Sunday, February 27, 2011

The most f*cked-up Oscar show in recent history! :)

I just woke up from a 3 hour sleep after watching the Oscars live. I didn't plan on doing this post, but here it is. I think it was the weirdest show in recent history, it bombed, let's be honest :D The weirdest moment:

  • the lack of any good writing for the 2 presenters. It was sad, nobody was laughing in their introduction. It sucked.
  • James Franco was bored out of his mind, he couldn't even keep his eyes open.
  • the montages sucked.
  • the Gone with the Wind moment was completely unjustified.
  • the directing of the show was sloppy.
  • the sound quality was quite bad (you couldn't even hear Randy Newman sing).
  • taking Sorkin off-stage with very loud music. Unimaginable and rude.
  • the Kirk Douglas moment - WTF. Did they just look for the oldest living actor?!
  • I've been saying it for 2 years: she's a great actress, but Melissa Leo is so fake and annoying offscreen. Why am I the only one who can see that???!!!
  • Melissa Leo dropping the f-bomb.
  • the cheesy, tacky ending of the show, with ugly kids singing Somewhere over the rainbow. SERIOUSLY, OSCAR???? I just couldn't watch.
  • the most annoying win: Tom Hooper. He seems to be a nice guy, but it's unimaginable for him to win with that competition.

That's it :) I've said what I had to say, for the record.

I was planning on writing the Best Actress 2010 conclusions before the actual ceremony, but then I thought: what's the rush?

Guys, I hope you'll all have a nice Oscar evening, I'll probably be watching it live (yes, on Europe time, I'll wake up at 2-2:30 am), and before that I hope I will enjoy Another Year.

Have fun!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Natalie Portman, in Black Swan
approximately 89 minutes and 44 seconds**
88.3% of the film

The film

A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like the Black Swan.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Black Swan really is a film like no other this year. It’s beautifully directed, acted quite well, incredibly shot and scored, but with a troubled screenplay. The story is too damn silly to be good, but overall it’s a very artsy film.

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers

Natalie Portman is a young actress, but she’s been around for so long that it makes the following statement not sound so ridiculous: I feel her performance in Black Swan is the best she’s ever given and most of us can agree on that, but I also believe that it’s probably the best role she’ll ever get – you know how you can usually feel this stuff. This is IT for Natalie, I feel like this will be the highest moment of her career and her best casting.

Natalie plays Nina, a ballerina in her 20s, a very dedicated artist, but fragile, vulnerable when it comes to her day to day life. Her life changes when she gets her big break, the leading role in Swan Lake, and the pressure of the role, added to her lesbian crush on one of her colleagues provokes a mental breakdown, hallucinations of unimaginable proportions. It’s an extremely difficult role to do right, both on the physicality of it, and also on nailing the character arc.

Natalie’s training for this role was often used as a trick in campaigning, to get voters’ sympathy, considering this type of dedication, or deglam in other cases, always works. But in the case of Natalie, I have no problem with the shameless mentioning of the process of preparing for the role, because it somehow both justifies the perfect casting, and it also prepares the actress in learning about her character – and you can tell it works perfectly.

The physicality of the performance helps not just in making the character believable and the performance relevant, but it also gives almost more than needed in creating dance scenes that feel great beyond the requirements. I’ll say it now: my favorite scene of hers comes towards the end, when she’s first hitting the stage as the black swan. Her face expression is what I imagine to be perfection for the role, but the way her body moves, that rhythm is something sublime, unexpected, Natalie is completely in control of a character that’s completely lost in its own character.

But besides the dancing there’s also a difficult emotional aspect. What seems at first to be a bit of hesitation or too much ingenuity in Natalie’s performance is quickly justified by what she’s trying to do with the character and by the knock-out transformation throughout, that she’s preparing. Natalie can play innocent and delicate and she completely proves it here; her acting inspires the type of gentleness that perfectly fits the horror of what’s happening to her, and her reactions of fear, terror and insecurity are perfectly acted, as pure, believable reactions from the character.

