Archive for Author Jess

I saw this one last November as a screener at home on a rainy Sunday. It really matched the tone of this film.

Rachel Getting Married

Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a recovering drug addict who leaves rehab to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). Her homecoming brings out a lot of bubbling tension amongst the family and causes everyone to air their grievances on the weekend of the wedding.

This film is a lot darker and more depressing than one would think as it strikes the chord of nearly every family problem you can think of. A lot of scenes tend to drag on with trite dialogue and seem as though they could have been cut down a lot. In fact, the film could have been a lot shorter, probably under an hour and a half, with all the unnecessary fringe cut out. Either way, it’s interesting but really the best part of the film, and the only thing worth nominating, is Anne Hathaway.

Nominations:

Best Actress – Anne Hathaway
I love to see her coming into her own as an actress and this role is definitely a career best. She was an early front-runner for this award, but now she should just be glad to be here since I think this award belongs to Kate.

***

I saw this movie back in October- I was really looking forward to it, as I love Clint Eastwood films, but couldn’t help but feel pretty let down.

Changeling by Clint Eastwood with Angelina Jolie

Based on a true story, Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single working mom in the 1920’s. When her son goes missing, she turns to the LAPD who bring back a boy that she claims is not her child. Emotional and upset, she brings the strange child into her house, yet persists that he is not her son. When she begins to talk to a local activist (John Malkovich) who brings her side of the story public, the LAPD begin to slander her.

This film was slow and really quite dull. It looks beautiful, but it needed to be carried by a very strong actress and I think Jolie really underperforms here. She’s incredibly one note and the character feels old and played out. Remember A Mighty Heart? I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between her Mariane Pearl and her Christine Collins. Just replace the word “husband” with “son” and you’ve got Changeling. Which is why I think…

Nominations:

Best Actress – Angelina Jolie
…that this is really a political nomination. The Academy loves to indulge itself in a nomination or two that will attract beautiful people and attention, and Jolie and Pitt’s noms this year seem to fall into that category. There were plenty of other deserving performances this year and this is not one of them.

Best Cinematography
This film looks beautiful and is wonderfully shot, but I think it might lose this one to a film with more sweeping camera movements and majestic scenery such as Benjamin Button or Slumdog.

Best Art Direction
Here, though, I think this stands a real chance. The muted colors and dreary sets match the tone of the film and make it good competition for the similar looking Benjamin Button.

**

I saw this film over Thanksgiving weekend with my movie-loving aunt and uncle and I’m so glad I did as it seemed to get lost in the holiday shuffle this year.

Australia starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman

Just before WWII, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), an English aristocrat, inherits a ranch in Australia and flies there to prep the land for sale. Once there she becomes close with the hands on the ranch and discovers that the local businessman who wants to buy the ranch, Neil Fletcher (David Wenham), has been monopolizing the cattle industry and stealing cattle from her herd. She decides to keep the ranch open and stop Fletcher with the help of Drover (Hugh Jackman) who, naturally, droves cattle for a living. There’s really so much more to this film, which is so epic that it feels as though it should have been two shorter films. There are two distinct beginnings, middles, and ends, and the story lines include everything from droving cattle, to the bombing of Darwin, and even the “Stolen Generations” of half Aboriginal children. Even still, Hugh Jackman is always enjoyable and the child actor Brandon Wallace is captivating as the young boy Nullah that brings Lady Sarah and Drover together. However, instead of just paying homage to classic romance films such as Gone With the Wind, it all just feels a tad old fashioned.

Nominations:

Best Costume Design
The costumes in this film are quite stunning- in one pivotal scene Kidman wears a red kimono that pops against Jackman’s white suit as they share their first kiss in the pouring rain. However, I tend to think a film such as The Duchess could have this beat, as the Academy tends to favor the royal costumes of that particular time period.

***

I saw this film at the AFI Festival back in November. It was actually a pretty cool experience- I’ve been to AFI galas before, but this one was at the Chinese theater in Hollywood and I had to walk the red carpet on my way in. It was a lot of fun that night, plus I saw the movie over a month before it was released in theaters.

