Best Art Direction

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Hugh Scaife), Music-Original Score (Marvin Hamlisch), and Music-Original Song “Nobody Does It Better” (Marvin Hamlisch, Carole Bayer Sager).
Watched November 4, 2012


The reviews are positive, but my views are different.  Granted I have not paid much attention to the 007 franchise prior to Daniel Craig and thus my opinions will be incredibly jaded, I was not a huge fan of The Spy Who Loved Me.  I find that I am having trouble looking past the dated 70s styles.  However, it has been pointed out by many reviewers that the film did exactly what it was supposed to–it was never created to be film noir but a mindless entertaining film that all one must do to enjoy it is sit back and relax while James Bond does all of the hard work.  I will admit that, for the most part, The Spy Who Loved Me does that successfully.


This generation’s Bond is played by Roger Moore, who is following Sean Connery, but he apparently does much better in this film than the previous Bond flicks he had starred in.  He is smarmy, with a classically good looking smirk, and a hidden pain of lost love that makes him attractive.  Not to mention his mad skiing skills that are said to be one of the best openings to a Bond film–ever.


In this storyline, the bad guy, Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) has been tracking and trapping nuclear submarines from all sides, which is why 007 and the Russian Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) suddenly find themselves working together.  Bond and Major Anya Amasova have significantly different feelings about working with one another.  Bond is of course attracted to the feisty female agent, while she resents his typical pig headed manliness and pushes against him in an attempt to not be overshadowed by a man.  Through their adventures she begins to soften toward him, until she finds out that he killed her love just weeks before, which of course means that she has to kill him once they save the world from nuclear destruction.


Complete with excessive explosions and gunfire, underwater cities, and women in bikinis, it is a true Bond film.  In comparison with today’s franchise, the cinematography has zero creativity.  There is a serious lack of angles.  The editing is a bit slow, and the sound design was perplexing.  The lack of a sound track fails to disguise the terrible foley art during the fight scenes, not to mention how very choreographed every punch felt.  Somehow, Amasova did not come off as intelligent as she was supposed to be, probably because she kept making dumb decisions and relying on Bond to save her.


The acclaimed villain who everyone loves–Jaws (Richard Kiel)–would have been a lot more intimidating had the editor not had a preoccupation with dwelling on his metal-mouth grimace.


All in all, I would consider it another TV movie entertainment date, but not necessarily for the main Friday night event.  In my mother’s words, it’s quite “campy” and outdated, but I did enjoy the last half hour that is spent completely devoted on freeing the submarine crews and saving the world.  Many reviewers disliked this part, but to me it was my favourite because it embodies Bond so well.  There is very little attempt at serious story telling and just straight entertaining, unrealistic action.  Perfect.

Hugo (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Hugo (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 11 awards, of which it won 5.
Nominated for Best Picture (Graham King, Martin Scorsese), Costume Design (Sandy Powell), Directing (Martin Scorsese), Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), Music-Original Score (Howard Shore), and Writing-Adapted Screenplay (John Logan).
Won Best Cinematography (Robert Richardson), Best Art Direction (Dante FerrettiFrancesca Lo Schiavo), Best Sound Editing (Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty), Best Sound Mixing (Tom Fleischman, John Midgley), and Best Visual Effects (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman, Alex Henning).
Watched January 4, 2013.


In a machine, there are no extra parts.


Hugo is a family movie, despite its length, that brings humor and reality to a world of magic.  The plot seems to begin in one place, but before you know it you are headed in almost a completely different direction.


It is a film about Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who lives in a train station in France.  He once lived with his father (Jude Law), a clockmaker who passes away in a museum fire.  Hugo is then taken to the train station, where his Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) takes care of the clocks.  Once Hugo knows how to do his Uncle’s job, his Uncle disappears and he is left to somehow survive on his own.  He steals food and maintains the clocks so that no one suspects his Uncle has gone.  The Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), the almost childish comic relief, is notorious for catching boys and sending them to the orphanage, therefore Hugo must always watch his step.


Hugo is in possession of an automation that he and his father were repairing.  While trying to pilfer supplies for the repair from the station’s toy merchant (Ben Kingsley), he is caught and his notebook with is father’s drawings of the automation is taken.  This throws him into an adventure, one which he doesn’t really care for until the merchant’s goddaughter Isabelle (Cloë Grace Moretz) gets involved.  She reintroduces him to books, he introduces her to movies, and together they seek out the notebook while fooling the Station Inspector left and right.


