Films and opinions

Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Mild spoilers alert.

I’m just going to quickly share my thoughts on this film as well as the three central performances. As a whole, I thought Three Billboards was an interesting film that tried to address some of the prevalent racial and sexual issues today. It is a film about rage, and it explores it in different ways, be it Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand)’s grief over her murdered daughter, Dixon’s (Sam Rockwell) abrasive, violent and hateful personality. I can tell that it is also a film that stems from rage on the writer’s part, but I’m going to have to agree with the criticisms here. Firstly, it is extremely on-the-nose with the regards to the social issues it tries to address, with characters openly denouncing the incompetency and racism of the police force, or sexual violence against women. However, I could not help but feel that it stops at the characters’ denouncement, with no further exploration on the subject matter given. We know that Dixon allegedly tortured black people, but this was only mentioned in the beginning. Subsequently, we are given this redemption arc where he is transformed into a less hateful and more compassionate person, but this doesn’t address the racism issue at all. The screenplay is also a little uneven at parts, with scenes involving Mildred’s ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes) and his new lover feeling somewhat…extra. I can also tell that no one is going for naturalism here since the dialogue is somewhat stylized, but it does feel like it is trying to be edgy at times with the excessive cussing. Overall, I still think it is a good, thought not perfect film that can really hit you emotionally, and it is primarily lifted by the strong performances by the actors. They really bring out the complexities of their parts, unafraid to make you dislike and yet sympathise with their characters at the same time. 3.5/5.

Frances McDormand Three

Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes (5/5) – Casting McDormand was the perfect choice if you ask me, because this lady is one of the best character actresses I’ve seen on screen, and only her can handle stylized and “quirky” characters while still giving them heart (See: Burn After Reading). In fact, over here, she goes a step further by fully inhabiting this role, and I really can’t imagine anyone, even Meryl Streep, playing it now. Mildred Hayes is perpetually angry throughout the film, but McDormand is never one note as she effectively highlights the complexity of her rage. We can see how her she is consumed by grief and guilt over the loss of her daughter, and how this manifested into an uncontrollable rage. McDormand shows how Mildred is perfectly aware of how irrational her actions are, such as her decision to shame Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) via the three billboards, and yet we can also see how she is at her wit’s end because of the lack of progress on the case. I like how she mixes in tender moments into the performance as well, such as her brief look of horror and concern when Willoughby accidentally coughs blood on her. Her mini monologue to the deer (Jee, The Queen?) was also spectacularly played, and we see a more vulnerable side to Mildred beneath the rage. Certain scenes were rather over-the-top, like she kicks 2 students in the groins for dirtying her car, but McDormand manages to not make it look ridiculous. There’s a lot to praise about her performance and I can go on and on about the many brilliant scenes, like the part where Mildred snaps and starts giving her bunny slipper voices as she plans to attack the police. The rage is never one-note, and we can see the arc that Mildred goes through as she finally learns to release some of the destructive anger and hatred that has been consuming her.

Sam Rockwell Three Bill

Sam Rockwell as Officer Dixon (5/5) – Sam Rockwell’s has a somewhat problematic part due to the writing. It is a little superficial and simplistic for a dim-witted, racist and abusive cop learns to let go of his hate and go for love instead via a letter written by his former Chief. However, I think Rockwell really played the shit out of this role despite the problematic writing. He sells the redemption arc convincingly, however problematic it is. He goes from being extremely repulsive at one moment (like when he beats up and throws Red Welby out of the window), to sympathetic on the other hand (being controlled and ridiculed by his mother, crying as he apologies to Red) and even funny at times (listening and dancing to ABBA). It is a true testament to Rockwell’s acting abilities that he manages to sell these various traits of Dixon without making the viewers completely repulsed by him. This performance also made me more interested in learning more of Rockwell as an actor as he seems like a really talented and versatile one.


