And the winner is...
Dreamgirls is solid film musical with fantastic performances in both its acting and vocals.
Amid the late 1960s in Detroit, three women are attempting to make it big as a girl group. They can't seem to catch a break, even though their lead Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) has vocals more powerful than anything on the radio. When music manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) hears their set at a local talent competition, he immediately signs them to sing backup for current R&B star James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy)
At first, the tour with Thunder Early seems like a dream come true, but when Curtis decides to turn the three women into their own band and no longer backup singers, tensions begin to rise between the women. Suddenly, Effie is singing backup to Deena Jones' (Beyonce Knowles) lead, and everyone knows it shouldn't be. Desperate to get her moment to shine, Effie begins to do anything to fight her way to the top, no matter the cost.
I love musicals. I’ve been raised around them my whole life, and I am always eager to see what film directors will do to adapt big and complicated productions such as a broadway show and translate it to the screen. Usually, a tactic for this is to change the vocals ever so slightly so that the singers are more accessible to a main stream film audience and not just to the viewers whose ears are used to that big broadway sound. In this respect, I think Dreamgirls did very well. The music in Dreamgirls is primarily sung in a setting where the characters are on a stage and performing, so it was a little jarring when they began to sing to explain the plot and were not doing an actual performance. The music they were singing was wonderful, but didn't seem to flow between the stage and off stage songs with the ease that it might have had in a live performance.
Casting wise, Beyoncé was obviously known to the everyday audience member, and therefore was an easy way to draw people to the film. Her voice is famously impressive, and she clearly had no troubles belting out the notes given to her. Her character has to go from Motown to disco, and she hits every mark. Jennifer Hudson had what I would consider a slightly more challenging task. Her character has the show stopping song, the one that anyone familiar with the musical would be waiting for. Hudson knocks the song out of the park, but keeps it reigned in just ever so slightly to be able to keep it within the confines of a film and not go too far to the point of Broadway. Overall, an incredibly impressive feat well deserving of her Oscar win.
As great as the music in Dreamgirls was, what I found a bit odd was the pacing. The film itself is honestly probably a bit too long, yet the timeline of the plot feels rushed. I’ve never really seen a movie like this where I feel the story appears quite lengthy, but I’m still slightly confused by the order of events because they go by so fast. I think what could have attributed to this oddity would be how much information and time they were attempting to put into the movie. The characters go through a constant series of montages, taking you through the years of the girl group, stopping every year or two to elaborate on what’s happening in their lives at that present time. When they do put the brakes on to spread out the characters’ stories and conflicts, it’s still a bit muddy at times with what is fully going on. Not to say it’s completely confusing, just feels like there some information missing, which you wouldn’t expect from a movie that is over two hours long. Sometimes it’s hard to translate certain elements of the stage to the screen, and the length of an average broadway show is one of those things that seems to have been a slight struggle for Dreamgirls.
I feel like I have probably put off watching this movie for too long, especially given my love for musicals. I truly enjoyed the performances, music, and general storyline, and I would say the film as a whole is a success. It’s shiny, stylish, and powerful, and after watching it I immediately began listening to the soundtrack, which means it most definitely accomplished its goal.
2007 Winner Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role- Jennifer Hudson
2007 Winner Best Achievement in Sound Mixing- Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, and Willie D. Burton
Whiplash is a film filled with intensity and precision, and is quite possibly one of, if not, the best movies about music presently in existence.
Andrew Neimann (Miles Teller) is a first year student at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music who dreams of becoming the next great drum legend. He knows of the school's highly skilled and prestigious conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), but is convinced his talent on the drums are not up to the caliber demanded by the legendary teacher.
Andrew gets the surprise of his life when he is asked by Fletcher to join in with the band he conducts that is made up of of the school's most advanced musicians. When he arrives in class the next day, he is anxious to try and impress Fletcher, but quickly realizes his new conductor's methods to improve his students are much more than he could have bargained for.
The plot trajectory for Whiplash is not completely dissimilar to that of many sports movies, but varies from becoming cliche in many ways. Miles Teller's character does goes through many of the expected milestones an athlete would experience in a typical sports film, such as appearing to be less talented than the others surrounding him, being lucky enough to be noticed by an important coaching figure, sustaining multiple injuries, and having moments of intense self doubt where he is tempted to quit in his attempts to achieve his ultimate goal. Though those film traits described may make it seem like Whiplash follows a common pattern, it completely outshines any other film with a semi-similar plot due to its creative and inventive take on an underdog story.
Whiplash should become the "how-to guide" film for anyone who is looking to make a movie where the struggle and painstaking measures of learning to master an instrument can be not only witnessed by the audience, but felt as well. The cinematography and editing allows for multiple angles to be experienced by the viewer; that of Terence Fletcher, Andrew Neimann, and the drums that are played. With every sweeping shot the camera takes over the various instruments that make up the band or whenever it zeros in on certain players, you can't help but feel the music vibrating through your core and easily imagine as if you were hearing the music live and having each note surround your senses. When you watch Whiplash, there is no question in your mind as to why it won the Academy Award for its impeccably skilled film editing.
When watching Whiplash, I found myself getting incredibly anxious and feeling my heart race increase as if I were watching a very well made horror movie. But it wasn't monsters or killers that was making my body react this way, it was the uncertainty that came with J.K. Simmons' character and performance. It is clear from his first appearance that he is not a person to be trifled with and is one that demands respect, but it was his drill sergeant like qualities and the unattainable level of perfection he expected from his band, that made him such a loose cannon. You truly never knew what to expect from the character or how Simmons' was going to deliver it, and it is those qualities that undoubtedly won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Miles Teller, though not nominated for an Oscar, was no slouch when it came to his dedication to his role. In so many scenes, Teller's level of commitment to the character could be seen in the individual beads of blood and sweat that dripped onto the snare drum from his face and hands, adding a sense of realism to the film that honestly made me wonder how much of his performance was acting, and how much was reality.
