5 Stars

Henry (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Henry (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Yan England).
Watched September 8, 2014.

“Henry” is an excellent short, but not for the faint at heart.  A French-Canadian addition to the short film category, the dramatic, slightly melodramatic piece explores the effects of alzheimers from the perspective of the sick.

My Grandmother had alzheimers.  It is a devastating disease.  Henry (Gérard Poirier) in this film is trapped by his own memories and unable to reconcile them with reality.  He doesn’t know the people or places surrounding him and instead he is constantly searching for his beloved Maria (Louise Laprade), an exceedingly talented musician whom he met during the war.

What could potentially become an over the top piece that focuses more on the melodrama or injustice is instead a clean, albeit scary representation of the confusion those suffering from alzheimers might face.  If you have someone close to you suffering from the disease, it might not be the best short for you.  Otherwise, I would consider the twenty minutes of my life spent viewing the short well spent.

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Helium (2014) Review | Jamie Daily

Helium (2014)
86th Academy Awards
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short Subject (Anders Walter, Kim Magnusson).
Watched May 5, 2014.

  

I am not surprised that Helium won this year’s Oscar.  It was cute, touching, well written, and used all twenty three minutes of running time very well.  The short film explores the power of imagination (no wonder it won, right?).

 

Alfred (Pelle Falk Krusbæk) is a young boy who is dying.  A new hire at the hospital, the janitor Enzo (Casper Crump) takes a liking to the boy and in seeing his loss of hope and pessimism towards his fate and what happens after death, he creates an imaginary world called Helium that captures more than one heart.  Despite his failing health, Alfred’s fear is eased and his mind opens up to find joy again.

 

The length of the film was perfect.  There was not a minute wasted, and yet if it had been longer it would have lost all of its power.  There is little back story (what is Alfred dying of?  Where did Enzo work before this and why does he have so much compassion for this particular boy?), but its mysteries strengthen its ending.

 

Everything came together to bring home the win for this short.  I definitely recommend it, although don’t expect much humor.

Frozen (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Frozen (2013)
86th Academy Awards
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards, of which it won both.
Won Best Animated Feature Film (Chris BuckJennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho), and Best Music-Song (“Let it Go” by Kristen Anderson-LopezRobert Lopez).
Watched May 1, 2014.

Frozen is probably one of my favorite films that I have seen in a long time.  While still slightly more childish and more princess-y than the popular Pixar films, this new Disney princess installment makes a giant leap in its franchise.  It has a modern take on the typical formula and even pokes a little fun at common missteps in the original princess films.

 

The animated success is a story about sisters.  The girls are princesses, happy and carefree.  They love each other and Elsa’s (voiced by Idina Menzel) uncommon ability to create ice and snow out of nowhere keeps them entertained for hours.  After a freak accident where the youngest, Anna (Kristen Bell), almost dies because of Elsa’s powers, she and her parents are forced to keep her abilities a secret.  Even Anna has her memories removed and Elsa is confined to her room where she attempts to control her feelings and her powers.

 

When Elsa comes of age to take the throne, the girls are finally together again, but the coronation doesn’t go as planned and Elsa flees the kingdom, turning the carefree summer fjords into an untimely winter wonderland.  Anna teams up with an ice salesman named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to track her sister down and bring an end to the winter.

  

The film has good humor from the beginning, but one of the best characters is definitely Olaf, a snowman come to life as the comic relief.  Olaf combined with Kristoff and his personable reindeer Sven make excellent companions as they try to solve first one problem, and then the next.

 

I saw Frozen for the first time with my sister, so anyone who has seen the film will understand why it made everything that much more special for me.  My sister lives on the other side of the country and I rarely get to see her, which is hard when we’re best friends.  Getting to see an animated princess movie with songs and cute animated boys and ridiculous humor was the best.  The end made it that much more sweet.

 

The most important message of the film, which is a bit of a spoiler so watch out(!), was that the love of family is just as important and powerful as romantic love.  In fact, when Anna is so preoccupied with finding The One, especially because she has been alone and dreaming for so long, she and Elsa both take each other for granted.  It isn’t until the dire end when all might be lost that they find each other again and rekindle a bond they once had in childhood.  Elsa has likewise been preoccupied, but more with hiding her true self.  She has a personal crisis that most people never experience and her sister is one of the only people who can help her come out all right.  While the story has some side plots, its main message is that true love heals everything, and the love of family is just as powerful, if not more so, than other types of love.  This is a really big step for Disney and I am exceedingly proud of this film and its message.