Woody Harrelson as Chief Willoughby (5/5) – Woody Harrelson is another brilliant actor whom I have really grown to like recently (I find his “happy hippie” persona hilarious) and it’s kinda strange to see how he plays a cruder version of Frances McDormand’s Fargo character here. Willoughby, as various characters in the film constantly mention, is truly a good guy at heart. His part is probably the most simple as compared to the other 2 characters as he doesn’t really have a character arc per se. Willoughby exists to serve as the moderating force in the story, providing a warm and kind balance to the destructive anger of Mildred and Dixon. We see him being a loving father to his kids and a highly respected man in the community, and even though the second half of his performance is merely made up of voiceovers, Harrelson’s delivery is filled with warmth, wisdom and kindness, playing a crucial role in making Mildred and Dixon’s arcs believable. His look of horror and guilt when he accidentally coughs blood on Mildred was utterly fantastic, and Harrelson really made me feel for Willougbhy in those few brief seconds. I might actually prefer this performance to Rockwell, but that’s ultimately due to my love for the character.

A bit of a rushed post, apologies, but I thought it was good to get my thoughts on the performances out of the way. Aiming to catch Lady Bird asap.


Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land (2016)


Holy crap, I freaking loved this movie. I wasn’t expecting it to be much since the first 10-15 minutes or so were pretty standard (but fun) but the moment we start following the emotional journeys of the 2 leads, I was thoroughly hooked. It’s such a brilliant tribute to the era of Gene Kelly/Fred Astaire, and surprisingly, the rather standard story works remarkably because of the amount of heart in it. Yes, La La Land can be seen as a somewhat formulaic musical about chasing your dreams and love, but instead of making me roll my eyes, the whole thing tugged at my heartstrings and even gave me chills at times. The music is FREAKING FANTASTIC! I usually hate it in musicals when everyone suddenly breaks out into song and dance, but over here the energy is plain infectious. I was actually tapping my feet along some parts, and that “love melody” that Ryan Gosling plays (I don’t know what it’s called, the one that got him fired from his first job) actually gave me goosebumps in a good way. I’m a little bit giddy with excitement now, but I just feel like La La Land is the movie we all need at this particular period, what’s with the world’s chaos and the Oscar’s love for heavy dramas like Manchester by the Sea. It is filled with heart, heartbreak, energy, optimism, cheeriness, sadness and just love. 5/5 for film.

Emma Stone

Look, I am admittedly biased about this but I have this massive crush on Emma Stone. To me, she is one of the most real celebrities out there and I really enjoy her on-screen and off-screen persona. She is another one of those actresses who can’t do wrong in my eyes, even if her actual performances aren’t necessarily that good. That being said, I have loved her since Easy A and Zombieland, and I’m so glad that she’s finally getting the career that she deserves.

You know how certain movies are basically vehicles for their lead performers? Like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind etc.? La La Land is really Emma Stone’s show. She is absolutely luminous and charming throughout the entire film, as if there is a kind of spotlight that is shining on her in every film.

Her performance here as Mia really grew on me as I mulled over it on the way home from the theatre. Firstly, I wouldn’t say Mia is the most original character ever. She is an aspiring actress who repeatedly fails to make it big before she actually succeeds, finding love in the process. This Eliza Doolittle archetype has been played so many times that it is extremely difficult to give it a different kind of treatment. Emma Stone knows this and chooses to portray the character as written, but at the same time, she pours her own emotions, love and dreams into the character. There is so much life and love in Mia that we can’t help but root for her through her ups and downs.

Initially, I was quite content calling this a 4/5 performance, especially in the earlier parts of the performance. It’s not that she was bad (4 = very good for me), but I just thought it was going to be a pretty standard kind of musical performance that is charming and fun. However, her performance manages to hit some powerful highs, elevating it greatly. Stone’s portrayal of heartbreak especially got to me, like when Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) insults her or when her play fails. It wasn’t just “sadness” she was portraying – when she cries about being unable to pay the theatre, my heart freaking broke. And of course, there is her brilliant number that can teach Anne Hathaway a lesson or two about not needing to resort to histrionics to make a song powerful. I just love this performance. Even though I suspect there will be a certain backlash if she wins, I still think she would make a worthy winner. 5/5. (Note: Will probably downgrade it to 4.5 when I’m more objective, but I really loved her here guys!)

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling’s performance is also getting a lot of unexpected awards recognition, which I think many people didn’t see coming. I guess it’s because the attention has always been primarily on Emma’s performance.

