academy awards nominee

Asad (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Asad (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura).
Watched April 2, 2014.

  

I watched Asad right around the time that I watched Captain Phillips.  Both portray the current climate of Somalia and its violence both on the water in piracy and also on land between its own people.

 

Asad is a short film that takes a different approach than the afore mentioned feature.  Asad is a young boy nearing manhood and anxious to go out on the boats and pirate with the other boys in his community.  He knows the ocean and its currents better than anyone.  Instead, the local fisherman who believes in living a different life is convinced that Asad will one day catch the best catch they have ever seen.

 

Although the film is quite short, it conveys Asad’s conflict, home life, and over all environment extremely well.  I got the measure of his character almost immediately.  In fact, it is very skillful how quickly we understand each character.  Granted, the writers did put in several easy to catch stereotypes that might define the soul of a person, such as Asad’s friend with a limp is all talk but has little courage when it comes down to it.  My favorite moment of the film was between Asad and his mother, where she struggles against the pressures of a society she has known her whole life and tries to raise her son in a war torn environment.

 

The film tries to instill a hope, but it is bleak.  Asad will grow up to be a pirate, a thug with a gun, or a fisherman.  His future is already set.

 

The filmmaking is decent, the acting is sub-par, and the story is one note.  After watching Captain Phillips, I was looking forward to a more in depth look at Somali life, but Asad left a little to be desired.  Although it shows the harder side of life, the film becomes preoccupied with a mediocre plot that stalls the pace and progression of the film.

 

All in all, I wouldn’t consider the film a waste of my time, but I would not suggest it for the a-typical audience.

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If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature (Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman).
Watched February 18, 2013.

 

If a Tree Falls is a very light handed documentary film.  It doesn’t preach, but instead does its job.  It documents and uses the interviews and stories from others to tell a story.  From someone who is not an environmentalist (as much as I love nature and would love to keep it around), I found this very effective in keeping me interested and keeping my bias out of my final opinion of the film.

 

The film follows one main character–Daniel McGowan–who got caught up in the ELF in the 90s after seeing a film documenting the efforts of environmentalists in Eugene, Oregon, where the police were being particularly unforgiving.  The ELF is an extremist group known to the United States government as the number one domestic terrorist threat.  When it began, it was more tame.  Normal protests were not being acknowledged, except maybe with tear gas and pepper spray.  The ELF decided to take things into their own hands, although they said their interests were the preservation of all life and most of the instances in the film were against companies and organizations that were jeopardizing the lives of trees, etc.

 

When marches, protests, and petty vandalization were still not being heard, they stepped it up and began utilizing arson.  In one instance, Daniel was only a lookout, and in another he helped set fire to a tree farm.  They destroyed millions of dollars in property, including a multi-million dollar lodge in Colorado.  Once Daniel realized that they still weren’t being heard, he stepped away from the ELF, but years later was brought in by the FBI.  His sister put up everything she had to bail him out and he was put on house arrest.

 

The biggest underlying tone of the documentary is whether or not Daniel and his cohorts should be considered terrorists.  After the events of 9/11, the term “terrorist” took on a drastic meaning–one who seeks out and kills innocents.  The US government, on the other hand, sees terrorists differently.  Daniel and his lawyer fought against it so that Daniel would not get 300 to life in prison and be labeled a terrorist for the rest of his days.

 

There are brief moments of genuine emotion that make the film painful.  Daniel’s sister and his wife are in tears over what he is going through, and the prospect of saying goodbye to him.  The other environmentalists, some whom were involved in ELF, and a documentary filmmaker who was not, are also very emotionally passionate about their beliefs.  They are genuine and honest about their actions, all saying that they were not the wisest decisions.  However, they wish there was a way they could get through to people and stop deforestation.

 

I thought this would be an excellent documentary to show on television.  It was well done and tells quite the story.  It was not the most astounding work or caft, but perhaps I have this opinion because I am less fond of the interview style documentaries.  That being said, I thought the execution held up, and was glad that it was both about the ELF and about Daniel’s personal struggles against the label of terrorist.  If you have a taste for documentaries, this is one that I would recommend.

Sources:  North Of CenterIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes Movies

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

Two Arabian Knights (1927) | Jamie Daily

Two Arabian Knights (1927)
1st Academy Awards 1929
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Directing-Comedy Picture (Lewis Milestone).
Not yet released.

 

As far as I could find concerning Two Arabian Knights, it has not yet been released on DVD.  If you know any different or are aware of where I could find the film except for in the possession of Turner Classic Movies, I would greatly appreciate the information.  Apparently the film was assumed lost until the death of Howard Hughes in 2004 when a print was restored at the University of Nevada.  Here is an original review from when the film was released in 1927 by Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times:

 

“Two Arabian Knights,” the current picture at the Paramount Theatre, is a genuinely clever comedy in which the principals scorn the usual fractious tactics and rely on intelligent acting. The two actors who supply the fun in this bright piece of work are William Boyd, the hero of DeMille’s “Volga Boatman,” and Louis Wolheim, a stage and screen nortrayer of choice villainy who figured as Captain Flagg in the play, “What Price Glory.”