And how cool are the pulling-out-feathers scene or her confident arrogance when applying the makeup us just before the show starts?! It’s a complicated role, and even when the story’s just too much, Natalie is there to keep everything in control and move the focus from the distracting dialogue or narrative to her – because she’s almost in every scene and it’s the type of justifiable showy acting that just grabs all of our attention.

And a showy role it is, but never mommie dearest or B series horror, because Natalie also brings humanity to the character (which I noticed better while watching it for the second time), makes it believable, while she’s also on the safe hands of the fantastic Darren Aronofsky. It’s an impressive performance, unique, like no other lately, and it’s quite great, so considering all the praises I gave I must go with , though it’s more of a 4.5 but I’m feeling generous right now. Just imagine what the role could’ve been in the hands of the (even slightly) wrong actress.

**counting the screentime was the most difficult it’s ever been, as I wasn’t always sure when the body double stepped in or not. I didn’t count it as Natalie’s in the one obvious case, but I did in those which were argueble.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Final Oscar predictions; for the record

Not much to say on this, I’ll just throw them in there, and here’s hoping for some surprises on Sunday night! The My vote section sticks only to the actual nominees. The most difficult category for me to predict is Original Song, as I refuse to think it’s that obvious. Easiest to predict: Visual Effects.

cheer up, Colin. It will all go well

Best Motion Picture:
The King’s Speech (alternative: The Social Network)
My vote:
Toy Story 3

Best Director:
David Fincher, The Social Network (alt: Tom Hooper)
My vote: David Fincher

Best Actor:
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech (alt: James Franco)
My vote: James Franco (haven’t seen Biutiful yet)

Best Actress:
Natalie Portman, Black Swan (alt: Annette Bening)
My vote: Natalie Portman

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale, The Fighter (alt: Geoffrey Rush)
My vote: Christian Bale

Best Supporting Actress:
Melissa Leo, The Fighter (alt: Helena Bonham Carter)
My vote: Jacki Weaver

Best Original Screenplay:
The King’s Speech (alt: The Kids Are All Right)
My vote: I'm watching Another Year on Oscar evening.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Social Network (alt: Toy Story 3)
My vote: Toy Story 3

Best Animated Feature:
Toy Story 3 (alt: How to Train Your Dragon)
My vote: Toy Story 3

Best Foreign-Language Film:
In a Better World (alt: Incendies)
My vote: -

Best Cinematography:
True Grit (alt: Inception)
My vote: Inception

Best Original Score:
The King’s Speech (alt: The Social Network)
My vote: Inception

Best Original Song:
Tangled (alt: Toy Story 3)
My vote: Tangled

Best Art Direction:
The King’s Speech (alt: Alice in Wonderland)
My vote: Inception

Best Costume Design:
Alice in Wonderland (alt: The King’s Speech)
My vote: Alice in Wonderland

Best Editing:
The Social Network (alt: The King’s Speech)
My vote: Black Swan

Best Sound Mixing:
Inception (alt: True Grit)
My vote: Inception

Best Sound Editing:
Inception (alt: True Grit)
My vote: TRON: Legacy

Best Visual Effects:
Inception (alt: Alice in Wonderland)
My vote: Inception

Best Makeup:
The Wolfman (alt: Barney’s Version)
My vote: -

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nicole Kidman, in Rabbit Hole
approximately 57 minutes and 02 seconds
67.1% of the film

The film

Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident.
You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

As you’ll see, I’ve been swimming against the waves with this film, but I will say some really nice things about Rabbit Hole: I think the cinematography is really special, I think the screenplay is quite ok and, considering it was a year with better directors than the films themselves, John Cameron Mitchell’s direction is quite distinctive.

Nicole Kidman as Becca

It’s the first Nicole Kidman performance I get to write about and it seems so strange to do so. Can you believe it’s just her 3rd nomination? When I think of Nicole, I think of Dogville and how underrated that film is and her performance in it. This time she’s also a producer and you can tell the film is a work of love and I’m happy she got nominated for a film that feels so meaningful to her and to others.

