Month: January 2014

Quick update!

Hello all. My review of August: Osage County is in the Straits Times communities

Obviously I’m a little more controlled and formal with my writing there since it’s an online forum heheh. No wtf, no omg, no Marvellous Meryl but just Streep. Ah well.

Anyway I’m a bit annoyed with myself right now cause my spca volunteering today actually ended at 5pm but I signed off at 4pm “-.- there goes one full csp hour. I can also feel a sore throat coming and I need to do presentations soon. Omg

Have a good weekend everyone!

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My own subjective ranking of 2013 films (That I’ve seen so far)

Erm ok, I’ll admit that I have yet to watch: American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Her, Nebraska, Catching Fire, Ilo Ilo and a few more I guess…
By the way, I feel like this list isn’t so much a ranking of what I perceive as the greatest films of 2013, but more of the ones that I’ve enjoyed. So yes, be prepared to see some critically panned movies in there.

I apologies in advance if my pictures are of different sizes but I’m too honestly too lazy to edit them :p

1) Blue is the warmest colour

It was a real tough decision between this one and my number 2. I guess I decided to go with this film as I came out being more surprised and impressed than I expected myself to be. And no, not because of the explicit sex scenes. A particular critic described us viewers as a fly on the wall observing the lives of 2 girls in love with one another; and I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not just a mere lesbian porno as some people label it to be, but an emotional journey about a girl who learns to discover herself and her flaws as a person. I will also go one step further to add that this is the best acted film of the year in my book. The breakup scene alone is so realistically depicted that I even I myself felt rather uncomfortable. The development of the character by the lead actress Adele Exarchopoulos is really fantastic. You can see her confusion, her loneliness, her excitement, her devastation so realistically portrayed that it is a bit disturbing lol. The movie itself is 3 hours long but I never felt bored because I was always so engaged and curious to find out more about these characters and their lives.  Bravo!

2) Gravity

Overhyped? If you say so. Boring? Maybe. Do I love it? Yes. I think it is a very beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. It also has a perfect balance between the intense moments as well as the emotional ones. The technical aspect is in my humble, opinion, groundbreaking. The effects, the music, the editing, the directing: Perfect. And the actor(s?). Clooney’s character is weird, but it didn’t bother me that much. Sandra Bullock was wonderful. I have always liked her anyway. Not that I think she is a fantastic actress, but because she’s really an awesome person and I don’t think that she is that bad an actress either (Don’t love, but don’t hate her performance in The Blind Side). Anyway, it’s just amazing to see how she managed to develop so much from what’s a thinly written character. Initially, we see her as this quiet, reserved woman who chooses to immerse herself completely in her work to forget a personal tragedy, but due to the situation, we see her grow and find an inner strength which allowed her to survive. I also happen to be a sucker for such films (Disaster, survival, finding inner strength) so there’s no doubt that I’m very biased towards it. I guess the corny dialogue and the supposedly unrealistic moments are valid criticisms, but I’m somewhat ok with it….The fact that the movie “didn’t really have a plot” didn’t bother me at ALL. Jeez, the woman is already struggling to survive and encountering a shitload of problems, do you still want an alien invasion or what? The fact that it only had one character throughout (I don’t get why this is considered a problem) didn’t bother me, because Sandra carried the film beautifully. Anyway, hasn’t tis method of storytelling been used in 127 Hours and Cast Away?? O.O

3) The Wolf of Wall Street

I actually disliked the film the first time I watched it. However, over time it kinda grew on me and there are many elements that I admire. For one, despite it being hyper gross and vulgar, it is actually pretty damn hilarious at times. I could list the “Geeeet off the phhooone!” scene, or the “The funeral!?” line, or the yacht in choppy waters, or the “I know  and you know what I mean. I wouldn’t call this Scorsese’s best film but I think he did a pretty damn good job with this one anyway. To be honest, the first portion depicting the rise of the main character was a bit boring to me. I mean, it was entertaining at first, but after a while I felt like I couldn’t care less about this group of messed up assholes and their decadent lifestyles. But the downfall part was damn good, especially when you watch them try to figure their way out of the various tricky situations they’re in. I have to admit that I didn’t think too highly of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance initially but in hindsight I actually think that he had an extremely tricky part that could have been badly overacted. So yes, I think he did an excellent job. It’s just personally not the kind of performance that I fall madly in love for. Still, there’s no denying that he did a great job in depicting the character’s rise and fall, combining it with the right amount of intensity, drama, charisma and comedy. It’s an unusual role for him, since I’m so used to seeing him do his angry-serious-yelling man thing. Jonah Hill wasn’t that bad either, imo, but I couldn’t help but wonder about how Joe Pesci would have been flat-out amazing here.

4) Captain Phillips

Well, I’ve already done my review of that so I’m not gonna repeat what I’ve said. In summary, it is a well-directed, well-acted thriller, with great performances by Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi and a very intense atmosphere.

5) August: Osage County

I am going to do a more in-depth opinion piece on this, so I’ll just say that I liked the film much more than expected despite its flaws. Marvellous Meryl is really great (as usual), but I don’t think this is her best performance. Julia Roberts, who is one of those what I call “pretty-disliked-but-I-admit-I-don’t-hate-her” actresses is actually much better than I expected her to be. The film has some pretty nice dramatic and comedic scenes, but the flow of the story feels a bit off. It feels as if all of the best parts/main events of the play are all strung together (the original play is 3 hours long), so it does feel a bit unnatural at times.

