Month: June 2016

Sadako Vs Kayako (2016), and yes I seriously watched this shit

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I used to be a horror movie fan. I have such fond memories of my teenage days, where my friends and I would gather at someone’s house after school to watch a dumb horror flick to have a good laugh – and scream. Naturally, as I grew older, I started to gravitate towards other kinds of films – Oscar winning films, European dramas etc. The frequency of watching horror films dropped, although I would occasionally still write about them on this blog – very positively for some, in fact.

So, I was feeling depressed recently, which I know sounds like a weird justification to watch a horror flick. Ever since I stopped taking my antidepressants, I have been resorting to my own “methods” to stop feeling blue, and for me a stupid horror film and chocolate will always do the trick. My friend thought I was insane (“Go watch The Conjuring 2 instead wtf”) but I didn’t want a truly scary horror film – I needed a stupid one to laugh at. And when I saw the video below, I knew it was what I needed.

I mean come one!!! This was so ridiculously hilarious. The trailer for the actual film itself isn’t very promising either, and no, it is not scary.

My thought on this film are going to be incredibly brief but I thought I would write a little about my own experiences with Ringu and Ju-on. I am mainly going to refer to the Japanese versions, because the american remakes of The Grudge are damn awful movies. The Ring remake is actually pretty decent, although I prefer Ringu by miles.

Ringu

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Ringu is the movie that essentially made the “long-haired female ghost” a well-known horror icon in cinema. To me, the film rightfully earned its cult status as one of the greatest “urban legend” horror movies ever. One would be surprised at how different it actually is from typical horror films. It does not rely on jump scares or an overbearing track to shock its viewers, choosing to utilise atmosphere to instill dread and paranoia instead.

The movie’s main villain is Sadako Yamamura (“Samara” in the US remake), a mysterious entity who kills the viewers of her “cursed tape” within 7 days. While most horror films nowadays are quick to throw in appearances of their ghouls in every possible scene, and in the form of every possible jump scare (even from your freaking photographs), the appearances of Sadako in Ringu are kept to a minimum. In fact, unlike most horror films, the backstory of Sadako isn’t even completely fleshed out (they do explain it in the other films, but I am not focusing on those). To me, this really helps in establishing Sadako as a frightening and evil entity whom nobody knows how to deal with. We know that she is capable of “projecting images” into people’s minds and killing them with her own, but other than the fact that she seems to be a child-demon of sorts, very little is known about her. The creepy hallucinations of the cursed victims (presumably Sadako’s projections), the distorted photographs, the “hand imprints”, combined with the grim and depressing atmosphere of Ringu, gives viewers the feeling that Sadako is always present and watching. Despite having less than I daresay 5 appearances throughout the whole movie, the build-up to Sadako’s iconic moment in the film’s climax is very effectively done.

Ringu doesn’t even attempt to explain everything – and yet it works. To me, it is the best urban legend horror film around, because it is so subtly effective in its scares, allowing the viewers to believe that such an urban legend is real without explaining everything.

Of course, Ringu would be butchered in later years with the recent spate of Sadako 3D films which are just plain stupid. From a mysterious entity who barely needs to be present to scare her viewers, Sadako has transformed into a laughable ghoul who pops out in the stupidest places and uses her hair to grab her victims into the TVs because WHY NOT. Urgh. Way to go, Japan.

Ju-on

I was actually surprised to learn on Wikipedia that there are already 11 films in the Ju-on franchise, although White Ghost and Black Ghost was actually released as one film.

  1. Ju-On: The Curse
  2. Ju-On: The Curse 2
  3. Ju-On: The Grudge
  4. Ju-On: The Grudge 2
  5. The Grudge
  6. The Grudge 2
  7. The Grudge 3
  8. Ju-On: White Ghost
  9. Ju-On: Black Ghost
  10. Ju-On: The Beginning of the End
  11. Ju-On: The Final Curse
  12. Sadako vs. Kayako

I actually watched #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, #10 and #12 aka more than I probably should. I never “got” the appeal of this franchise, or at least the claims that the films are some of the scariest horror movies ever made. The American remakes are downright jokes, and I felt like Takashi Shimizu really sold-out and cheapened the whole franchise through awful CGI and jump scares.