The Wrestler with Micky Rourke

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a professional wrestler whose glory days are far behind him. He spends his weekends as a local legend- the last act of the night at small time gigs and doing signing appearances that attract few. On the weekdays he works in the warehouse of Acme and frequents the local strip joint. After a health scare, the doctors tell him he needs to quit wrestling, causing him to take a good look at his life outside of the ring. He pursues a relationship with Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), an older stripper at the club, and upon her advice seeks out his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). I wonder if I had seen this film amongst all of the other nominees this year if things would have been different, but the fact is that I loved this film so much that it set my standards for the year, a standard that no other film I’ve seen since has met. Mickey Rourke fully embodies The Ram and Aronofsky captures every moment be it glorious, gritty, embarrassing, or desperate. A lot of the film literally follows The Ram from behind, tracking his every movement from behind Rourke’s head- it’s so real and introspective that I felt as though I was watching a documentary of this man’s fall from fame.

Nominations:

Best Actor – Mickey Rourke
I have no doubt in my mind that Rourke deserves this Oscar more than anyone else this year. Yes, Langella is astounding as Nixon and Penn does a fantastic job as Milk, but I’ve never felt so engrossed in a character than Rourke’s Randy the Ram.

Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei
She’s great in this role- I’d say it’s one of her best performances, but her competition here is very steep. And let’s face it, this is really Mickey’s film.

Snubbed?
I could talk a lot here about how it got snubbed for a ton of awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Song), but instead I’ll just implore everyone to see it and form your own opinions, since mine appears to be in the minority. This was my favorite film of the year and that’s enough for me.

*****

I saw this film in theaters on opening weekend with a few friends. I wasn’t expecting more than a few laughs and ended up being pretty surprised.

Tropic Thunder, with Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr

Action film star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), Oscar winning dramatic actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), and gross out comedy star Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) come together to make the movie within this movie, also entitled Tropic Thunder. The film’s shoot in Vietnam is hemorrhaging money and after an ultimatum is passed down from the studio head (Tom Cruise, in a hysterical cameo) the novice director (Steve Coogan) acts upon the advice of Vietnam vet Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) and drops his cast into the middle of the jungle to shoot the film guerrilla style. Stranded with no food or cell phones, the actors happen upon a drug ring and when Tugg is captured he continues to believe that it is all part of the film. The movie made for some really great laughs, especially the insider jokes that poked fun at the industry (I love when the studio head calls upon the key grip to punch the director in the face). Matthew McConaughey is random and surprisingly funny as Rick Peck, Tugg’s agent and while Tom Cruise’s cameo is definitely good for laughs it still doesn’t improve his image for me. Nice try though. All in all, the film was hysterical in theaters, but when I saw this movie again on DVD without the audience laughing along I didn’t find to be as humorous. But, Robert Downey is definitely the stand out amongst the celeb driven cast, which is why we even find this here in the first place.

Nominations:

Best Supporting Actor – Robert Downey Jr.
This nomination seems to me to be honoring his latest rise from the ashes, rather than this particular role. Everyone loved him in Ironman, but there was no way he’d see a Best Actor nod for that. Originally The Soloist should have been his Oscar bait for the year, but I’m guessing it didn’t turn out as great as they had hoped for because the moment buzz starting generating for this role they pushed it off the 2008 schedule. Here he played a controversial role with grace, all while channeling and poking fun of some of Oscar’s favorite heavyweights (Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger). I understand why he’s here, but I wish it had been for a different reason, possibly even a different year. RDJ is such a fantastic actor that I’d rather see him get nominated in a year he has a chance at winning and not to fill the slots of people who will lose to Heath Ledger. And I know I’ve said it before, but there were certainly performances this year that were more deserving.

***½

Like most of the country, I saw this film on opening weekend. But unlike most of the country, I didn’t think it was going to be the best film of the year. I didn’t love Batman Begins the way most people did and therefore went into this film with lower expectations than everyone else.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is back as Batman and teaming up with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to take down the mob once and for all. In doing so, the mob turns to a maniacal criminal mastermind, The Joker (Heath Ledger), who unleashes chaos into Gotham. Seeing the film in theaters, I really enjoyed it, but didn’t fully love it. Upon repeat viewings, though, I began to realize that it truly is a fantastic, well made film, and easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. There’s not a whole lot I can say about this film that someone else hasn’t said before, so let’s just get right to it.

