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Monthly Report: August 2012

August has been an eventful month to say the least. Not so much movie-wise, but my apartment move is largely complete, so hopefully things will return to normal here at the blog soon-ish. In the midst of all the moving mayhem, I still found time to watch a couple of films, most of which were solid experiences. One of those middle-of-the-road months, with no films earning scores of 1/5 or 5/5. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

The Promotion (Steve Conrad, 2008)
A comedy starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly as supermarket employees competing for a promotion. This set-up easily leads to certain ideas of what kind of movie to expect. However, rather than a crude laugh-out-loud kind of film, this one tries for a somewhat more down-to-earth and relatable approach to its material. Perhaps the fact that writer-director Steve Conrad had previously written both The Weather Man and The Pursuit of Happyness should have clued me in. The Promotion might not have much of a real point to it, but it moves around its plot with a certain surprising ease and presents some genuinely funny moments. Plus, you can always count on Reilly to deliver a strong performance.
3/5

This Is Not a Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi, 2011)
If this is not a film, is it fair to judge it as one? Because as a film, I didn’t like it much. The parts where Panahi, forbidden from working as a director and stuck in house arrest, talks about his planned next movie are good, showing the passion and creativity within that he has been forced to put a lid on. For the most part, however, this is just a semi-dull documentation of a man stuck in his home. It doesn’t make for a compelling watch. That said, this is an important document for many reasons, and the more one knows about Panahi and his situation, the more one will get out of this one. I’m very glad This Is Not a Film exists, and the low rating should not make you think different.
2/5

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal (Boris Rodriguez, 2012)
Why is it that whenever a film has a really intriguing title, the film itself tends to end up below par? Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is a slasher-ish movie with some sporadic attempts at comedy, but it’s never really scary, funny, or interesting. The question of whether human lives can be sacrificed for the sake of art is a good one, but it was handled far more compellingly in Stranger Than Fiction. Eddie isn’t a terrible movie, but I can’t think of any solid reason to reccomend it to anyone.
2/5

Art School Confidential (Terry Zwigoff, 2006)
Remember the scenes in Zwigoff’s Ghost World where Enid has to attend summer art class and battle with a teacher who sees hidden meaning in everything and students with no hidden motives to share? This film feels like a spin-off of those scenes. As a tale of one young man making his way through art school, this movie works quite well. Max Minghella is effective in the lead, and the blend between comedy, satire and coming-of-age works. The subplot about a serial killer is an unwelcome distraction, however, and the movie is peppered with great actors who aren’t being used to their fullest potential. Still, while it’s not as good as Zwigoff’s previous efforts, Art School Confidential remains an enjoyable watch.
3/5

Open Water (Chris Kentis, 2003)
If the idea of watching two persons float in the sea for over an hour tickles your fancy, this is the movie for you. Open Water doesn’t manage to create much tension, and the characters are not interesting enough to care about. As such, this while film feels quite flat. Things pick up a bit towards the end, but it’s too little too late.
2/5

OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009)
Quite a step away from The Artist, that’s for sure. This Bond parody certainly has its charm, and a lot of it can be attributed to Jean Dujardin‘s effective performance. The gags are more hits than misses, it plays off the genre tropes in fun and clever ways, and great effort has been made to make the film look and feel like a Bond film from the 60s – 70s. It’s not a laugh riot like Austin Powers, but it’s still worth a look.
3/5

The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)
I had a hard time following along with the details of this movie. The general premise was clear enough, but how the film moved from scene to scene threw me off a bit. Maybe the fact that I didn’t find the characters interesting or worth caring about had something to do with it. I could also have done with less soundtrack dissonance. At least the acting was decent.
2/5

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in many ways, but much denser and more complex – for better or for worse. I was fascinated by the subjects discussed and covered, and enthralled by the way the film was shot. There’s a lot of impressive cinematography here for a movie that’s largely just two people talking to each other. Certified Copy is probably too much to be taken in entirely in just one viewing – at least for me – but I’m looking forward to revisiting it at some point. There is more to be had from this film, of this I’m sure.
4/5