I happen to think that Ryan Gosling is a much better actor than people tend to give him credit for (Blue Valentine, Half-Nelson, Drive). He does tend to sail on his charisma sometimes but it actually works cause, let’s face it: the guy is good-looking. Unfortunately, that sorta became an issue here because I am actually finding it a bit hard to write about his performance. As a matter of fact, his performance really allows me to see how good Emma Stone is, because I’m honestly just thinking about her all the time. While he is very good in playing Sebastian, it’s easy to see how much more Stone gave to the character.

It’s still very nice though – I could feel his strong passion for jazz actually, like how he constantly shifted toward playing jazz on the piano despite being told not to. His disappointment when he had to give up his love for jazz in order to survive can also be felt quite well. In a way, Mia and Sebastian are similar in their pursuits of dreams and passions, but for some reason, I just didn’t feel it as strongly for Gosling. It could also be due to the fact that Sebastian tends to internalize his emotions more (I think?). I also thought his earlier scene with his sister was a little bit flat, though not terrible.

The strength of Gosling’s performance is really his charm. I know this sounds negative, but actually, it was really needed for this role. He is just damn charismatic and it’s easy to see why Mia would fall for him despite them not getting along initially. It’s actually impossible to take your eyes off him, be it when he plays the piano, sings City of Stars (I prefer Emma’s song though) or wears a goofy costume while performing with his band.

The love story in La La Land is actually really cliche, with the initial bickering to the falling in love to the quarrels to the reconciliation to the…well, won’t spoil the ending. But the 2 actors have such brilliant chemistry that this formula actually freaking works. It’s no wonder why people are shipping both of them in real life, although Gosling is already married. All in all, a very nice performance by a good actor. 4/5.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)



I mean seriously, what else is there to say about Star Wars and its influence? George Lucas did not merely create a film, he created an iconic moment in cinema that would be remembered till today. There is a reason why people today are still referencing Star Wars, be it by hardcore fans or in the form of parodies. From the iconic opening, to the fantastic score, to the amazing visuals, almost nobody would not have heard of this legendary franchise. Almost everyone would have at the very least heard of “May the force be with you”, or “I am your father”. Most people would also have known Star Wars as the movie with the girl with the funky donut hairdo.

Like how Tolkien created the fantasy world of LOTR, Lucas’ shows us how incredible his mind is with Star Wars. There are so much details, personalities, cultures and humour within this world that one could not help but marvel at the breadth of this man’s imagination. I love the small little quirks he adds to the different aliens and droids, giving them much more “life”. And the designs of all those spaceships and battle stations! The Death Star! The X-fighters! I won’t dwell too much on the technical aspects – they are amazing and still stand the test of time. I mean, this was in 1977, and yet I think it looks better than some of the movies made today!

The story in itself is simple, and yet unlike directors like James Cameron, Lucas gives so much soul and depth into its rather straightforward narrative. The characters aren’t the most complex as well, but the actors bring them to life. Princess Leia is likable as the feisty Princess Leia, Harrison Ford nails his portrayal of the charming scoundrel Han Solo, and Mark Hamill brings the right amount of naivety and courage as Luke Skywalker. Alec Guinness is absolutely memorable as Obi-Wan Kenobi, bringing out the character’s wisdom, experience and power. That being said, I have to admit that this isn’t really much of an actor’s movie, although this cast definitely fares a LOT better than the horribleness of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in the later films.

Of course, there are going to be criticisms about how some of the lines are not entirely realistic, as well as some of the weaker moments/plotholes in the films. But this does not change the fact that Star Wars is an absolutely mind-blowing and powerful experience that it is. 5/5.

The Goodbye Girl (1977)


I watched The Goodbye Girl a couple of years back and kinda hated it then. I found it artificial, contrived and overly theatrical. I felt like Neil Simon was trying to throw in as many wisecracks and witty lines into the script, and it was quite grating. Re-watching it this time round, well…I actually still feel the same way, except that I don’t hate it anymore. I understand the whole angle it was going for and I can accept why so many people find it a charming film. That being said, I could not help but wonder if I would have appreciated it more as a live theater production. Still, it is a nice, heartwarming tale about falling in love under unlikely circumstances (*coughs* better explored in Annie Hall *coughs*) and I did smile at the end of it.