Whiplash is a movie that I waited far too long to see. I had been meaning to take the time to watch it for years, but for some inexplicable reason had waited until now to get around to it. I honestly wish that I had not waited so long, because that would have meant that I would have been privileged enough to have this movie in my life for much longer. Now that I've finally seen it, I know it will be a film that I will be watching over and over again countless times.
2015 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Winner: J.K. Simmons
2015 Best Achievement in Film Editing Winner- Tom Cross
2015 Best Achievement in Sound Mixing- Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, and David Lancaster
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a film that is raw with emotion and jam packed with phenomenal performances.
It has been seven months since Mildred Hayes' (Frances McDormand) daughter Angela was brutally murdered. Since the crime, Mildred has been appalled by the progress made by the local police department, and is dead set on finding a way take a stand against the gross injustice.
On her way home, she notices three billboards that have been in a state of disarray since the highway was put in, and gets an idea. Mildred pays to rent the billboards, and uses them to bring the public eye back to her daughter's unsolved case. However, in doing so, she points a finger at the much beloved chief of police, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Though her actions have caused great anger in the town, especially in Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), Mildred knows the billboards are her best chance at unearthing her daughter's killer.
Three Billboards is without a doubt a powerful and intense film from beginning to end, but it is also one of those rare cases where I feel the performances actually outweigh the movie itself. I know a statement like that doesn't entirely make sense, because how could the actors give such brilliant performances without being presented with the content that made up the film? What I mean is, Three Billboards is anything but a cheery movie, one where at times it is difficult to watch due to the distressing nature of its content, but it is also a film l I will most certainly be watching again, just so I can again witness the remarkable skill of its cast.
Frances McDormand is hands down one of the finest actors to grace the screen within the past few decades. Her acting ability is rarely matched, and is such that she fully disappear into her roles, allowing the audience to feel and react to whatever intense emotion her character may be going through. In Three Billboards, there is a scene that instantly sticks out in my mind as the one that shows her true talent as a performer. The moment itself is incredibly brief, and is the only time where someone, other than Mildred herself, is able to actually understand the immense pain and grief she is suffering over the loss of her daughter. They then see how desperately important the survival of the billboards are to her. To me, if the rest of her performance in the film was lacking, which it most certainly was not, that split second in the movie alone could have been what won her the Academy Award.
Three Billboards is unlike many films, in that is has a combination of serenity and despair as its primary focus. With such a violent and horrific crime as the epicenter of the plot, it is an interesting and wise decision on behalf of the creators that they chose not to include many scenes that depicted the actual crime itself. As the viewer, there was no doubt as to what atrocities took place, but it was only mentioned in conversation between the characters, and honestly that can almost be worse than seeing it. By really only having the descriptions depict what happened, it allowed the viewer's imagination to be left to its own devices, creating a film experience that is unique to every person.
As pretentious as it may sound, I find that there are times where a film is highly revered by critics, but could turn out to be that I am not particularly fond of. This is not the case for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. After watching it, I totally agree with and understand the acclaim to which it received, and feel that it will be a film that once watched, will be hard for any viewer to forget.
2018 Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Winner- Frances McDormand
2018 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Winner-Sam Rockwell
Between the colors and animation style, Pocahontas is without a doubt one of Disney's more visually stunning works.
Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson) is heading an expedition to an "undiscovered" world, under the orders of Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers). Ratcliffe hopes that his men will be able to find gold when they finally hit land, and then deliver to him whatever endless riches they unearth.
Meanwhile, a young Native American woman named Pocahontas (Irene Bedard), who is also the daughter of Chief Powhatan (Russell Means), is struggling with the idea of being forced to marry a man she has no feelings for. Pocahontas is perfectly content with spending her days embracing the nature that surrounds her, but when she comes in contact with John Smith, her normal life gets a drastic change.
A common thread found in Disney films made before the heavy use of CGI, were storylines that were technically targeted towards children, but also carried some serious emotional heft as well. In the '90s alone, you had the Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Tarzan, all movies famously known for evoking tears from both it's younger and older audiences. Pocahontas is no exception to this Disney trend. In fact, this film is very similar to Hunchback, in that it has very little content that would be considered amusing to a child at all. It does however, have the occasional comedic moment between Pocahontas' raccoon and hummingbird friends, but those scenes take up very little of the film's total screen time. For the most part, the plot involved with Pocahontas is focused on relaying its message of the importance of nature and culture, and exploiting the dangers of destroying something, simply because one doesn't take the time to understand it.
The comments I made on Pocahontas' more dramatic overtones is in no way a negative remark on the film, in fact it is quite the opposite. As a child, I always gravitated towards stories that possessed darker and more ominous storylines, because I always felt they had the better music, and they usually did. Pocahontas' score has been one that has had the ability to give me chills ever since I first heard it over two decades ago. The music, just by itself, is almost too beautiful to comprehend, with each note and lyric making a mark on your senses, but when you add in the artistry of the scenes with their color schemes that could only have been inspired by the most vibrant sunsets, the combination creates a genuinely remarkable film experience.
The '90s was a time where it seemed as if Disney put out a new film practically every year, so there were definitely some that didn't carry the same legacy as others. Obviously, the Lion King dominated this time period as the most successful, but Mulan and Pocahontas were the two that left the most lasting memories for me. Over twenty years after both my sister and I first watched Pocahontas, we were discussing what made this movie so great. I commented on how the music had always been what impacted me most, and my sister said that for her, it was the colors. I think Pocahontas is the epitome of what makes film so great. It had the ability to reach two viewers in entirely different ways, and make an impression that was strong enough to last well into adulthood.
As much as I love how far we've come in the world of animation, I think that the constant use of CGI deprives a film of its' ability to really stand out from the crowd. With the newer films, the breathtaking combination of art and music seems to be slightly lost. Pocahontas is a brilliant example of why the older style of animation was so impactful, and how it was really able to trust in a child's patience and imagination. You can see the unbelievable amount of work that went into each second of the film, and that tireless effort in turn became what I would consider to be one of Disney's best pieces of cinema.