6) Blue Jasmine

My opinion on this one is totally biased by the way; Objectively speaking, I should be judging this film by itself but my mind has been so influenced by A Streetcar Named Desire that I simply cannot help with the comparisons. A knock-out performance by Cate Blanchett, a great supporting performance by Sally Hawkins, and overall a very good, but not great film. I’ll go ahead and admit that my opinion of A:OC would probably be the same if I actually watched the original material.

7) The Heat

Erm, obviously you don’t go in watching this movie and expecting it to be a Scorsese crime thriller. It’s vulgar, offensive, crude, violent, extremely unrealistic and unlikely…but you know what? I thought it was funny as hell. Melissa McCarthy’s loud over-the-top comedic style would have annoyed me usually, but it was well complemented by Sandra Bullock’s deadpan line delivery. These 2 together are as convincing as law enforcement officers as me being the president of the United States aka not at all. Still, it was a brainless, enjoyable comedy that was comforting to me during a stressful school period.

“My fear is that I’m gonna put you in a bikini and you’ll still look like a fucking bank teller.” LOL

 8) Rush

Daniel Bruhl clearly unpleased with Oscar snub. Kidding…

Sighs…I was hoping that it would fare better with me over time, but it ultimately got the same treatment as the other Ron Howard films. Like I’ve said before, his movies are usually enjoyable and I dare say great, but for some reason they just don’t stick in my head. I still think that this is one of his best films though.

9) Prisoners

I didn’t like it as much as most people did when I first watched it but right now, I think there are some elements that I really admire. Like I’ve said, I really loved Hugh Jackman’s performance…and Jake Gyllenhaal’s work kinda grew on me I guess. The dark and grim atmosphere is quite well down, as well as the tension and suspense. I just can’t love it like many people do, and I feel like I have seen much better thrillers than this.

10) Ah Boys to Men part II

NAH don’t say I never support Singaporean films ok? I’m terribly ashamed of myself. Not because I hardly support local movies, but because the one that I watched isn’t the Golden Horse winning Ilo Ilo by Anthony Chen but a Jack Neo one. I WILL buy the DVD for Ilo Ilo ok? I swear by that.

I’ll just go ahead and say that this is probably one of his better efforts. Sure the CGI wild boars scene was fricking stupid, but it was some what salvaged by Mr Brown’s presence. Sure, the entire sequence in the food court involving CGI warships, planes and army tanks and Chen Tianwen promoting the virtues of army is really as in your face as it can get. But for the most part, I did find myself chuckling at some scenes. I didn’t even watch part I by the way. The characters are TOTAL stereotypes (like in all his movies), but I feel like the fact that this movie is based on the SAF makes this aspect somewhat acceptable. I mean, aren’t most army jokes derived from those stereotypical characters anyway?

OT, I’m not a fan of his movies at all, by the way. I consider myself very open to movies, and I know that I shouldn’t be expecting myself to watch The Godfather when watching his films, but the laziness of his storytelling and in your face moralizing can really get to me.  Call me cold hearted and cynical but his jokes aren’t very funny either (guanyinma.com seriously wtf -.-) Whenever I think about that monstrosity called 突然发财 and it’s (I’m not kidding) “Oh! It was all the character’s imagination” ending, I will instantly recall the time I nearly had a seizure as a primary school kid in the cinema. And don’t get me started on 孩子不坏 and Chen Xiao Dong running through the school naked because of a lost bet…seriously? Or the “online bullying” and that split personality chick who suddenly adopts some femme fatale way of speaking out of the blue “要比坏。。。就比坏。。。“ O.O

Urgh.

And the FUCKING product placements. Not that I have anything against them, but if you want to use an entire scene to advertise the frigging products (Like totally forgetting about the storyline at that moment), it gets INCREDIBLY annoying. TO ME!

Ah well, who am I to comment? His movies definitely have their share of loyal fans so it doesn’t matter if I don’t join the gang anyway. As his supporters will say, “only know how to criticise, go make one movie yourself lah!!” Sure…

Anyway, congrats to Ah Boys to men 2 being the top grossing film of 2013. I guess this one is going to follow suit.

11) Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

For the LOVE of god, ENOUGH WITH THE WHIMPERING ALREADY I TELL YOU!

This is another one of those movies where you have to shut off your mind and accept it for what it is. But even so, it was really draggy at times, and I guess Tsui Hark was so excited with 3D technology that he just had to send almost every CGI object flying out of the screen in slow motion…swords, axes, sticks, bees, bugs, cloth….you name it. And it would have been fine, except that I watched it in 2D. So yeah, it was kinda lame.

Talk about one bizarre plot…A whimpering Angelababy (whom I was literally begging to STFU in my head) who is in love with a lover transformed into The Lizard from The Amazing Spider-Man a monster by toxic beetles…a poison that has to be cured by drinking the urine of virgin boys…a sea monster (Great CGI btw) that hardly has any relevance to the plot (I mean, I think it could have some link but I didn’t even care anymore by then)…a trolling Wu Zetian who decided to troll the main characters by poisoning them so that they can drink the urine…I tell you, by the time the film reached the final sea monster battle I was just accepting things for what it is. Still, it’s fairly entertaining.

12) The Grandmaster

Ok shoot me. Seriously. I know ranking ABTM 2 and Detective Dee above The Grandmaster is like telling Steven Spielberg that Uwe Boll makes better films than him. But at least ABTM 2 and detective dee achieved their purpose of being stupidly entertaining films.

