Best Actress

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Picture (Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon), Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver), Best Adapted Screenplay (David O. Russell), and Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers).
Won Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence).
Watched January 24, 2014.

  

Silver Linings Playbook is your average rom-com story, but with creative and unique characters that take the film up a notch.  It is no wonder that it received so much recognition from the Academy, and if it weren’t for some stiff competition, Cooper might have been accepting an award right alongside Lawrence.

 

Pat (Bradley Cooper) has spent the last eight months in a mental hospital.  He found his wife in the shower with another man and almost beat him to death.  He found out in the hospital that he is bi-polar and has been struggling with it his whole life.  Against his doctor’s wishes, Pat’s mom Dolores (Jackie Weaver) gets him out on court approval and he moves back in with his parents with one goal in mind–get healthy and get Nikki.  His wife Nikki (Brea Bree) has placed a restraining order on him, but Pat will do anything to get her to see that he is better and that he is good enough for her.

 

While having dinner at his friend’s house, he re-encounters Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow who is just as messed up as he is.  After only an hour or so she makes him walk her home and then offers him sex, but Pat insists that he’s married.  They begin an unlikely friendship in which their problems sometimes complement each other and other times result in public embarrassments and encounters with the cops.

  

Tiffany’s sister is Veronica (Julia Stiles) who is friends with Nikki.  Pat wants Tiffany to get a letter to Nikki explaining how much he has improved, but Tiffany decides that she will only do it for something in return, which is how Pat gets roped into doing a dance competition with Tiffany.  Pat’s dad, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) hates Tiffany because he thinks she’s messing up the Eagle’s juju.

 

Pat’s relationship with his family is complicated, and it is obvious that his dad probably struggles with the same emotional problems that he does.  His mom fights for both of them, hoping that love will cure them both although she always seems anxious about her men.  Pat senior makes a living from betting on the Eagles games and Pat Jr. is his good luck charm.

 

While the end of the story is pretty typical and the rest of the time Pat is pretty good at playing the hero, the remainder of the film does a really good job of showing an honest and raw view of Pat, his family, and what they are going through.  Tiffany seems like she’s had an extra helping of crazy but Pat slowly brings her down to earth.  Both Cooper and Lawrence fully inhabit their roles and bring a reality to them that is exquisite, especially from Cooper whose previous appearances in films such as The Hangover didn’t show the abilities that he possesses.

 

Despite the fact that Lawrence is pretty hot right now and I am a fan of hers, I think she deserved the Oscar that she won.  She became Tiffany, leaving behind the teen Katniss from The Hunger Games and embracing more of the Ree from Winter’s Bone (that earned her a nomination in 2011), she went all out.  Cooper also did the role justice.  My favorite scene was when he could not find his wedding video and a terrific family fight ensued in which the cops were called and a teenage neighbor showed up with a video camera.  I could feel Cooper’s frustration and his loss of control while his family tried to help instead of escalate the situation.

 

The film is kept pretty muted as far as colors go and the comedy is all appropriate and well timed.  David O. Russell obviously did an amazing job directing this film and while I didn’t find the editing particularly unique, it got the job done (aka it was invisible, as it should be).  The visuals and behind the scenes are all top notch, but the thing that makes the film for me is the characters and the actors who inhabit them.

 

If you can handle a good amount of swear words and a little bit of crazy, I would definitely recommend Silver Linings Playbook to you.  While it might be a romantic comedy, your guy will enjoy it as much as your girl (Cooper and De Niro don’t hurt, and the football talk is good as well).  If you don’t have this film on your Netflix list yet I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Amour (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Amour (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Director (Michael Heneke), Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Original Screenplay (Michael Haneke), and Best Picture (Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Velt Heiduschka, Michael Katz).
Won Best Foreign Language Film (Michael Haneke).
Watched November 12, 2013.

  

Amour is a heavy, well crafted tale of the tests that love goes through in the last days of our lives.  Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) have been married a long time.  Well cultured and now retired music teachers, they lead simple lives in a beautiful french apartment full of books and a baby grand.  One morning, Anne has a lapse, which we assume was probably a stroke, because the next time we see her she has undergone surgery, and it went badly.  She slowly progresses from being half paralyzed in a wheelchair to being bed ridden and cared for my nurses and husband alike.

 

Georges bears most of his wife’s condition very well, although you can see the sadness, fear, and helplessness in his eyes.  His daughter, who seems very preoccupied with her own life, keeps insisting that something must be done, but Georges has the ability to see that there isn’t much that can be done but help Anne be comfortable.  Anne loses her ability to communicate in the end, but although her words make no sense, you can see every emotion plainly in her eyes.

 

This is one of those films where I forgot pretty quickly that I was watching a foreign film.  I hardly noticed I was reading subtitles most of the time.  It is somewhat slow moving, particularly in the stillness that director Michael Haneke uses effectively.  He chose to shoot several scenes in one shot.  The camera doesn’t move for several minutes while Georges cuts flowers, Anne learns to use her wheelchair, or receives a bath from a nurse.  There is so much communication in this film, and most of it isn’t through dialogue.