Certain things definitely improved on this re-watch. Firstly, I thought Richard Dreyfuss deserved his slightly unpopular Oscar win. He has always been the mvp of this film for me, but I really enjoyed his performance this time round. It’s an atypical win for this category, especially if you were to compare it to the other winners of this decade, but I thought it was so damn good. Even when his character was annoying and grating in the beginning, I actually felt sorry for him and understood where he was coming from. And then when we understood the character’s struggles more, with Dreyfuss nailing the vulnerable moments (his sadness after his failed play was pretty heartbreaking), I actually got to appreciating how multi-faceted his portrayal is. He actually has some pretty similar mannerisms to Woody Allen’s performance is Annie Hall, except that I find Dreyfuss a much more charismatic and charming performer. I mean, that rooftop dinner is so cheesy and yet I’ll be lying if I said I wasn’t charmed by it.

On the other hand, I am pretty much with Roger Ebert on Marsha Mason’s performance. I never really appreciated it then, and unfortunately, I still kinda feel the same way. A lot of people are saying that she should have won the Oscar but I totally don’t get this love. Definitely not over Keaton, and I actually would have ranked some of the other nominees over her. While Dreyfuss manages to give a convincing portrayal, I feel that Mason kinda flounders a bit and she never really overcomes the artificiality of the script. In fact, I felt that some of her neurotic tics and line deliveries were quite fake. Maybe I just don’t “get” her acting style, but there are times I found her more annoying than Dreyfuss and no, it is not the character. Most people seem to feel the other way round though.

Overall, The Goodbye Girl was a nice film, but I personally never cared too much for it. I don’t think Neil Simon’s writing is really my kind of thing – or at least on film. Dreyfuss elevates it imo, but as a whole – okay, with nice performance by Quin Cummings and song by David Gates. 3/5

Arabian Nights (2015)


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.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in The Revenant (2015)

Brief thoughts on the film


So I finally got about to watching this. I have been holding it off for months, because I really didn’t feel interested in this film at all. To me, it sounded like a major vanity project for all involved, especially during its not-very-subtle Oscar campaign. While they went on and on about how much the cast and crew had to endure and suffer during shooting, the cynical side of me wasn’t ready to be bought over by this. Frankly, like what many others say, I am always more interested in the final result than the preparation process. It might sound a bit unsympathetic, and while I am not denying the efforts of these people, it isn’t what I care about the most when I watch a movie.

On a positive note, I would say that the suffering was not in vain – Iñárritu created a gorgeously shot film, making the cinematography win one of the most deserved so far. He also managed to utilise the harshness of their shooting conditions to bring out the raw, brutal tension needed in this story. A major part of The Revenant is about Man vs Wild, and in this aspect, the film succeeds greatly. It is raw, gritty, suspenseful and realistic.

However, there was something that held me back from fully embracing this film. I feel that The Revenant is well-done, but it seems to lack a particular…oomph that would have made it the powerful, gut-wrenching, cinematic masterpieces it clearly strives to be. It was like watching a gorgeous painting, but unfortunately not having a lot of emotional connection to it. More on that later anyway.

The technical aspects are still the saving grace of this film, and at the end of the day,  I will concede that the shit everyone went through paid off. But that’s essentially what I feel about it in a nutshell. Iñárritu’s directing win is largely deserved, although I am equally in favour towards Tom McCarthy and George Miller. 4/5.

Leonardo DiCaprio


I just don’t get the overwhelming love people have for Leo DiCaprio. From the almost embarrassing internet memes, the comparisons to Bob De Niro made by some (Oh REALLY?), I have to confess that I did try to feel the amount of love people have for him…but I just can’t hop onto that bandwagon. I am not saying he is overrated, I am just perfectly content with my own impression of him: a good actor, who has been consistently turning in good to great work, rightfully earning those nominations. I just cannot wrap my head around that “HE IS SO OVERDUE” thing that has been plaguing the internet (Glenn Close is more worthy of that, I feel). The only time where I thought he truly deserved the Oscar was for The Wolf of Wall Street – he was amazing in that, but that’s also in the face of equally deserving competition from Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