In a machine, there are no extra parts, and as Hugo Cabret sees it, if the world is a machine, then he must be there for a purpose, and so must Isabelle.  They soon discover that maybe, for now, their purpose is to give a man back his life.  Once Isabelle is introduced to the magic of movies, the plot turns and the two adventurers discover a secret about her Godfather.


The performances in this film are pretty standard.  Many reviewers rave over Moretz but are a little wavy on Butterfield’s performance in comparison.  On the contrary, I thought Moretz fell a bit short of her past appearances, but this is perhaps more because of the story and the intention of being a family movie.  Her enthusiasm often felt a bit unreal, but then again, isn’t the magic of movies a bit unreal itself?  Butterfield did an adequate job for a family movie, on the same level as Moretz.  I loved the supporting cast and fell quite in love with Ben Kingsley’s on screen wife, Helen McCrory.  Sacha Baron Cohen, also, was much different from what you might remember him as in his past roles, and I found that it fit him quite well.  His story was a bit unnecessary to the rest of the plot, but again, it is a children’s film and therefore requires a little bit of unnecessary humor to maintain everyone’s attention for two hours.


The cinematography, art direction, sound, and visual effects were all absolute magic.  Everything combined beautifully to create such a visual feast that even in 2D format it was incredible.  I have heard that nothing can touch the original 3D format and it is said that although there is a lot of shoddy 3D work happening in the industry right now, Scorsese has the sense to respect the viewers and understand that if you are going to do something, you must do it right.  He also brings his own passion for maintaining film history to the story and perhaps wishes to help the younger generation understand the magic of film so that they too can respect it and pursue it, whether in career or simply pastime.


Hugo might not be for everyone, but if you are looking for a family film with a bit more depth than usual, and an incredible visual display, I would definitely suggest you sit everyone down to enjoy this Scorsese masterpiece.


Sources: A Potpourri of VestigesScarlett CinemaIMDBRotten TomatoesMovies on FilmThe GuardianFilms According to Chris WyattPicturenoseThe Best Picture ProjectJohn Likes Movies

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (Stuart CraigStephanie McMillan), Makeup (Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin), and Visual Effects (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, John Richardson).
January 3, 2013.


Save 2012, I have read the Harry Potter books every summer since my fifteenth birthday.  I am one of those people who reads all of the books before the next movie comes out, dresses up as Hermione, and goes to stand in line for the midnight premier before most people get off work.  I own the first four books in paperback and all of their bindings are taped and glued and will soon require rubber bands.  I own the remaining three books in hard back because I picked them up at midnight the day they were released.


What can I say about a film and a series that has been so near and dear to my heart for almost a decade?  I didn’t quite grow up with it–I think I didn’t see the first film until I was fifteen because there had previously been a lot of stigma about reading a book about witches and wizards in my community.  I didn’t even know who Harry Potter was until the fourth book came out and it was on the news.  How could such a famous book have three before it and I had never heard of it before?  After watching the first film, however, I was hooked and never went back.


I am a fan.


However, I have always felt as if the films were a let down.  Such is the curse of knowing the books too well.  When something as “small” as the color of Harry’s eyes is done incorrectly, the whole world shatters and one loses faith in the filmmakers.  When the actors that have been chosen to play the three main characters are pretty near hopeless in front of the camera, there is something wrong.


Despite their flaws, the Harry Potter films are always worth watching in my opinion.  In fact, because I haven’t read the books in a longer time than usual, I might appreciate them more.  One of the biggest things that endears them to me still is the fact that we watched Harry, Ron, and Hermione grow up on screen.  Just as they grew into the people J.K. Rowling intended them to be right before our eyes, the actors who played them grew in their skills and understanding of the characters so much that they are acted as if they are one in the same.  By the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I can hardly think of Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe, because they don’t exist any more.  They have embodied their characters so well that no one else in the world could ever be Harry, Ron, and Hermione.