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
It’s the same kind of kinetic, impressive and grandiose action film that we’ve come to expect from Nolan in this franchise. Most of what was good in the past two films is good here too. It’s a fitting conclusion to the series, and it’s among the better films I’ve seen this summer. Still, with a movie like this it seems more important to explain why it’s not a 5/5 than why it’s a 4/5. It is the weakest film of the trilogy. It’s overcrowded, with screen time being spread to thin between the various characters. Some decisions with regards to the story feel unnecessary, and while there’s nothing wrong with the action scenes and set pieces, they don’t quite pack the oompf that feels required for the follow-up to The Dark Knight. These are relatively small complaints, though. It’s still a really good movie, as expected. Now I’m eager to see Nolan try something new.
4/5

Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga, 2009)
Which film is more admirable: the one that does something new and intriguing, or the one that sticks to something familiar but does it so well that it still stands out from the pack? Sin Nombre belongs to the latter category. It’s a thriller about people from Honduras and Mexico trying to make it to the US. It’s also about street gangs: the threat they pose, and the allure with which they sway people to their ranks. The story may not present many surprises, but the movie is still a treat to behold thanks to Fukunaga’s more than capable directing, the tight pacing, and the fine performances, of which Edgar Flores‘ shines brightest.
4/5

Total # of new films seen: 10
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the month: The Dark Knight Rises
Worst film of the month: Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal

 
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Posted by on 1 September, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: March 2012

This is the start of what might turn out to be a recurring feature on this blog. Many of my fellow movie bloggers do something similar. The concept is simple: I talk briefly about all the films I saw for the first time this month. Mini-reviews, if you will.

The Abyss (James Cameron, 1989)
The Special Edition, for the record. Yet another impressive outing for Cameron, with the underwater setting providing most of the film’s memorable moments. The claustrophobic atmosphere is palpable, putting us right down there with the crew of oil-drillers on the ocean floor as they try to determine what caused a submarine to crash. It’s a great action film overall, though the ending feels a tad drawn-out and anticlimactic.
4/5

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
Considering my extremely limited experience with old silent cinema, I’m probably not the intended demographic for this nostalgia-trip. I’m sure there’s a lot of allusions and homages in this one that I didn’t fully catch. Fortunately, this one can survive regardless based on its charm alone. The story isn’t anything special by itself – though intrensically linked with its style – but it’s a pleasant watch with what should in a fair world be two star-making performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
3/5

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
I was a bit wary of this film when I sat down to watch it. I had heard it could be a bit “difficult” and “strange”, and my previous experience with Bergman (Through a Glass Darkly) hadn’t quite knocked me over. Well, this one did, and with gusto. Wonderfully acted and thematically rich, but more than anything else, this may well be the most beautifully shot black & white film I’ve seen so far. I’m finally starting to see what Ebert is on about when he keeps praising B&W over color. Persona might well turn out to be the most significant movie-watching I do this entire year.
5/5

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Posted by on 2 April, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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“Final” 2011 Oscars Predictions

I haven’t been keeping quite as close a look at the Oscars race this awards season as I have the last few years. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but the result is that I find it hard to make confident predictions in quite a few categories. And it’s not even like last year, where a lot of uncertainty basically boiled down to whether The King’s Speech or Alice in Wonderland would pick up the most arts and crafts wins, or just how strong The Social Network still was. This year, there are plenty of categories where I have trouble even boiling things down to two possible winners. Then again, I did really poorly with my guesses last year – thanks to overconfidence in The King’s Speech, stubborn and ill-conceived faith in Annette Bening, and those damn short categories – so perhaps being a bit aloof about things will turn out to be a blessing.

So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in the various categories. They’re final, unless I change my mind. My predicted winners are in BOLD CAPS.

BEST PICTURE

THE ARTIST
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Back in September when the race was still wide open, I made a baseless guess that the unseen War Horse would turn out to be the eventual Best Picture winner. At the end of 2011, The Artist had established itself as the front-runner, yet I had a hunch that it would run out of steam and not end up the victor. Well, here we are a few days away from the ceremony, and I have to concede that I was wrong on both of those occasions. It’s hard to see The Artist losing at this point.

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS – THE ARTIST
Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo

Most of the time, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. Yet year after year, there’s always people predicting a split between the two. This is rarely wise, as when a split does happen, it’s always a major surprise – think Crash / Brokeback Mountain. So I’m playing it safe and going with Hazanavicius.