Even so, I have always thought Ju-on to be more bizarre and weird than scary. I mean, I agree that Kayako is a pretty frightening looking ghost, but when you look at some of the things she is capable of doing – using her hair to hang people, using her hair to strangle people, using her hair to move around – it actually becomes quite funny. The croaking noise she makes, combined with the meowing of Toshio also becomes old after a while. While Sadako barely has to appear to make herself known, Kayako feels like the annoying classmate who is trying way too hard to prove herself.

I also never really appreciated the non-linear structure of the Ju-on films either. It was more jarring than anything for me to follow the way the storyline, or lack of, develops through the perspectives of Kayako’s different victims. That being said, I shall admit that I actually enjoyed #1, #3 and #4 quite a bit, especially #4. I could tell that they never took themselves too seriously and I have always enjoyed the “weirdness” of these films – and of Japanese horror movies in general. I mean, who can forget that scene of Kayako emerging from a freaking WIG. These movies actually do become rather creepy because of their weirdness and cheesiness, something which is missing in the American remakes that took themselves too seriously in tone.

And this brings me to…

Sadako vs Kayako

Damn, this was stupid. The acting was horrible, and the characters made little sense, especially the professor who wanted to watch the tape just to see Sadako LOL.

But at the same time, the film never takes itself seriously. It knows its premise is silly, and it serves its purpose in paying tribute to these 2 horror icons. Of course, this is still a butchered version of Sadako, but it doesn’t sink to the depths of the Sadako 3D films. It also has that typical Japanese humour that I always enjoy, from the priestess who slaps everyone who offends her, to the eccentric exorcist and his sassy blind companion. There are also some major plot-holes throughout the whole film, with the most obvious being its actual storyline –  getting two dead spirits to kill each other LMAO. Toshio also has a derp face now, yay.

I also laughed so hard at how nonchalantly everybody is telling Suzuka that she has to get herself cursed by Sadako too, especially after she witnessed her own parents being murdered by Kayako HAHA. Like the exorcist literally told her that her parents are gone, and now she has to get cursed again to let these 2 ghouls fight BECAUSE THIS TOTALLY MAKES SENSE.

I would agree with the critics that the some of the scares are actually quite well-done, especially in comparison to Sadako 3D and The Grudge. However, if you are a seasoned horror film watcher, chances are you wouldn’t find any of them remotely creepy.

But you know what? At the end of the day, this goofy film brightened my shitty day, and I really needed its stupidity to make myself feel better. It is better than what I expected, although my expectations were damn low to say the least.

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2015 Best Actress thoughts

While I should probably rewatch all of the past nominees to have a better opinion, I honestly think 2015 is my favourite best actress year for this decade so far, followed by 2013 and then 2010. This category has been going strong for me, and even 2012/2011 were pretty unique years despite being the weak links so far.

The performances are all so different and varied, and yet each of them evoked such strong feelings within me at certain points that I feel my ratings are perfectly justified. I had my issues with #5 but her strong moments were brilliant and I think she deserved her score. #4 is the pick of many people, and while I said that I was going to upgrade her score a while back, I decided to stick with the original rating I gave her. I can see why some would give her a 5 and pick her, but I (highly) respect more than love the performance.

I should also clarify that #1, #2 and #3 are equal to me, and I won’t even deny that their rankings are highly tentative. I literally just switched the positions of #2 and #3 in my head while typing this sentence. I picked #1 to be my winner because she has the freshest impression in my head so far, but I know that the moment I re-watch any of the other 2, there is a very high chance I would make that performance my pick instead. Their performance are just that brilliant to me in their own unique ways, and they would have made worthy winners. Even #4 and #5 winning wouldn’t have been that bad too.