1996 Best Music, Original Song Winner- "Colors of the Wind"
1996 Best Music, Original Music or Comedy Score Winner- Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
The Jungle Book (2016)
The Jungle Book reboot is an absolutely stunning visual achievement and a movie that I am very eager to watch again soon.
When a drought has taken over the jungle, all the animals come to the Peace Rock where they promise not to harm one another in order to take in some desperately needed water. When feared tiger Shere Khan (Idris Alba) arrives at the rock, the creatures cower in fear as he makes his proclamation. Shere Khan is aware of a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi), and will stop at nothing until the young human is destroyed.
Knowing that Mowgli is no longer safe with the wolves, the alpha Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) knows he needs to find a way to get the man-cub back to the humans. With the help of Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the panther who found Mowgli as a baby, Akela sends the two off to brave the jungle, hoping they don't find any danger along the way.
If anyone wanted to view and exhibition of how impressively advanced special effects have become, they needn’t look any further than the Jungle Book. While watching this stunning piece of cinema, I found myself in awe of the detail put into every animal, from the texture of their fur to the emotion in their eyes. The story itself is compelling enough on its own, but add in the impeccable visuals, and you have something truly special. The only drawback to how realistic the animals look in the Jungle Book, is that any harm or mistreatment of them appears all the more horrific and lifelike.
The young actor who plays Mowgli embodies the legendary man-cub with spirit and fierce determination. His emotional connection with the other “animals” comes off as incredibly genuine, which could not have been easy given that every single one of his costars was created through CGI. It is his performance that aids in selling the believability of the jungle characters and their subsequent relationships, as well as being the central driving force of the plot. That’s a lot of pressure and expectation to put on the shoulders of such a young actor, but Neel Sethi appeared to be more than up to the challenge.
Voice acting can either make or break a film of this nature, and each animals’ speaker was perfectly cast, no matter how big or small the role. Look at Idris Elba’s performance as Sheer Kahn for example. The visual design of the tiger is intended to be frightening and intimidating, but if the tone of voice didn’t equal or surpass the look of the villainous cat, then the fear intended to be brought by his presence wouldn’t have near the right amount of impact. Same with Scarlett Johansson as Kaa. Her time in the film is incredibly short, but using her vocals for a hypnotic serpent is absolutely perfect. Baloo needed to be carefree and whimsical, so casting Bill Murray was the most natural choice. It is because of the wonderful auditory contributions by these actors that I found myself laughing and then on the verge of tears throughout the film because of their wonderful work in the Jungle Book.
I feel that I took far too long to watch this movie, and I really wish that I hadn’t missed my chance to see it in theaters. Jon Favreau is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors of the current age of film, and if the Jungle Book is any indication of what his live action version of the Lion King is going to be like, I have to say that I can’t wait!
2017 Best Achievement in Visual Effects Winner-The Jungle Book
Back to the Future
An absolute classic from its' decade, Back to the Future is a film that never ceases to entertain.
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a so-called "slacker" by his principal, is the typical 80's teenager. He skateboards, plays guitar, and is more focused on his girlfriend than his schoolwork. What sets him apart from the rest, is his friendship with the eccentric Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). When Doc Brown asks Marty to meet him in the mall parking lot, Marty knows something strange is going on.
At the mall, Marty learns that Doc Brown has invented a time machine out of a DeLorean. Originally only there to video tape Brown's monumental invention, Marty finds himself inside the time machine and heading back to the year 1955. It is there that Marty must not only discover how to get back to his own time, but how to get his parents together so his future isn't completely erased.
The 80's was one of the best decades for film, and Back to the Future plays a crucial part in that concept. The story itself is very unique, and probably wouldn't have had the same impact had it been made today. There were so many developments to be seen between the 1950's to the 1980's, that even if you look at just the clothing and technology, the changes a character would experience by traveling back in history during that time frame would be much more drastic than it would be if someone in present day 2019 went back thirty years. It's like Robert Zemekis discovered a cinematic sweet spot by making the film in the decade he did, and because of that it was a hit movie turned into an icon.
For me, I would love to go back to the 1950's, as it is a decade that has always fascinated me, but Marty's situation proves to be quite the harrowing experience. This movie shows its' cleverness as Marty tries to adapt to the decade he has been transported to. Such a small notion like mentioning a rerun seems like it's so insignificant it needn't be included, but by adding it in, Back to the Future inserts a believability and humor to the character and the story.
Given the time in which this film came out, it should be commended for the age makeup work that was done for all the characters that were supposed to be adults in the 80s and then teens in the 50's. Specifically Crispin Glover's portrayal of Marty's father. His transformation looked the most natural in comparison to the others who had to age backwards. In the beginning of the movie when he is home and laughing at the old reruns on the TV, you can see the age lines on his forehead, and for all intents and purposes, he looks like a middle aged man. Then in the 1950's when Marty meets his teenaged father at the diner, there is an obvious yet realistic change in Glover's appearance. Glover's character looks like he belongs in high school, unlike many mainstream movies where adults play teenagers. The fact that the film can have him go from playing 18 to 38 and make it appear fairly realistic says a lot about why Back to the Future has remained as popular as it has for all these years. Even though some of the age makeup may not be as great as Glover's, it still adds an authenticity to the overall film experience.
The subsequent Back to the Future films really can't hold a candle to the original, especially if you look at the second one, but in their defense, it is practically impossible to live up to the greatness of this movie. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who can't find something to love about Back to the Future.
Winner- 1985 Best Effects, Best Sound Editing- Charles L. Campbell & Robert R. Rutledge
Free Solo is undeniably riveting and quite possibly one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.
