Best Music – Original Song

Les Miserables (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Les Miserables (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 3.
Nominated for Best Picture (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh), Best Actor (Hugh Jackman), Best Music–Song (“Suddenly”: Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer), Best Production Design (Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson), and Best Costume Design (Paco Delgado).
Won Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), Best Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes), and Best Makeup (Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell).
Watched October 3, 2013.

  

This adaptation of Les Miserables is both deeply loved and deeply hated by many–critics and citizens alike.  The enchanting music and performances are beautiful, but the dutch angles* and static camera work is grating.  For some (book lovers, mostly) the first two parts of the film are what they should be, if a musical can be considered a good representation of the original literature.  For others, the last act is what makes the piece.

 

For myself, the first two thirds of the film were incredibly boring.  There are certain pieces that stand out, but over all it isn’t something that I would be able to watch very often.

 

For those who don’t know, Les Miserables is a story about a man named Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who is set free from prison and hard labor after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.  Javert (Russell Crowe) is the guard who sets him free, but Valjean’s papers label him a dangerous man, which make it impossible for him to get a job, something to eat, or a place to stay.  He is shown incredible kindness by a godly man who tells him to turn his life around.  Valjean creates an alias for himself and years later we find him a factory owner and the mayor of a small town.  This happy world is rocked when Javert returns, now as an inspector, although he does not at first recognize Valjean.

 

Distracted by the new inspector, Valjean doesn’t take notice when one of his factory workers is thrown to the streets because she had a child out of wedlock.  Fantine (Anne Hathaway) enters a dark path and in her deepest despair performs the most heart wrenching, memorable solo number of the entire 158 minute film.  Valjean learns of Fantine and her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and vows to take care of the girl.

 

In the next act, a rebellion against the crown in stirring in France.  Cosette is a young woman and her beauty attracts another young man who has left behind his family wealth to support the revolution with his friends.  Marius, played by the freckle-faced tenor Eddie Redmayne, sees her but once and is in love.  He must choose between the girl and the revolution.  When Valjean discovers the romance, he must choose between his own freedom or Cosette’s happiness.

 

The film’s biggest strength is director Tom Hooper’s decision to have the cast sing live.  Normally with musicals, they record the tracks before they shoot, but with singing live the actors have a much better opportunity to connect emotionally with their characters and their performance.  There is no debate that Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” is the best point in the entire film and it is undoubtedly what won her the Oscar.

 

The film captures the darkness of the circumstances, but its biggest flaw is probably the conversion of stage to film–it stays too true to Broadway.  The continuous musical ballads draw out the emotions of characters that we as an audience can see in a split second simply from the actor’s face.  We spend five minutes exploring a single emotion.  On stage this can work brilliantly, especially if you’re sitting in the nosebleed section.  Film is different.  The slightest flicker of emotion can be detected by your audience–we don’t need to marinate in it.

 

My second favourite performance is when Redmayne sang “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” He expresses perfectly the emotion–the devastation he felt at the loss of his comrades.  The film also did well in showing the sorrow that the soldiers must have felt at killing such young men.

 

There are so many facets to this film, it is hard to discuss them all.  For me, the first two parts of the film were slow and tedious.  They did not hold my attention very well.  If it wasn’t a musical I probably would have enjoyed it, but when there is little to no dialogue, it gets old fast.  Part three, which many critics disliked, was my favourite.  By then I was used to the singing and although certain love stories were a little silly, the character interaction was much more engaging.  The revolution was interesting and its toll was disheartening.

 

If you are a fan of musicals, you will probably love this film.  If you hate musicals, you will hate this film.  There isn’t really an in-between with this Les Miserables.  I will probably see it again, simply because it is so well loved, but I hope it isn’t any time soon.

*Dutch Angle (or dutch tilt) is defined as “a type of camera shot where the camera is tilted off to one side so that the shot is composed with vertical lines at an angle to the side of the frame” (Wikipedia).

Skyfall (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Skyfall (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 2.
Nominated for Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Music-Original Score (Thomas Newman), and Sound Mixing (Scott MillanGreg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson).
Won Music-Original Song “Skyfall” (Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth) and Sound Editing (Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers).
Watched September 3, 2013.

After 50 years and 23 Bond films, I was mildly surprised by this latest installment in the franchise.  I saw it last November in theaters and the film was so far off from what I had come to expect from 007 that I didn’t quite like it.  However, after watching it a second time I have come to appreciate it much more as a stand alone film.

 

What is great about Bond is that if you have seen none of the films before, you can jump right in and know what is going on.  It doesn’t generally have a complex plot that stretches through the years of films, but each installment focuses on its one story alone, with perhaps a little bit of carry over that isn’t too hard to figure out.  What makes Skyfall so unique is its story, its ending, and the fact that it dwells on characters that we don’t usually get to spend this much time with.

 

The tradition in the last three Bond films, which feature Daniel Craig as said hero, has been to go a bit more deeply into 007’s emotions and past than is normal.  The 20 films preceding them generally followed the same formula while having similar elements–ie. the Bond girl, the bad guy, and the gadgets.  These recents films, instead, have focused more on Bond himself and have only brought in the other three factors when prudent.

