Wednesday, March 23, 2011

awful news. no need to write more. let's just remember her as the most beautiful one of them all.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This is how I felt a lot in the last few days, especially in the last 24 hours. While I was complaining to two of my friends separately about some misfortunes, mostly sentimental, and my depressed mood, I had a revelation. I was/am Mary! I am. And I'll definitely become her more and more as I'll get older. How true is that character, how true is the performance. Some of you will recognize of course the final scene.
Let's hope for better days. At least the sun is up.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Romanian film people should see

A couple of weeks ago I was named the winner in a small contest over at Ben Thomas’s blog. The prize was meant to be something my choice, and what a better way to torture someone (ha.ha) than forcing them to watch a Romanian film. Truth be told, I didn’t choose randomly, I chose the best known one and a film that had some kind of influence on more award stuff than people realize.

Things every Oscar blogger should know about 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days:
  • it won Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007.
  • it was considered one of the most outrageous Oscar snubs back then, when it didn’t even get on the list of 9 finalists for the Foreign Language Film. This resulted in the Academy changing the rules for this branch in an attempt to avoid such further omissions.
  • it was a Golden Globe nominee and it won a couple of prizes from the critics.

I’m not gonna review it, but here’s what I think people should know about it:
  • it’s a good, watchable film. If you’re not from Europe, you might find a bit weird, but most likely in a good way.
  • the story is interesting, the acting is quite good and the dialogue is fine – even if it’s easier for me, as a Romanian, to judge; truth is, you can’t translate everything.
  • most of all, it’s technically great: the cinematography is so right for the mood of the film and the direction (bless this guy) is quite flawless in my opinion.
  • it’s a film about abortion, though it’s actually just an excuse to discover interesting characters.

Ben did me the pleasure of reviewing the film, and please check it HERE.

I also asked him a couple of questions about the experience of watching it and here’s how it went:

Did the enviroment of the film feel "foreign" to you and was there anything surprising or usual about the setting / streets / people?

There's a very definite sense of place and time in the movie, the industrial pre-fabricated buildings lend a drab feel to the cityscape that's very different to the British cities (even the estates) I'm used to seeing. However that did add to my preconceptions of the Eastern bloc before the collapse of the Iron curtain.

How did you feel after watching the film? Sad, depressed, intrigued?

I think it's impossible not to be moved by the plight of the main characters, their lives will never be the same again. Otilia in particular has gone through a huge journey, starting confident and irrepresible she become more withdrawn and defensive to the world in which she lives - even if some of her actions seem to contradict that journey.

I feel like the last scene says a lot about the two characters. Without spoiling it, did you think that was the right ending?

The last scene fully conveys how Otilia and Gabita have reacted to the events, and whilst it's true to say it's anti-climatic, it's also exceedingly real. People don't, on the whole talk about their emotions, especially in the repressive regime they appear to be living under.

Has the film changed in any way your own personal perception of Romania and Romanian people?

I would love to say no. I don't look at Another Year and The King's Speech and believe they fully represent the British people, or that Ingmar Bergman is representative of the Swedes. However this did open my eyes to the way the state could and couldn't influence prejudices and activities during the 1980's; as this is still recent history it's ultimately relevant to the psyche of modern Romania.

If I'd tell you "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" (2005) is better, would you be interested in seeing it? :D

Yes, I'll certainly be planning on seeing more Romanian films over the coming months.

I might write more on Romanian cinema in 2 or 3 weeks, when the Gopo awards (the Romanian Oscars will take place).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Best Actress 1928

I know I’m not the first one to write about it, but I’m thrilled to be able to do the first year in Oscar history, and write about the first line-up of Best Actress nominees. I’m gonna profile the 5 nominated performances, of which right now I know very little about (no, I haven’t even seen Sunrise). The category is generally known as Best Actress 1927/1928, but I’m keeping it simple as Best Actress 1928.

As you know, Janet Gaynor won and it was the only Best Actress year where they had an actress win for more than one performance. Of course, she didn’t receive 3 Oscar statuettes, and I’m gonna judge them separately, so there will be just one winning performance from me. I’m not sure how I’ll manage to judge these silent movie performances, as I’m not that used to this type of films. We’ll see. I hope it will be fun.