Alex Honnold is one of the world's most famous rock climbers. He is known for his climbing skill with ropes, but specifically without; in one of the most horrifically dangerous sports known as "free soloing". For years, Alex had been content with living out of his van and doing the best free solo climbs he could find, but he always knew there was a climb that was so perilous to free solo, that no one had attempted it, and he wanted to be the first.
Free Solo chronicles Alex's life from the point he made the decision to train for an unthinkable challenge; free soloing the 3,000 ft. El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Getting ready for such a feat is no easy task on its' own, but adding in the complications of how to film it while not putting Alex in any more danger than he already is, brings an incredible amount of strain onto the project. Though Alex may outwardly show no fear for this climb, through the documentary, it is clear that even if he views what is frightening to be drastically different than what most of us do, there is more than just physical preparation he'll need for the climb.
Free Solo is a film that is so intense, my palms were slick with sweat by the end. I honestly didn't know much of the outcome of Alex's attempt on El Capitan, so I was literally on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the film's final half hour. I have seen my fair share of documentaries, and I may be wrong on this account, but I feel there are few works of cinema that were as tricky and dangerous to film as this. Not only did the people operating the cameras have to be suspended in mid air, thousands of feet from the ground, but they ran the risk of having their subject matter potentially attempting his solo climb in secret, deciding not to do it at all, or falling to his death. There were countless factors that could have gone wrong, and because of the way Free Solo was designed, you can see the stress taking its' toll on the cameramen and interviewees involved.
Alex Honnold is a very unique person, in that he seems far less worried about his own mortality than the majority of humankind. He doesn't kid himself about the dangers of free soloing, but instead seems to truly believe that if he were to die, no one would care; at least that's his thought process in the beginning. Whether he would have changed his mindset on his own, or the process of making the documentary helped him get there, by watching Free Solo, you are able to witness a man who had distanced himself from the social world, go through a fairly major emotional transformation.
What Free Solo does in a brilliant way, is create an unbelievably nerve wracking build up to the film's major moment. There is so much that the viewer needs to learn abut the dangers of free solo climbing, as well as understand the actual process and skill involved, before being ready to witness Alex's climb up El Capitan. To see him fall so many times in practice, thankfully with ropes, creates an immense amount of unease as you get closer and closer to the actual climb. Free Solo has successfully been one of the most stressful film watching experiences I have ever had.
For me, documentaries are rarely something that I feel the need to watch more than once, but Free Solo is one that will most certainly break that pattern. I can't wait to watch it again, to learn more from it now that my blood pressure won't be rising every five minutes of run time. Free Solo is easily one of the most well deserving Academy Awards winners I have been privileged enough to see.
2019 Winner Best Documentary Feature- Free Solo
A movie that I enjoyed much more than I had anticipated, BlacKkKlansman is a film full of the unexpected.
In the late 1970's, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) has just joined the Colorado Springs Police Department. He has been warned by his chief that he may receive unfair treatment due to the fact that he is African American and they have never had a member of the force be a different ethnicity, but Ron refuses to let the small minded members of the force get to him. However, when his first assignment turns out to be in the filing department, his ability to ignore the racists comments of his fellow officers begins to run thin, and Ron goes to request an assignment out in the field. Though a struggle at first, Ron is officially moved from filing and given orders to go undercover at a Black Panther meeting and wear a wire to get evidence of a potential race war that may be brewing.
A few days after the meeting, Ron is at his desk and sees an add in the paper for the Klu Klux Klan, and gives a call to the number provided. When the other line answers, Ron begins impersonating a white supremacist, and getting deep intel about the Klan. His new plan to uncover the secrets of the Klan appears full-proof, that is until the chapter president Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold) requests a face to face meeting with Ron. Knowing there is no way for him to actually go to this meeting, Ron's fellow detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), must go in his place and pretend to be Ron. Using Ron's phone persona, Flip finds himself as a secret imposter of the Klan, and able to get information previously undiscovered by law enforcement, allowing for an intense and dangerous undercover mission.
BlacKkKlansman is truly a movie unlike any other that I have seen. It has the ability to be quite funny at times, but yet completely horrifying given its' premise. Even though there certain aspects to the film that were fabricated, from what I understand, the content involving the Klan was very factual. We know the Klan existed, though it is still almost too terrible to believe to be real. It is hard to fathom how people could be so blind to what is right and wrong. The characters of this film face an almost impossible level of adversity, yet they do so with a wit and ease that is shocking at times, but unexpectedly humorous.
The editing and style in this film are some of my favorite things about it. It goes from 70's action cop sequences to heartbreaking moments of the characters' reality beginning to sink in. All pieces are excellent for the different feelings and reactions they evoke, making BlacKkKlansman to be a complicated film, where the audience goes from one heightened emotion to the next.
The acting in BlacKkKlansman is just as brilliant as the rest of the elements of the film. Even though you know the cast portraying the Klansmen are just acting, it is practically impossible not to think of them without feeling a deep hatred towards them and their actions. Adam Driver's portrayal of Flip as he's trying to convince the Klan of his identity is awe inspiring, yet unsettling. You worry with every moment that he's going to slip and reveal his secret, but his performance as an actor playing a role and a detective undercover, convince both the audience and the characters on the screen of his motives, whatever they may be in order to fit the circumstance. As far as John David Washington's performance, it is equally as memorable as Driver's. At the beginning of the undercover operation, Ron knows the stakes of the mission, but still he follows through with the assignment with a bit of excitement and cheek. However, as he gets deeper and deeper into the world of the Klan, you can see the events begin to take its' toll on him, and that is due to the impeccable performance given by Washington. His dedication to the character makes every moment of the movie believable, infuriating, and empowering.
I would not have considered myself a fan of Stan Lee before this film, but BlacKkKlansman definitely altered my overall opinion towards his work. I can honestly say I am disappointed Lee didn't win Best Director at the Academy Awards for this film, because it most definitely deserved it.
