As I told my roommate the other day, Oscar night is my Super Bowl night. It is a night of glamour (well that word kind of ruins my Super Bowl analogy) and glory that I look forward to every year. I do understand that a fair amount of the Oscars is a popularity contest and that the list of nominees are not always the best representation of a year in film. Snubs happen all the time and this year was one of the worst years as far as snubs go. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were both passed over for Best Director, Moonrise Kingdom was not giving a Best Picture nominations and Leonardo DiCaprio did not earn a nomination for his outstanding performance in Django Unchained (the D is silent you racist mother…..). Despite all the snubs and drama I counted down the minutes until the Oscars started and watched every single moment live, even when it dragged a half an hour past its advertised end time. Ultimately it was a great year for the Oscars with some fairly large surprises. I was nervous about Seth MacFarlane as a host but he ended up giving a hilarious and fairly charming performance. I’m not going to talk about every category, just the big ones.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz as Doctor King Schultz in Django Unchained. This year the Best Supporting Actor category was absolutely stacked with each actor in the category a previous Oscar Winner. I could not be happier with the result in this category. While Philip Seymour Hoffman was outstanding in the Master and I am always a fan of Alan Arkin, who was nominated for his performance in Argo, Waltz was my pick for Best Supporting Actor.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables. I will go on the record in saying that I did not like Les Miserables. I do not understand how it was nominated for Best Picture. I agree that there were some stunning scenes and some good performances but ultimately I thought it was over-hyped and overrated. One aspect of the film that did not disappoint was Anne Hathaway’s performance. Absolutely heartbreaking as the street prostitute who would give anything and everything to support her daughter, there is no doubt in my mind that Hathaway deserved this win more than any of the other Nominees.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. Again, I thought this award went to the right person. Another very strong category, including Helen Hunt for her performance in the Sessions and Sally Field for her role as Mary Todd in Lincoln, Jennifer Lawrence gave the performance of a lifetime. Playing a broken, young widower, Lawrence proves her true acting skill time and time again throughout the film. There was one scene in particular that could have been enough to win her the award in which she goes head to head with Robert De Niro in my favorite movie scene of the year.
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. I actually did not see this film but I am not surprised that Lewis won. I would have really liked Bradley Cooper to have won for his performance in Silver Linings Playbook but I do not doubt that Lewis deserved it. He is an outstanding actor and does not take a role unless he can make it Oscar worthy.
Best Director: Ang Lee for Life of Pi. In my opinion this was the biggest shock of the entire night. If I had to cast my vote I would have voted for David O. Russel for Silver Linings Playbook. I am not upset that Lee won, I am just very surprised. The reviews for Life of Pi were mixed and as Oscar night approached, there wasn’t necessarily a strong vote of confidence for Lee to win. After his win I will have to see the film and see if he truly deserved it.
Best Picture: Argo. I am very happy that Argo won. I like Ben Affleck, I have always liked him and am glad that a film he worked so hard on won such a high honor. I think it was quite the shock that Argo won not because it was a bad film or didn’t deserve it but because the film didn’t win any other Oscars throughout the evening. It is very rare for a film to win Best Picture but not take home any other Oscars. I thought Affleck’s speech was heartfelt and true, one of those speeches that makes you realize the Oscar recipient is truly and genuinely honored by the award. In a year of amazing films I have to say I am not at all upset that Argo came through victorious.
I thought this year was a great year for the Oscars, despite them going a half an hour past their end time but hey, its the Oscars, what do you expect? Seth MacFarlane turned out to be a pretty great host and the smattering of performances were very well done. A strong year of Oscar nominated films has come to an end leaving me only to wonder what does 2013 have in store for us?
We all know the film, we all know the plot and most of all, we all know the song. As of a few days ago, I have finally seen the film all the way through. Now before the eye rolling and gasping can begin, let me assure you that I had seen most of the film but I had watched it piece mail. After seeing it all the way through I have to admit, I actually really enjoyed Titanic.
Quick recap of Titanic for those of you who live under a rock. Told in a flashback format, the film begins with an excavation team in present day (when the film was made of course) searching for the sunken wreck of the Titanic. Led by Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) it becomes clear that they are looking for The Heart of the Ocean, a giant diamond rumored to have sunk with the ship. The team recovers a picture showing a woman wearing the diamond and find to their advantage that the woman in the picture is still alive. She gets in contact with them and tells the story of her time on the Titanic. The bulk of the film tells the story of Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). From different worlds, Rose arrives on the Titanic a member of a wealthy family with her extremely wealthy boyfriend Caledon “Cal” Nathan Hockley (Billy Zane) while Jack wins his ticket with his friend Fabrizio De Rossi (Danny Nucci) in a poker game. Rose lives in first class while Jack resides in third. The two probably would have never met if Jack hadn’t been at the right place at the right time. On the verge of suicide when realizing how unhappy she is in life, Jack manages to pull Rose back on board the ship before she jumps and romance is born.