I’m a firm believer of less is more, so this one really comes off as unnecessarily messy and pretentious. The movie sure is deep, and I can appreciate that, but I more often than not find it incredibly boring and muddled. Oh sure, the cinematography is beautiful, and it even got nominated for an Oscar for its work here.  Zhang Ziyi is good, and I’d say probably the best part of the film. I wonder why they kept showing so many of her scenes even after they announced that her character died though. Like make up your mind? IF you still want to feature her, then put her death later or something? Tony Leung, one of the GREATEST cinema actors imo (无间道,色戒), is criminally underused as Yip Mun. He basically smirks and bashes people up, and I guess he had a crying scene that lasted a few seconds. The barber was funny, sure, but what was the point of his character? Actually, what was the point of Yip Mun in this show? Oh wait, what is the point of the whole freaking show? Song Hye Kyo is one freaking beautiful and talented korean actress but…she’s really a 花瓶 here.

I guess I’m too stupid and “shallow” for this movie. Which, imo, had the potential for being really great btw.

13) The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Horrible. HORRIBLE, I tell you. I feel bad for Lily Collins because I could see that she was trying to make it work but the AWFUL screenplay, the convoluted storyline, the terrible editing, the pretty bad acting just made the whole process intolerable for me. Not to mention that the CGI wasn’t that great as well.

WTF did Sigourney Weaver really sign up for the sequel? Wait, WHY IS THERE EVEN GOING TO BE ONE?

Ok, that’s all…for now. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched more movies than this. Or maybe not, since I don’t really have a live nowadays. If I remember any more, I will update it in a separate list. I may also include the movies that I have yet to watch after I watch them…if I have the time.

Quick ones: Blue Jasmine and Captain Phillips

Alright, I’m slow but I finally did a bit of catching up on the Oscars train. I’ll just briefly give my opinions on both movies because I’m a little bit busy right now. Let’s just say that I enjoyed both movies very much, and I guess they deserved the recognition by the major awards (especially Cate Blanchett). I don’t really have anything negative to say about both films, but of course, we all know that I consider myself extremely lenient and open minded when it comes to film viewing….So….

Blue Jasmine

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Good: Cate Blanchett. She really nailed every emotional aspect of the character, and her portrayal was really an answer to a question that I’ve once asked about what would Blanche Dubois be like in the modern world. And voila, I really got the perfect answer. It is a very calculated, slightly theatrical performance that is filled with mannerisms but the role requires it and she pulls it off. On the other hand, I know I shouldn’t be making comparisons to A Streetcar Named Desire, but Sally Hawkins is no Kim Hunter. Still the character is quite different, so it’s an unfair comparisons. I thought she was really great in the final confrontation with Jasmine. She nailed the insecure, nervous ticks of the character, which is extremely different to Stella From Streetcar. I guess I just found the latter a more fascinating character.

Neutral: Eh it’s a nice spin off I guess but like I said, I just couldn’t help with the comparisons to A Streetcar Named Desire. Obviously that’s the better film, but this one stands pretty strongly. I thought the brief mention of Chilli and Jasmine being attracted to each other initially quite unnecessary because it wasn’t very obvious, especially when I think of the intense chemistry between Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. Still, it’s quite a small issue so I didn’t mind. I also think that it could have been a lot more devastating, or even comedic at times, but I it seems like the film decided to take a “Woody Allen” route, with the witty dialogue and all. The male characters are very underdeveloped, which isn’t that big of a problem but I would have liked to see and know more of them (Like with Brando and Malden’s performances). Overall, it’s noticeably a lot less pretentious and annoying than other Woody Allen films, which is something that I liked.

Captain Phillips

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Good: I’m more impressed by the storytelling, the pacing, the camerawork and the technical aspects of the movie as compared to the acting here. I felt that all the right elements were in place, and the first half involving the crew hiding from the pirates was masterfully done and very suspenseful. The second half was great as well, but somehow I just wasn’t as engaged (maybe because I already knew the ending). Still it got very intense towards the end, so no issues overall!

Tom Hanks is one of the most respected and beloved actors in Hollywood, but I always feel like I respect his performances rather than love them. I definitely wouldn’t put rank him on the same level as Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman talent-wise (let’s just ignore the crap they’ve been appearing in recently). Having said that, he’s definitely a great actor imo, as proven by Saving Private Ryan and Cast Away. What? Oh no, I did not accidentally forget to mention Forrest Gump, but I’ll talk about that one some other day.

My problem with him is that I really don’t like his charming American Hero/Family man thing which he likes to do in a lot of his roles. I find it a little bit fake and annoying. It’s like I can almost see a speech bubble in his head that says “Go on, you know you like me, so why don’t you just like me and give me an Oscar while you’re at it“. It doesn’t help that I happen to know people who act exactly like that in real life and yet I know that they are absolute assholes behind the charming facade. Anyway, his performance here couldn’t be anymore different as compared to those roles, there’s an emotional honesty and intensity to it that made me fully believe what the character was feeling and going through. There wasn’t much room for developing a super complex character, but it’s still nice to see how he changed from being such a firm and steady man in the beginning to his weakened, vulnerable and traumatized state at the end. I was expecting a very “Look! Tom Hanks can ACT” performance but he did it very heartbreakingly and realistically.

