Best Supporting Actress

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).

The Master (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

The Master (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).
Watched April 25, 2013.

Everywhere I look, the world of reviewers is raving about The Master.  Hardly anyone has anything negative to say.  To be quite honest, there have only been two films I have watched so far that have driven my writing on this blog to a complete standstill, and this is one of them.  It was all I could do to sit through the first half hour of this film, let alone the remaining 100 plus minutes.

 

While the acting was all well and good and those embodying their characters gave intense commitment to their character arc, the story itself was lackluster and slow moving.  The emotional depth was so one note that it was hard to keep my eyes open.  When the story attempted to get deep and perplexing, there was so little explanation and so much left to the audience to discover and decide that I lost interest immediately.  I am a big fan of films that make you think, but this film made me so uncomfortable that I had to walk away from it several times.

 

In the most simple of terms, the film is about a cult.  A man named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) returns home from World War II a broken man.  He spends his nights making and pushing his moonshine (generally made out of soap and paint thinner, among other things), and his days searching for his next job, because he can’t seem to hold down anything.  His world changes drastically when he happens upon a storybook ship adorned with lights and laughter.  He hops aboard and finds himself the new pet of The Master, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

 

Author and thinker, Dodd leads around a gaggle of ex-wives and family as he teaches about past lives and healing faults and hurts of the past.  He argues that the earth is trillions of years old and that by healing our past wounds we can become a more perfect species.

 

Despite how interesting and soul searching this might sound, that’s really all there is to this film.  There are some awkward experiences and a few fists are thrown here and there, but the film really stays at a standstill and by the end there is very little growth seen in any of the characters.  Freddie maybe has the most change, but the rest are determinedly still.

 

While there are some winning scenes of impeccable performances, the scenes together do not combine into anything moving or resolved.  I would not recommend this film, and will likely avoid it from now on at all costs.

Bridesmaids (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Bridesmaids (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy) and Writing-Original (Annie MumoloKristen Wiig)
Watched November 4, 2012.

 

The time has come and now the world knows it–women can, in fact, be funny.  Not only that, but they can be funny in exactly the same way that men can be.  This Hangover for women is a romantic comedy completely different from what we have become conditioned to.  There is little dependency on man, and an incredibly realistic representation of the absolute chaos, jealousy, and selfishness that comes with being a bridesmaid.

 

Granted, not everyone has a bad experience being a bridesmaid.  I myself have had three very good experiences.  However, one cannot deny the cost, the jealousy, the attempts at being selfless for the bride, and the semi-awkward moments with the fellow bridesmaids who the only thing you have in common with is the bride.  Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo do a very good job at bringing comedic reality to the American women–something realistic, although extreme, and something that does not have the main character falling apart because she doesn’t have a man.

 

Annie Walker (Wiig) has been friends with Lillian (Maya Rudolph) since childhood, and even though they have been a little distant lately, Lillian still has no hesitations in asking Annie to be her Maid of Honor after she and her significant other, Dougie (Tim Heidecker) get engaged.  Annie, who is going through a personal crisis after losing all of her money in a failed business as well as a failed relationship, is ecstatic and panicked at the same time.  On the one hand, this is what girls dream and talk about their entire lives–weddings.  On the other hand, she experiences extreme jealousy, not necessarily of Lillians engagement, but of her fiancé who gets the privilege of taking her best friend away from her.

Annie’s first encounter with the other bridesmaids is at the engagement party, where she immediately realizes she is out of her league.  Lillian’s cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is a married mother whose disgust for men is spilling out of her over-tight dress, Becca (Ellie Kemper) is a naive newlywed, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is Dougie’s extreme tom boy sister, and most auspicious of all is Helen (Rose Byrne), the wealthy, perfect, jealous, mega planner of a nemesis.  It is immediately clear than she is out for Lillian’s hand in best friendom.

 

There is a bit of romance for Annie in the film, in the unlikely and completely precious form of Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), but the state of her life and her selfish preoccupation because of it means that she barely even notices what she has standing in front of her.  Her hate for Helen, her money stresses, job problems, and incredibly invasive and weird roommates distract her from the silver lining and amazing support she really needs.

 

Through food poisoning, disastrous plane flights, and even a missing person, Bridesmaids has its share of serious moments among the hilarious, as well as the disgusting.  The story line follows a typical pattern at its most basic level, but the way in which is gets there is quite well done.  Both nominations definitely seem deserved, although I would have loved if McCarthy could once again be depicted as the beautiful person she was in Gilmore Girls for seven years.

 

If you have a stomach for the R rated humor of today’s generation, I would encourage you to see this film.  It is hilarious, it takes its characters to the extremes of reality, and at times makes you wish you were somewhere else because it is just that gross.  A fan of Hangover should certainly enjoy this film, and can definitely point out the similarities to you.

Sources: Fan PopThat Film GuyIMDBRotten TomatoesThe GuardianSmells Like Screen SpiritNY Times

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Melinda Dillon), Art Direction (Joe Alves, Dan LominoPhil Abramson), Directing (Steven Spielberg), Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Music-Original (John Williams), Sound (Robert Knudson, Robert J. Glass, Don MacDougallGene S. Cantamessa), Visual Effects (Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, Richard Yuricich).
Won Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).
Watched October 22, 2012.

 

 

[This review contains spoilers.]

 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, like Star Wars, is another sci-fi film released in 1977 that was nominated and won awards for its achievements.  It was also the second-highest grossing film of the year and held records for a good while.  This is, of course, thanks to Steven Spielberg, his incredible understanding of the craft, and his abilities as a story teller.  I, for one, will forever be a fan of Spielberg, not necessarily for his out-of-this-world artistic abilities, but for his all encompassing domination of filmmaking as a whole.  Although certain aspects of Close Encounters are dated, the majority of it withstands the test of time far more than its counterpart, Star Wars.