One thing that Leo really nails here is the perseverance and fighting spirit of Hugh Glass. His portrayal of physical agony and pain is fantastic, and I wouldn’t even deny that he really made me cringe sometimes. He always remains truly committed with this aspect of the character, selling Glass’ determination to survive instead of going the Anne Hathaway “Look at me suffer for ART!” route. Hugh Glass is a fighter, and Leo does not fail in his portrayal of that. Even in that final fight scene with Hardy, which made me cringe harder than all of the SAW movies put together, I really admired how he perfected Glass’ desire for revenge.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all I can really rave about his performance. I liked that small tender moment where he briefly bonded with the Pawnee refugee Hikuc, and how they connected with their losses. But what was really lacking to me, which is also the main thing that’s holding me back from calling The Revenant a masterpiece, was the emotional weight needed in this performance. I will just state the obvious: I do not buy the father-son relationship between Glass and Hawk. To me, that is the greatest misstep of this performance. I am supposed to buy that Glass is soooo devastated by Hawk’s death that it set him on this bloody path of revenge, yet I just didn’t buy that Glass was extremely protective of Hawk, like when he tells him to remain “invisible”. Even Hawk’s death didn’t leave much of an impression – I mean, you see Leo screaming in devastation and all, but that’s pretty much it for me. There was this noticeable lack of chemistry between the two actors.

In fact, I would even go a step further and say that I don’t buy him as a father. I’m sorry, but when I think of Leo Dicaprio, I always picture him partying on a yacht full of VS models with his “wolf pack”, free of any familial responsibilities and commitment – I guess that’s why WoWS worked incredibly for me. Of course, that didn’t influence my opinion of his work here, but frankly, I wouldn’t even have noticed a difference if you removed the father-son relationship and called them colleagues/hunting buddies instead. I mean, if Brie Larson, who wasn’t a mother when shooting Room, could sell herself as a highly protective mother, then why can’t Leo?

When this aspect is lacking, it really takes away what could have been an amazing performance and reduces it to merely a “good” one. Sure, he effectively portrays his determination and anger, but it would have been absolutely amazing to me if I could actually, you know, feel the grief and emotional pain from losing his wife and son, with all the “he killed ma booooy” and voice-overs. I wasn’t sure what went wrong here – maybe it is all so subtle that I missed it in the first viewing, but even the “deep” glances and “mysterious” expressions didn’t provoke me as much as I wanted, like the ending scene. I wouldn’t say I am very disappointed since this is still a solid turn from a solid performer, but it is still a missed opportunity to me. 3.5/5.

Tom Hardy *mild spoiler ahead*


Tom Hardy is the man. Tom hardy is a badass. Tom Hardy is the cool motherfucker. Only Tom Hardy can show up at his movie event gangsta-style in shirt and jeans, and still own it, making Leo look overdressed even. Tom Hardy was awesome in Inception. Tom Hardy was freaking cool in Mad Max: Fury Road. Tom Hardy in Legend was…haven’t watched that. Oh, but Tom Hardy loves dogs, which just increases his cool factor.

Embarrassingly, I admit I sound like a little boy going crazy over Iron Man, but that’s pretty much how I feel about Tom Hardy these days. He’s da man. 

Even so, if I am being objective about this, Tom Hardy was the mvp for The Revenant for me. He gives a very mannered and loud performance in contrast to Leo, and yet it works brilliantly for me. Like what I said about Jennifer Jason Leigh, he isn’t the most complex supporting character around but he has a one-of-a-hell presence and is just freaking entertaining. John Fitzgerald is one evil bastard, and Hardy nails this (“Maybe you should have raised a man instead of a girlie little bitch” – Ouch!). He switches from sympathetic to chilling in just a blink of an eye – one moment, you can be talking to him like some regular friend and the next moment he can be aiming his rifle at you and threatening to blow your head off. That whole “God is a squirrel” speech was fantastic – he delivers it in such a matter-of-a-fact way, and yet you could really understand where Fitzgerald is coming from – he simply has no more fucks to give.

