great script, right down to the conversation in the chat room which perfectly strikes the idea of early internet slang as well as dirty talk; the early Chat Roulette or Omegle. Apart from this, no technical elements were particularly outstanding. In fact, the editing got confusing at points as the plot skips large periods of time and it's very difficult to realise until a character mentions this.

Overall, it is an intriguing movie full of lust and love. It's story line twists and turns more times than you can shake a stick at. It's dialogue is punchy, witty, and beautiful. Some great acting and a cast that is too good looking for its own good. Admittedly, not Mike Nichols best film, but also not his worst. And for those wondering about the title of this blog post, you'll have to watch the movie. Very brutal. Very funny. Very sexual.

Best bit? It'd be too easy to claim Natalie Portman's strip scene... I want to go with.. Dan and Larry's encounter towards the end of the film in Larry's office. Some of the best dialogue in the movie.