Best Sound Editing

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.

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!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Best Sound Editing (Ethan Van der RynErik Aadahl), Best Sound Mixing (Greg P. RussellJeffrey J. HaboushPeter J. Devlin), and Best Visual Effects (Scott Farrar, Scott BenzaMatthew E. Butler, John Frazier).
Watched March 11, 2013.

 

“‘Dark of the Moon’ is one of the few recent 3-D movies that justify the upcharge.  Mr. Bay clearly enjoys playing with the format, which is also to say that he takes it seriously.” (NY Times)

 

Unfortunately, I did not see Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 3-D.  I saw it in 2-D, once in theaters and once in my home.  Both times I came to the same conclusion–the third film in the series is leaps and bounds better than the second, but despite its amazing effects and sound, it cannot touch the first, and nor will any of the three ever be on my Top 10 list.

 

The cast in this film is pretty stacked.  From the reoccurring Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky (who is always the same, but I love him) and the hilarious John Turturro as Simmons, to the new Patrick Dempsey (Dylan), John Malkovich (Bruce Brazos), and Ken Jeong (Jerry Wang).  Megan Fox was fired for her mouth and the new girlfriend is Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly.  Like Fox, she’s not a very good actress, but Michael Bay tends to care more about aesthetics than talent in the Transformers flicks.

 

Once again, the Autobots must save the world from the Deceptecons, but this time they almost flatten the whole city of Chicago.  The plot is simple, but it meanders while trying to get from point A to point B.  Sam is struggling to find a job out of college and is bitter that he can’t fight alongside the Autobots.  Inevitably, after something Decepticon inspired goes down at his new office, he weasels his way back into the middle of the fight and ends up rallying everyone together to save the day by the end.

 

Carly only serves the purpose of looking good and being a distraction for Sam, both in the fight and in normal life.  His parents make an appearance (this time in a Winnebago and matching track suits), the incredible Alan Tudyk has a small role as Dutch, and the list goes on.  Despite the small story, the experienced actors bring life and humor to their roles and I enjoyed them individually.

 

The special effects combined with the sound were beyond breathtaking.  Few instances appeared contrived, even when a whole building was collapsing on its side and being eaten by a Decepticon.  President Obama even makes a brief appearance (and by an appearance I mean that he was completely animated).  Subtleties are not Bay’s directorial strong point, but his attention to effect details is paramount to the success of his vision.  Despite this achievement, the story and many times the acting do not measure up to the aesthetic feast on screen.

 

I know a few people who absolutely swear by the Transformers franchise and would watch the films night and day if they could.  If you are one of these people, I don’t need to suggest that you see the film because you probably already have it memorized.  If you enjoy amazing special effects, or can appreciate a good sound mixing, this could be the meal you have been waiting for.  If story is more your thing, I would look elsewhere, unless you are planning on spending the next two and a half hours turning your brain to mush.

Drive (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Drive (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Sound Editing (Lon Bender, Victor Ray Ennis).
Watched March 9, 2013.

 

I hated Drive the first time I saw it.  There are still aspects about it that I really dislike, but one thing that you have to realize from the very beginning is that although what is happening on screen can become very chaotic, the edit is very slow, which can create distance between the audience and the film.  At the same time, as my second time viewing this picture, I had a lot more affection for Ryan Gosling’s character.  He is quiet and shy but he knows how to take care of himself and others.  He has a stare that could kill you, or melt your heart, and he decides when to use either.  He also uses his silence to his advantage–it provokes others to talk and to divulge things they otherwise might not.

 

Gosling’s character does not have a name.  He is the Driver, who by day drives stunts for the movies and might be making a break into the racing world, but by night he drives for criminals.  The beginning of the film introduces you to his amazing skills, both day and night, and most notably presents the film’s amazing eighties soundtrack that sometimes overpowers what is happening on screen and communicates an other-worldly frame of thought.  When the Driver meets the woman down the hall and is semi-forced into knowing her (because who can ignore a woman and her son when their car breaks down in the parking lot of your grocery store), the music takes on such an intensity that you are sure Driver and Irene (Carey Mulligan) are going to fall in love.

 

It is an interesting character study/love story from the beginning, but about 45 minutes in, things get real crazy.

 

The storyline reminds be of Bullhead.  It seems like it should be soley a character study, but so many other things get thrown in that the intent gets a little muddled.  Drive does this more successfully than Bullhead, because Driver’s character arch is more consistent with everything that happens, but the last hour or so seems almost like a completely different movie from the beginning.  Why he makes the choices he does makes complete sense, because of the affection he feels for Irene and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos), but at the same time, things get a little out of hand and it makes you wonder what kind of guy Driver really is.

 

Again, the film is slow, and definitely almost overly-graphic.  It isn’t graphic in a Quentin Tarantino kind of way, but graphic in an “if we were actually in this situation this is exactly what it would look like” kind of way.  Despite these aspects, the film is so technically well done that it is a filmmaker’s dream to watch and analyze, whether or not they see it more than once in their lifetime.

 

If you have love for Gosling or Mulligan, or affection for Tarantino (although Nicolas Winding Refn directed Drive), or even a love for studying film as a whole, this might be a good one for you to watch.  However, if none of these things appeal to you, I would suggest that you stay away from this watch.