Best Original Musical Score

Anna Karenina (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Anna Karenina (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 4 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Original Score (Dario Marianelli), Best Production Design (Sarah GreenwoodKatie Spencer), and Best Cinematography (Seamus McGarvey).
Won Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran).
Watched June 6, 2013.

The story of Anna Karenina is perhaps one of my least favourite so far among the 2013 nominations, which is of course no fault of the screenwriter as it is based on Leo Tolstoy‘s classic novel.  Those who love the story, as well as Tolstoy, don’t worry.  Although my feelings toward Anna and her plot line are less than favorable, I did quite enjoy the stories surrounding her, as well as the interesting style of this latest film.  While the artistic direction may be a bit distracting from the story, I found it quite enchanting and it made me wish that it had been bestowed upon a different story, because then I would have liked to watch it again.

 

This may all be a very complicated way of saying that I have a love-hate relationship with director Joe Wright’s interpretation of Anna Karenina.  It is the story of a woman (Kiera Knightley) in the Russian high society  who does not love her husband (Jude Law).  Instead of remaining faithful so that she may be with her beloved son, she runs off with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)–whose mustache is very silly if I do say so myself–and therefore suffers the social backlash.

 

It is this story that I found very annoying.  I didn’t care for Anna and therefore understood none of her decisions.  Her husband, although a bit weak when it comes to home life, was an admirable character.  Vronsky was young and had no idea what he was getting Anna into, and her poor abandoned son doesn’t get much screen time.  I appreciated the story in that it shows an example of why it is morally wrong to cheat on your husband, although Anna mainly suffered the surface repercussions–none of her friends would hang out with her any more.  If the book goes more in depth about this, then perhaps there was not enough time to explore the depth of it more than that in the film.

 

Despite my dislike for the story, again, I quite appreciated the production design and the costumes.  In fact, my love for period pieces is what kept me going through the over two hour film and I wished that the beautiful consuming and innovative sets could have been bestowed on a different plot line.  I liked the side stories, although they seemed somewhat out of place, despite showing a complete turnaround from Anna.

 

I will very readily say that I won’t be seeking out this Anna Karenina adaptation again any time soon, and unless you 1. like the story or 2. have incredible patience, I would advise against watching it just to see the aesthetics.

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.

Argo (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Argo (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 7 awards, of which it won 3.
Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Sound Editing (Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn), and Best Sound Mixing (John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Jose Antonio Garcia).
Won Best Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio), Best Film Editing (William Goldenberg), and Best Picture (Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney).
Watched March 22, 2013.

When it comes to Best Picture of the year, Ben Affleck’s Argo was not my pick, but the buzz around it going into awards season this year meant that it was probably the strongest contender for the title.  It is an entertaining, engaging, and very well made film based on real life events in 1979 and 1980.  In fact, the film is made so well that it feels like it was actually made in the era it documents.

 

In the first five minutes of the film, Affleck treats us to a crash course in the recent Iranian political climate and bases many of his footage off of actual photographs from the event.  There are some nasty feelings toward the United States because they have given asylum to a political leader the people want to hang.  As a result, the Iranians take over the American embassy and take everyone inside hostage.  Everyone but the six citizens who escape out the back door and find refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home.

 

Tony Mendez (Affleck) is a hot shot CIA exfiltration specialist, and after months of the hostage situation, he is finally brought on board to get the six escapees home.  In perhaps my favourite part of the film, he gets the bright idea of flying in alone, claiming to be a part of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi thriller, and will fly out with his crew.  He even goes so far as to fly to Hollywood and bring two greats onto his side to help prove this film is real–Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) is a long time producer with shelves of awards and John Chambers (John Goodman), a special effects and prosthetics artist.  They find the script (Argo), stage a reading, create storyboards and posters, and even make it into the press.

Although a lot of people I have heard claim the beginning of the film is slow, if you stick with it, the last forty minutes or so are a fast paced roller coaster.  Without knowing much about each individual character, we almost immediately feel a connection with them.  It is easy to pull for both Mendez and the rest of the Americans.  They are stressed to the breaking point and trust isn’t easy to come by, but it is time to go.  Even though running and hiding hasn’t been the easiest thing, escaping in broad day light through a busy airport is the scariest thing most of them have ever experienced, and for good reason.