The romance between Jack and Rose is a classic, overplayed romance but it worked perfectly in this film. Two people from different worlds fall in love and learn to love each other even more as they try to traverse they respective worlds together. Jack is invited into Rose’s world as a result of saving her life in the form of a dinner with the ship’s High Class patrons. Though Cal and Rose’s mother (Frances Fisher) do all they can to embarrass Jack, he manages to survive the dinner with grace, charm and dignity. After his foray into the upper class, Jack brings Rose to the underbelly of the ship to a third class party. Loud, crazy and unsophisticated, the exact opposite of what Rose is used to, she fits in perfectly, dancing and drinking with the rest. While this romance, where two people from different social circles preserve their love against all odds, is extremely overplayed, it worked out perfectly in this film. Not only did it serve to frame character development, it really showed the variety of life, status and wealth that existed on the giant cruise ship. All walks of life had gathered and were at times force to commingle on the Titanic.
I enjoyed watching this film but I also had a number of fundamental flaws with it, most of which can be traced back to director James Cameron trying to do too much. Prior to working on Titanic, Cameron had made a number of brilliant action films including Terminator and Alien, aptly proving himself as a skilled director. With Titanic, Cameron seemed to be much more scatterbrained. His work with the camera was impeccable, filling the film with perfectly orchestrated shots and scenes. What I didn’t like about the direction of the movie was that Cameron wasn’t able to decide if he wanted to make a drama or an action film. Instead he made a drama film, then he made an action film, then he smashed them together, making one confused film that ran too long. There was also a lack of character development throughout the film. Jack and Rose had great character development but there were a number of other characters that got lost in the shuffle of the film. There were a number of characters in both the upper and lower class that served as anchors, not really doing anything but giving us a face to focus on when the scene involved those classes which to me seems like a waste of time. In my opinion many characters fell into the background of the grand sets and the special effects that made up the last hour of the film. The only side character that I found to be memorable at all was Margaret Brown (Kathy Bates) and only then because Kathy Bates doesn’t have the ability to be on screen without making an impression.
In 1997, Titanic went head to head with L.A. Confidential, As Good As it Gets, Good Will Hunting and the Full Monty and came out victorious with an Oscar Best Picture win and didn’t stop there. Taking a staggering eleven Oscar wins, including a win for James Cameron in Best Directing, the film still holds the record for most Oscar wins along with Ben-Hur and the Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King. While I didn’t want to like the movie that much, I have to admit that it is a well done film. I give Titanic a 7.5 out of 10. It may be a little bit long but it is worth seeing.
Any of you that have read a number of my posts may have picked up on the fact that I am quite a large Quentin Tarantino enthusiast, in fact I have been counting down the days to the release of Django Unchained for months now. Throughout his career, Tarentino has made a number of risky decisions when it comes to the content of his films but nothing was riskier than what he unleashed on the world when he created Django Unchained.
Set two years before the start of the Civil War, Django Unchained is the story of two unlikely business partners. Doctor King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a German bounty hunter, searching across Southern America for marks he can make money off of. When we first meet Dr. Schultz, he is searching for three men known as the Brittle brothers. Having never seen the brothers, Dr. Schultz enlists the help of a slave who has seen them, Django (Jamie Foxx) who quickly becomes Django Freeman when Schultz frees him. After travelling with one another, dispatching of the Brittle brothers and getting to know one another, Django and Schultz set up a deal. If Django travels with Schultz all winter and helps him with his bounties, Schultz will help save Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the control of the evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Posing as two me who buy Mandingo fighters, people who buy slaves with the express purpose of having them fight to the death, Django and Schultz attempt to dupe Candie and save the German speaking, married slave named Broomhilda.
Quentin Tarantino took a risk while making this film, looking at the Old South and slavery in a way that could easily be seen as disrespectful. Many have asked how Tarantino had the right to make a film that was so arrogantly racist in its premise, script and concept. After seeing the film, I do understand how some people could have been upset and offended by it. I took the content of the film a different way, and while maybe this makes me ignorant, I saw a film that blatantly poked at and made fun of slavery. I mainly saw this in Doctor King Schultz, a man from another country who couldn’t seem to grasp the idea of slavery. The majority of the script written for Schultz consisted of quick witted, sharp tongued humor and a lot of the humor was derived from Schultz’s idea that slavery was ridiculous, a theme that carried throughout the film.