Hardy actually makes Fitzgerald a very sympathetic character. There are even times where I thought he had a point, even though everybody else was quick to dismiss him. The best part was, I actually felt sorry for him when he died. He could have turned Fitzgerald into a caricature villain, and yet he transforms him into a believable, flawed and at times frightening person instead. As a whole, I really, really enjoyed Hardy’s performance here. He is also entertaining as hell to watch, never having a single dull moment. And not to mention that physical transformation! Honestly, I wouldn’t have recognised that it was Hardy in my first viewing. 5/5


Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl (2015)


Alicia Vikander won the best supporting actress Oscar for playing Gerda Wegener, the wife of Einar Wegener in The Danish Girl.

I found The Danish Girl to be a mediocre film. It’s not so much of the fact that it has a very shallow understanding of the subject matter – I just found the whole thing very awkwardly shot and the pacing was quite off. The scenes don’t really flow well, and it doesn’t help that I found the score more distracting than anything else. None of the characters seem to have real and believable personalities, although to the actors’ credit, they do seem to try to overcome the weak writing. Matthias Schoenaerts is no doubt a talented actor – but there was seriously no point to his character. Like they could have removed him, and I think there wouldn’t be much of a difference. Also, I think his makeup looks very weird here, and he looks a bit like a wax figurine.

I am not familiar with Vikander, although my general impression of her is that she is a talented actress. I liked her well enough in A Royal Affair. Anyway, it has been said by countless before me, so I won’t dwell too much on it, but yes, this is a leading performance. 100%.

To Vikander’s credit, she gives the best performance of the entire film, and I found myself being able to relate to her character more than the others. She wonderfully brings out the feeling of loneliness, the desperation in trying to “bring” Einar back, and her gradual acceptance of Lili. It could have been an annoying part, but I do believe that Vikander brought much needed emotional honesty to the part and I really managed to feel for her character at times.

I guess my main issue here is that Gerda just isn’t really interesting. The whole thing becomes a bit repetitive after a while, and unlike Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, she doesn’t really introduce any internal conflicts/flaws to the character. The whole “poor, neglected Gerda” narrative comes off as a bit one-dimensional, but then again, that applies to the writing of the entire film.

Her “charming” scenes came off as a bit fake occasionally too, although I would blame that more on Redmayne’s awkwardness. Overall, not the best winner, but a solid performance nonetheless. 4/5.

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Eddie Redmayne received his second Oscar nomination for playing Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe.

I am going to say something that may offend some, but I don’t “get” Eddie Redmayne. I find him a bit bland and “safe” as an actor, and even though he did some amazing physical transformation in his Oscar-winning role, his Stephen Hawking has no personality. I have always felt the same way about his performances in Les Miserables and My Week With Marilyn. I feel that he is better off as a supporting actor who gives reactionary glances to his co-stars, rather than a lead actor who has to carry a film.

Redmayne suffers from a bland script that seems to portray his character as suffering from multiple-personality disorder. I hated the way the dresses seem to act as a form of “trigger” to bring out Lili, I mean, come on. Anyway, I just found Einar and Lili to have zero personalities and I really couldn’t get anything out of his performance. Einar wants to be a woman, Lili wants to fully  be a woman and that’s pretty much it.

As I always say, I am not one who dwells too much on the technical aspects of acting but a lot of his line readings come off as barely trying too. His “charm” and “humour” in his earlier scenes are barely existent, even the way he describes his first meeting with his wife were really dull and uninteresting (something about ankles, can’t remember). He kinda just goes through his lines, barely making anything noteworthy about the character. In all fairness, he also has the worst lines to deliver so I’m not sure how much he could have done with them (“I want to be a woman, not a painter,” whispers Lili with profound sadness). Some of his mannerisms are also really awkward. I could try and see it as the awkwardness of transitioning, but somehow I felt like that wasn’t Redmayne’s intention and it just came off weird. I really felt quite irritated with the non-stop whispering and whenever he does that head-tile, shy smile thing.

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Like he does this…

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I will give proper credit when due, and I do think some scenes were good, like his first time dressing up as Lili in the artist’s ball. That whole fish-out-of-water feeling was palpable and uncomfortable, and I think Redmayne handled that part well. There were a few crying scenes here and there that were decent, but as a whole I am quite meh about this performance. 2.5/5.