The two Deathly Hallows installments are on a completely different level from the films before them.  From an artsy, character study, true to the book sort of aspect, I preferred the first installment.  However, from an action, well adapted, very visually cinematic sort of aspect, I thought that part two did the book extreme justice and am incredibly pleased with it as the last film.  For the first time out of all eight films, all loose ends are tied, all plot lines are closed, and Voldemort is finally finished.  There is no cliffhanger or promise of more adventures next year.  There is promise that life and love will go on, but we are given a glimpse of that life and then our Harry Potter journey is complete.  Though bitter sweet, I can’t believe that it could have been done much better.


The beginning of the film is slightly abrupt due to the fact that we jump right in after part one.  The initial conversations to establish the rest of the film are a bit slow, quiet, and tedious, and for those who haven’t read the books they are a bit confusing.  Once the trio gets up and begins searching for horcuxes again, however, the pace picks up immediately and it is a non-stop ride until the end of the film.


If you don’t know what a horcrux is, it is an object that contains a bit of someone’s soul and therefore the person to whom the soul belongs is unable to die.  Voldemort believes that seven is the most powerful number and has made himself as many horcuxes, which means it has taken Harry, Ron, and Hermione exactly two and a half movies to track all of them down.


Through the heavy complexity of J.K. Rowling’s last book, this film is lighter in its story and is drawn much more to the visual action sequences.  I appreciated the wordless communication of much of this film, and indeed the most powerfully moving sequence involving Snape’s past needed little narration to be so brilliant.  The acting is superb and all of the adult supporting cast is at their best, again mentioning Alan Rickman, but also Maggie Smith whose line “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” was my favourite in the film.


What was adapted so well and true to the book in part one was done equally well in the second.  Many might disagree because the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort was quite altered, but I actually believe that the added elements were, one, more cinematic, and two, more realistic.  I actually found that part of the book a bit of a let down, and was pleased that movie-Voldemort puts up such a good fight.  After all, he is a brilliant wizard, despite how he has misused his genius.


All in all, I would count both parts one and two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be among my favourite movies, and although I would not quite as readily vouch for the six movies preceding them, I would recommend movies seven and eight to anyone.  Please see them, buy them, own them, and love them!  The end has come, but for the next generation it has yet to begin!



Sources: New UniversityColliderIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesThe GuardianJohn Likes MoviesCinema SightsPicturenose

War Horse (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

War Horse (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 6 awards.
Nominated for Best Picture (Steven SpielbergKathleen Kennedy), Cinematography (Janusz Kiminski), Art Direction (Rick Carter, Lee Sandales), Music – Original (John Williams), Sound Editing (Richard Hymns, Gary Rudstrom), and Sound Mixing (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson).
Watched December 29, 2012.


What can I say about you, War Horse?  It is a technical genius and a simplistic, clichéd display of love and devotion that leaves half of the critics baffled and the other half in adoration.


Steven Spielberg will forever be a cinematic genius whose technicality in the art is boundless.  However, I have grown so accustomed to his polished cinematography and overall composition that I was less impressed with the technical aspect and therefore more distracted by the unlikely plot line.  It is simple in almost a bad way.  There was very little character depth and the actions of all but the horse (Joey) were extremely predictable.


Despite its shortcomings in story, I still enjoyed it, partially because I am a huge horse lover.  It is a war movie without the gore of today’s films.  Spielberg did not feel the need to show every battle field in detail and to draw out the exchange.  Instead, he took a much more simple, abstract approach that lets the audience know what has occurred but does not necessarily show the act itself.  This was one of my more favourite aspects of the film, which leads me to my viewing advice.


If you have the ability to suspend reality (something that most movie-goers should be well versed in) and accept the fact that War Horse is going to test you, then you should certainly see it.  It is a walking cliché–a tale of innocents on all sides, despite the gruesome war surrounding it, and the joy that is found despite the death, destruction, and separation.


Joey begins his life as a playful, half-thoroughbred who is bought at auction at a young age by a farmer who needs a plow horse.  Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) was tempted by the astounding beauty of the horse, his landlord’s clear desire for the animal, and his drink.  His wife Rose (Emily Watson) is furious when he brings the young, small, untrained horse home, but his son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is ecstatic.  He takes the horse on himself, names him, and trains him, and in one of the more unlikely bits of the film, plows an entire field with him in order to save his family’s farm.