Nominations:

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger
Ledger is probably the biggest shoe-in in the awards this year and it’s impossible for us to know if things would be different if he hadn’t had such an untimely death before the film came out. Still, it’s one hell of a swan song and I’m looking forward to seeing who will accept the award for him at the ceremony.

Best Cinematography
This film has got some beautifully filmed action sequences, but it’s also got stiff competition with Benjamin Button, Changeling, and eight time nominee Roger Deakins for The Reader. The first film didn’t take home the gold back in 2006 and I don’t think this one will make the cut either.

Best Editing
This is a great nominee here; even though the run time is nearly 3 hours, the story never loses its pace. It’s like watching a comic book with all of its different arcs and stories that weave together to make the whole of the film. I think it’s a strong contender here, but the award could go to something a tad more concise such as this year’s award show darling Slumdog.

Best Art Direction
The dark, gritty look of Gotham is striking, but also old news. The first film wasn’t even nominated here and while there’s more Gotham this time, I think it’s more likely to go to film with more practical sets such as Revolutionary Road or Benjamin Button.

Best Makeup
This is a very diverse category this year and I don’t yet know which way it will swing. The Joker’s streaky, eerie face paint is perfect for the villain, but the nomination belongs to the special effects make up on a certain burn victim. His brief face time (no pun intended) after said burns may not be enough for a win here.

Best Sound
This is a serious contender here, as this category tends to go to big, booming action films, but it’s got company with another comic book adaptation- Wanted. I’d like to give The Dark Knight the edge here, though, as it’s a far more popular film with a larger audience. Plus with all its nominations this year versus Wanted’s one, I’m sure more Academy members have seen it as well.

Best Sound Editing
In a normal year I’d give this category to the same film I’d give Sound to, but this year is different.

Best Visual Effects
This is a tough category as The Dark Knight’s super hero is a guy in a cape and the villains are some Italian guys and a maniac covered in grease paint. When put next to a guy that ages backwards and an iron suit that can fly, it kind of pales in comparison.

Snubbed?
First there are the obvious categories that most were pulling for: Best Picture and Best Director, which would have been really refreshing to see. But my biggest beef with the Academy is failing once again to recognize Gary Oldman’s amazing performance as Jim Gordon. His material in this film was even better than it was in Batman Begins, but he has been completely overshadowed by Ledger and therefore has failed to get the recognition he deserves. Yet Amy Adams and Viola Davis are recognized for the same film. Dear Academy- you’re not as progressive as you think you are.

****½

I saw this in theaters on opening weekend after watching the first one earlier that day. Both were fun, but I actually like the story and action better in the sequel.

Hellboy (Ron Perlman), Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) team up with renowned, eccentric scientist Johann Krauss (Seth McFarlane) to stop an evil prince (Luke Goss) from releasing and taking control of The Golden Army, a near indestructible army of machines that can wipe out humanity. The film manages to balance riveting action (Hellboy takes on a giant, tentacle laden monster while holding an infant, Shoot Em Up style) and tongue in cheek comedy quite well for a super hero movie. While it doesn’t come close in comparing to other cape capers of the summer (Iron Man, The Dark Knight), Hellboy knows where it stands. It excels, mostly, in Del Toro’s vision of the creatures in Hellboy’s world- a scene that brings the team into a black market of sorts while wearing glasses that see through all spells and guises is breathtaking. The world of creatures is like a mix between Pan’s Labyrinth and Diagon Alley of the Harry Potter films.

Nominations:

Best Makeup
Therefore it’s quite deserved to see those creatures, almost all results of practical make up effects, land itself a nomination in this category. Del Toro’s creatures from Pan’s took home all sorts of gold back in 2007, so it certainly gives me hope. The contenders in the category are very diverse and it could really go any way this year.

***½

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