2019 Winner Best Adapted Screenplay- Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott,
Bohemian Rhapsody; a movie I enjoyed more for its' performances rather than the cinematography, but a well made tribute film nonetheless.
Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) knows that he is meant for something more than working at Heathrow Airport, but he hasn't been able to find a chance to escape his mundane life. One night, he goes to a club to see a band called Smile, only to discover that after the show, the group's lead singer has just quit the band. Freddie quickly tells the remaining members of his talent, but they aren't quick to believe him, that is until he sings.
Flash forward a year, and and Freddie and his band Queen have found moderate success around England, but when a new music manager gets ahold of their demo, the band's fame quickly increases. From that point on, Queen becomes a huge name around the world, and Freddie's personal life becomes flashier and wilder by the day. Fame impacts everyone differently, and it becomes clear to the other members of the band, especially Brian May (Gwilym Lee), that Freddie's lifestyle is not healthy for the group or for their lead singer's own personal health.
The acting in Bohemian Rhapsody far out weighs the skill of the rest of the film. The cast that make up Queen are excellent, making it incredibly easy to buy into the fact that they are the real group. Their passion for their music and the well being of their band mates are easily the best parts of the film and the moments that I found to be the most emotionally believable and genuine.
Of the performances that go along with an average biopic, the obvious stand out would be the role of Freddie played by Rami Malek. He disappears into the character, and the film would not have been anywhere near as impressive had he not been cast as the lead. His performance was well deserving of his Oscar win, even if the movie gave him a script that was a whirlwind rush through Freddie Mercury's life. My second favorite role was that of the guitar player, Brian May. He was clearly Freddie's moral compass, and seeing his connection with Malek's performance makes for some of the best scenes in the film.
The climax of Bohemian Rhapsody is hands down the movie's shining moment. It is not spoiling anything by saying Queen performed at Live Aid, and what the film excelled at, was giving this moment in Queen's history the longevity and respect it deserved. I am so pleased that they dedicated so much run time to that piece of the band's legacy. It is what really solidified my opinion on the excellence of the cast, but also gave me a better overall view of the film in general.
Even if I felt that Bohemian Rhapsody sped through the history and events leading up to Live Aid and tiptoed around any potentially gritty aspects of their lives, it was still a perfectly adequate biopic. I can't say that I am disappointed it didn't win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, as I don't feel it deserved the title, but the awards it did win were certainly well deserved.
2019 Winner Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role - Rami Malek
2019 Winner Best Achievement in Film Editing - John Ottman
2019 Winner Best Achievement in Sound Editing - John Warhurst & Nina Hartstone
2019 Winner Best Achievement in Sound Mixing- Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, & John Casali
In a dazzling collection of dance and song, Chicago is one of my personal favorite musical to film adaptations.
Amidst the 1920's, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a star amongst the Chicago nightclub scene. Her act comes to an abrupt end when she is arrested for the murder of her stage partner/sister and her husband. The same night, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) is out at Velma's club with the man she's having an affair with, Fred Casely (Dominic West). Roxie is dreaming of a life on the stage, and Fred promises her he can get her there.
A short time after the night of Velma's arrest, Roxie is at her home with Fred Casely, and he announces to her that he lied about his show business connections in order to get into bed with her. Enraged at this new information, Roxie grabs a gun from her dresser drawer then shoots and kills Casely. At first, her husband Amos (John C. Reilly) attempts to cover for Casely's death, but when he learns of her affair, he breaks the facade and Roxie is taken off to jail. It is not long before Roxie learns the ways of life in prison, and like Velma Kelly, is able to use her incarceration to her professional advantage.
Turning an acclaimed Broadway show into a film can sometimes be a miss, but Chicago is most certainly a hit. It can't be easy to take a story that was intended for stage and adapt it to the screen, and Chicago may be more challenging than some. There is a lot of juxtaposition between the real life jail sequences and the fantasy show business ones. The film makes these transitions seamless, having the flashy dream world and the drab reality become a perfect blend of pizzaz and drama.
A common trend in the modern musical, is casting actors who aren't necessarily known to be singers. Sometimes this works, other times not so much. Thankfully, Chicago is a case where the risks taken on the cast paid off; most notably being Catherine Zeta-Jones and John C. Reilly. Zeta-Jones is able to nail the jazz-baby look and voice, and really brings Velma to life. Reilly's character is perhaps the only decent person in the entire story, and is sadly the one who suffers the most grief. His song, "Mister Cellophane" is not only very emotional, but is probably one of the only times Amos gets any of the sympathy he deserves, and it's from the audience.
What Chicago does that is a bit unique in comparison to other like minded films, is uses the editing as part of its' choreography. This technique can be seen during the song "the Cell Block Tango". Instead of just having the camera follow the dancers, the cuts go to the beat of the music, and adds a brilliant element to the scenes entirety. In addition to its' editing, what makes Chicago such an excellent film is the visuals. In accordance with the its' stage source material, the movie uses color and shadow to paint the backdrop of its' song and dance sequences, creating silhouettes throughout the scenes. By doing so, the film achieves the rare accomplishment of presenting a movie musical that really feels like a stage performance.
Chicago is one of the first filmed musical adaptions that I can remember seeing, and I have grown more and more fond of it throughout the years. Though some may disagree, I personally feel that this film was incredibly well deserving of it's numerous Academy Award wins.
2003 Winner Best Picture- Chicago
2003 Winner Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Catherine Zeta-Jones
2003 Winner Best Art Direction-Set Direction- Johny Myre and Gordon Sim
2003 Winner Best Costume Design- Colleen Atwood
2003 Winner Best Film Editing- Martin Walsh
2003 Winner Best Sound- Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella, and David Lee
La La Land
Perhaps the finest modern movie musical to date, La La Land boasts a phenomenal cast and visuals you cannot turn your eyes from.
Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress who is making ends meet by working at a coffee shop on the Warner Brother's lot. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz musician who can't hold down his job as a pianist at restaurant. Both are determined to make it in their choice of career, but can't seem to officially break into the business.
After leaving a party, Mia hear's piano music coming from a restaurant and walks inside. She sees Sebastian playing, and goes to tell him how beautiful it was, but he pushes passed her, as he has just been fired. Months later, Mia and Sebastian encounter each other again at a party, where Sebastian is now playing in an 80's tribute band. Later that same night, the two walk with each other to find their cars and though they try and ignore it, they quickly hit it off. What follows is a whirlwind romance that will either hinder or help them achieve their creative dreams.
To start of this review, I feel it must be mentioned that I love old musicals and movies about making movies, so I went into this film with an incredibly biased outlook and a practical guarantee to love it. That being said, I was certainly not disappointed by my high expectations of the movie. When seeing this in the theaters, the moment the words "Presented in Cinemascope" spread across the screen, I was completely hooked. The film's story alone is wonderful, but the many added moments of nostalgia are what really sell it be such an incredible piece of cinema.
La La Land's concept of making a modern film that is strongly reminiscent of the classic musicals is innovative and exciting, and there's no way it would have worked as well had it not been for its' two leads. I have always felt that both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are unique in the sense that their looks and acting don't restrict them to portraying a character specific to any one time period. Even though the film is set in present day, Stone and Gosling are easily believable as stars from the golden age of Hollywood, so their dance sequences are very fitting to their characters and their style. Their on-screen chemistry is also undeniable, and really aids in the believability of the relationship between Sebastian and Mia.
Visually, La La Land is an impeccably beautiful film. Even if some of the color packed and heavily choreographed dance sequences don't feel completely organic, it doesn't matter. Most notably would be one of the final montages towards the end of the film. That scene and many others are so vivid and stunning, you are so completely lost in the cinematography, that when the film is over, you are almost stunned back into the reality of a far less colorful world.
One of the many facets of La La Land that I appreciate most, is the film's dedication to staying true to the classic musicals in which it was based upon. La La Land uses many tracking shots for its' dance numbers, and though this was likely a very arduous process, it showed how important it was to the creators to stay genuine to its' inspiration. It is not easy to make a new musical that will be successful, especially when it's a film, but La La Land is proof positive that no matter how difficult it may be, it is certainly possible; because it is a film to truly marvel at.
2017 Winner Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role- Emma Stone
2017 Winner Best Achievement in Directing- Damien Chazelle
2017 Winner Best Achievement in Cinematography- Linus Sandgren
2017 Winner Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) - Justin Hurwitz
2017 Winner Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) - "City of Stars"
2017 Winner Best Achievement in Production Design- David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris is a wonderfully inventive film that is truly unlike any other.
Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) are vacationing in Paris while visiting Inez's father who's there on business. While walking through the city, Gil expresses to Inez his thoughts that the best time period in history was the 1920's in Paris. Not only does Inez disagree, but appears disinterested as well and the two go off to look at some modern sights.
One night, when Inez goes dancing with Paul (Michael Sheen), a former friend she happened to bump into, Gil decides to take stroll around the city. Being a foreigner and slightly tipsy, he gets lost and is picked up by a car that appears to be from another time. When Gil gets in, he is taken to a party where everyone is dressed in period clothing from the 20's. At first Gil thinks it is just a theme party, that is until he is introduced to Zelda (Allison Pill) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston). Though he has no idea how, Gil quickly realizes that he has found a portal to the past, and proceeds to visit his ideal time and meet many of his creative minded heroes.
Midnight in Paris boasts and exceptional concept that is brilliantly carried out. It is a movie directed by an American that doesn't necessarily shine the cliche modern American in the most flattering light, but it is done with a clear purpose. By portraying stereotypical Americans as culture deprived narcissists, it makes the fantasy time-jump of Gil's seem more romantic and enchanting than it possibly could have. You are completely on board with Gil wanting to escape the constraints of modern society, and almost take a sigh of relief when Gil gets to go back to the seemingly carefree life of the 20s.
Midnight in Paris is a who's who of phenomenal actors. It is a movie where I actually didn't want to look at any credits, photographs, or trailers beforehand, because I wanted to be surprised whenever Gil met a 20's icon. Due to the movie's strong historical and intellectual base, I'm sure there were a few cultural references or figures that went passed me, but I know I recognized the vast majority of them. The many different actors who comprised the cast did an incredible job at bringing these historical legends to life and pulled you into the past right alongside Gil.
Of all the people in the film, Owen Wilson's character may have been the hardest to portray. His performance could have easily been overshadowed by the audience's desire to meet the characters from the 20's, but Wilson is able to make Gil just about as compelling as the people he meets. You'd think it would get old to see someone being constantly dumbfounded by their unusual circumstance, and in many movies it would, but somehow in Midnight in Paris, it doesn't. By being utterly shocked and confused at being in another era, Wilson makes a movie about time travel seem unexpectedly real.
Midnight in Paris is a movie that I have been meaning to watch for years. I had initially put off watching it because I am not usually the biggest Woody Allen or Owen Wilson fan, but I am thankful I finally got around to seeing it. Though I felt that it seemed too short and could have definitely gone on a bit longer, Midnight in Paris falls into the collection of the handful of movies that have caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it.
2011 Winner Best Original Screenplay- Woody Allen
A movie that swept the globe, Frozen is funny, magical, and heartwarming.
In the kingdom of Arendelle, young Princess Anna wakes her older sister Princess Elsa, in hopes to build a snowman...inside the palace. Elsa uses her ice powers to turn a room in their castle into a winter wonderland, but unfortunately her magic goes too far, and Anna is struck by her powers. The only way to heal her, is to have the memory of Elsa's magic wiped from her memory, and to have her ice powers concealed from the world.
