Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

Wow. I really have to go down memory lane to remember the first time I saw Erin Brockovich. Special moment, I was 13 or so, one of the first movies I've seen in a multiplex. So it’s safe to say I have a nice special connection with this movie, and it was cool to once more enjoy this leading performance…

approximately 117 minutes and 23 seconds
93% of the film
Erin Brockovich
An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city's water supply.
Hell, yeah:
Well, as you should remember, the Oscarless screenplay is to die for; great sharp witty dialogue with killer one liners. It’s fun to write & play bitchy. The direction is balanced, just enough not to make the film seem low paced. Julia is in almost every scene – and that’s good. Also, a very good (just as Oscarless as the screenplay) supporting performance by legendary Albert Finney.
Oh, no:
Not much, really. The Oscar nomination for Best Picture might just be justified; barely, but still :) . Did it feel a bit cheesy at times? Just a bit.
Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich
The Good:
As I said before, it’s fun to do bitchy. And to have fabulous lines definitely helps your performance. After watching the film again, I found myself giving less credit to Julia Roberts and more to Erin Brockovich – the character. Does that make any sense? :)
Don’t get me wrong, Julia IS in the zone, making the character her own and enjoying it along the way. I like it at the beginning when Erin is acting her ass off trying to pretend to be something she’s not. She’s either looking for a job, or in a courtroom trying to impress the jury. I just wanna be a good mom.
Then, it’s all fire & music. We get acquainted with Erin the big-mouthed single mom, always saying what’s on her mind, with apparently no unseen layers of her character.
I just love this quote from the film and Julia delivers is just perfectly. Excellent writing. Here she is talking with her new neighbor (and future lover) George; he’s asking her number, but she’s not in the mood for flirting. Julia is great here, keeping the perfect rhythm of the fast paced dialogue.

George: How many numbers you got?
Erin Brockovich: Oh, I got numbers comin' outta my ears. For instance: ten.
George: Ten?
Erin Brockovich: Yeah. That's how many months old my baby girl is.
George: You got a little girl?
Erin Brockovich: Yeah. Yeah, sexy, huh? How 'bout this for a number? Six. That's how old my other daughter is, eight is the age of my son, two is how many times I've been married - and divorced; sixteen is the number of dollars I have in my bank account. 850-3943. That's my phone number, and with all the numbers I gave you, I'm guessing zero is the number of times you're gonna call it.

:)) classic.
Dealing with a very likeable character, Julia Roberts has her work cut out for her. We really really like Erin Brockovich: bossy, bitchy, funny, politically incorrect in all the right ways. Yet there’s more than meets the eye, and Julia also manages to show us a different Erin, a mature one, dealing with emotional traumas caused by past lovers.
There’s a big arc of this character, as Erin goes from being a failure (as we find out she considered herself to be) to becoming a lawyer’s assistant, in the end respected by the people she works with.
As this is an Oscar winning performance, count on tears, rage, crisis, happy or sad moments.
The Bad & The Ugly:
Nope, nothing here. She’s in character all the way. It’s not all great, but nothing bad.
An Oscarish character done very well but an actress who, at the time, was probably at the peak of her career. It’s not Julia Roberts the movie star, it’s Erin Brockovich dealing with daily shit that we all have to go through. I’m thankful for that, as Julia keeps it natural and real. I’m going with .

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best Actress 2000

Next, I'm going for Best Actress 2000. It's a very interesting year, with quite different performances. These are the 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 2000:

from left to right, I have the pleasure to introduce:

  • Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich
  • Laura Linney for You Can Count on Me
  • Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream
  • Juliette Binoche for Chocolat
  • Joan Allen for The Contender

Now, which one was my favorite? I'll just take each performance, one at a time and talk about it. I'll do the ranking at the end and decide the winner. Obviously, all this after rewatching the movies.

Suggestions, tips & all that are well received :) I'll be gone a bit, but I'll be back in 3 days with the first profile.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

What's the big idea?

Well, I actually have a couple of ideas:

  • write about movies I see (so hard with so many tv shows going on right now :P )
  • Oscar Oscar Oscar - predictions for 2009.
  • Oscar O... O... - really take on my movie archive. To tackle with different Oscar categories from different decades.
  • not to be a lazy ass and really do some of the things written above.