 

In Skyfall, MI6 itself is under attack, both from the Prime Minister and from a super genius computer hacker by the name of Silva (Javier Bardem) who has been slighted in the past by MI6 and M.  Having been attacked on their home turf, the secret service shows a remorse for loss of life that has rarely been seen from the franchise.  We see more from the home front than we do on location and the opening sequence, which of course includes a car chase, guns, and a fist fight atop a moving train, are punctured here an there by tense moments with M at headquarters helping her agents make tough decisions.

 

Bond’s loyalties are put to the test in this thriller, and although Bardem’s villain as well as performance has been compared to the late Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight, his psychological and physical attacks are much more direct.  Having been an agent and a favourite of M’s in the past, he is bitter that he was not considered more important and determines that one person is to blame.  It becomes Bond’s task to stop Silva at all costs.  These attacks and action sequences are much more personal than normal, and as such, we get to know Bond and his past a lot more than we have before.

 

Judy Dench as M has always been a wonderful pairing, and being one of the greatest actresses of our time, she finally gets to show her incredible skill in Skyfall.  While the special effects, editing, cinematography, directing, and over all vision of the film are exquisite, the acting sets it over the top.  While one might expect the Bond films to merely be guy flicks with guns, explosions, and hot women, this 2012 favourite has taken the franchise to another level.

 

As I mentioned before, it follows a slightly different formula than normal, which is why I did not care for it very much at first.  I had expected some light hearted entertainment, whereas I got something much deeper.  Without spoiling it, I didn’t much care for the ending and felt the entire film unnecessary because of it.  However, disregarding the outcomes of Silva’s rampage, the entire film was pieced together so well that you can’t even see the stitches.  Sam Mendes’ first action film is a success.

 

I would certainly recommend Skyfall, not just as a James Bond flick, or a 50th anniversary celebration, but as an excellent film that deserves some attention.

Life of Pi (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Life of Pi (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 11 awards, of which it won 4.
Nominated for Best Picture (Ang Lee, David Womark, Gil Netter), Best Adapted Screenplay (David Magee), Best Music, Song “Pi’s Lullaby” (Bombay Jayashri, Mychael Danna), Best Sound Editing (Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton), Best Sound Mixing (D. M. Hemphill, Drew Kunin, Ron Bartlett), Best Production Design (Anna Pinnock, David Gropman), and Best Film Editing (Tim Squyres).
Won Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Original Score (Mychael Danna), Best Cinematography (Claudio Miranda), and Best Visual Effects (Bill Westenhofer, Donald R. Elliott, Erik-Jan De Boer, Guillaume Rocheron).
Watched April 12, 2013.

 

Life of Pi is based off the award winning book by Yann Martel.  I have loved the book for years and was ecstatic when I heard about the film, but when the movie actually came out, other lovers of the book told me that they were really disappointed in it, so I decided not to see it in theaters.  Low and behold, I should NOT have listened to them!  Opinions about the film vary, which is understandable, from both those who have read the book and those who have not.  From my perspective, not only does the film follow the book incredibly well, but its execution stands up to Martel’s vision and I would love to watch it as often as I read the book… which is very often.

 

Life of Pi can be broken into three parts.  Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) is living in Toronto when an author (Rafe Spall) comes to him in search of a story–a story that is said to make you believe in God.  With a knowing smile, Pi begins at the beginning.  He was raised in Pondicherry as a zookeeper’s son.   The beginning is very family friendly–with silly humor including an overly buff and disproportionate swim instructor and Pi’s exploration of many religions.  The beginning almost feels disconnected with the rest of the film, but it is also necessary in order to set up the rest of the story.

 

Encountering some difficulties, Pi’s family decides to move to Canada where they will sell the animals and begin a new life.  Their Japanese ship never sees shore again because during a terrific storm, it sinks to the deepest part of the sea and Pi finds himself alone in the ocean, apart from the giant tiger Richard Parker.  This is when the story picks up and things get good.  Pi must find the strength to fight for his life, as it is being attacked from all angles.  His faith is challenged, and because he spends over 270 days at sea, he is left with nothing but faith by the end.

 

Because Pi is telling his story to the author, we know the outcome, and for those who have not read the book, this is perhaps a let down.  However, the book reads the same way and therefore Ang Lee, who directed, took no liberties in that regard.  Although there are a few weak links in the production, as a whole, the entire cast performs very well, and one could argue that the three who carried the film were Ang Lee, Claudio Miranda (the cinematographer), and Suraj Sharma, who plays Pi for the majority of the film.

 

Ang Lee has directed many award winning films in his time.  His wins with Life of Pi are well deserved.  Miranda’s work is exquisite, and combined with the visual effects, the screen becomes candy to the eyes.  When the heavens reflect so perfectly in the waters that it seems Pi and his raft are floating in midair, I wasn’t sure where to look because I wanted to look at everything at once.  Richard Parker, the tiger, is 100% animated and there is very little within the film that indicates this.  Sharma does a magnificent job acting and reacting to his tiger-less circumstances and I am pretty shocked the Academy gave him no recognition.