Neutral: I mean….Barkhad Abdi was really good as the pirate, and I’ll admit he added quite a lot of depth to the character…but what’s up with all the overwhelming awards recognition? Still, I’m not saying that it’s a bad performance in any way, especially considering that the guy has NEVER acted before… it’s very good, it serves its purpose well, he was menacing enough and all… I just don’t see him as a standout. I feel like saying that Tom Hanks was snubbed but I haven’t seen ANY of the other nominees performances so I have no opinion.

I’m wondering whether I should watch American Hustle…that movie really swept the nominations but if I’m being completely honest, I’m not really a fan of David O. Russell. Sure, Silver Linings Playbook was great but I did think that it was massively overhyped, although I think Lawrence’s performance was deservedly recognized. I’ve also been reading a lot of comments about American Hustle being overhyped…but I guess I’ll judge for myself.

Oh and I haven’t watched 12 Years A Slave too LOL.

I’ve expressed my opinions about the Oscars (and award shows in general). Nowadays I’m merely following them for fun and as a movie fanatic but I just can’t find the drive to watch every single nominated film and performance. I know that a lot of people are saying that the whole thing is very politics driven nowadays and I have to agree. Still, I do like some of their recent choices, and naturally have those that I disagree with as well. I just think that the internet community shouldn’t be tearing each other apart over this thing…I mean, it’s all subjective isn’t it? No ones opinion is truly right or wrong, unless the person is obviously trolling.

I mean….look at Glenn freaking Close!!! She is still Oscarless, but does that put her below actresses like Jennifer Lawrence (whom I’m not afraid to admit that I like) and Reese Witherspoon?

Anyway…that’s all for now. I’m probably going to watch The Wolf of Wall Street next because I’m a Scorsese fan.

P.s. Latest AHS episode was totally WTF ridiculous imo. I beginning to agree that those characters who died should have stayed dead aka Myrtle Snow. I mean, I initially thought that she had her purpose in restoring Cordelia’s eyesight but now…

The World According to Garp (1982)

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The World According to Garp (1982) is a movie that’s based on the novel by John Irving. I’ve heard some really positive things about this movie, so I have been wanting to watch it for a while. I didn’t really know what to expect though, especially when I watched the opening credits. You are basically greeted with a floating naked baby and the “When I’m 64” song by The Beatles playing in the background, which essentially tells you that you are in for one weird movie.

I’ve no problem against quirky movies, unless they become overly pretentious and annoying. Thankfully, this movie avoided these traps. While it can be incredibly bizarre at times, I must also add that it can have some very dark moments (not melodramatic at all, btw), especially when it is dealing with issues such as the loss of a child and adultery. I guess this sort of balanced out the quirkiness of the movie, which got a bit much at times. I feel that reading it as a book wouldn’t have been so weird (in fact, I think I would have enjoyed it as a book), but when you see things such as a plane crashing through the house, the extremely obvious foreshadowing of the death of one character (talking about his fear of death, claiming that he wants to die in a role play), women who cut their tongues off in protest etc….it just gets a little bit obvious and forced at times. I’ve read that some things also aren’t as well explained as they were in the book, such as why that Pooh girl hates Garp so much to the point of attempting to kill him. Anyway, I’m not the greatest literature student, so I’m not going to over analyse what each of the symbolisms/motifs blablabla meant, but I just want to say that I actually enjoyed the movie and I wouldn’t even mind watching it again. I find some of the topics that it addresses, such as how feminism was perceived back then, pretty interesting and well thought out.

As usual, Glenn Close (in her film debut and her first Oscar nominated role) was really wonderful as Jenny Fields, the feminist with an extremely unusual way of thinking, especially when it comes to sexuality. I’d say that it is a very difficult role to play, but Glenn really plays it with such naturalism and ease that you can’t help but love the character despite how strange she is at times. She successfully strikes a balance between the strong feminist and the motherly figure. I really felt that she was the heart and soul of the movie, and it’s surprising to see her as such a warm presence after watching Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons. I also liked Mary Beth Hurt’s performance as Helen Holmes a lot. I really sympathized with her character despite her flaws, such as when she had an affair with one of her students. I found the scene where she told Garp said that her heart was as broken as his very effective and heartbreaking.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about the male actors though. I felt that Robin Williams was a bit miscast in the beginning, and I simply did not believe that he was a student as he looked way too old. I also felt that he and Glenn Close weren’t that convincing as mother and son. Their age difference is only 4 years, and it was very obvious. Having said all that, his acting was very good and I actually found him a lot less annoying than I expected him to be (not a fan of his funny man thing). I thought that John Lithgow was great as the transsexual Roberta. He was funny without being over the top, but he also had a nice presence as a friend to the family who supports them in times of need.

So all in all, I think that this is a pretty good film that I honestly wouldn’t mind rewatching. It’s strange at times, but also has some really heartbreaking scenes. Glenn Close was honestly great, and I’m not saying this because she’s my favorite actress lol.

My review is a little bit rushed because I’m going to head back to studying after typing this. Just needed to take a break from that microeconomics monstrosity.

P.s. I can’t stop watching the Interstellar teaser. It’s so strangely….addictive. It doesn’t reveal much, which is why I found the speech by Matthew McConaughey kinda pretentious out of context, but the music was so GREAT that it just everything seems so deep. That being said, I haven’t watched the movie obviously so maybe it is a very deep one. And it’s by Christopher Nolan, so it can’t be that bad. Too early to judge, but I can’t wait! It has Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, ELLEN BURSTYN and John Lithgow in the cast, so I’m very excited. One year!!!