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Final Conclusions - Best Actress 2007

  • We have different types of characters and very different actresses, from a French one to a screen legend to an almost debutante.
  • They also had different screentime: Ellen Page is in almost every scene of Juno, the same with Laura Linney and The Savages. Except the scenes with Edith Piaf as a child, Marion Cotillard has control of La vie en rose.
  • On the other hand, Cate Blanchett has to share the movie with other storylines that don't really involve her: the battle scenes with Spain, the love story between Clive Owen & the blond chick, the Spanish villains. Julie Christie's movie isn't really about her; Away from Her is focused on the husband dealing with his wife's illness.
  • It's one of the few times I've actually agreed with Oscar in this category. As you remember it was a justified race between Julie & Marion. If Julie wouldn't have already had an Oscar, she would have probably won. It was the right decision :)

So here's how I scored these ladies (based on the analysis made in previous posts):

1. Marion Cotillard, La vie en rose

2. Julie Christie, Away from Her

3. Laura Linney, The Savages

4. Ellen Page, Juno

5. Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

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Laura Linney, The Savages

This was my first viewing of the film. I can totally understand now why people campaigned so much for Laura Linney back in the winter. It’s a crazy character, but fun to watch. For me it was kind of different from what Oscar normally gives.
approximately 92 minutes and 7 seconds
85% of the film

The Savages
A sister and brother face the realities of familial responsibility as they begin to care for their ailing father.
Hell, yeah:
Although this is just the second movie of Tarama Jenkins, you do manage to notice the direction – and in a good way. The screenplay is smart, both dramatic and fun. Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent (he’s really becoming one of the best actors of his generation and has had a great year); he should have received an Oscar nom for playing Jon, Linney’s brother. It’s a very realistic movie, dealing with serious issues, it’s good to watch if you enjoy a smart drama.

Oh, no:
It’s grim sometimes. If you’re not in the right mood, you might find it a bit too uncomfortable.

Laura Linney, as Wendy Savage

The Good:
I bet it is fun playing a neurotic spinster. Linney makes it feel that way. I admit she had me from the first minutes. There’s a scene where Wendy calls her brother in the middle of the night to give some disturbing news she just heard about their father. The line and the reading of it (fast, hysterical, read as a fact) are representative for Linney’s performance: Jon, it’s me! Dad is writing on the walls with his shit! :))
Funny, sad, great chemistry with Hoffman’s more down-to-earth character.

Wendy likes to lie, Wendy has hopes and dreams, and lots of guilt that’s eating her. In some other hands, it could have been a sad melodramatic role, but Laura Linney has tones of talent and she knows when to make it fun, when to relax, when to take the spotlight.

The comedic part of Wendy starts with the gestures, including some funny looks that make her seem almost innocent.

But there’s also crying, sometimes in justified dramatic moments…

Sometimes in funnier situations, like when Jon confronts her with the fact that she has been stealing money from the government, by posing as a 9/11 victim.

The Bad & the Ugly:
I don’t really see any. The character has its dislikeable moments, but it’s not Linney’s fault. I do have to say though that in the Linney-Hoffman scenes, most of the times for me it’s Philip Seymour Hoffman who steals the show.

A very well-balanced performance and it’s not an easy character to play. I would like to give her 5 stars, but something tells me not to.
So I’m staying with . But still great anyway.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Marion Cotillard, La vie en rose

While choosing the photos from this movie, I found myself clicking the snapshot button once to many times. This movie excites me, to say the least. I have to say sorry to those who hate it. I think it’s an excellent biopic and this performance is easily one of the best of the decade, if not THE best…
approximately 95 minutes and 27 seconds
74% of the film

