84th academy awards

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

Bullhead (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Bullhead (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (Michael R. Roskam – Belgium).
Watched February 10, 2013.

 

Bullhead is a tough watch from almost the very beginning.  Although the opening ambiguous shots are overlapped by an almost poetic narrative, the beauty is short lived.  The entire film views like an independent, but the opening half hour is more like a student film.

 

Once the technique cleans itself up, I could focus more on the story.  Unfortunately I wasn’t encouraged by what I saw.  It is the underworld of pumping hormones into cows in Berlin.  You wouldn’t think it would be as seedy as it is, but it’s like the mob, only with our friendly barnyard animals and their owners.  There are dealers, mob bosses, informants, comedic reliefs, and police investigations.  Underneath it all, there is a dark storyline that alters the whole mood of the film when it reveals itself.

 

Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) is the one bright spot in the entire film.  He is a dark, hulking, heavy lidded man who doesn’t talk much but tends toward anger after drinking and stalking a pretty shop girl.  His dark secret causes him to push everyone away because he fears he will never truly belong.  His family’s farm has been benefiting from hormones for years, but after eating with the boss, he gets skittishish about the police investigation.  Schoenaerts pulls off this deep and complex chracter exquisitely.

 

Jacky’s story seems completely separate from the rest of the film.  It is as if someone thought of an idea for a never before seen character study but kept adding more and more sub-plot–so much so that the main idea got lost by it.  The two story lines are at war with one another–not to mention the actors who are all fighting for screen time.  Although the cinematography is appropriately dark, I found zero redeeming qualities in this film.  What might be considered a bright comedic point is probably lost in translation and the frequent bits between two idiotic mechanics didn’t bring me a lot of laughs.

 

As a result, after watching Bullhead, I am incredibly wary of the rest of the foreign language film nominations from this year.  Perhaps I should not judge them all by this experience, because it was an F in my book.  I do not recommend this film.

Sources: Jared Mobarak DesignIMDBRotten TomatoesAcid Cinema

A Cat in Paris (2010) Review | Jamie Daily

A Cat in Paris (2010)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli).
Watched January 18, 2013.

A Cat in Paris is a short, sweet little French animated film about a cat who is a girl’s companion by day and a thief’s accomplice by night.  The creators combined a simple animation style with a clean story to entertain both kids and adults in their just hour long film.

 

Zoé (voiced by Oriane Zani in the French version), hasn’t spoken a word since her father was killed by one of the biggest crime lords in Paris–Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui).  Her mother Jeanne (Dominique Blanc) is a police detective and is all encompassed by finding Costa.  This leaves Zoé home with her outspoken nanny Claudine (Bernadette Lafont) and her cat, Dino.  Once it is bed time, however, Dino is let out through the window to climb rooflines and fences to the night time cat burglar‘s house.  Nico (Bruno Salomone), we will soon find, is an honorable thief who might just learn to care for Zoé as much as Dino before the film is up.

 

The animation is simple in a lot of ways.  Just a few curved lines and a series of drawings pieced together to form a sort of cartoon.  Certain things are off kilter a bit–feet are too small and supposedly stationary objects have movement.  There is a brilliant bit when Nico turns off the lights in Costa’s hide out and all of a sudden people become inverted silhouettes, white on black.

 

I enjoyed the animation, but didn’t quite care for the story or the characters.  The story was very simplistic and predictable, for the most part.  There was very little mystery in it, and although the film was only an hour long, I got bored quickly.  Most of the characters are also very simple.  They are typecast a certain way and they do not change.  Nico was the only surprise in this area.  Once Zoé was in trouble, you forget almost instantly that Nico is a thief as he becomes the biggest hero of the film.  Dino himself is also a cute and mischievous character who helped tie the story together.

 

All in all, I would say it was a cute film with interesting animation.  If you are a cat lover, it might not be an hour wasted to seek out this film.  Otherwise, I would rather find something else to do with my time.

Sources: Movies CutIMDBRotten TomatoesNY Times

La Luna (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

La Luna (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Short Film–Animated (Enrico Casarosa).
Watched January 4, 2013.

La Luna was an interesting short, but not one of my favorites from Pixar.  Quite the contrary, actually.  There was very little plot or development, very little attachment to the characters, and was more of an exercise in animation than something that should have been up for an Academy Award.

 

Written and directed by Enrico Casarosa, the creator of Up, La Luna is a coming of age story about Bambino, who is being introduced to the family business for the first time.  He is rowed out to sea with his father and grandpa, who anchor themselves to the moon instead of the ocean floor.  They then climb a ladder and Bambino finds himself on the moon’s surface, where it is covered with golden, glowing stars.  His father and grandpa, who seem to always be at odds, teach him that they must sweep, rake, or mop up the stars, depending on their tool of choice.

 

This is essentially the entire plot.  There was zero depth and although the animation was gorgeous and Bambino was cute, there was nothing else to endear me to the story and therefore I am pretty unimpressed with the seven minutes I spent watching it.  The next time I want to watch a short from Pixar, I can guarantee you I will be watching something else.

 

Unless you can find this one for free (I suppose it will accompany Brave, because this is the film it was released with in theaters), I would not suggest searching it out.

 

Sources: Whoa, This Is Heavy!IMDBRotten Tomatoes411maniaPaste MagazineReeling Reviews

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