Rush (2013)

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Why is it that I can’t embrace Ron Howard films like many others do? I think he is a good director and I generally find his movies watchable but at the end of the day, I don’t find myself going crazy over them. What I feel towards his movies is like what I feel towards Dan Brown novels: they are gripping and exciting, even to the point where I’ll admit that I can’t put them down, but after I’m done reading they never leave much of an impression in my mind. It’s funny to note how he directed both Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code though (And terribly too, IMO, but I’m not going to talk about those movies now).

Personally, I’ve always thought that Apollo 13 was a bit underwhelming, even after a recent re-watch. Given that it’s based on a true story, it’s funny how the movie still seems so Hollywood and how the characters are portrayed as such stereotypes, especially with Tom Hanks doing his charming American movie hero thing again.

I watched A Beautiful Mind very, very long ago and back then it was, like, the greatest and most beautiful movie I’ve ever watched. Having said that, I’ve never watched it again ever since. Although I even have the VCD in my bookshelf, I realise that I’ll most likely pass it over for movies that I’ve watched countless times, like The Godfather and A Streetcar named Desire. I’m really trying to figure out what the problem is, but in the end, I think it’s just a matter of preference. I really don’t know how I’ll react to A Beautiful Mind again if I watch it now, so I think I should just retain the good memories that I have of it 🙂

Rush is the latest Ron Howard movie that I’ve watched and I’ll go ahead and say that… I kinda feel the same, although I’ll also add that I probably liked this movie much more than his other films. It’s like a very standard good movie, if that makes sense. The technical aspects, such as the sound editing, score and cinematography are all very good, which is not unexpected from Ron Howard movies. His direction is also quite good and I think the movie has this very intense atmosphere that is very fitting to the theme of rivalry. I really liked how he made the racing scenes so thrilling to watch, which is really surprising for me since I usually have no interest in car racing. However, I think one obvious improvement is that the characterization is a lot better here. Sure, James Hunt is the typical playboy racer who drives because he enjoys the thrill but I think there is some underlying depth (thanks to Hemsworth portrayal) that makes it less unbearable. On the other hand, Niki Lauda is like that annoying, over-competitive and over-achieving geek in school who analyses everything and is very risk adverse. What I like here is how the contrast between the two characters are depicted not only in terms of their driving styles but also in their personal lifestyles. Lauda is really a “good boy”, who claims that he sleeps early and doesn’t drink unless he has to. He is also noticeably antisocial, although I read that this part is not true in real life. On the other hand, James Hunt is the typical commitment phobe who sleeps around and only believes in enjoying himself and having fun.

The acting was probably the best aspect of the movie to me. Both LEAD actors really avoided making their characters seem like stereotypes, which is what I find truly remarkable despite the way they were written. It’s funny how Daniel Brühl is getting nominated in the supporting actor category in all the major film awards because to me, he’s undeniably the lead of the film. Like, there’s totally no question about it. Still, his performance was very good, and he probably had more to do dramatically which is why he is getting recognized over Chris Hemsworth. He is very believable in showing how Lauda is a very competent racer on the track, but a very socially awkward man in real life. The scene where he says that happiness is his enemy (or something like that) really sums the character’s personality up. I find his chemistry with Alexandra Maria Lara great, and the hospital recovery scenes are really moving without seeming too clichéd. I liked the subtle change in his character, like how he noticeably becomes closer and more affectionate towards his wife.

Although Hemsworth gets the more one note and predictable character, I actually think that he was very effective in his role, and I really believe that he did the best he could with it. I really admired some of his scenes, such as when he tried to persuade his wife not to leave him and when he felt guilty about causing the accident. Although the role required him to use more of his charm and charisma, I think he actually avoided the traps of it and made the character seem like a believable and flawed human being. This performance was an especially pleasant surprise for me, because the only other movie that I’ve seen Chris Hemsworth in is The Avengers (Never watched Thor, don’t intend to either), so I really didn’t know what to expect from him. I’m beginning to think that he’s more talented than his brother lol.

Nevertheless, the movie did suffer from the typical Hollywood treatment at times, although I didn’t think it was as bad here. The scene where James beats up the journalist is kinda unnecessary, but it didn’t bother me a lot. There are scenes (especially towards the ending) where the characters basically spew inspirational quotes at one another, but it wasn’t that bad and to be honest, this wasn’t something that has bothered me in movies unless it becomes very manipulative, overly sentimental and obvious. I liked the film quite a lot, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give it 8/10. Nice work. If you want to watch another great film about rivalry, I’d recommend Amadeus (1984). It is directed by Milos Forman and it is really a masterpiece.

Oh god school is starting tomorrow and I am TERRIFIED. No kid.

Albert Nobbs (2011) and inevitably, why Glenn Close is (again) my favorite actress haha

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Two reviews in one day, hell yeah! I’m rushing because school is starting next Monday, and I’m doing volunteering work tomorrow and Sunday, so I might not have time to do a review of this movie. Ok, I’ll be honest and say that the main reason why I wanted to do this review is because I want to pay another tribute to one of my favorite actresses. Frankly, I don’t know whether I will watch the movie again because it definitely has its share of problems and I’ll admit that I was quite bored by it at times. Maybe I will when I really have nothing to do, and after all, there was one performance that really stuck with me. 🙂

So what about Albert Nobbs (2011)? The movie basically tells the story of a woman who dresses as a man in order to work as a waiter in a hotel. She is basically this introverted and almost invisible servant who is evidently very efficient and good at what she does, but doesn’t attempt to claim credit or draw any attention to herself. Things change, however, when she meets the charismatic and confident Hubert Page, who opens up her mind to whole new possible life and encourages her to truly embrace who she is.