Nicole plays Becca, an intelligent, outspoken woman, who is trying to take control of her life again, months after the death of her young son. The film analyzes her relationship with her husband, with the people around her and her final steps in coming to terms with her loss. It’s not a glamorous role, nor a very complicated one. I perceived it as being quite simple on an emotional level and there is a certain honesty to the character’s emotions, with most of her feeling being on display.

There is nothing groundbreaking about Nicole playing a character trapped in uncomfortable situations, and there are a lot of those moments especially in the first part of the film. Becca doesn’t always fit in and her no-bullshit way of being often keeps her on the outside of stuff. She has her own way of dealing with her grief, or so we suspect, and she finds that the best therapy for her are the occasional conversations with the actual teenager who accidentally killed her child.

Because she’s good at playing more independent, cold characters, Nicole does great on more that one emotional aspect of Becca. Her no-excuses attitude towards her husband and her mother is believable and is acted well, but we sense that the real Becca shows up in her meaningful park conversations with the teenager. Those also happen to be the best scenes of the film: well thought, quiet scenes acted with lots of talent.

Nicole’s best acting doesn’t come from the couple’s big shouting scenes, but from her more private, quiet moments. The special relationship she forms with that boy might’ve looked strange on screen, but the chemistry of the actors and the unrushed pace really make them work, and it’s there that Nicole delivers her best acting in years.

You need to see it to understand it; Nicole really shows a different side of Becca, a more sympathetic, likeable, relatable aspect of the character. His simple, honest apologies, her instinctive curiosity to know more about him, and the kind of healing satisfaction of being in his presence – we understand all this, we believe the arc of the character just because of the gentleness, the quiet emotion, the heart of the character, the tears that Nicole allows us to see.

It’s a good, mature performance, with nothing I would hold against it. I didn’t always go crazy for it, but there are definitely scenes (the crying in the car, their final talk in the park, and others) in which you can sense how good Nicole is in this role. It’s a fine performance with moments of greatness, and from me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Downton Abbey

I'm gonna get away from Oscar just for a second. Is anybody watching Downton Abbey? Contrary to first impressions, this is not a post about how great this British mini-series is; I am just addressing the fever surrounding it, and why I think it's a lot of noise for... hmmm... not THAT much quality.

I've seen 5 of the 7 episodes, so I think I'm entitled to share an opinion. I'll probably see the other 2 at one point.


  • someone (I really don't remember who) wrote that Downton Abbey puts Gosford Park to shame, or something like that. Whoever said that, needs to do himself a favor and quickly revisit the unmatchable, fabulous, Altman-trophy Gosford Park. You can't even compare. Yes, they have the same writer, but if Gosford is the main dish out of Julian Fellowes mind, Downton makes for some good leftovers.
  • there's nothing groundbreaking about it, and the series is too predictable to become spectacular. Most of the characters are painfully easy to read, and hardly nuanced (especially among the staff).

  • the plot is very Jane Austen, and the episode with the flower contest made me angry. Do they really think I've never seen Mrs. Miniver?? :) it was the exact same storyline.

  • Art Direction and Costume Design are pretty awesome, I'll admit that. So is Maggie Smith, even though it's an easy role for her; Elizabeth McGovern was a nice surprise too. But the leading lady... sheesh, almost no charisma there; he younger sister Sybil is 10 times more charming and terribly underused.


  • I'm not saying it's bad, it's just overrated and unspectacular plot-wise. If you feel like seeing a fabulous British mini-series costume-drama, watch the first season of Cranford. The acting, the humor, the screenplay - one of Judi Dench's best and some of my favorite TV stuff ever.

  • I'm expecting Mildred Pierce to be really fierce, and win all Emmys and stuff. :D

Are you watching Downton? Do you also feel it's overrated? Even Joan Rivers twitted about it, and not in a joke way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Michelle Williams, in Blue Valentine
approximately 75 minutes and 04 seconds
70.8% of the film

The film
The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between two time periods.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

I respect a lot the honesty of Blue Valentine, what I can’t love is the super-pessimistic attitude of the story. I know it’s meant to be hard to watch, and for what it’s set up to be: it succeeds. It’s a well directed film, but I really wouldn’t wanna see it again; however, you always hurt the one you love will make indie film history.