5. Jennifer Lawrence in Joy – 4.5/5

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I agree that the writing pulls her down at times, especially when she has to act like Don Corleone (the final moment where she dealt back was brilliant though). However, she has so many great moments throughout her performance that I feel perfectly justified with my 4.5. When she blanked out in front of the camera, I was rooting for her to start speaking again. When she broke the mop in tears, she broke my heart. Can’t believe I just typed the previous sentence, but whatever. Lawrence might technically not be the greatest actress, but the rawness and imperfections in her performances always get to me, and the same can be said here. Sorry haters.

Favourite moment: The breakdown scene/the first time she sold the mop on live TV.

4. Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years – 4.5/5

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It is a very quiet performance that is much more complex than I initially realised, which explains why I considered giving her a 5. It is a bit too quiet for my taste, but the performance is supposed to be like that, and I can’t really find anything to fault. She slowly allows us to enter Kate’s mind through subtle and effective moments, and I understand why she is a winner for so many.

Favourite moment: The final shot, when she realises that the future of her marriage is never going to be the same again

3. Cate Blanchett in Carol – 5/5

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It is another performance that showcases what a master actress Cate Blanchett is, and I felt like I just sat through a highly insightful acting class when watching her. There is so much class, elegance and seductiveness on the surface of the performance, but Blanchett slowly peels away these layers to reveal the depressed and lonely character that Carol actually is.

Favourite moment: The final smile/”We are not ugly people Hodge”

2. Brie Larson in Room – 5/5

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Man I saw this soooo long ago as compared to the other performances, which is why her ranking as of now is probably the most inaccurately placed in my mind. I recalled finding her gutwrenching, intense, realistic and raw. Her fierce protectiveness of her son and her chemistry with Jacob Tremblay are some of the most brilliant aspects of her performance. Her struggle to adapt back to the real world was excellently portrayed too.

Favourite moment: Her explaining the reality of the room to Jack/the silent goodbye at the end.

1. Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn – 5/5

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She is absolutely charming, radiant and heartbreaking here, showing off her immense acting capabilities and maturity despite being the youngest nominee in this category. Every aspect of Eilis’ life can be felt, thanks to her – heartbreak, loneliness, grieve, falling in love, etc. It also reminds me a little of classical Hollywood, except with better acting and realism.

Favourite moment: When she says that she is truly happy/the final reunion with Tony. But the performance is best appreciated as a whole, as you follow through Eilis’ development and changes.

I have no personal lineup as I haven’t seen enough performances so far =( I guess Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road would be #6, but I am fine with this lineup as it is.

Up next: Stop procrastinating with 1977 best picture and finish up Star Wars and The Goodbye Girl. Unfortunately, due to the incredibly long time I took to complete this year, I don’t think I am able to give my definite thoughts on who my pick is. I will just complete this year, and see whether I want to continue with this project. I most likely will, since any excuse to re-watch The Godfather I and II works for me. However, I will definitely be focusing on film performances first before resuming this project.

 

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn (2015)

I absolutely loved Brooklyn. Wow! Such a quiet, simple yet beautiful and heartbreaking film. It doesn’t have the intensity and flashiness of its fellow best picture nominees, but at the moment, I am seriously considering giving it my vote for best picture. The only aspect that I didn’t get the immense love for was Emory Cohen’s performance as Tony – he gave a sweet, warm and charming performance but I didn’t think it was that amazing. Many people are saying he was robbed of a nomination, but he didn’t leave a strong enough impression in my mind. That being said, I would have nominated him over Mark Ruffalo I guess.

Brooklyn may be a simple film, but it definitely benefited from the sheer brilliance of Saoirse Ronan’s central leading performance as Eilis. While I have to admit that I am not familiar with Ronan’s body of work, she has always struck me in her interviews as a very mature and intelligent actress who is wiser than her years. Whenever I listen to her talk, she always comes across as articulate and sensible, even more so than some older actresses. And as such, despite being 2 years younger than me (!!!), she proved herself more than capable in this detailed, multi-faceted portrayal of her character.

If I were to use one word to describe Ronan’s work, it would be beautiful. Her performance here is like a good, old-fashioned novel that is moving and heartbreaking at the same time. She has this glowing presence and warmth throughout the whole film, making Eilis a character you care deeply for. She takes you along with her through her journey, making you feel her deep homesickness and loneliness in the beginning, her devastation after a tragedy at home, and then her gradual regaining of  confidence after meeting Tony. It is just wonderful to watch how Ronan handles the character’s changes with so much ease and naturalism.