It sounds like a great story, which it is, but the whole pace of the movie really drags sometimes. Also, it didn’t help that none of the characters are particularly likeable. I really wanted to smack Aaron Johnson’s character, and he appeared way too many times so every time he did I just wanted the scene to be over ASAP. I thought his performance was quite good though, and it’s really strange to see him as such an asshole, given how I know him as the guy from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Kick-ass. Mia Wasikowska’s Helen Dawes wasn’t much better either; her performance was very good, but the character was quite annoying and I really hated the way she made use of Albert. I guess making the characters dislikeable was necessary as it was meant to be realistic. And in a way, I do like that they were all portrayed to have their flaws and selfish motives (even Albert), but it got to a point where it became quite repetitive for the supporting characters, and I was like “Ok, I got it, you’re horrible”. Less of Aaron and Mia would have been better LOL. However, the actors in general gave very good performances, including Pauline Collins (what a bitch she was in this movie!) so that was one aspect that I really liked. It’s funny how most critics dismiss Albert Nobbs as the most boring character and yet, I was more fascinated by her than the supporting ones. Some people said that the lines are quite cheesy, but I didn’t really mind, maybe because I just watched The Butler so there’s no comparison. I thought that the set and costume designs were quite good; they are not very flashy or colourful, but I thought the fitted the story’s setting and time quite well. Same goes for the makeup, which I thought was really well done.

Now, I’ve said this in my previous post and I’ll say it again: I really, really, enjoy seeing actors performing subtle and quiet roles. Like I said, not every character has to undergo a mental breakdown/cry hysterically/deliver a dramatic monologue/spout witty and catchy lines. Sure, these flashy characters are the ones that we movie viewers enjoy, including me (Must I mention my love for Vivien Leigh’s Blanche Dubois in every post?). But at the same time, I think this also results in us overlooking the quiet performances. I’d like to blame this partially on the Oscars, although they do recognize such performances by nominating them so I guess it’s not really their fault either. I have listed a few of my favourite “quiet” performances and I’ll go on to add a few more now: David Niven in separate tables and Jessica Lange in Tootsie. I know many people like to go, “oh she/he did nothing in this performance other than to cry a few tears and make a few expressions here and there” and yes, I’ll admit that there is always a chance that the actor underplays (or under acts) the role and becomes wooden (I feel that way with Gary Cooper sometimes). However, I find that the chances of this happening is equivalent to that of an actor overacting in a flashy role. Which means to say, I think doing a flashy role and a subtle, quiet role are equally difficult, which is something that most people don’t realise.

I’d describe watching such performances like…listening to your mother tell a story about a friend of hers that you’ve never met, and a particular situation/problem that that person went through. Or reading a Facebook post that your friend shared about another friend of his and something that he’s done. You don’t know that person personally, and he is an ordinary person, but you are at the very least still quite curious about what happened to him. You might admire that person for that good deed that he did, or you might despise him for his errorneous ways, but at the end of the day, he still went through it quite normally without any huge breakdowns or tears, right? There is a lot of depth in such performances that people fail to realise because the actors don’t make it obvious and try to win over your approval, which might have cost them Oscars but won my respect.

Anyway, it’s a matter of preference I guess and I sadly doubt that people’s perceptions towards such performances are going to change in time.

Albert Nobbs is really a very insignificant character. She (I prefer to use she, don’t ask me why) is really a servant in the background who quietly does what is required of her and minds her own business. I’ll just say this now: this is the role that really made me love Glenn Close as an actress. I mean, I have watched her in Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons previously, and I have always respected her and thought she was great, but watching this performance after watching her two more iconic and famous ones made me go, “Wow! This woman can ACT!” I guess judging this performance from a…I dunno, Oscar viewpoint may have caused people to really despise this performance. It’s like they’re going down this checklist: Monologue? Yes. Tears? Yes, but not dramatic enough! Complex character? No! Boring, one-note? Yes! Hysterical breakdown? No! Therefore = Overrated! Disappointing! Not worthy of Oscar nom! To be fair, I’d probably wouldn’t have given her the Oscar for this performance. I agree with the criticisms in one way: Since you are so insistent on pitting the performances against one another, you might as well just reward the more emotionally challenging, technically brilliant and more flashy ones. Which is why I really try not to judge a movie and performance based on its Oscar nomination and who it was up against, because it just gets in the way of my appreciation of it. While I probably wouldn’t have nominated this performance over Charlize Theron (another under appreciated actress in my book) in Young Adult, I just don’t think that people should straight away dismiss the performance as bad because of its nomination. I’d rather appreciate acting by seeing whether the actor managed to fully relive the experiences of the character, and whether the actor fully understood what the character is doing and his motives. The motives of the character, unforturnately, might not necessarily be the most interesting to people because it simply isn’t dramatic enough.

Glenn Close really nailed the character, in my opinion. Actually, I have seen Oscar nominated performances that are even more one note than this one, so I don’t get why people bash it. I love the little details and nuances she added to the character. For example, the talking to herself would have seemed extremely silly if not handled properly, but I really felt that she did it right. The character was socially awkward and kept to herself mostly, so it wouldn’t have made sense for her to go about sharing what is on her mind. I love the tiny mannerisms she added to the character: looking down uncomfortably when talking to others, the mumbling, the rigidity of the character (NOT her performance). I also liked how she presented the character’s very simple dream of opening a shop of her own, such as the secrecy of counting her money (it reflected the more calculative and selfish side of the character) and the uncertainty and nervousness when she was sharing her dream with the doctor.

