academy awards nominations

How to Survive a Plague (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

How to Survive a Plague (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature (David France, Howard Gertler).
Watched February 18, 2014.

  

Regardless of its content and message, How to Survive a Plague is exactly the type of documentary that I like.  It is full to bursting with original stock footage, which tells most of the story.  The interview footage is used very well and although the balance tends to be more B-roll heavy, it communicates the story extremely well.  If it weren’t for such a hard subject, this could be a documentary that I would watch several times over.

 

The AIDS and HIV epidemic broke out in the 1980s and millions of people died while the FDA worked sluggishly (and through protocol) to produce affordable medication for the dying.  Two groups formed–ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group).  ACT UP had demonstrations and protests.  Some of its original members eventually broke off to form TAG, which was probably the most effective group at getting the best medication passed through testing and trials to the general populace.  Both groups grew from humble, angry beginnings and eventually gained respect from the scientific community.  They grew angry with politicians who told them to “change their behavior” and protested the Catholic church for denouncing the use of condoms.

 

While the 109 minute film can get a little repetitive, it effectively works over ten years of ACT UP meetings, protests, conferences and stats into the storyline to portray the humanity of the issue.  While the persons interviewed or featured in the original footage state their opinions strongly, about politics and otherwise, the film itself holds back and seems to want to emphasize the numbers–the death toll–and the humans behind each one.  Despite differences, lifestyles, and choices, these people are trying to save their lives.  Sometimes they act in desperation but their groups drag them back to reality so that their efforts will be effective instead of just expressive.

 

All in all, despite the heavy subject matter, it is an excellent documentary.  The people are raw and real.  Their stories are unfiltered.  The directorial touch is very light.  They certainly created a story from the many hours of footage and through editing they were able to connect with the people in front of the lens.  They even leave in “bloopers” from original footage to show how incredibly real this situation was.  Everything they are trying to communicate is not necessarily what others failed at, but what ACT UP and TAG succeeded at.

 

Despite how much I can rave about this film, I will mention again that it becomes repetitive.  Group meetings, conferences, and protests are broken up by interviews and the occasional news program.  There are political rallies and Presidential debates.  It is almost as if the crew became too attached to certain sub-plots and felt that the film would be harmed if it was left out–but it would not.  We get the picture that the FDA is taking too long to approve the right meds, but somehow that gets lost a little bit while the plot meanders into multiple protests and political spotlights.  The resolution is rushed and sudden while the journey to it is long and drawn out.  The story needs a more firm direction to be a true knock out.

 

That is my one and only complain with this truly nomination worthy film.  I would probably watch it again, and would also recommend that the documentary lovers see it.

 

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86th Academy Awards Nominees for 2014 | Jamie Daily

Please see the official Oscars.org site for the original list, which is copied below.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
  • Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
  • Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
  • Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
  • Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
  • Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
  • Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”
  • Judi Dench in “Philomena”
  • Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
  • Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County”
  • June Squibb in “Nebraska”

Animated Feature Film

  • “The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
  • “Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
  • “Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
  • “Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
  • “The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

Cinematography

  • “The Grandmaster” Philippe Le Sourd
  • “Gravity” Emmanuel Lubezki
  • “Inside Llewyn Davis” Bruno Delbonnel
  • “Nebraska” Phedon Papamichael
  • “Prisoners” Roger A. Deakins

Costume Design

  • “American Hustle” Michael Wilkinson
  • “The Grandmaster” William Chang Suk Ping
  • “The Great Gatsby” Catherine Martin
  • “The Invisible Woman” Michael O’Connor
  • “12 Years a Slave” Patricia Norris

Directing

  • “American Hustle” David O. Russell
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
  • “Nebraska” Alexander Payne
  • “12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese

Documentary Feature

  • “The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
  • “Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
  • “Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
  • “The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
  • “20 Feet from Stardom” Nominees to be determined

Documentary Short Subject

  • “CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
  • “Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
  • “Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
  • “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
  • “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens

Film Editing

  • “American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
  • “Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
  • “12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker

Foreign Language Film

  • “The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium
  • “The Great Beauty” Italy
  • “The Hunt” Denmark
  • “The Missing Picture” Cambodia
  • “Omar” Palestine

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
  • “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty
  • “The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Music (Original Score)

  • “The Book Thief” John Williams
  • “Gravity” Steven Price
  • “Her” William Butler and Owen Pallett
  • “Philomena” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Saving Mr. Banks” Thomas Newman

Music (Original Song)

  • “Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
    Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel
  • “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
    Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
  • “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
    Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “The Moon Song” from “Her”
    Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
  • “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
    Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Best Picture

  • “American Hustle” Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Captain Phillips” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
  • “Her” Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
  • “Nebraska” Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
  • “Philomena” Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
  • “12 Years a Slave” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Nominees to be determined

Production Design

  • “American Hustle” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
  • “Gravity” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
  • “The Great Gatsby” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
  • “Her” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
  • “12 Years a Slave” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

Short Film (Animated)

  • “Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
  • “Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
  • “Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
  • “Possessions” Shuhei Morita
  • “Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

Short Film (Live Action)

  • “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
  • “Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
  • “Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
  • “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
  • “The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

Sound Editing

  • “All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
  • “Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
  • “Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
  • “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
  • “Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman

Sound Mixing

  • “Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
  • “Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
  • “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
  • “Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
  • “Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Visual Effects

  • “Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
  • “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
  • “Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
  • “The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
  • “Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “Before Midnight” Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
  • “Captain Phillips” Screenplay by Billy Ray
  • “Philomena” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
  • “12 Years a Slave” Screenplay by John Ridley
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Screenplay by Terence Winter

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
  • “Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
  • “Her” Written by Spike Jonze
  • “Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson

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.

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