 

There is love, humor, sadness, and fear.  The end delivers the best moment of the film by Sharma and although many reviewers dislike the conclusion, feeling as if it is a bit tacked on, I found it wrapped everything up nicely.  It is a film that causes one to think rather than just something that entertains.  Although I’m not sure if Pi’s story would cause one to believe in God, I really enjoyed it.

 

I would definitely recommend this film.  Hands down, no arguments against it.  It can be slow at times and the three parts of the film can feel a bit disjointed, but as a whole it is a beautiful film and one that I would love to own.

Rio (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Rio (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Music, Song (“Real in Rio,” Sergio MendesCarlinhos BrownSiedah Garrett).
Watched February 10, 2013.

 

One of the last animated films that I am watching from this year, Rio is not the strongest film but was certainly a better option than last week’s Bullhead.  There is action, humor, romance, and culture–these four positives mixed with excellent animation makes for a fairly good evening movie option.

 

Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is one of the last two blue Macaws left in the world.  When he was a young hatchling, he was stolen from Rio de Janeiro, but somehow finds his way into the loving hands of Linda (Leslie Mann).  The two grow up together in small town called Moose Lake, Minnesota, and eventually own a book shop.  When Tulio comes around, everything changes.  He convinces Linda that she and Blu need to travel to Rio so that he can mate with another blue Macaw.  When they arrive in the midst of Carnival, we discover that the tropical bird smugglers are still at it and Blu and his ravishing counterpart Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are the targets.  Through thievery, colorful jungles, and touching attempts to teach Blu how to fly, we watch as both Blu and Jewel, and Linda and Tulio grow closer as they search frantically for the other pair.

 

Although the film is beautiful and the idea seems legit, it turns out to be a pretty forgettable film.  It won’t wow you like Shrek or  entertain you like Nemo.  It is a fun filled adventure where you root for the good guy and want the right people to fall in love.  There are small side parts that bring a little amusement, and none are overdone.  However, the whole film is so low key and so not over the top that once it was over, I promptly forgot about it.

 

I liked the characters, the voices, the animation, and even the story.  The execution was lacking, and that was what hurt Rio.  If you have some time to kill, it wouldn’t be a bad film to watch, but I would rather curl up with an old classic than add this one to my Netflix list.

Sources: The 360 Degree ReviewIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesThe Film Reel

The Muppets (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Muppets (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Music, Song (“Man or Muppet” by Bret McKenzie).
Watched February 9, 2012.

 

The MuppetsJason SegalAmy AdamsKermit, and the rest of the crew are delightful in all the right ways in this nostalgic, blast from the past episode of the Muppets and their crazy, cute, sometimes childish adventures.  If you didn’t love this film, perhaps you have lost your love of the Muppets somewhere among the many years of growing up.

 

Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) and his brother Gary (Segal) have grown up in an idilic small town suburb and are the cheesiest friends the big screen could ask for.  Gary’s long time girlfriend Mary (Adams) is slightly less happy-go-lucky than the two boys, but not by much.  Although the side-plot of Gary and Mary is a little distracting from the best story-line, it does give a bit more depth to Gary and grows him into less of a sidekick and more of a main attraction, even though he isn’t a frog.

 

Walter has been in love with the Muppets since he discovered them as a young boy.  To commemorate Gary and Mary’s 10th anniversary, the three of them take a trip to LA, where Walter is ecstatic to see the Muppets studios, which to his dismay have fallen into extreme disrepair since the show has been off the air.  Here follows the entrance of the super-villain and oil tycoon, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who is slightly over-done in acting and under-done in character development.  His one goal is to buy the studio and drill for the oil that is underneath it.

 

Walter, Gary, and Mary seek out Kermit and the rest of the crew to save the studio!  Kermit is reluctant at first, but soon his nostalgia wins over and they set out on an epic road trip of Muppet proportions to pick up everyone else, including a trip “by map” across the country, and the Atlantic, to wind up in Paris where Miss Piggy is a prestigious editor of Vogue.

 

They set up a telethon, repair their condemned studio in minutes, and put on a show in just as much time.  The famous cameos are to die for, and it’s obvious that everyone from Emily Blunt to Whoopie Goldberg is having a fantastic time.  Jack Black has a something-to-be-desired sort of role that doesn’t nearly explore his full potential, although the fact that they were able to make a role of his NOT be completely about Jack Black is pretty impressive.

 

All it in all, it is your typical Muppets film, and will be especially enticing for those who grew up with them, and loved them.  It has an extreme undertone of nostalgia, even for the characters, and brings back many famous songs, as well as introduces a few new ones.  It is delectably cheesy, audience engaging, and everything that it should have been.  By no means will it wow you cinematically, or artistically, but it should bring you back to a more simple time and impress upon you how much things have changed.

 

Even if you don’t have kids, I would recommend The Muppets for a few laughs, a good time with Jason Segal and Amy Adams, and quite the reunion with Kermit and the gang.

Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes MoviesFilms According to Chris Wyatt