Despite their efforts, the farm is still in jeopardy.  When World War I finally breaks upon them, Mr. Narracott sells the horse to a Captain James Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston).  Heartbroken, Albert vows to Joey that he will find him again one day.


It is soon after this that the most brilliant scene of the film occurs.  The Captain and his company are led to believe that a German camp lays close by, unsuspecting, and thus their calvary rides into it. They ride through the camp at full gallop but once they reach the woods at the other side, they are cut down thoroughly by machine guns.  Instead of watching the horses and their riders fall at extreme length, we instead see one shot of the riders charging at full gallop and in the next the horses are leaping over the guns–riderless.


Joey finds himself in German hands, and along with his gorgeous black stallion friend, jumps from master to master and from England to Germany to France and back again, much in the same way that Black Beauty would share his tale of owners.  He spends time on a French farm, pulling guns in the war, and even brings the entrenched British and German soldiers to a temporary truce as they try to free him from barbed wire.


It is not the most brilliant nominated film this year, but it is certainly deserving.  Although the end shots are certainly a sort of sentimental pride with Spielberg, as is evidenced by their drawn out screen time, the majority of his execution is so flawless that I longed for a dirtier edit and a more experimental cinematographer.  If you have missed War Horse somehow, I would certainly suggest watching it, especially if you are in a good mood and are willing to set aside your firm grasp on reality for some more innocent fun.



Sources: Fan PopAwards DailyDreamWorks StudiosIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesThe GuardianJohn Likes MoviesThe Best Picture Project

Airport ’77 (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Airport ’77 (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (George Webb, Mickey S. Michaels) and Costume Design (Edith Head, Buron Miller).
Watched November 1, 2012.

I have heard tales of these films, the popular series that began with a study of the chaos at airports and gradually made its way to basic blockbuster adventure stories involving airplanes.  If any of you have seen the popular comedy Airplane and did not know, it is a parody of the Airport movies of the seventies.  After watching Airport ’77, I want to watch the rest, not because it was a brilliant feat, but because of the hilarious parodies of Airplane that I noticed while watching the film.


Airport ’77 is about a group of privileged people who are taking the first flight ever on a new luxury 747.  The owner has invited them all to his place in Florida to view his art collection.  Among the passengers are his daughter and grandson, whom he has not seen in years.  The adventure and suspense in this film starts from almost the very beginning, when we are introduced to men wearing disguises and sneaking suspiciously through the airplane.  Really what they are doing is hijacking the plane.


The copilot and his fellow theifs are stealing the art pieces in the cargo.  They knock everyone out with gas and are intending on getting the pieces off the plane before anyone knows what has gone down, but inevitably, during the copilot’s maneuvers to stay below the radar in the Bermuda Triangle, they hit an oil rig and crash land in the ocean, sinking beneath the surface and settling on the edge of an underwater cliff.  There is plenty of panic, death, and cut away shots to the Navy’s control room where they orchestrate the search and rescue.  There is, of course, a doctor on board the plane (isn’t there always in the movies?), but they at least add a little twist in that he is a veterinarian.  The film even ends in an epic attempt to raise the plane in the same manner that the Navy would raise a distressed submarine.


Apparently they had a stacked cast for this film, among them Jack Lemmon, Lee GrantOlivia de Havilland, and Christopher Lee to name a few.  Despite their talent pool, the demand of the characters was limited and there was very little study of how individuals might react if they suddenly awoke to find their plane at the bottom of the ocean.  The storytelling was typical and predictable.  How many times can you show water leaking into the plane and expect the suspense to build?  There are a few sequences that are exciting and interesting, although it reminded me drastically of other unlikely stories such as Poseidon.


To be honest I am curious how the film earned itself its nominations.  Looking at the art direction and costume design by themselves I am thoroughly unimpressed by their mediocrity.  This may be a matter of societal distance, as the criteria of films in the 70s and films in the 21st century are quite different.


Airport ’77 has become one of those bad movies you might watch part of on TV, but beyond that it is nothing impressive.  If you like unrealistic disaster movies like Poseidon you might want to look up this film, but otherwise it is not something I would advise for your list.


Sources: iSKYxfinityIMDBRotten TomatoesSam Hawken