 

The cinematography is brilliant, the story telling is wonderful, and the emotions are heart breaking.  It is easy to connect with the characters, which is sometimes difficult in foreign films.  Almost the entire film is shot in their small apartment and yet we see a whole life story.  Georges and Anne are still individuals who are learning about one another, and though the truth is that we all die alone, Georges is with Anne every step of the way, with love that only he could show to her.

 

Although the film is hard to watch, I also found the story quiet beautiful.  Those of us who are lucky to make it to their age with our partner will one day experience this, and it isn’t any easier than if they had lost each other earlier in their lives.  The story is relatable, but it is also an example of the partnership in marriage.

 

This film will require a little patience, and should probably not be viewed if you are having a tough time in life, but besides that I would highly recommend it.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 4 awards.
Nominated for Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis), Best Directing (Benh Zeitlin), Best Picture (Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald), and Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin).
Watched March 30, 2013.

My thoughts about Beasts of the Southern Wild, whether profound or otherwise, are few and far between.  The reviews I have read about the film seem to be on either one side of the fence or the other–complete love or near hate.  I am a rarity and find myself on the fence–neither a devoted follower or a hater.  It’s a coming of age story… but with a six year old.

 

This is Benh Zeitlin’s breakout film as a director, and as such, he came out with a bang.  Being nominated for four Oscars while taking the risks that he did in the film are gutsy, and I doubt this will be the last we hear from him in Hollywood royalty.

 

The film is about a community that lives outside the levy in New Orleans around the time of hurricane Katrina, although this fact is not stated in the film.  The main character, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in this place called the Bathtub with her father.  They live in two separate trailers that are perched on stilts.  Her father is not always present, and sometimes Hushpuppy has to fend for herself.  Although it is obvious that her father Wink (Dwight Henry) isn’t the best dad in the world, he is desperate to teach his daughter how to take care of herself because he knows he won’t be around forever.

 

When the hurricane comes, many in their community leave for the protection of the levy, but those who stay see their home torn apart and spend the next while riding boats on what were once streets.  The animals and sea life slowly die and the group has to decide what to do, because doing anything might make the levy people force them to evacuate.

 

Hushpuppy occasionally narrates the film with thoughts so profound and poetic, even though it might be in broken english, that it is hard to believe a six year old could phrase anything that way.  And yet, it is believable because we know Hushpuppy, and we know what a stubborn, quiet, intuitive little girl she is.  We also understand the love she has for her home, as well as the imagination that plays out for us on the screen.

 

Zeitlin used all non-actors for his cast.  The actor who plays Hushpuppy’s dad Wink (Henry) is a baker and has stated no interest in pursuing an acting career.  Many times when non-actors are used, it tears the film apart and very little of the other positive qualities matter.  However, I think the fact that Wallis was nominated for Best Actress, being the youngest ever nominated at nine years old, speaks volumes about the performances in Beasts.

 

Despite the wonderful acting and the art direction, I found the story hard to connect with.  Even though there are traumatic things happening on screen, I felt little to no connection with the characters and felt very little whenever bad (or good) things happened to them.  The cinematography, at times good, others not, was shot on film instead of HD.  I generally like this quite a lot, but the film utilized the currently very popular style of hand held shots, which is something I can only stand in minimal amounts.  I understand the choice, in part, but think it would have been much more powerful if it was used more sparingly.

 

I’m not sure whether or not I would recommend this film.  If you are a fan of such brain benders as The Tree of Life by by Terrence Malick, you might enjoy Beast of the Southern Wild, although Zeitlin has a ways to go before he reaches Malick’s genius.  This isn’t a movie to watch casually, but if you are looking for something serious with childhood adventures (in a non-children friendly movie), it might be a good option.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards.
Nominated for Actress (Rooney Mara), Cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth), Film Editing (Kirk BaxterAngus Wall), Sound Editing (Ren Kluce), and Sound Mixing (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Bo Persson).
Watched October 20, 2012.

 

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has David Fincher stamped all over it.  It you have seen Fight Club, The Social Network, and/or Benjamin Button, you will recognize the beautiful imagery and artistry of one of my favourite directors.  Based on the first book of a famous series by Stieg Larsson, the English version that follows but is not a remake of the Swedish films, is a fast paced, audio-driven investigation of a killer of women with characters more deeply troubled than one would like to imagine.

 

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist with a recently ruined reputation.  He is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the age old murder of his niece Harriet.  On a remote, frozen island in Sweden, Mikael holes himself up in Henrik’s guest house and sets to work getting to know the troubled Vanger family.  They are a group of communists, alcoholics, rapists, and murderers.

 

Our other protagonist is the true star of the film, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).  After trying to kill her father, Lisbeth became a ward of the state and has been abused ever since.  Her hard exterior and self proclaimed psychopathic habits alienate her a bit from the audience, and yet strangely make one cheer for her.  After watching her be brutally raped by her social worker, we then get to watch her exact cruel but deserved revenge on him.  Despite her unconventional and abusive upbringing, Lisbeth is a computer genius with the ability to hack into anyone’s computer and conduct incredibly thorough and incredibly illegal background checks for her employer (and also a little bit for herself).