Many years later, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is about to have her coronation to become Queen of Arendelle. Elsa and Anna (Kristen Bell) have had little to no contact since the day Anna was hit by the magic. Anna is overjoyed at the thought of finally meeting new people, but Elsa is terrified that she will not be able to control her powers and keep them a secret in front of the kingdom. Just as Elsa is feeling as if she is going to be able to make it through the evening, Anna announces to her that she is going to marry a man named Hans (Santino Fontana), whom she's just met. Not able to contain her emotions, Elsa loses control over her magic.
Though Frozen may be a film that many people are tired of, I for one still love this movie as much as the first time I saw it. The music is irresistibly catchy, the characters wonderfully charming, and it is visually stunning to look at. The scene for "Let It Go" alone shows how incredibly far movies have come in the world of animation. I'm sure it was the music and story that captivated the hearts of countless children all over the world, but the stunning colors and animated scenery had to have been a big part of the success as well.
Frozen was unique upon its' first release, because it focused on two princesses trying to save each other, rather than a princess being saved by a prince. Yes, as with almost any cartoon made by Disney, there is a love story involved in the plot, but it is not the central focus of the movie. Adding to the film's already unique concept, the movie also contains many moments that have a more serious tone than one would expect to find in a children's film. These scenes don't take away from the film's enjoyability; in fact, they aid in making the audience feel more connected to the characters, even though they are animated. Thankfully, the creators knew how to balance any seriousness with the addition of the classic Disney trademarks of quippy sidekicks and goofy animals. Sometimes, those characters can be a distraction, but in this case, they are just another set of lovable characters found in Arendelle
The song-writers behind Frozen, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, were thankfully, but not surprisingly, recognized for their work with an Academy Award win. It has been a long time since the music from a children's film has become as iconic as the songs from Frozen have. Even though I am an adult, and have seen this movie many times, I couldn't help but sing along during my most recent rewatch. It says a lot about a film, when even the people that are not in the target audience, can't help but be enchanted by it.
What Disney has almost always been able to do, is make movies that are beloved by viewers of all ages. I was an adult when Frozen came out, but that did not hinder my ability to love it in any way. Of course there are scenes in the movie that may be a bit too silly for a grown-up's sense of humor, but it is intended for children, so that's to be expected. Frozen has become such an iconic film, well deserving of its' legendary status. So much so, that I can't ever imagine a time where the magic of Frozen will ever fade.
2013 Winner Best Original Song "Let It Go"- Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
2013 Winner Best Animated Feature- Frozen
Get Out is a groundbreaking film that will make you both laugh and jump out of your seat in fright.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a photographer who is about to go away for the weekend to meet his girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) family. Though he is happy to be invited to her childhood home, he is a little uneasy with the fact that Rose's family does not know that he is black. With Rose's assurance that everything will be just fine, the two head out for the weekend.
Once arriving at her parent's house, things seem to be as normal as they can be. Her father, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) appears to be trying a bit too hard, but nothing out of the ordinary. Though a little unsettled, Chris does his best to appear at ease with the events of the weekend. That all changes when the Armitages host a garden party consisting of their close friends. It is not long before Chris begins to notice that something is definitely not right.
When Get Out first hit theaters, it caused a major buzz amongst the film world. The hype it received was absolutely warranted. Going into the movie, you expect to be watching a straight horror film, but there is an effortless humor to it that makes watching Get Out a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The laughs are some of the better moments of comedy I have seen in awhile, with the scares being equally as original.
One of the most talked about pieces to Get Out is the way in which the film tackles the topic of race. This movie is clearly about the issues that can arise when someone is put in the presence of close-minded people, and it comes off in a topical and relevant way, without beating the viewer over the head with it. It is clear that director and writer, Jordan Peele, wanted the racial commentary to be clearly present throughout the film, but not be the sole focus of the plot. By doing so, the message is presented in a more accessible way to its' audience.
The performances in Get Out are not only genuinely frightening, but they are incredibly believable as well. When Chris arrives at the Armitage's home, you can see that there's something off with their hired help, but you just can't quite put your finger on it. By downplaying the idiosyncrasies, the horror is heightened. It leaves the viewer with an incredible sense of unease, and that subtlety is just part of the many brilliant aspects to Get Out.
Get Out is the type of movie that warrants multiple viewings, and that cannot be said for many films within the horror genre. Get Out is not just a great scary movie, but is an all around excellent film. It is one of the few times where a movie that you would not expect to receive the main stream accolades it deserves, actually gets recognized for its' greatness.
2018 Winner Best Original Screenplay - Jordan Peele
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man Who Knew Too Much is another strong outing for legendary director, Alfred Hitchcock.
After leaving a medical conference in France, Doctor Ben McKenna (James Stewart) his wife Jo (Doris Day), and their son Hank (Christopher Olsen) have made it to the French Morocco for a vacation. While on the bus to their hotel, Hank accidentally removes the veil of a woman, and angers her husband. Thankfully, a mysterious frenchman named Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin), comes to his aid, and befriends the McKenna family, though Jo isn't so convinced this new friend is as amiable as he seems.
Upon arrival at their hotel, Jo notices an older couple staring at them. Feeling ill at ease, she is hesitant to go out to dinner, but is convinced by Ben that everything will be alright. While at dinner, Jo and Ben see the same couple from before, but are relieved to find out they are just fans of Jo's past work on the stage. The next day at the market, chaos ensues and in a matter of minutes, Hank is taken, and Ben and Jo are suddenly in a race against time to save their son from his kidnappers.
Unlike some of Hitchcock's more famous films such as Psycho and Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much focuses more on adrenaline than fear. There isn't really a frightening element for the audience, but there definitely is one for its' main characters. In Ben and Jo's frantic search for their son, the viewer is immersed into the film for every moment, wondering what is going to become of Hank.