In my opinion, this film should come with a disclaimer for Quentin fans only. Django Unchained contained every aspect a Quentin Taranino film should contain: witty and dark humored dialogue, gratuitous violence, plenty of action and a cast of ridiculously outrageous characters including a hilarious cameo by Don Johnson as the plantation owner Big Daddy. Other cameos included Jonah Hill and Samuel L. Jackson as a house slave.
As far as the Oscar race goes, I could see a number of nominations being given to Django Unchained. Christof Waltz stole nearly every scene he was in, which was most of them, and the only time he wasn’t center of attention was when he shared the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx did a great job as Django but Waltz and DiCaprio both shined with outstanding acting skill, giving them both the option of nomination. It was clearly Quentin who had his hands on the camera, the shots mirror his other films, but for a man to be able to tell such a story with just a camera always brings up the possibility of a nomination. Though it is a year filled with outstanding films, I think Django Unchainced has the possibility to earn itself a Best Picture nomination. I myself give the film an 8.5 out of 10. It is an example of outstanding work from Quentin Tarantino but if his over the top style isn’t always your favorite, then I would steer clear of this film.
Now, before all you readers out there scoff at me and wonder how someone can call themselves an entertainment editor if they haven’t seen the Departed, which by the way is a very rude thing to do, I HAVE seen the Departed. My goal while writing these Best Picture posts is not to watch all of the Best Picture winners I haven’t seen but to watch and review every Best Picture winner. That means I am re-watching the ones that I have already seen and I am glad I decided to do so. I forgot what an outstanding movie The Departed is until I watched it again, remembering why it earned director Martin Scorsese his first Best Director win.
Another film with a fairly complex plot that can be stripped down and explain at its most basic in a paragraph. Ultimately the story revolves around two men, both going undercover and eventually tasked to find one another. The film takes place in Boston crime scene which is run by the Irish-American mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). The film opens with Costello enlisting the help of a young boy, obviously meaning to take the boy under his wing. The film then jumps into the future showing the boy, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), graduating from the Police Academy. Graduating opposite Sullivan is Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man who grew up in a world of crime and has decided to try and change his fate. Sullivan eventually gets accepted into the Special Investigations Unit, where he acts as a mole for Frank Costello. Quickly flagged by Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) as a man comfortable around crime, they enlist Costigan to infiltrate Costello’s operation as an undercover agent. As both Costigan and Sullivan delve deeper and deeper into their own fake identities, they are each giving opposite tasks. First Sullivan is just to be Costello’s eyes and ears in the police force and Costigan is tasked to try and bring down Costello’s operation from the inside. As both make mistakes and suspicions arise, Costigan is eventually asked to find the rat in the police force while Sullivan is ordered to find the rat in Costello’s gang. The two end up having to hunt each other.
While watching this film, I found it absolutely impossible to pick a best performance. Each time I had decided on an actor, another stepped on screen to change my mind. No matter how big or small the role, everybody came ready to prove their brilliance. Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin fit in perfectly as the head of the local undercover unit and head of an FBI task force respectively. Wahlberg played alongside Sheen, a ruthless asshole helping run Costigan’s undercover mission. Vera Farmiga stars as one of the only main, female characters in the film, playing the psychiatrist Madolyn. While Sullivan meets Madolyn one day in the elevator and the two start a long relationship together, Costigan is assigned to talk to Madolyn as a part of his fake firing so he could go undercover. The two eventually form an oddly inappropriate relationship that leads to Madoyln remaining in both the main character’s lives.
The three main characters of the film command the screen with the skill expected of such veteran actors. Nicholson embodies the rough and tough gangster, giving the man an almost bipolar personality. Controlling a gang of rough and tough mobsters, played by an intimitading crew of actors, Costello can be happy one moment and the next be brutally torturing a member of his crew. Damon and DiCaprio mirror each other perfectly through the film, playing two spies doing the same task for different sides. While Costigan begins in chaos, fighting through it to get a foothold in Costello’s gang, Damen seems to be perfectly in control in the film’s start. Costigan harnesses the increasing chaos around him to allow him to survive his time undercover while Damen’s loses his calm composure and lets his job and life spiral wildly out of control.
The Departed didn’t just win the 2006 Oscar for Best Motion Picture, it also delivered Scorsese his first win for Best Director. Already nominated for Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York and the Aviator, Scorsese finally beat out his competition and earned the well-deserved win. The Departed had to battle a number of different great films for title of best picture. Beating out Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and the Queen, I can honestly say that the Departed deserved the win in 2006. With amazing performances and a soundtrack to die for, I give this Best Picture Winner a 10 out 10 and, if you can stomach a fair amount of brutal violence, would recommend it to any movie lover.