 

If you have guessed correctly, like I did, Close Encounters is a film about aliens.  Similarly to other such films where extra terrestrial life visits Earth, you don’t actually see the aliens themselves until the end of the film, although you see a good amount of their ships.  Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is your average blue collar worker with a wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) and three children.  When there is a huge power outage one night, he is called into the field, but once he has a unique encounter with one of the ships, he turns off his radio and decides to chase down the aliens.  He is completely obsessed, even once they have gone, preoccupied with a pyramid shape that he can’t place.  A woman he met the same night, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) is just as preoccupied, but when her son Barry (Cary Guffey) is taken, her terror leads her to chase down her visions of the mountain.  Roy’s obsession eventually makes him so crazy that his wife leaves with the children.

 

Meanwhile, a group of scientists have been tracking and communicating with the aliens and have discovered that the lifeforms have been sending them direct coordinates to Devils Tower in Wyoming.  They immediately evacuate the area, and it is the television coverage of the panic that clues Roy and Jillian in on what their visions have been of.  They both rush to the area, of course meeting up and driving recklessly into the military protected national park.

 

Unlike many alien movies of our day, Steven Spielberg’s aliens are friendly and curious.  Although they have taken many people over the years, as well as accepted voluntary travelers, they seem like they too are merely scientists wishing to understand, explore, and experience.  This also differs from the films in the 70s and before.  The typical storyline is, of course, that their world is dying, they are feeding, or they simply want to terrorize the planet.  Spielberg’s creation, although also suspenseful, is much different with much better special effects, which are perhaps two of its best traits.

 

As far as performances and characters, I thought everyone was phenomenal.  Dreyfuss is very convincing–his crazy is very realistic and because we know his experience was legitimate it is probably less weird to the audience than his wife, although at the climax of his meltdown it is easy to understand and sympathize with Ronnie.  She begins as very loving and supportive, although clearly worried.  At first I was surprised that she might actually be so loving that she completely upholds her “in sickness and in health” vows without question, but she eventually cracks and opts to protect her children by removing them from the situation.

 

I would definitely recommend this film.  It is more lighthearted than recently viewed films, but certainly has more depth than Star Wars.  Even if you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind before, it would definitely be a good choice for this Halloween evening!

Sources: Classic MoviesZap 2 ItIMDBRotten TomatoesHorror NewsNY Times

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Tuesday Weld) and Cinematography (William A. Fraker).
Watched October 20, 2012.

[This review contains spoilers]

 

Looking For Mr. Goodbar is so far off from what I was expecting.  If I know nothing about the film, I don’t look at any descriptions before I watch it, and therefore the title threw me completely off.  It is based on a true story of a woman named Rosanne Quinn who was murdered in New York.  Her story inspired a novel, and then this film.  Richard Books, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the film, decided to change the character of Quinn in order to make her more likable, but her end is still the same.

 

Reportedly, Quinn was a woman living in the time of women’s lib and got her fixes not just from drugs but from increasingly violent sexual encounters.  She was a school teacher by day and a bar hopper by night.  The character in the film, Theresa Dunn (Diane Keaton) is the same in this regard.  She teaches deaf and mute children during the day, but at night she frequents singles bars, snorts coke, and tries desperately to rebel against her strictly Catholic upbringing.  Theresa differs from Quinn in that she is not a masochist.  She generally would like to avoid violence and abuse and her attraction to lesser men is simply because she can abuse them with her eloquence.  Ironically, the man who is the craziest of all seems like one of the sweetest in her first encounters, although we as an audience know he is not.  This is another difference from the true story and the screen adaption–she brings home what she thinks is a sweet guy, maybe someone more who she would be looking for, but in Quinn’s instance, he was probably the worst of the worst from the beginning.

Theresa’s story is somewhat intriguing.  She starts as a school girl with wild fantasies of her professor.  He becomes her first lover–the first chauvinistic man to bed her.  After her experience with him, she moves out of her father’s house and into an apartment her sister, Katherine (Tuesday Weld), offered her.  Katherine is a wreck when it comes to men–she marries them without knowing them and often wakes up in the midst of naked people and doesn’t remember how she got there.  But even Katherine would never let a man treat her the way Theresa eventually finds herself being treated.

 

When she begins her bar life, she finds a man named Tony (Richard Gere) who is an attractive, jealous player.  He is unpredictable, excitable, and very alluring to her, and although he pictures her as his ‘girl,’ he shows very little commitment.  His unpredictability and also physical abuse eventually end their “relationship,” but her security precautions against him eventually lead to her demise.

 

What is intended to be a cautionary tale is something I will never watch again.  It is much longer than it needed to be and seems to fall off point many times just so that it can show just how troubled and “liberated” Theresa has become.  Her home life reads as a soap opera, her one legitimate boy toy turns into a creepy stalker, and her near innocent forays into an unknowable world are very misjudged and under appreciated.  Tuesday Weld was pretty deserving of her nomination as the troubled sister, and the cinematography was very interesting.

 

I wouldn’t recommend the film.  Many people and critics alike love the film, but would not necessarily advise it for multiple viewings.  I can understand its nominations, and consider Diane Keaton’s performance to be something of note, but Looking For Mr. Goodbar was not my flavor.

 

 

Sources: Facets FeaturesFan CarpetIMDBRotten TomatoesRoger EbertFilm Fanatic