I was pretty surprised that people thought the second half of the performance wasn’t as good, when Eilis returns home for a while. I thought Ronan perfectly handled the inner conflict of Eilis, and I totally understood why she felt conflicted about whether she should stay or go back to work in Brooklyn. I especially loved her sudden realisation at how much her life had changed and the vast amount of opportunities that were suddenly available to her. It was all well portrayed by Ronan, and I think it added an interesting layer to her performance.

A wonderful way to end an already strong best actress lineup. 5/5.

 

Arabian Nights (2015)

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I was about to round up 2015 best actress with Saoirse Ronan and also begin on The Goodbye Girl (Yes, I have not given up on my 70s best picture quest yet), but I got sidetracked by my own life events and projects. This year, I am performing in an arts festival, and this entitled me to watch all of the plays and films that are going to be shown. I also watched Perhat Khaliq, the Uighur singer who came in second in 2014 on The Voice of China. He performed with Uighur rock band Qetiq and holy shit, that was an absolutely magical, amazing and mesmerizing experience. I didn’t even understand Uighur but I was completely sucked into his performance and voice, which I actually felt was more suited for the Uighur language than his mandopop songs. The next day, I also watched Riding on a Cloud, a theatre piece performed by Yasser Mroué, who recounts his recovery process after being shot in the head. It was beautiful and moving, even though the lady beside me fell asleep HAHA. I admit I didn’t understand every single clip he shared with us, but there was something undeniably beautiful and personal with the way he shared his story with us.

But anyway, this blog mainly discusses films, so I thought I should jump straight into the 6 hours epic that is Arabian Nights. It was a pretty insane day yesterday. I had rehearsals from 10am to 1:3opm, and then I had to settle some stuff in school before rushing to The Projector at 3pm to embark on this long journey. I didn’t manage to have lunch so I was terrified that my grumbling stomach was going to bother the people around me. Of course, we didn’t watch this in one sitting. There was a 1 hour break in between each parts, so I managed to grab a bite afterwards.

Arabian Nights was not an easy watch, but at the same time I am kinda glad that I did watch it. It’s a true “ARTHOUSE” film, for the lack of a better way of describing it. As usual (I don’t even know why I have to keep qualifying myself in every post), I am not an expert or professional film critic, so I can only share with you what my feelings for this trilogy are on a superficial level (which is funny, cause the film curator was ordering us to THINK, not FEEL in his message on the booklet). The film is so abstract, surrealistic and allegorical that I am not entirely sure whether I actually “got” it. But it was certainly quite an experience to say the least.

There is a certain self-awareness in Arabian Nights that I always find amusing. It begins with Michael Gomes, the director, running away from his film crew after ruminating on the massive jobs layoffs in a shipyard as well as an invasion of angry wasps. He claims that he doesn’t know what is the connection between the two, except that there is a connection. And in essence, this sums up the whole trilogy for me.

Gomes makes it clear at the beginning of each part that this is not an adaptation of the book, which by the way, makes good bedtime reading. He does however, adapts the same structure, with a beautiful queen telling stories to her insane husband each night to delay her imminent execution and save the lives of many virgin girls. Each story is a commentary on the effect of the austerity measures imposed by the Portuguese government on the people. Throughout the series, it is always clear that Gomes is mocking the system and capitalism. In the first story, he portrays government officials and merchants as indecisive and impotent men. Their impotency is solved by a magic spray that gives them enormous erections beyond their controls…and I think you get my point. Like the connection, or rather, lack of connection between the wasps and the shipyard layoffs, these stories don’t make sense for the most part, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hooked. There was something truly magical about this film and its surrealism, especially with the way Gomes mixes the modern and the traditional elements together – hobo genies in a modern world, a cockerel being put on trial for making too much noise, a talking cow recounting its experience of being stolen, a mermaid coming out of an exploded beached whale.