La vie en rose
The life story of singer Edith Piaf.
Hell, yeah:
Hmmm, the film is in my Top 5 of 2007, so lots of good things about it. The technical part: great cinematography, costume design, art direction, makeup, excellent sound – obvious, as it’s a musical. I thought the direction was smart and the screenplay very proper for a biopic. Great idea to start the film with a great song and to end it with the best there is: Non, je ne regrete rien. The soundtrack is… well… it’s Edith Piaf, so the music is fabulous. And we’ll talk about Marion in a couple of seconds :)
Oh, no:
Actually, nothing here. I can understand if someone doesn’t like the editing and the whole back & forward storyline. But I dig it. So nothing negative about it.
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf
(just) The Good:
Unlike the film, which presents her life without using chronological order, I’ll talk about Marion’s character from young to old. For me, it’s the older Edith Piaf that does the work, but Marion is also excellent portraying the singer at the start of her career.
Edith is playful, going from clownish gestures (Marion makes them look natural and it very much fits the character) to a larger spectrum of emotions.
She’s just a young girl, silly, naive and with one look, Marion lets you discover the vulnerability of Edith, the innocence. It’s not only the makeup department that helps you separate young Edith from old Edith. Marion uses different tricks for each period from the character’s life.
She’s so good at it and natural that I instantly believed her as being Piaf. Even from the first minutes, Marion sells the movie.
As Piaf grows into a mature woman, she’s becoming more of a diva.
It’s here where we also discover Piaf the devoted lover.
And as she becomes old, the character becomes as oscarish as it can be :). And I loved every minute of it. She’s on stage, singing her heart out.
She’s old, sick, addicted to drugs, fainting all the time. Older Piaf is heaven for any Oscar lover & divas fan.
Marion understands the character, she knows when to give her strength, when to make her weak, and she understands that Piaf was a woman who went for all or nothing, without any regrets. The scene that gives me chills is her fantasy of Marcel living and then finding out the awful truth. Powerful, a tour-de-force that gives me chills.
Obviously, . IMO it’s the best Best Actress win of the decade, to say the least.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

I've heard many people saying this is the worst Oscar nomination for Best Actress in years and years... I gues I kinda agree up to a certain point, as the movie and the performance were indeed disappointing. It's a juicy role the one of Queen Elizabeth, yet poorly (over)done by (this usually excellent) performer...
approximately 46 minutes and 52 seconds
44.1% of the film

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

An exploration of the relationship between Elizabeth I and the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh.

Hell, yeah:
The costume design, the art direction, the cinematography (at least until the pathetic war scenes), Samantha Morton as Mary, Queen of Scots - unfortunately not used enough and bits & pieces of Cate's performance. But that's it. Really.

Oh, no:
Where to start? For me, the worst thing was Clive Owen. I almost never like him, but here, as W. Raleigh, he probably gives his worst performance ever; boring character, dull, cheesy performance. The screenplay's a mess, the direction flawed as hell. A big problem for The Golden Age is that it takes itself too seriously without having the material to afford & justify its pretensions. The music is overused and just throws gas on fire. Silly villains, pathetic scenes (there's one with a Nostradamus dude that kills me), a oneway vision of history and so so many other flaws.

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I

The Good:
Upon a second viewing, I was surprised to find decent elements in this performance. Let me just say I loved Cate as Elizabeth in the 1998 movie. Looking for something to like here, I can say I dig her hoarse voice, a bit cartoonish, but I found it to be right for the character.

Cate also does well in the more quiet, restful moments at the beginning of the film. She is also witty, playful, but not over the top.

Or she's just vulnerable, humane, a woman dedicated to her work, not getting any younger, realizing she has nothing else to hold on to.

I'm obviously simplifying the story of a queen - one who looks fabulous in those beautiful costumes :) . I do believe Cate is right for the part - she has proven this in the first Elizabeth; maybe not as right as Glenda Jackson was, but still. Yet it's hard to explain why the director didn't show her the right way this time and why she fell for the bad guiding...

The Bad & the Ugly:
Once Clive's really in, the movie starts to sink, in both story & performances from the most of the cast. It's really a mystery.

On one hand, Elizabeth becomes this schoolgirl, infatuated with this pirate. It's a silly storyline that doesn't do justice to the character, presenting her as a frustrated ugly/uglier duckling.

Lots of tears, lots of drama, it's funny though it shouldn't.

And then, there's Elizabeth fighting the Spanish. In one particular scene, she's screaming her heart out. They actually used it as an Oscar clip at the Academy Awards. Oscar moment my ass. Over the top, screamy, no subtlety, just like some desperate housewife in a drunk rage. She even looks like the wife of Count Dracula:

There's too much going on with this performance, and even more with the actual movie. She's going into the wrong direction with the character, her acting is all over the place. Even so, I have to salute the performance from the very first minutes of the film, when it was more fun and showed a drop of potential. I give Cate .

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