I know people say that the best acted scene was when she was talking about her traumatic childhood, which it probably is, but my favorite moment was when the character showed her selfish side by asking Hubert to join in her business after Cathleen’s death. Close really displayed the selfishness of the character in a very unselfish way, if that makes sense. What I am saying is, she is very natural in her delivery and doesn’t force the audience to pay attention to this so as to make them see a more complex side of the character.

Finally, I must also add that the character goes through much more than people actually realise (which is why I don’t think it’s a one note performance). You initially see that she’s is indeed a very boring person, just a quiet servant of the hotel: she then goes on to meet the more charismatic Hubert Page, and realizes a whole new possibility life ahead of her. Unfortunately, reality is not as easy as it seems, and she gradually became made use of and bitterly disappointed (the crying scene was really effective). However, she decided to give it one last go, which unfortunately led to a violent brawl that cost her life. The character really goes through quite a lot, and Glenn Close does it in a very sympathetic way that makes you feel for her.

There is one criticism about her not really resembling a man. Yes, that’s probably a flaw in the performance but I must add that it didn’t bother me because A) I personally didn’t think that it was that obvious B) I have always thought that even the character was never meant to fully resemble a man anyway. Glenn herself said that she wasn’t playing a man, but a woman seeing things through a man’s perspective. I don’t think it was possible for the character to fully transform into a man, unless she a) went for a sex change operation, b) had really professional make-up artists or c) had polyjuice potion :/ In fact, I think it did help in making Albert seem a little bit “off” and weird, as though something is not right but people just cannot figure out what it is. The character is really an invisible servant anyway, she’s like that “weirdo” in class who always seems off and keeps to herself, but ultimately no one really cares about her. Therefore, I had no issues in believing that no one would bother to investigate and look into Albert’s personal life (thank goodness too, we didn’t need another annoying character). Also, the emotional aspects of her acting really made me overlook this flaw.

Having written all of the above, I just realized that the performance has really grown on me. I initially wanted to just conclude by saying that this performance is a very good one, but not Glenn Close’s best. However, now I really feel this is quite an excellent piece of work by itself and I’m not afraid to declare that I love the performance and was very moved by it. To me, she really did the best she could and I can’t figure out how else it can be done. There are a lot of brilliant details that are very subtle, which probably resulted in people not seeing the underlying depth. Playing it in a more showy manner would probably have been quite odd too, I should think.

P.s. Is anyone as disappointed as Sherlock season 3 as I am? Of course it’s only the first episode so I hope it picks up from here. The whole thing really dragged and the main crime wasn’t as brilliantly solved as the previous seasons. It was lacking the detail and cleverness of the previous episodes and it just wasn’t as well thought out. I expected much more given how the show took more than a year to release season 3. There were a lot of humorous scenes that are indeed amusing but after a while I got bored and found them rather tiresome, and I really just wanted them to move on. There were some obvious references to recent action movies (riding a motorbike down the steps, defusing a bomb…wow) that felt out of place but they were moderately entertaining anyway. The answer to the cliffhanger in season 2 was a bit underwhelming, but I was fine with it because it would have been waaay too difficult to come up with a mind blowing solution. I guess the writers knew it too, since one of the characters said that he was a bit disappointed when Sherlock revealed what happened. Overall, it felt like a very standard and good crime solving mystery thriller, but we must remember that this is Sherlock, one of the best tv shows out there, or at least in the previous 2 seasons.

The Butler (2013)

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I have never reviewed a movie later than the year 2000! Unless you count my extremely, extremely brief paragraph on Prisoners lol. To be honest, I haven’t watched many of the movies that have been garnering awards buzz besides Gravity, which I really loved personally. So yes, I decided that I should stop focusing so much on those old movies and do something…recent instead.

So instead of picking a movie that has been receiving positive reviews, I’ve decided to go with one that has been fairly divisive. Some people seem to go absolutely crazy for The Butler, while some reviewers on IMDB tore it to pieces. To be honest, I didn’t have any high expectations when I started watching, because the trailer looked incredibly corny and underwhelming. But is it the case for the movie?

If you don’t know what the movie is about, it basically depicts the story of this White House butler Cecil Gaines, and his observations and reactions towards the main political events taking place back then. The movie basically takes you on a whirlwind tour of American History, and it also addresses the issue of racism in America.

Now, I have read several criticisms of this movie being a propaganda film…and…I hate to say this, but I think there is some truth to it. In fact, I don’t even think the film-makers are trying to hide it, sometimes it really feels that there are a lot of political messages being slapped continuously into your head, and it got a bit annoying. There are times where I felt as if I was watching a Jack Neo movie, with all the characters sitting together and openly discussing the presidents and the government. It’s interesting to note how almost all the presidents are depicted as incompetent slobs, but I have…no comments with regards to that. I guess this aspect of the movie didn’t bother me as much as others, maybe because I’m not an American so I couldn’t care less. But at the same time, I do think that it’s message about racism is a very important one. No one should ever be judged by the colour of their skin, or be denied equal rights just because they are deemed to be an inferior race. And I really stand by this, especially when I hear of how some of my friends studying in Australia are being discriminated against just for being Asian.