 

 

Over an hour into the film, our two protagonists are finally brought together.  Mikael accepts her without question, although Lisbeth does not seek his acceptance.  Her interest is caught when he asks her to catch this killer of women and immediately she is off and solving mysteries the original investigator had never even dreamed of, let alone that they were somehow linked to the Vangers and Harriet.

 

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is often overly graphic as well as driven more by the suspenseful music than what is really happening on screen.  Lisbeth’s character has a lot of depth to her–every scene seems to peel back another asset of her character.  Mikael, on the other hand, seems to be a little one note, which is of course no fault of Craig, who is a consistently brilliant actor.  The relationship between the two is little developed and somehow becomes affectionate, probably because Mikael has a daughter and Lisbeth is attracted to that.  Her relationship with him is more understandable than his with her, but somehow the fact that it shouldn’t work makes it all right.

 

The imagery–cinematography and art direction–along with the sound of this film are beyond spellbinding.  The story is a bit lacking and the ending seems completely off balance with the rest of the film, but all in all, it is a good Oscar contending film.  I appreciate the nominations.  I’m not a fan of films involving rape scenes, but because of Lisbeth’s triumph over her rapist in the end, I felt a little better about this one.

 

I would definitely recommend this film.  It has a lot of graphic sex and violence, therefore its ‘R’ rating is something to be aware of, but if you have missed this film I would definitely recommend it as a Friday night thriller!

 

Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesThe Guardian,  Movie Film Reviews

The Iron Lady (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

The Iron Lady (2012)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards, of which it won both.
Won Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Makeup (Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland).
Watched October 14, 2012.

 

It is hard to know what to think and feel about The Iron Lady.  Critics weren’t so fond, historians disappointed, and the general public has been wishy-washy.  The Academy, of course, noticed the film’s two most incredible aspects and rewarded them both.  Anyone who is anybody will be able to watch this film and will once again be in awe of Meryl Streep and her complete embodiment of her character.  She does, in fact, become Margaret Thatcher for a short, privileged amount of time, and the fact that the vessel that carried her is not completely up to par is hardly her fault, nor should it be.

 

Margaret Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister in Britain.  She served for eleven and a half years in the 80s, during a time of financial hardship not unlike our recession now, although the riots and protests of their unemployed severely belittles our own recent movement in the States.  Margaret grew up as a grocer’s daughter and had political dreams and aspirations very early on.  After earning a scholarship to Oxford, she quickly ran for office and after being voted in at a young age, she climbed the ranks quickly and soon became Prime Minister.  A head strong, determined woman, she often leads well but is sometimes seen as very unreceptive to other opinions.  However, knowing very little of politics, and even less about British politics, I will comment very little on it, except to say that I agree with many of the sentiments and impassioned speeches that were included in the film.  This, I think, made me more inclined to like Mrs. Thatcher.

The Iron Lady follows my favourite sort of timeline–non-linear.  It begins with Mrs. Thatcher as an old woman with dementia who hallucinates that her dead husband is still alive and well.  Despite the fact that her rise to the top of the political ladder was completely done on her own (not disregarding, of course, the power of the voters), her constant hold on the memory of her husband and her incredible need for his companionship shows that she feared loneliness, although it could be argued that her reduced mental capacity brought her to a very innocent and vulnerable place that could easily cause this fear.  The state of the country is in a similar place to when she was in office and her obvious need to understand the current affairs causes her to have flashbacks of when she was in office.  On some occasions, she behaves as if she is still the PM, much to her daughter’s dismay.

 

Although many critics did not enjoy the non-linear style in this film, I think it will be hard to make me dislike this style, especially in an Oscar-worthy film.  However, I understand the concerns of many that there was too much preoccupation with Mrs. Thatcher’s dementia and not enough time spent on her political career.  In this case, I think that maybe they watched the film with different expectations, whereas I was easily sucked in, particularly because my grandmother recently passed away from Alzheimer’s.  Many concerns have been that instead of taking hold of an opportunity to present a historical account of Margaret Thatcher, the filmmakers became preoccupied with her illness instead of her greatness.  Some went so far as to say that it was an obvious play from the Left attempting to diminish her image of strength.  On the contrary, I found it fascinating, especially as I knew my grandmother to be a passionate artist who was very fun loving, and her illness stripped her down to her rawest form–a woman who loved to sing and laugh.  It is a devastating process.  I think it is possible that because of my personal ties to dementia, I did not mind the amount of screen time it received in The Iron Lady, but again, I can understand the negative reviews toward this aspect.

 

I loved the cinematography, the colors, and above all else, of course, the impeccable acting.  This film greatly separates itself from the other British films I have watched so far from the 84th Academy Awards.  I found nothing in it that reminded me of a BBC film, except for the accents of course.  For this fact alone it is leagues beyond Albert Nobbs, in my opinion.

 

The Iron Lady is certainly a fascinating character study and I would definitely recommend it.  Keep in mind that it is a little slow, but Meryl Streep is to die for.

 

 

Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesHollywood ReporterTwitch FilmJohn Likes Movies