This production has been expertly handled by Lewis Milestone, who has performed his task with a degree of sanity that is most welcome. Who knows but what this photoplay may serve to discourage silly and boisterous efforts and encourage this same restrained type of comedy? This film is filled with splendid photographic effects that have evidently been made at no small cost. Where a number of men are needed to add to the impression of a sequence, Mr. Milestone has not stinted himself, for he shows an imposing array of “extras,” all suitably costumed.

It is only toward the end of this subject that the adventures assume a fantastic aspect. There are then scenes wherein the two heroes scale walls and invade a Bey’s palace somewhere in Turkey. In view of what has preceded this, one is, however, willing to pardon such actions, for they are not without true humor and moreover none of the incidents are dependent upon the subtitles for the fun they create.

“Two Arabian Knights” succeeds where “Tin Hats” failed. It is a yarn dealing with two American soldiers who are taken prisoner. Mr. Milestone starts his ball of fun rolling in an initial scene where Private W. Daingerfield Phelps (Mr. Boyd) and Sergeant Peter McGaffney are discovered in the slough of a shell hole. When Phelps observes that his companion is his hated top sergeant he wants to have it out with McGaffney before a shell comes along and cuts off their existence. Eventually the deep hole in the muddy earth is surrounded by Germans, and Phelps and McGaffney are captured.

There are some realistic scenes of the German prison camp in snow-covered Northern Germany, and others that are concerned with the escape of the two men, who, while they still have no particular liking for each other, don’t want to be alone. It is set forth, that their Khaki uniforms in the snow stick out like a sore thumb, and finally, after an encounter between two Turks, the Americans help themselves to the white cloaks of their victims. Subsequently the two adventurers find themselves on a train bound for Constaninople, and after reaching that city they are sent aboard a ship, on which they meet the heroine, Mirza.

A little thing like having no ready cash is settled by Phelps’s diving into the purser’s cabin and binding and gagging that officer. There is dismay on McGaffney’s countenance when Phelps reappears with a fistfull of paper money.

Through purely natural expressions on the faces of the sturdy pair the Paramount audience yesterday afternoon was thrown into a high state of glee. And by the skillful and gradual way in which Mr. Milestone unfurls his episodes, there is a distinct element of suspense.

Mr. Wolheim is capital in his portrayal of alarm, annoyance, anger, satisfaction and relief. Mr. Boyd also contributes in no small way to the gaiety of this piece. In fact although it is a comedy Mr. Boyd’s acting in this screen effort is even better than his serious work in other productions. Mary Astor is seen as Mirza and she, too, is deserving of her share of credit, and so is Ian Keith, who figures as a Turkish officer with a sly sense of humor.
TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS, with Louis Wolheim, William Boyd, Mary Astor, Michael Vavitch, Ian Keith, DeWitt Jannings, Michael Visaroff and Boris Karloff, written by Donald McGibney, directed by Lewis Milestone; “The Barber of Seville,” with stage effects by Paul Oscard; “Moonlight,” a Bruce sconic; “Florida,” staged by Jack Partington. At the Paramount Theatre.

 

Sources: NY Timesultishare

The Shore (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Shore (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short (Terry George, Oorlargh George).
Watched October 19, 2012.

 

Unlike many of the critics, and the Academy itself, I was not such a fan of The Shore, particularly after seeing Raju last week.  The imagery of the film is absolutely breathtaking, but the script and acting were fairly lacking in comparison.

 

Joe (Ciarán Hinds) has been living in the States for the last twenty-five years and has not been back to Ireland since “the trouble.”  He finally brings his grown daughter back with him after his wife passes away.  Everyone is incredibly pleased to see him, but it is soon revealed that his daughter Patricia (Kerry Condon) doesn’t know much about her father’s past, like the fact that he was in a band, or that he hasn’t spoken to his best friend since he moved away.

 

The story with Joe and his daughter is so slow moving and dialogue driven that it throws off the pace of the entire short.  Condon’s acting doesn’t help the situation.  Joe tells the whole story of how he lost his best friend, Paddy, and how his secret ex-fiancé is now married to his ex-best friend.  Patricia then convinces him that he should visit Paddy and set things right.

 

My favourite aspect of the film (I prove that I am a huge romantic, yet again) was the relationship between Paddy (Conleth Hill) and his wife Mary (Maggie Cronin).  There is no doubt that they have an amazing amount of passion in their marriage.  Their chemistry is out of this world, which in turn casts a blinding light on the lack of chemistry between Hinds and Condon.

 

The Shore is a half-hearted comedy and a half-hearted drama–it never successfully scores in either direction.  The timing is off, most of the characters have little depth, and the lines are so transparent, it’s a wonder the actors could pull anything remotely Oscar worthy out of Terry George’s winning piece.

 

If your opinions tend to be more in line with the Academy when it comes to shorts, or if you would like to catch a glimpse of Ireland’s beauty (which is expertly captured, might I add), then by all means you should search out this film.  Otherwise, I would not recommend it.

 

Sources: Album ArtIMDBRotten Tomatoes411maniaOpinionlessPaste MagazineReeling ReviewsSmells Like Screen SpiritThe Independent Critic