However, I feel that this doesn’t excuse the film for its rather messy narrative. The main problem is that it covers too much. If you try to cover Eisehower, LBJ, Nixon, Kennedy and Reagan in a 2 hour movie, you can almost imagine what it is going to be like: Messy. It’s mind-boggling to me how they managed to get all this big stars to appear in their respective cameos roles as the presidents (I guess the stars really believed in the movie). Sadly, given how brief their appearances are, there is nothing insightful and I feel like they can even do away with this portion. The presidents are like mere caricatures, and it’s very disappointing in this aspect. There’s nothing wrong if you want to criticise but I feel like you have to make a much stronger case instead of presenting things in such a shallow and obviously biased manner.

I wished I could say that the dramatic aspect of the story was better worked out, but I felt nothing towards it. Like I’ve said before, whatever happened was a very dark and harrowing part of history, but the movie chooses to adopt a very melodramatic approach to tell the story. I felt like I was watching a freaking Hallmark movie at times. The characterization is quite weak, and although I can (sort of) understand the character’s motives, such as why the older son decided to rebel while the younger son decided to join the war (*Edited later: Actually no, I don’t get it. That character was barely touched upon in the movie, so his decision feels very abrupt and illogical. I instantly predicted that he was going to die the moment he made that announcement, and guess what? -.-), it is portrayed in such a clichéd way that I found myself rolling my eyes more than once. The scenes don’t flow very well either, and it feels as though the director is just throwing a whole chunk of tear jerking scenes in the audience faces, which makes it very manipulative. I’m just someone who believes that less is more. There are also scenes where the dialogue feels very contrived and unnatural, and I have to mention that the father-son relationship is explored rather weakly (The whole dinner sequence where Oprah smacks the son was lacking in tension, in my opinion), but I felt that it got better in the second half.

The acting is quite good, but I don’t get why people are orgasming over Oprah’s performance. I think she was very good, in fact I felt that she was better than I had expected. Maybe because I was expecting a “Look! Oprah can ACT!” performance in her usual Oprah fashion, so it was quite nice to see how subtle and nuanced her performance was (Not a fan of her colour purple performance, sorry). I really liked some of her scenes, such as when she was asking how many shoes Jackie O has, and when she was saying goodbye to her son at the bus station. I think she captured the loneliness of the character quite well. But honestly, the screenplay wasn’t very well written, so I felt like it prevented the performance from reaching its full potential. The alcoholic scenes didn’t even leave much of an impression for me because everything went by so fast. So you can imagine I was quite surprised when they showed her at the recovering phase, because I was like, huh wait, when was she drunk?

I liked Forest Whitaker’s performance, and I felt that he gave the best performance of the film. Sure, he probably had the least to do because his role is more of than of an observer, but I really liked all the tiny details he added in the scenes where he was serving the presidents, such as the subtle disappointment/anger/frustration while trying to keep a blank face at the same time. His performance somehow reminded me of Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of The Day, although that’s probably a better written character. By the way, this is a bit OT,  but I need to mention that I am an absolute sucker for quiet, subtle performances that people usually hate. I really disagree when people say that the actors did “nothing”; sure, maybe they aren’t pulling their hair out and screaming, but not every character is a Nina Sayers/Edith Piaf/Aileen Wuornos/Blanche Dubois, right? In fact, I love observing all the tiny details that the actors add to portray all these ordinary but complex characters. Sure, some people might find them boring, but I find such characters more sympathetic (I also love the louder performances, don’t get me wrong), it’s like following a neighbour/friend/acquaintance that you have known for a long time and watching how they deal with certain problems/situations in their lives. Some of my favourites include: Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of The Day (His best after The Silence of the Lambs, in my opinion), Patricia Neal in Hud (I really loved the scene where she was talking about her ex-husband), Jane Fonda in Coming Home, Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs (No apologies, I love the performance), Emma Thompson in Howards End, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole…

That being said, I think some of the corny dialogue did affect the credibility of Whitaker’s performance, but I think he managed to pull it off in general. His performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland is probably the role he is best known for (deservedly), so it’s nice to see him in such a quiet role for a change.

So what about the Oscar chances for this movie? Hahaha I don’t know. It got totally snubbed by the globes, and some people are saying that its mediocrity will probably reduce its chances of getting nominated, but I feel like this is the kind of feel-good politically correct movie that the Academy likes to go for. Have people forgotten about how a particularly average movie called The Blind Side got nominated for best picture? Hmm. I’m not an expert at analysing this kind of thing like a lot of bloggers out there (I really just follow out of curiousity and fun), and seeing as to how I have not watched ANY of the performances by the supporting actress contenders (Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts), I really don’t know what are Oprah and Forest Whitaker’s chances. Heh, I guess they do deserve to be nominated (I don’t know zzz), but I don’t think it is a real outrage if they get snubbed too. Buuuuut, I’m probably one of those people in the minority who are not crazy about Anne Hathaway’s Les Miserables performance last year, so…

So in my opinion, The Butler is definitely a watchable film with some really nice emotional scenes here and there. I don’t think I will ever watch it again, but I wouldn’t mind if I somehow have to. I think it’s a very educational film for children because it is so in your face with it’s  main message, which in my opinion is an important one. It’s definitely not as bad as people say despite the problems with the structure of the narration and the very weak characterizations, so I guess I’ll give it a 6.5/10. I consider myself very lenient by the way, especially when you read some of the other reviewers’ comments.