best actress

American Hustle (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

American Hustle (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 10 awards.
Nominated for Best Picture (Charles Roven, Jonathan Gordon, Megan Ellison, Richard Suckle), Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Costume Design (Michael Wilkinson), Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy, Alan Baumgarten, Crispin Struthers), Best Production Design (Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler), and Best Original Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell).
Watched June 5, 2014.

David O. Russell is becoming an unstoppable director in recent years.  From The Fighter to Silver Lining’s Playbook, and now onto American Hustle, he groups his favorite actors together in this film to punch out another excellently made, sharp piece with similar humor that we all loved in Playbook.  Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence are the revisiting dream teams, but their performances are complimented this time by Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K. and other big names in the industry.  The star studded cast combined with the fabulous director should be a recipe for greatness, and although the film took home zero Oscars on awards night, it was certainly a strong contender.

The story is a little unoriginal and one we have seen often.  It is the late 70s and early 80s.  Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a small time scammer married to a young woman named Rosalyn (Lawrence).  When he meets vivacious Sydney Prosser (Adams)–if that is her real name–he falls in love and ropes her into his business.  They’re eventually cracked by the feds and ambitious Richie DiMaso (Cooper) offers them a deal to get off the hook.  If they will help him to take town some big time scammers they’ll walk.

Irving is a piece of work, and an excellent character, which is probably what attracted Bale to the part.  The opening scene shows precisely how the man creates his masterpiece of a combover, complete with hair piece.  He knows what he wants and how to get it but he also knows when things aren’t right.  Sydney might turn out to be better than him, but I’ll let you decide on that front.

Despite the fact that Rosalyn knows about Sydney, she comes off as a few crayons short of a set and is constantly setting things on fire or talking about her manicures.  She is surprisingly dangerous and passive aggressive.  In true Lawrence-fan fashion, she was one of my favorite characters in the film.  She brings a different side to the comedy that the other characters don’t, although everyone seems a bit gaudy.  As Christy Lemire  from Roger Ebert says, “Her complexity and unpredictability make her fascinating to watch—she’s just unhinged enough to think she’s the voice of reason—and Lawrence is a radiant scene-stealer.”

The costuming is truly on point.  Sydney is obsessed with the plunging neckline.  Just as distracting is Richie’s head of incredibly curly hair (which he curls every night).  Each character is so delectably unique, and yet somehow the story line doesn’t get bogged down with their loud, semi-insane character arcs and holds things together surprisingly well.

Jeremy Renner plays the mayor, Carmine Polito, who is one of the many they are trying to scam.  He is a big time family man who passionately wants to make a difference in the city, but unfortunately his methods are against the law and Richie is chasing after him.  Irving and Sydney have no choice but to go along.  Rosalyn is the loose cannon that could ruin the entire operation, and everybody knows it.  Instead of keeping her at home, they continue to take her to all of the events and set her free.

The big personalities are a recipe for disaster within the film, but outside of that, everything came together fairly well.  Russell went at the con artist angle with more humor than we typically see.  This is perhaps an attempt to make the plot more unique, but really it’s just a rehash of everything we have all ready seen out of Hollywood.  Everything is executed well, as you can tell from the list of nominations, but what was missing was the twist of originality we typically see from the director and his star studded team.

The film is rated R, but is a great comedy with a lot of wit, laughs, and ridiculous situations.  I can appreciate this type of humor a lot more than something like “Ted.”  If American Hustle sounds like something you would enjoy, I would definitely recommend it.

The Impossible (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

The Impossible (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Actress (Naomi Watts).
Watched March 27, 2014.


I try to stay away from descriptions of the movies coming up on my list, but I vaguely knew that The Impossible was about a tidal wave.  In this film, a tourist family is vacationing in Thailand for Christmas and is caught in the 2004 tidal wave that devastated Thailand and other locations connected to the Indian Ocean.


Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons are given a short introduction that gives a small foundation of who they are as a family and a little of who they are as individuals.  There is a quietness in the beginning of the film that forebodes the events coming up.  The tsunami hits pretty quickly into the film and the scenes that follow don’t hold back.  The intensity of the raging waters is matched by the ferocious survival instincts of the family.


It is hard to give a synopsis of this film because I would really like to not spoil it.  I will simply say that people get split up very easily in the chaos of an emergency situation and finding each other again is almost as terrifying as the disaster itself.  The Thai people carry the wounded, clothe the naked, and rush strangers to overflowing hospitals in the backs of trucks.