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Posted by on 22 February, 2012 in Oscars

 

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Some Oscars thoughts this early in the race

With Venice, Toronto and Telluride over and done with, awards season is underway. This is always a fun time of the year for me as a movie fan, so I’m sure I’ll be chiming in as the journey to the Kodak Theatre progresses. What fascinates me is of course the films themselves (though I won’t be seeing any of them anytime soon myself, unfortunately), but also the race. The PR strategies employed by the studios. The jockeying for position. The films that fail to gain traction despite heavy pre-hype. The contenders that arrive from out of nowhere. Trying to gauge the Academy’s taste is something people often say is easy to do (hence the idea of Oscar bait), but AMPAS can be very fickle indeed. Always be prepared for the unexpected.

But it’s very early in the race, and speculating about what’s going to win at this point still seems a bit premature to me, especially considering all the films that haven’t been seen by anyone yet. As I said, I haven’t seen any of the films myself, and I don’t have any juicy inside info to offer. There are other sites than mine that offer more up-to-date news and analyses of the whole thing (I highly recommend In Contention).

So what do I have to offer Oscars-wise at this time? Just my own random thoughts and observations.

We still have no clear frontrunner for Best Picture, which is a pleasant development. Anything can still happen. By this time last year, The King’s Speech was the film to beat already (though doubts would arise as the year came to a close). Same with Slumdog Millionaire three years ago. But now there’s still life in the race. The Descendants is looking strong so far, but it’s a comedy, and AMPAS are generally reluctant to give films like that their big prize. There’s summer’s big surprise hit The Help, but it’s going to need a good push to stay fresh in people’s minds. Political drama The Ides of March seems like it would be right up the Academy’s alley, but it has met with solid-but-not-great critical reception. The Tree of Life remains a big question mark. And there are plenty of big ones still unseen, such as Clint Eastwood‘s J. Edgar, Stephen Daldry‘s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse.

Gary Oldman, Oscar hopeful

In contrast, the Best Actor field seems to be stabilizing somewhat. George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Gary Oldman (looking for a long overdue first nomination for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) have all gotten the necessary praise and seem safe bets, along with recently unveiled Moneyball‘s Brad Pitt. And barring a complete flop by J. Edgar, Leonardo DiCaprio appears likely to join them. Who could oust any of them? Michael Fassbender, for one. Both Shame and A Dangerous Method could do it for him. Ryan Gosling maybe, whether it’s through Drive or The Ides of March.

Speaking of Drive, I have no idea what it will have any chance at being nominated for. Critics have loved the hell out of it, but what branches of the Academy will take a liking to it? Maybe none at all. I could easily see that happening.

People have been talking for way too long about how Best Actress will come down to Glenn Close vs Meryl Streep. The latter’s The Iron Lady still hasn’t shown, but I’d put my money on Close of the two. There’s a better story to be told with her winning for Albert Nobbs. Hopefully something will heat up this discussion though, because it’s been stale for months. I’m hoping for a late resurgence of Tilda Swinton love myself. What happened to We Need to Talk About Kevin anyway?

And what’s going to happen to Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris? It raked in more money at the box office than any of the director’s previous films and was being called the first possible Best Picture contender of the year. But therein lies the problem: it arrived way back in spring. What can be done to keep it in the running? An Original Screenplay nod seems likely, in any case.

Not happening.

Remember when people were talking about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Super 8 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes as possible Best Picture nominees? Oh the joys of summer speculating. None of them seem very likely anymore, do they?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems to be a return to his dark 90s thriller roots for David Fincher. Which is great, because those movies of his were excellent. Don’t expect the Academy to fawn all over it, though. They were very happy to ignore Fincher until he started playing to their tastes with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I am not expecting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to be an Oscars contender at all, except possibly for star Rooney Mara.

Pixar’s Cars 2 made tons of money this summer but is by far the studio’s worst received film yet. This means that their usual playground Best Animated Feature might be an exciting category for once. Will The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn strike gold, or will its motion capture make the Academy deem it ineligible? If that one’s out of the running, Rango might be the horse to beat.

Nobody’s talking about Sweden’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category, Pernilla August‘s Beyond (Svinalängorna). We haven’t won that Oscar since 1983. I don’t think that’ll change this time around.

Finally, some largely baseless early Oscars picks. Please don’t hold me to these even a week from now. I’m just guessing. I still reserve rights to proudly proclaim “I told you so!” if I happen to be right, however.

Best Picture: War Horse

Best Director: Steven Spielberg – War Horse

Best Actor: Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Best Actress: Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs

Best Supporting Actor: Nick Nolte – Warrior

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay: J. Edgar

Best Animated Feature: Rango

Best Foreign Language Film: Poland – In Darkness

 
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Posted by on 20 September, 2011 in Oscars

 

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