Michelle Williams as Cindy

When I was predicting the nominees, I said: Michelle won’t make it without Ryan, it’s either gonna be both of them or none. And I was wrong: she somehow made it, in what was a very competitive 5th slot. She had a great campaign and, most of all, a very interesting performance in a film that other actors sure talked about. Another thing I noticed on a second view was that the story is about this couple, but individually more about Cindy than about Dean.

Michelle plays Cindy, a character that we discover in two different situations: she’s a young woman, romantic and fun and in love, with dreams and desires; and then, 5-6 years later, she’s a mother, a wife, trying to balance her job as a nurse with the nervousness of her home environment and her feeling that she’s lost any love for her husband, Dean. For Michelle, for most of the time it’s like playing two different characters in the same film, but she’s good enough at it that we can understand the transitions of Cindy from lively to angry and frustrated.

I need to come up front and say it: Cindy was not my favorite character and for a big part of the conflict, I was more on Dean’s side. And while I wasn’t always a fan of the character, I also think that Michelle knew when to make Cindy likeable and charming, and she was perfectly in control of the character when she decided to turn her into a bitch. Cindy is a complicated character because, while I saw her as the one to blame the most for the failing marriage, I also understood her involuntary disliking of Dean and the fact that from where she’s sitting, she’s a victim, and someone who shouldn’t be blamed for wanting more in life.

I was able to understand all this because Michelle is very good at what she’s doing; also, knowing about the filming process of Blue, this is a natural, sometimes-improvised performance done very well. She’s always in character, she’s always believable and, considering the camera is always on their faces, every gesture of hers seems justified and meaningful in the construction of the character.

The young Cindy is adorable and relatable, and she’s so damn pretty and charming. I believed in the joyful side of the young years and I recognized that optimism, the hope that young people have. In the older Cindy, Michelle brings the passive-aggressiveness, that quiet anger displayed especially in the first scenes. I understood her acting choices, it made me uncomfortable, but it just went on to prove Michelle’s great understanding of the character.

But there’s still a bit of something holding me back with this performance, for example: I’m not able to point my favorite scene of hers – which could mean that I liked her all around (partly true) or that I just didn’t love the character enough to really care what was happening to it… I don’t know: there are a lot of good moments, and it seems like the perfect performance, but it might be just the lack of a wow factor combined with my hostility towards her character that makes me give her a , and not the highest rating, even though I’m not sure what she should’ve done differently. Very good performance.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Annette Bening, in The Kids Are All Right
approximately 39 minutes and 46 seconds
39.1% of the film

The film

Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father into their family life.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

My favorite scenes in the film were always the ones with the moms, and the group scenes were also fun to watch. This is a fine written film, with acting going from ok to very good, and some really nice moments of smart directing.

Annette Bening as Nic
It’s always hard for me to say what I generally feel about Annette Bening as an actress. I think in all of her performances I can spot the bit of arrogance that we all see in her interviews and TV appearances (if I remember it well, a performance making the exception is in The Grifters); it’s not really typecasting, it is her intellectual, a bit snobbish, way of being that gives a certain royal feel to all of her performances. It sounds like I’m putting it against her: but I’m really just saying that THIS is her thing, this is her distinctive acting style and sometimes it really works, especially when she gets a more frigid, tense character.

Annette plays Nic, a lesbian doctor who is in a longterm successful relationship with Jules, and the two of them have two wonderful teenage kids together. When the children’s biological father is brought into their family life, Nic has a hard time adjusting to that, and it creates a tense environment that will affect their quiet lives. It’s a good role that any actress would want, and even though she’s a co-lead in a great ensemble, Nic is so different from Jules, as a character, that both of the performances really stand on their own.

It’s clear from the start that Nic is the man in the house, the alpha-female, and she is the one who has to hold most of the big responsibilities. It’s a role that she likes, and Annette does a great job underlining the controlling aspect of Nic’s personality. She is not that possessive, but she loves giving the final word on just about everything. Annette’s more intellectual acting style comes of great use here: she gives us the clear impression that Nic is a very intelligent, smart woman, both loving and vulnerable, but mostly a mother-lion figure, as many scenes stand to prove it.

