Best Original Musical Score

Philomena (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Philomena (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 4 awards.
Nominated for Best Picture (Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan, Tracey Seaward), Best Actress (Judi Dench), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jeff Pope, Steve Coogan).
Watched May 11, 2014.

 

Philomena is based on the 2009 book by Martin Sixsmith about a woman who conceives out of wedlock and is forced by an Irish convent to not only serve years for punishment, but also to give her son up for adoption.  She has spent decades struggling with her guilt and emotions on her own, but in a reckless moment, she opens up to her young daughter.

 

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) has recently been disgraced in the media, but when he tries to make a comeback as a journalist for the BBC, he finds Philomena’s story fascinating.  While she would love to find her son, he isn’t necessarily interested in reuniting mother with child, but with the story and the secrets about the 1960s nuns that will disgrace the Irish-Catholic community.  Despite the fact that BBC pays for everything, Philomena (Judi Dench) is incredibly reluctant to open up to the media and to have her private life on display.  After all, she has kept this secret for most of her life and now all of a sudden, she fears everyone knowing.

 

Their search, of course, takes them to the convent, where they are run around in circles and get no real answers because she signed forms stating that she will never receive further information about her son.  After walking through a graveyard full of the bodies of babies and mothers, Sixsmith and Philomena continue looking and end up finding out that her son was adopted by Americans.

 

The relationship between the two characters makes Philomena such a strong film.  The New York Observer describes it as “an overpowering novel you cannot put down, this gripping real-life story allows you to share the journey, step by step, as Philomena, who still clings to her faith, and Martin, a lapsed Catholic and devoted atheist, leave no rock unturned in their search for answers.”  It is the relationship between Philomena and Sixsmith and their battle of wits that earned the film four stars from yours truly.  Judi Dench does it again!  I forgot I was watching a film as I saw Philomena discover fact after fact about her son.  Some things will tear at your heart strings, others will exasperate you, and a lot of them will more than likely surprise you.

 

It is not a feel good story.  Based on real life events, it reveals a sad history in Ireland and most especially in this woman’s life.  Clearly, its strengths are Judi Dench and the writing.  While the film did not win, its nominations were deserved, albeit its Best Picture nod was probably a little low on the totem pole compared to the other nominees.  However, we all know how I love a good story driven film, and despite how sad this film left me, I loved it just the same.  Likewise, the score is properly haunting, full of nostalgia, sadness, and hope.

 

If you like a good story combined with an actress who can deliver, this would be a good film for you!  At only 98 minutes long it is the perfect length for a difficult subject matter that makes one think about family, morality, and Philomena’s ability to forgive.

 

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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.

Lincoln (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Lincoln (2012)
85th Academy Awards
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 12 awards, of which it won 2.
Nominated for Best Picture (Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy), Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Sally Field), Best Adapted Screenplay (Tony Kushner), Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ronald Judkins), Best Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski), Best Costume Design (Joanna Johnston), and Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn).
Won Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Production Design (Rick Carter, Jim Erickosn).
Watched February 27, 2014.

I have heard a lot of good things about Lincoln, and perhaps these things, along with Daniel Day-Lewis’ win at the Oscars made me expect too much.  As much as I tend to enjoy the pristine nature of a good Spielberg film, the stage like dialogue, production design, and cinematography left something to be desired.

 

President Abraham Lincoln is perhaps one of the most well remembered Presidents.  This film focuses on a small period of time around his reelection, just months before his assassination.  He is gunning for the 13th Amendment, which would abolish slavery, much to the chagrin of his cabinet.  Even some within the Republican party were hesitant.  Everyone wanted peace from the Civil War.  They wanted their sons to stop dying in battle and for the South to come back to the nation.  The Democrats were vehemently opposed to the Amendment.

 

We all know what happens in the end, which takes away some of the mystery and suspense, although the filmmakers tried their best to keep the audience on the edges of their seats.  The representatives vote and threaten each other.  Lincoln is slow and yet eloquent.  He speaks strongly when needed but prefers a calm state and story telling.  In tense situations he commands the attention of a room by telling a story that might relate to the situation at hand.

 

The acting, particularly from Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, is top notch.  They deliver difficult lines and portray a wounded spirit very well.  My favorite scene involving Mary Todd Lincoln (Field) is when she defends her remodel of the white house to some extremists, showing a bit of the gumption that Lincoln must have fallen in love with in the beginning.  The loss of one of her sons has all but done her in, but in this moment there is fire in her eyes, much like in the President’s when he expresses how disgusting slavery is.

 

He and his political party dance the line between peace and the freedom of slaves.  They believe that if they declare peace with the south before the Amendment is brought to a vote, there will be no sense of urgency and it will not be passed.  They employ questionable and typical techniques to “buy” votes and stall envoys.

 

Some of the story is much too slow, or maybe unnecessary.  I understand why they included the story line of Robert Lincoln (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the son who wants to go to war, but it is so underused that it is more of a distraction from the main story than anything else.  It shows the fear of his parents and unearths more of their grief.  The emotions in these scenes are palpable, but the execution of the filmmaking is very staged.  There is a constant tug of war between filmmaker and actor in this film that I found very distracting.

 

Despite some negative attributes, the film is well done and deserving of its nominations as well as wins.  I would definitely watch it again, although I might not own it.  If you are a history buff you will probably really enjoy it.  I can recommend Lincoln as a good film, but you should expect it to be somewhat slow, dark, and quiet.

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.

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.