The acting is phenomenal.  There are sequences that are a little drawn out and melodramatic, but the intensity of the film calls for that.  The brief moments of relief are a breather, but really I did not breathe properly or stop crying until the credits were over.


Is The Impossible the best made film?  No.  The acting is either excellent or acceptable.  The editing and therefore storytelling is good for the most part.  The melodrama gets a bit much and can be frustrating.  Despite all of that, it is a really good view into a disaster situation and how it affected this real family, whom the story is loosely based around.  I have been a huge fan of McGregor since he was in Star Wars and I was very happy when I found out he was in this film.


If you have the time and the emotional stamina, I would highly recommend this film.  Come prepared with tissues and a shoulder to cry on.

Street Angel (1928) Review | Jamie Daily


Street Angel (1928)
1st Academy Awards 1929
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Actress (Janet Gaynor).
Watched September 17, 2012.


Yet another Frank Borzage film starring none other than Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.  Perhaps Gaynor’s true talent was in playing a small waif of an innocent street walker in Italy, and Farrell’s in playing the dreamer who falls in love, because this film, very similarly to 7th Heaven, is another romance between the two.  Ironically, it is a Hollywood followup, as the original romance between director and actors must be recreated.


Janet Gaynor has done it again, but in this film, she is a vivacious vixen from the beginning.  In the opening scenes in Naples, her mother’s health leads her to regrettably and desperately walk the streets, attempting to earn money for medicine.  When her wiles fail her, she resorts to theft, but in being caught is sentenced to a year in the workhouses.  Desperately, she flees and is helped in her escape by circus performers.  Having a natural talent (or I should say almost flawless balance), she joins the troupe easily.  It is while traveling and performing that she meets Gino the painter (Farrell).  He is taken in by her fiery personality immediately and decides to travel with the group, insisting that he must paint her.  Initially, she is very put off by him and insists that love is silly, but really, who can think that for very long when Charles Farrell is around?

When Gaynor’s character Angela is injured in a fall, Gino immediately volunteers to take her to Naples for a doctor.  Through her healing process, Angela learns to love Gino and we see a relationship as sweet as can be.  This relationship, unlike that in 7th Heaven, requires much less of a suspension of reality.  It is still romanticized, but in a more realistic way.  We can be pulled in and believe that their love is true.  The moments of tenderness as well as of irritation are expertly done, and Farrell’s continued use of puppy-dog eyes don’t hurt along the way.


Inevitably, the police recognize Angela and cart her away, leaving Gino a shell of the man he used to be.  If you know Borzage, however, you won’t fear too much that there will not be a happy ending.


Technically, the film is not a master, however, there are several key follow shots that are breathtaking.  My favourite in particular is when Angela is taken to jail. Gino wanders the streets, at first frantically searching, and eventually he is merely dejectedly dragging his feet as he navigates the crowds, finally ending to lean against a wall in despair.  The acting is superb and the characters are lovable.  The writing is a bit unoriginal, but that could also be because this is the original, and all the films after it are only chasing greatness.


If you are looking for a cute romance, a strong female character, or a look into Naples in the past, I would highly suggest this film!



Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesSenses of CinemaCinema SightsSilent Hollywood

Annie Hall (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

“Annie Hall” (1977)
50th Academy Awards (1978)
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 4.
Nominated for Best Actor (Woody Allen).
Won Best Actress (Diane Keaton), Directing (Woody Allen), Best Picture (Charles H. Joffe), and Writing–Original (Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman).
Watched August 18, 2012.


Oh Woody Allen, what do I say about you?  You are a genius, and yet despite your brilliance, the majority of your films rub me the wrong way.  They have all the pieces, and they fit together very nicely–from the writing to the directing to the characterization to the cinematography and all the way to the editing, Annie Hall is flawless.  Most distinctly it is recognized for its non-linear approach.  However, something about it left with me with a bad taste in my mouth.


The film is a romantic comedy following the main characterAlvy Singer (Allen) who is a comedian.  Ironically, Singer’s comedic journey follows Allen’s journey.   From a writer to a stand up comedian who eventually begins writing plays, his character is incredibly pessimistic.  The film opens with a brilliant camera- and audience-directed monologue.  Within the inevitable love story of this film, Singer is a witty realist while Annie (Diane Keaton) is a ditzy artist.  Through every discussion and experience, we discover more about them–about the depth of Singer’s nervous tendencies and Annie’s impatience with them.  They fall in and out of love almost as many times as the roller coaster Singer grew up living underneath rose and fell.  They are constantly pushing one another to be who they desire, when in reality they are trying to force a square peg into a round hole.