Also, I need to mention I couldn’t have done this without the help of Cal, who’s blogging from Thank you!!!

The 3 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1928, in alphabetical order:

Louise Dresser as Mrs. Pleznik, in
A Ship Comes In

Janet Gaynor as Diane, in 7th Heaven

Janet Gaynor as Angela, in Street Angel

Janet Gaynor as The Wife, in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Gloria Swanson as Sadie Thompson, in Sadie Thompson

I usually start with the winner, but in this case I’ll alternate Janet’s performances with the ones from the other 2 actresses. But before the first profile, there will be a film homage later this week.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 2010

2010 gave us a great group of nominees for this category, I think most of us can agree on that. There was also an impressive list of runner-ups (unlike the year before) and the 5th slot was quite open for anyone to grab. Quality-wise, I wouldn’t exactly compare it to Best Actress 2006, which was quite close to perfection, but it’s definitely a strong group of performances.

As I started to write about it once the nominations were announced, I had an idea about who was gonna be my choice, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I had seen all films, enjoyed all performances, but I just wasn’t sure how Black Swan was gonna play for me the 2nd time; fortunately for my film experience, it did quite well. But a ranking was not easy, and even to me the race was closer that it seemed, considering my no. 1 actually has a 4.5/5, and no. 2 is a strong 4/5. I’m fine with my No. 3, but 4 and 5 might change places in the future.

Here is how I’ve appreciated them. If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

1. Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Natalie beautifully combines the physicality of the role with a deep understanding of the frailty, the vulnerability of the character. She’s in every scene of the film, mesmerizing with the easiness she displays both the mysterious shyness of Nina, but also the precision of her dance scenes. She truly nails the character arc in a transformation that’s much more believable through what Natalie shows than what the screenplay would’ve suggested.

the highlight: on stage, truly embracing the black swan persona.

It’s similar to the typical frigid, arrogant character she’s played before, but this one is much more complex. As usual, Annette inspires certain intelligence to the character, that feeling of arrogance that feels so justified here, yet somewhat keeping Nic grounded and almost likeable. The scenes in which she surrenders to her emotions are beautifully unexpected, with the one bathroom confrontation scene being in my opinion the best acted moment of the year.

the highlight: confronting Jules about the affair.

Playing both a grieving mother and a wife in a shaky marriage makes for a challenging role, but Nicole is just right for the part. Just like in Annette’s case, Nicole has no problem in nailing the outsider nature of the character, as Becca often finds it hard to fit in with the others. But her best scenes are the quiet ones, the meaningful, both painful and relieving dialogues that she has with the boy – it’s there where Nicole, using little words, beautifully tells us what her character really feels.

the highlight: listening to his confession of driving too fast.

The performance feels as natural as it gets and Michelle is a real charmer. She is adorable as always and she gives certain likeability to a character that otherwise I found a bit difficult to fully rally behind. Also due to the filming style, you can tell she’s very much in the character, and she’s always natural, believable, and having just the right chemistry with her talented co-star. It’s a performance with lots of emotional rides and Michelle manages to make it accessible.

the highlight: their final kitchen argument, she’s had enough.

The more I think about this performance, the more I like it. She gives the most believable performance of this group of nominees, and there’s an easiness to her acting that’s certainly not accessible to every young actress. Even so, she’s more of a vehicle for this film, with not much of a character arc to consider on paper; however, her natural acting style, the native intelligence she puts behind the character and a couple of great scenes make it a worthy performance.

the highlight: the realistic horror of the lake scene.

It was Natalie’s to lose for months now. Even if the race became quite close, Natalie’s win was no surprise, as we all know. Annette is the obvious 2nd (she’s not a lucky lady, as I suspect she’s been 2nd before also for American and for Being Julia). I think Michelle is 3rd because of Harvey Weinstein and because they were more likely to see Blue than Rabbit Hole. Nicole probably had the 4th chance of winning, while Jennifer (and I know many will disagree) was 5th because she’s too young and Winter’s Bone had lost lots of momentum, her last visible campaigning was in late autumn.

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right.

What’s next: A Best Actress surprise in a couple of days.