And there’s more to this character than the stuffy bitch image that she seems to display at first. Here’s where Annette greatly succeeds: she brings such a loving vulnerability to Nic, one that I’ve almost never seen her do before; there are scenes in which I completely forgot about her acting tricks and even I surrendered to this character and completely believed it and forgot about Annette-the-actress. Nic is the one to break your heart in this film, and Annette gets the task of just doing that and she beautifully delivers.

Her best acted scene is of course the confrontation scene in the bathroom, after she finds out about the affair. Just be honest with me, ok? she asks, and her acting is so perfect in the scene and so touching, that it’s almost breathtaking, all helped by the wonderful screenplay. Her teary eyes tell you everything that she feels in that moment, and it’s all balanced so masterfully.

Of course, there are many things to be said about the performance: from the singing, to the great line delivery, to the honesty of her tears during Jules’s big final speech. It’s a very good performance with a couple of fantastic moments. What her competition has, however, is much more screentime, which might explain why she won’t win this year. But to me this is a strong . I wouldn’t be upset if she pulls a shocker on Oscar night.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

the special cold I have for almost a week now kills my mood for any of the regular posts; and many other daily stuff.

But, something more important: let's celebrate the best actress never to receive an Oscar nomination: today is Mia Farrow's birthday! and if you've never seen Broadway Danny Rose, now would be a perfect time to do something about it :)
Happy B.!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Jennifer Lawrence, in Winter's Bone
approximately 63 minutes and 01 seconds
66.6% of the film

The film
A girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Winter’s Bone is the indie film that actually wouldn’t have benefited from a bigger budget. It’s well acted, with a simple story and a subtle, very efficient direction. The technical part is good just as it is, and overall this is a satisfying film.

Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly

We know that the Academy has done it before in this category: nominating a very young debutante, and while Jennifer’s Oscar prospects looked shaky at first, as soon as the critics started to really embrace Winter’s Bone, the nomination became a lock. Looking back at it, I think there are 2 factors to really charm voters and audiences: Jennifer’s beautiful face and her all-natural acting style.

Jennifer plays Ree, a 17 year old, in desperate need of tracing her father, because otherwise they will loose their house. The father was involved in the local drug trade, the mother has mental problems, so Ree is left in charge of everything, including her two small brothers. As a viewer, you can sense she didn’t have an easy childhood, sowe’re looking at a determined, mature young woman who won’t give up until she reaches her goal.

I found nothing wrong with this performance, so I’ll make that clear now. The most you can hold against it is that, for a big part of the screenplay, there’s nothing very important happening to the character and some might quickly say that Jennifer does almost no acting or that her acting ends up looking too simple and not interesting enough. Except for a couple of key scenes, it’s a quiet performance, but that’s just Jennifer following the direction and blending in with the mood of the film.

Maybe because I didn’t know the actress, the acting looked very natural and believable to me. There’s wasn’t a single moment in which I didn’t buy her in the role of this mature young woman and, alongside Debra Granik’s smart directing, Jennifer is the carrying force of the film. Her face is expressive, yet Jennifer uses strong emotion just when absolutely required, and so conforming to the tough image that Ree has to put for others.

Her 2 best scenes are quite different, but with the same powerful effect. First, there’s the scene with her trying to talk to her mother, trying to get some advice about what to do. Her performance is both simple and incredibly touching, because it feels so real and relatable. The second scene depends more on the screenplay, it’s the lake scene, with such a crucial role in the story. Again: her acting is so natural, and quite engaging in this scene, which really helps selling the story and creating the tension that the scene requires.

Jennifer delivers the right performance, beautifully underlining both the maturity and the strength of the character, but also its vulnerability. It’s a good performance, and my rating for it might seem a bit surprising. It’s a strong , but why not more? Because while I appreciated it, I was never blown away by it; a 3 is a good ranking in my system, and I need in some way to separate it from the rest of this excellent group of women. The performance won’t make film history, but it’s a damn good one.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The most beautiful animation I have ever seen; technically flawless. But it doesn't have enough soul.