Much of the film revolves around sex.  Right up front you can see how much Annie lacks confidence with men, but it is even more evidenced when she can’t sleep with Singer until she has smoked weed.  After they are past the honeymoon phase, Singer is dismayed that they only have sex three times a week, while Annie feels as if they are constantly having sex, “I’d say three times a week!”  Because they both approach life so differently, it is difficult for them to journey it together.


I think one of the main things that held me back from enjoying this film was the fact that Annie fell for Alvy at all.  He was obnoxious, rude, and funny looking, but right from the start she was taken.  Cynicism is not my favourite attribute, and I think that stopped me from liking Alvy at all.  When you don’t like the main character, it is hard to enjoy a film, no matter how well done it is.


Despite my negative opinions, I do think that it is a film worth seeing!  My absolute favourite piece of the film was the non-linear approach–not showing their relationship from start to finish but jumping around in order to show a more reflective, emotional flow to the relationship.  For all of the good pieces to this film, I would be curious what you think of its humor and depth.


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Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesTriviana ReviewsNew York TimesThe GuardianThe Oscars ProjectFan Pop

My Week With Marilyn (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

My Week With Marilyn (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for Best Actress (Michelle Williams) and Supporting Actor (Kenneth Branagh).
Watched July 21, 2012.

First of all, watching all of these nominated films is probably the best project I have ever come up with.  I am almost guaranteed that all the movies I watch will be good–that something about the film will make it worth watching.  In my opinion, Michelle Williams is that reason in My Week With Marilyn.  For all the comments on the film’s low budget feel, bad scripting, and mediocre directing, I quite enjoyed it.  It felt more like I was inside of a BBC series with some amazing acting.  I am a fan of BBC and therefore did not mind the television feel.  I found the cinematography refreshing and different from mainstream Hollywood, and to be honest, couldn’t take my eyes off of Williams.  I didn’t know a lot about Marilyn Monroe from the start, and to my knowledge have only seen her in one film (Some Like It Hot).  After watching My Week With Marilyn, I was inspired to look her up and find out what happened to her.  Apparently, a few short years alter shooting The Prince And The Showgirlshe passed away, probably from an overdose.


My Week With Marilyn is about a boy named Colin who “runs away to the circus,” as he calls it, and earns himself a spot as the third assistant director on a movie set.  Essentially, he was a glorified gofer.  But what luck when he finds out that he will be working with none other than the famed star, Marilyn Monroe herself, who will be acting in her first British film!  Yes, it is yet another movie about a film within a film–a tradition of entertainment that will probably never die.  Somehow, Colin becomes someone who Marilyn trusts and once her husband has gone back to the States, they have a mini love affair.


In the film, Colin makes a wonderful observation.  Marilyn wants so very much to change from a star into a great actor.  This is one of the things that gave her so much grief and that troubled her very much when coming onto this shoot.   You can see in her eyes that, though she has so many problems–between her own almost bi-polar personality and constant substance abuse–she is in love with Marilyn Monroe.  Colin tries to tell her that she can leave it alone–that she doesn’t have to be in the spotlight any more.  For a split second, she imagines it, and then you can see the distaste.  She loves being Marilyn, being the sex bomb, the star every woman wants to be and every man wants to have.


I see the point of many critics–that the film is indeed much more suited to television than cinema.  It is as if one is watching several episodes of a series pieced together by Colin’s narration.  However, as I was watching it, I saw it as much more of a character study of Marilyn–divulging her complicated self and watching her go instantly from a troubled woman to the sex goddess known as Marilyn Monroe, an incredibly complicated feat that I believe Williams did brilliantly.  As was said on, “the performance of Michelle Williams […] continues to quietly and succinctly prove that she is one of the best actresses of her generation.”


If you are a fan of BBC, watch it.  If you are a fan of Monroe, watch it.  If you like accents, watch it.  If you, like myself, have come to the realization that Williams is brilliant, watch it.  If you are looking for cinematic brilliance, go somewhere else.


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Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesScreen Rant,  New York Times