Most of us agreed that Part II was probably the best part. Everybody loved the “The Tears of the Judge”, which is about a trial that becomes increasingly complicated and absurd as more and more parties, mythical beings included, become involved. It was a hilarious satire on the people and the government debt. I also loved The Owners of Dixie from this part, which told the stories of the various owners of a dog named Dixie. I thought it was a sad look at death and poverty, which the dog being the most optimistic (and adorable) character.

However, it would also be pretentious of me to claim that I fully “appreicated” Arabian Nights. The third part was the weakest for me. I get that the queen was running out of stories and she deliberately dragged the tale about the unemployed bird trappers but it was damn boring (people were walking out of the theatre at this point). There wasn’t even a voice-over narration anymore – it just appeared as text on the screen while it introduced one bird trapper after another with details about their mundane lives (Yes, I think he is commenting on the banality of unemployment, but it was painful to sit through). What I loved, however, is how Gomes is clearly aware of this – halfway through, he randomly introduces a brief character known as “Hot Forest”, an unseen lady Chinese lady who narrates her brief love affair with one of the bird trapper. I am guessing that this served as a breather before it resumes the hyper dull narrative about the bird singing competition. I also thought that not all of the stories in the Part I and II were very engaging too – the one about the serial killer who is worshiped by the local people was also very dry. I mean, I am really not that interested in watching the guy eat his chicken in silence for what felt like over 5 minutes, sorry.

As a whole, I am still kinda confused about Arabian Nights because it is such a trippy film. I feel kinda positive about it, but at the same time, Part III was just hard to sit through in my opinion. I think this positive feeling stems from a personal sense of achievement from sitting through all 3 films, considering that I only signed up for 2 initially. However, even though I kinda had no idea what the heck was going on at times, I was engaged by this bizarre epic. Is the absurdity of the whole trilogy and the dullness of Part III forgivable because Gomes himself admitted that he had no idea wtf he was doing? In a way, I would say yes because he did shed light on issues that he felt strongly about, even if the way he told them made little sense, like the connection between wasps and shipyards. But as a whole, there is something magical about this explosion of weirdness, and I guess combined with my personal sense of achievement, made it an unforgettable watch I don;t regret. I am unable to assign a rating for this, and I don’t think it is the kind of film that should be rated too.

2015 Best Actor Thoughts

For this decade so far, I daresay that 2015 is one of my favourite years for the best actress and best picture categories. Unfortunately, I wish I could say the same for the best actor lineup for this year. I thought 2014 was pretty underwhelming after the brilliance of 2013, but 2015 might even be…worse.

I never considered myself a profession and qualified film critic/reviewer, which is why I never do a full technical breakdown/analysis of films and performances. Instead, I often choose to focus on the kind of emotions the film or performance evokes within me. I guess that’s why I am always so generous with my scores, giving out 4.5s and 5s like crazy. These scores are arbitrary anyway. The important thing is, I always find something to like within a performance and film, even those that people tend to put down. Last year, I thought Steve Carell had some chillingly good moments as John du Pont, even though I agree with the criticisms. I thought Eddie Redmayne’s physical transformation as Hawking was amazing, even though his characterization was a bit boring.

This year, however, was just kinda dull for me, with 3 of the performances scoring below 4 points. Placements of 4 and 5 were straightforward. Number 3 grew on me slightly, and his score is more of a 4 for me now, frankly. I have always liked 2, but I did overrate him initially. This makes my 1 the obvious winner, but that’s only because he is the shining light out of this group for me.

5. Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl – 2.5/5

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Eddie Redmayne seems like a really nice, friendly and warm guy in real life. I really like his real-life personality when I watch him in interviews. That being said, I wish he would stop transforming his characters into these kind, eternally good and flawless souls who are victims of the circumstances they are in. Einar/Lili is an extremely one-dimensional character, who barely struggles with her own identity and only exists to want to be a woman. It is a boring characterisation and Redmayne doesn’t really add anything exciting to this role. He is also a bit mannered and unbelievable, though not a terrible as some say.

Favourite moment: When he first attends the party as Lili, wonderfully capturing the awkward fish-out-of-water sensation.