 

I could tear apart the film a lot farther (I tend to do that with movies that I really enjoy), but I will stop here except to say that the animation was stunning, the music was wonderful, the voices were perfect and a-typical Disney corny magic, and I want an Olaf… or a Sven of my very own.  If you have yet to see Frozen, do yourself a favor and add it to your Netflix list.  Now.

Gravity (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Gravity (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 10 awards, of which it won 7.
Nominated for Best Picture (Alfonso CuarónDavid Heyman), Best Actress (Sandra Bullock), and Best Production Design (Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, Joanne Woollard).
Won Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Film Editing (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger), Best Original Score (Steven Price), Best Sound Editing (Gienn Freemantle), Best Sound Mixing (Chris Munro, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri, Skip Lievsay), and Best Visual Effects (Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould, Tim Webber).
Watched April 7, 2014.

  

What was undoubtedly this year’s overall “winner” at awards night, Gravity is a huge accomplishment in all areas of filmmaking.  To get ten nominations is impressive enough, but to walk away at the end of the night with seven wins is a testament to the skills behind this piece.  If that isn’t enough, the movie even lives up to the hype.  From story and casting to visuals and sound, the film is a feast for your senses.

 

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space mission.  While out on a routine space walk making repairs, their shuttle is hit by debris and Ryan finds herself detached from the shuttle and spinning helplessly into space.  Luckily, her colleague Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who is vastly more experienced, was attached to thruster jets when disaster hit and he is able to tether Ryan to himself and begin a horrifying orbit around the earth towards a space station.  Every breath is terrifying as Ryan’s space suite constantly reminds her how little oxygen she has left.  She has to learn to overcome her fears and must refuse anything but survival as a possibility.

 

We know very little about the characters, but the back story that is revealed about them gives all we need to know.  The story is not simple and predictable, although it has the possibility to be that.  While Clooney’s performance is simple and to the point, his character is exceedingly impressive and calm.  Bullock commands attention, adding to the crescendo of sound and visuals that make Gravity hard to look away from.  Her nomination was extremely well deserved.

 

The film does not make a grand statement.  It revolves around the ideas of “you never know who might be listening” and that space is not able to be conquered–that life in space is impossible.  Almost right away Ryan says, “I hate space,” which sets up her character for what she is about to experience.  You might laugh, you might cry, and you will definitely be sitting at the edge of your seat.  I can only imagine what the film was like in the theatre in 3D, but even on my HD 47inch it was to die for.

 

Director, writer, and editor Alfonso Cuarón paired with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are unstoppable.  I cannot rave enough about the imagery and the lighting.  To be fair, there was no weak link.  All of the puzzle pieces fit.

 

Clearly I would highly recommend this film.  It is one of the best films out of Hollywood in a long time.

A Royal Affair (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Royal Affair (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (Nikolaj Arcel).
Watched March 18, 2014.

A Royal Affair is one of those films where I forget that I am reading subtitles.  The story was so engaging, the characters so interesting, and the plot so twisted that I was unable to look away.  I certainly love a good period piece and this nomination from Denmark was excellent.

 

It is the true story of an English princess, Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander) who marries the Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) who, it becomes apparent very quickly, is a little insane.  He is childish, jealous, and completely obsessed with sex and prostitutes.  It doesn’t take long for Caroline to despise him and after she gives him a son she refuses to allow him into her bed.

 

When Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) becomes the royal physician, everything changes.  He and the queen fall in love and together with a persuaded king who thinks himself an actor, they take command of the kingdom and begin a revolution.  This revolution historically influenced the future of Europe.

 

All of the characters and their motivations are deep and well portrayed.  Although Caroline’s anger toward her husband seemed a little extreme to me, and her affair with the doctor was very risky, her motivations are well explained and in a narrative as a letter to her children she tells how she found herself in that position.

 

The costumes, palaces, countryside, and town life are all incredible.  If the film is lacking in one area, it is that it spends so much time with the aristocracy discussing the poverty of its people that we actually see very little of how wretched the subjects were and how much they were in need of a revolution.  The censorship was so real that even the queen could not read whatever she wanted, but how else did it negatively affect the people?  Besides this, however, there is very little else in the film that falls short of amazing.

 

If you’re a lover of period pieces, this is definitely one that I would recommend.