 

The film is based off of real life events that were declassified by President Clinton several years ago.   It is fascinating that a hero such as Mendez could exist and receive the highest award the CIA has to offer, and no one knew about it until many years later.  Affleck embodies the character very well.  He has confidence in the “best bad idea” that they have, and he works the entire movie to instill that confidence in everyone else.  Arkin and Goodman were exquisite comic reliefs and one of my favourite aspects of the film.  At times, the Hollywood action tends to pull the focus too far out of Iran, but perhaps the crazy almost non-reality of their world helps the audience believe the crazy reality of the exfiltration and the story that they are trying to pull off.

 

The story is wonderful, although it doesn’t try to be any deeper than it is.  There is little attempt to delve into the psyche of the characters, but instead we are given little clues that tell us just enough to understand what we need to, and then we move on.  It is as if the whole film is just a blink of what actually happened and we are privileged enough to get that glimpse.

 

The style of the film is almost as admirable as Mendez himself (okay that’s a stretch, but seriously… it’s good).  Affleck chose to shoot on film instead of HD, like most of today’s talent.  Every nomination and win was deserved.  The exquisite detail, the 70s hair, and the nail biting sound all wove together into a wonderful historic narrative that will hopefully live on well beyond 2013.

 

I would highly recommend this film.  It isn’t a family movie and if you have kids you might want to exercise some caution.  However, they might also fall asleep before the movie is too far in–once you get past the initial takeover of the embassy, of course.  It is a film I would love to own and one that I could easily watch a couple times a year.  If you haven’t had the chance to see Affleck’s best directorial work, now would be a fantastic time!

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Musical Score–Original (John Williams).
Watched January 15, 2013.

 

You know when you can’t get a movie out of your head for days after you watched it?  Whether or not it was the most amazing movie ever created, or the most riveting and believable plot line, it was the kind of thing that entertained you enough that you wanted to share it with others.  When this happens to me I know that it will probably end up in my DVD/Blu-ray collection one day.  Although The Adventures of Tintin was no mind bending film, I really enjoyed it and will one day force it on my kids.

 

Tintin is an age old comic character.  He is a reporter with a propensity for getting himself into trouble, but also for solving giant mysteries.  He’s kind of like the comic strip/boy version of Nancy Drew, or a kid’s version of Indiana Jones.  It has taken a long time for him to come to the big screen, but who better to take him there than Steven Spielberg?

 

In this tale, Tintin and his faithful canine Snowy find a beautiful model ship at a flea market, but immediately after purchasing it they are doused in the mystery and adventure of the craft.  It seems several people are after this very ship, and they might even kill to keep its secret safe.  Not able to let it rest, Tintin and Snowy are off immediately!  Through high seas and deserts, accompanied by a drunk Captain Haddock, they pursue the clues and culprits through many dangers, but always pervail with Tintin’s uncanny ability to do anything he sets his mind to.

 

There have been a lot of negative reviews about the animation (motion capture) of this film, some even going to far as to say it should have just been live action if they weren’t going to stick with the same style as the comic.  I quite disagree.  I really thought that the animation was absolutely brilliant.  It brought a realness to it that I quite liked, and the comic qualities were definitely still present in the two comic reliefs, Thomson and Thompson.

 

The John Williams score was unforunately a bit forgetable, which is interesting as it was the film’s only nomination.  The plot line is rather simplistic, and at times Tintin’s motivation to continue the investigation seems a bit… unmotivated, for lack of a better word.  For the most part, I could see it being a great movie for boys.  In terms of editing there are some really top notch animated transitions.  My favourite was when Captain Haddock’s mirage came to life before our eyes–endless rolling sand dunes morph into a rough sea carrying a gorgeous tall ship.

 

With voices from Jamie BellAndy Serkis, Daniel Craig, and Simon Pegg–among others–you can be sure you are in for a classic Spielberg, feel good adventure story.  The only difference is that it is animated!

 

I would definitely recommend this one, especially if you have kids.

 

Sources: All Things FoeHD WallpapersIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes Movies

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