4. Bryan Cranston in Trumbo – 3/5

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This one, to be honest, was the most disappointing for me. I had really high hopes and I actually expected him to be my personal pick. After watching Trumbo, however…I don’t know man, the whole thing is just really artificial and I feel the same way about Cranston’s performance. He is also really mannered, but I actually thought he was pretty convincing in this area. I have no emotional attachment to this performance, and at the end of the day, it was just okay for me.

Favourite moment: The final speech

3. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant – 3.5/5

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His portrayal of physical agony is great, and his fight for survival is also terrific. That being said, something is just holding me back from loving this performance like the whole world does. I don’t find him a very convincing father in the beginning, and I am not entirely sold on the main motivation for the character’s journey – revenge. Still, a solid and perfectly fine performance from a good actor.

Favourite moment: The final stare

2. Matt Damon in The Martian – 4/5

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It has been a long while since I watched this, so my impression is admittedly a bit vague. He makes Watney a very likable, witty, sarcastic and funny character and that is the best part of his performance for me. I rooted for Watney throughout the whole film, and I found Damon’s presence to be very charismatic.

Favourite moment: When he thought he was going to die, and his goodbye speech to his family.

1. Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs – 4.5/5

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I knew he was going to be my pick right from the beginning, when I saw him verbally humiliate and tear down the other guy. Fassbender does not look like Steve Jobs at all – in fact, Ashton Kutcher might actually have a stronger physical resemblance LOL. However, Fassbender doesn’t go for an impersonation of Jobs, choosing instead to create a complex, fascinating and layered portrayal of an undoubtedly talented guy with major issues. It’s a three-dimensional performance that I really enjoyed.

Favourite moment: A couple of scenes, like the opening scene, or the various moments where he tries to reconnect with his daughter.

My personal lineup: Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight (5), Jacob Tremblay in Room (5), Michael Fassbender in Macbeth (5), Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road (5), Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs. #1 and #5 are clear to me, while Tremblay, Fassbender and Hardy are pretty interchangeable. I know some people might find Hardy nothing special in Mad Max but I really loved his work there. Haven’t watched Legend. Alright, if I were to follow the academy’s style of one performance per actor I would replace Fassbender in Jobs with Tom Courtenay in 45 Years (4.5). Borderline supporting, but still a fine performance.

Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (2015)

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Frankly? I didn’t like Trumbo. Maybe the problem was with me, but I was not engaged by this film at all. It is rather disappointing as I have heard and read some pretty positive reviews, unlike The Danish Girl where I walked in with my expectations exactly met. The whole film is quite artificial and contrived, which is fine as I never demanded all biopics to be hyper realistic, but I found it kinda boring and uneven too. The first half was draggy, which made it seem weird when Trumbo goes to prison in a rushed-out sequence. I do think it got a lot better when it focuses on his life after his release though. Also, this could be the hammiest cast I have seen in years, which isn’t really that bad actually as I found the actors to be the most entertaining part of the film. All the actors, even the minor supporting ones, give really mannered performances to varying results. John Goodman and my favourite actress Helen Mirren were pretty good (she was on the verge of overdoing it at times though), but Dean O’ Gorman gives a weird Ryan Gosling impression. Oh sorry, I meant Kirk Douglas.

I am not familiar with Bryan Cranston. Because a) I never watched Breaking Bad (GASP!) and b) I never watched Malcolm in the Middle (GASP!). If I were to compare his performance here to another one, I would say Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. Even though I am not familiar with Cranston, I can see that he is a damn good actor from this performance. The experience, the amount of control, the confidence in his technique and delivery are all apparent in this performance. And yet strangely enough, I couldn’t find myself really warming up to his performance here.

His performance is really mannered, but in his defense, it fits the artificial nature of the script. The mimicry is always apparent to me, but it doesn’t really distract me in a bad way. What kinda bothered me was the fact that I don’t really care for Trumbo as a character. I don’t feel sorry for him when he got blacklisted, I don’t feel angry at the way he treated his family, I don’t feel happy for him when he won the Oscar, I just don’t even feel very…interested in him. Throughout the whole movie, I just feel like I am following Trumbo through the ups-and-downs of his life as an observer. I feel like Cranston focused so much on developing the exterior mannerisms of Trumbo that I kinda got distracted from the emotional development – if it was even there in the first place. Even his emotional final speech, with the teary eyes and all, didn’t really move me as much as I would have wanted. Yes, I remembered thinking that he was doing a really good job on the technical front but I just didn’t really…feel much.

