Best Music – Original Song

Ted (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Ted (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Song (“Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” Seth MacFarlane, Walter Murphy).
Watched August 8, 2014.

Guys, I am going to be completely honest.  I was dreading this movie.  It is one of the last films on my list to watch from the 85th Academy Awards.  Let’s just say that Seth MacFarlane and I do not see eye to eye on what constitutes “humor.”  By the end of the film, I wasn’t hating my life, although I felt like I had just wasted a little of it.  Let’s stop dwelling, though, and jump into the review.

The film starts brilliantly like an old classic Christmas film, complete with snow and a deep voiced narrator, although he tends to swear.  The neighborhood kids all hate John Bennett, even the bullied Jewish kid.  Everything changes when John receives a giant teddy bear on Christmas morning.  That night, he wishes that his bear was alive and that they would be best friends forever.  When morning dawns, he discovers a walking, talking bear named Ted who wants nothing more than to be BFFs.  Once John’s parents get over their shock a little, Ted becomes a national sensation, appearing all over the news and becoming famous.  But, as the film explains, just like everything that becomes famous, Ted is eventually old news, and just like that, Seth MacFarlane and his team made the situation–an alive teddy bear being an accepted member of society–believable.

We come back into their lives several years later.  John (Mark Wahlberg) is 35, has a fruitless job at a rental car agency, smokes weed whenever he can, and has been dating his ridiculously gorgeous girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) for four years without a proposal in sight.  Ted (Seth MacFarlane) lives with them and frequently brings home hookers or has outrageous parties.  Lori is losing her patience, and it seems like Ted is at the root of their relationship woes.  After all, will a guy ever grow up if his best friend is a teddy bear?

Perhaps it is because Ted is a toy, but his humor is the most inappropriate and outrageous  out of anyone in the film.  This cruel irony supposedly makes it even more fun but again, it isn’t my cup of tea and actually makes me dislike the film more.  The characters were all right.  Watching a grown man child learn to adult (yes, it is a verb) isn’t usually this painful, but John takes an outrageously long time to figure it out.  Lori gives him a lot of leash after dating him for four years, but perhaps that’s because her other prospect is her sleazy, arrogant boss.

One thing is for sure, though–anyone who makes a walking, talking teddy bear a believable character in an every-man type of film deserves some credit.  I have had friends rave about this film.  Some people think it is the funniest thing they have ever seen.  I will say that it is outrageous, and yet its level of believability is astounding.  The acting is so-so, the humor oddly timed and inappropriate at best, and its story line is, for the most part, predictable.  I don’t even remember the song it was nominated for.  The believability is the one and only reason I gave this film two stars instead of one.

In reality, this film doesn’t truly stand up to semi-recent classics such as Knocked Up and 21 Jump Street.  It is crass, uncultured, unartistic, and really just a waste of my time.  However, if you like MacFarlane and Family Guy, Ted might be something you need to add to your watch list.

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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.

Despicable Me 2 (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Despicable Me 2 (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Chris RenaudPierre CoffinChris Meledandri) and Best Original Song (“Happy” by Pharrell Williams).
Watched March 7, 2014.

I liked Despicable Me 2 quite a lot.  It has been a while since I have seen the first film, and as such I possibly had a more positive reaction than true lovers of the original and its main character Gru, but I felt completely satisfied by the end of the animated feature.

 

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is a retired villain who is now embracing the home life–raising his three adopted girls and throwing the perfect birthday party.  He has his famous lair full of minions working on a new line of jams and jellies that no one, not even Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) can deny are disgusting.  As a result, it is hard for Gru to turn down the Anti-Villain League when they come to him in need of some assistance.

 

A research facility in the north was stolen–completely disappeared.  They have determined that a shop owner at the local mall is likely the culprit, which means that Gru and his new partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig) must go under cover.

 

For lovers of the original, they may be dissatisfied with Gru and his character arc.  His story is wrapped up very nicely in the first film and there is little left to develop in him.  It is true that he is pretty one note.  His one conundrum is dating, which is humorous but hardly comparative to the life altering changes he encountered previously.  He has funny lines and quirks, but the red headed Lucy tends to upstage him constantly.

 

Despite this huge flaw, the rest of the story is pretty solid.  My favorite aspects of these films has always been the Minions, second only to Agnes, the precious, big eyed little girl who will tug at your heart strings.  The Minions are hilarious, charismatic, and blessedly stupid.  For those who have seen the film, “BAH!” has become my new favorite exclamation, but for everyone else I cannot explain because it would be a huge spoiler!

 

If you are having any doubts as to if you should see this film, let me assure you that the final scene itself is worth the entire film.  Hint: 90s music sang entirely by Minions.  J’adore.  If you like animated films, particularly what usually comes out of Universal and Illumination, you will likely love this film as well.

Chasing Ice (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Chasing Ice (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Music-Original Song “Before My Time” (J. Ralph).
Watched December 2, 2013.

  

Most of the documentaries that make their way to the red carpet on Oscars night have big statements spilling out of their reels–agenda after agenda that typically pull at the heart strings of America and make radicals out of people who otherwise wouldn’t give a care.  Chasing Ice is certainly in the same category, although I respect the creators’ story telling more here than in other documentaries I have watched because of The Academy.

 

I have to tell you guys, as much as I love and adore documentaries, I am not a fan when they have an agenda.  Although it is clear that Chasing Ice is making a statement, it is one of the few that presents its argument in a much better way than just simply biased interviews and clever editing techniques.  No, the creators of Chasing Ice know what they are doing and how to persuade the everyman as well as the educated.  They may have an agenda, but they balance their techniques by not just playing off the emotions of their audience, but by presenting physical, visual facts that are hard to argue against.

 

The film follows the journey of one James Balog, a photographer for National Geographic, who went to school for science but found his passion in cameras.  He became passionate about ice and glaciers and began a three (plus) year journey of documenting the changes that these giant formations go through.  Through many trials, he and his team constructed boxes and computers that could withstand the elements in places like the Arctic, Alaska, and Montana.  They put cameras here that would take hundreds of thousands of photos during the years so that he could put them into time lapses and show the world what was really happening to our ice.

 

He, among many others, strongly believes in climate change and global warming.  He believes that it will greatly and very negatively affect our futures on this earth.  He knew, however, that words were not enough.  That skeptics would just listen to someone else.  So instead of just speaking his convictions, he took action and, through many trials as well as physical injuries, has spent years of his life photographing the changes in glacier formations.

 

The documentary also features interviews from Balog’s family, his assistants, and other experts who he may or may not have worked with.  The “agenda,” or emotional subplot are actually kept to a minimum in most of the interviews and I believe that the filmmakers did a very good job of translating their story through visuals instead of words.

 

That being said, the film was not nominated, the song from the final credits was.  It is a cool, haunting song accompanied by the smokey voice of Scarlett Johansson, and is much more radical than the film itself.  It speaks of the passion that the filmmakers and photographers must have felt, even though they pulled back and gave more educated arguments.  The song itself was emotional like most documentaries with an agenda, and although as a stand alone song it is weak, it is strong within the film.

 

While the film itself is not necessarily the most outstanding work out there (evidenced by the fact that it missed out on a nomination), I appreciated their ability at story telling.  I felt a connection to the people within the film, and the photography made me fall in love with ice in all of its beauty.  If you have the time to spare and want to see some incredible landscapes (and probably the most shades of blue you’ve ever seen in your life), I would recommend that you see this film.

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.