Yet despite what I have written, this performance did leave me with a strong impression of Bryan Cranston as an actor. What this felt like to me was like watching a lesser work from an obviously talented performer who clearly knows his craft. It makes me interested in watching more of Cranston’s other works. 3/5.

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy (2015)

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Love her or hate her, I think one thing we can agree on is that Jennifer Lawrence is having the career that every aspiring starlet wants. Besides being a part of The Hunger Games AND X-Men franchise, she is also a four-tie Oscar nominee with one win. And by the looks of things, I don’t think she is losing momentum – I foresee nomination 5 coming pretty soon.

I am not really sure what to feel about her personally. Just for your information, I actually think she deserved her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook (no apologies there, enjoyed that performance a lot), and she would have been a worthy winner for Winter’s Bone as well. And then came American Hustle, which felt really off to me, and also the obvious miscasting in X-Men, where Mystique becomes this wooden and bored character. On the other hand, I thought she was a really good Katniss. So all in all, my feelings about her are kinda mixed but I would say the good definitely outshines the bad. I think she is talented and a good actress, I just don’t think they should try turning her into the next Meryl Streep.

I was pretty surprised that Joy got such negative reviews. I thought it was a watchable and decent film. David O. Russell is an overrated director (and massive douche),  but I feel like such character driven films are actually his forte. Yes, Joy isn’t perfect – there are a lot of lines that feel incredibly contrived and the supporting characters – wtf? Virginia Madsen plays an unbelievable and pointless character, and the rest of the supporting cast play one-dimensional roles that are more like caricatures than anything else. Even Bob DeNiro’s character feels pretty forced and exaggerated to me. The earlier dream sequences are also kinda pretentious and weird, but as a whole, I actually found the whole thing pretty entertaining.

One reason why Joy managed to work for me was because of Jennifer Lawrence. I found her presence really magnetic here, and it feels like she is the only actor who is really trying to turn her character into an actual human being. The best part of her performance is how she takes the viewers through this emotional journey and her struggles to enter the cut-throat world of business. Seriously, some moments of her performance were so good that I actually got the chills – that “stupid idea!” breakdown comes to mind. Throughout the whole performance, I really felt for Joy – her nervousness when selling the mop, her terror when blanking out in front of the camera, her frustration at her absolutely vile family members, her tenderness with her children (She is much more convincing at being a mother here than in American Hustle – props to her!). It isn’t a complex character or performance – and it isn’t supposed to be either. Joy is a simple woman with brilliant ideas, and Lawrence makes us root for her as she chases her dreams.

I guess the minor issues I have with the performance is that the writing pulls her down a little at times. In her defense, Lawrence has always been a good enough actress to pull off these weird and nonsensical moments that D.O.R likes to throw into his movies. However, it just takes away the credibility of her acting at times, especially given how realistic her acting is. When she goes into this Al Pacino mode and Joy suddenly acts like some mafia head, it comes off as a bit funny to me. The worst part is this brief flash-forward sequence where Joy is shown to be an incredibly successful and powerful boss. The wig is fake looking, and I’m sorry, it just looks like Jennifer is dressing up as an older lady to me. She speaks in this slow manner to show how Joy is now this powerful, wise and benevolent woman, but it’s just kinda ridiculous. I don’t really know what D.O.R is going for here.

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I’ll be incredibly surprised if that’s her real hair

However, at the end of the day, I myself was pretty surprised at how much I enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence’s work here. It really shows her natural acting talents, which was never technically perfect, but filled with emotional honesty. I thought a 4/5 would have been deserving but the brilliant moments are so good that she is a 4.5/5 for me.

Also,decided to upgrade Charlotte Rampling to a 5. Her performance really grew on me over the past few days.