Of the two leads, Doris Day was not as experienced in dramatic roles as her costar was, but that certainly did not hold her back in any way. When she is informed by her husband that their son has been taken, her raw emotion is painfully genuine. Not only is her character strong and powerful in the search for her child, but she is also soft spoken, gentle, and incredibly believable as a mother desperately trying to save her son. Of course, James Stewart was excellent in this film, as he almost always is, but for me, Doris Day was the definite standout role.
As much as I love The Man Who Knew Too Much, I don't think it would crack the top five of my favorite Hitchcock films. This is mainly for two reasons. Personally, I felt that the beginning of the movie dragged on a bit in its' attempt to set up the necessary information needed for the central plot. Yes, I know there was a lot of important backstory, but it could potentially have been cut down just a tad. The second reason would be for the film's resolution. Without going into too much detail, all I can really say is that it felt a bit anticlimactic considering everything the two main characters went through during the film's duration.
With Hitchcock's directorial skill, even his potentially less impressive work, is almost always well above most movies of the thriller genre. With all that being said, The Man Who Knew Too Much, though not the best Hitchcock movie, is still an excellent film.
1957 Best Music, Original Song- Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Though a bit long winded by today's standards, Mary Poppins will forever be a magical classic.
In the early 1900's, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) Banks are the two children of uptight banker, George Banks (David Tomlinson). They have a history of tormenting their nannies, and their most recent one has just fled the home. Desperate for order to return to his household, George Banks decides to write a new advertisement for the paper. Jane and Michael have also written up their wishes for their nanny, but George banks considers it foolish, rips it up, and throws the pieces in the fireplace.
Answering the hopes of Jane and Michael, Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) magically floats down from the sky and lands on the doorstep of the Banks family. With the help of the local Jack of all trades, Burt (Dick Van Dyke), Mary Poppins not only helps the Banks' become a stronger family, but brings a whole lot of enchantment along the way.
What makes Mary Poppins continue to be such a classic, is the wonderful music, and the legendary performance by its' title role. Watching this movie, it has the trademarks of a 60's movie musical, with its' longer than ten minute dance sequences and bright colors. For a new viewer, this may seem a bit excessive, but for anyone who finds those traits charming, they will love it.
If you really think about it, Mary Poppins is not exactly the most likable character, what with her shameless narcissism and no nonsense attitude, but Andrews not only makes her lovable, she makes her iconic. It is Andrews' impeccable voice, effortless beauty, and brilliant performance that makes Poppins to be such a wonderful role, and one that earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress.
When you consider the fact that Mary Poppins was made in the 60's, the special effects are really quite astonishing. To see real life people dancing side by side with cartoons, is still just as exciting to watch, even by today's standards. The combination of the musical numbers in and out of Mary Poppins' magical world help the movie to find a great balance. Just when the film hits its' peak of color and whimsy, it switches over to a scene that is more rooted in reality; making Mary Poppins well deserving of its' renowned status in the Disney world.
Mary Poppins has always held a special place in my heart. It is one of the movies that I can distinctly remember watching as a child and one that always brings me joy. When I watch it now as an adult, I am transported back to a simpler time where all I needed in the world was to see Dick Van Dyke dance with penguins, and a magical nanny clean using the power of song.
1965 Best Actress in a Leading Role- Julie Andrews
1965 Best Film Editing- Cotton Warburton
1965 Best Effects, Special Visual Effects- Peter Ellenshaw, Hamilton Luske, Eustace Lycett
1965 Best Music, Original Song- Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman
1965 Best Music, Substantially Original Score- Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman
With a unique story and wonderful soundtrack, Brave is perhaps one of the more visually stunning films put out by Pixar.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald), is a princess in a kingdom in Scotland. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) expects her daughter to be a perfect lady, but all Merida wants to do is be free, ride her horse, shoot her arrows, and be in command of her own fate.
Merida has been able to deal with her princess lessons, knowing that when they were over she would be able to spend time practicing her archery and enjoying her life. That all changes when Merida has discovered that her mother has invited the lords from the neighboring clans in order for their first born to fight for Merida's hand in marriage. Feeling incredibly unprepared to be married, Merida desperately searches for a way to change her mother's mind, and to her own fate.
Brave may not be the most popular of the films made by Pixar, but that doesn't impact my own opinion of it. Personally, I really love this film. The plot doesn't feel as compacted as other animated films, and is quieter and less flashy. I really appreciate Pixar's ability to tell a wonderful story, without putting too much color and action on the screen.
Another element to Brave that I love is the authenticity of the voices provided by the actors in the film. The majority of the main characters are from Scotland, so their genuine accents add a wonderful level of realism to the film. The only large speaking role that isn't provided by an actor from Scotland is Emma Thompson as Elinor. Even so, her accent is impeccable, and almost impossible to distinguish as being any different from the rest. To me, it seemed that Pixar felt it more important to trust in the legitimacy of their story, rather than the star power of big named actors, and it really helped sell the concept of the film.
Looking at the other movies put out by Pixar, they all involve some sort of otherworldly element that makes the story rooted outside reality. That being said, I feel that Brave is one of the few where I can really visualize it as a live action film. Yes, there is a strong plot point involving magic, but the legends within the story, the voice acting, and the seriousness of some of the scenes, makes Brave, in my opinion, one of the more compelling and emotional Pixar movies.
Brave is the odd man out when it comes to Disney/Pixar films. Merida doesn't sing, so that sets her apart from the other Disney princesses, and the general color scheme and story are quite dark, which brings it away from the typical Pixar movie. Perhaps I like Brave so much, because of its' rebellious qualities, or maybe it's just because it is such an enchanting film.
2013 Best Animated Feature Winner- Brave
In what is most likely considered an unexpected Oscar win, Spotlight is intense and brilliantly done.
In July of 2001, five reporters who work for an investigative team called "Spotlight" at the Boston Globe, are hunting for their next story. The new editor of the Globe, Marty Baron (Liev Shrieber) meets with the members of Spotlight and tells them he would like them to begin investigating the cases of alleged sexual abuse by certain priests of the Catholic church.
Though reluctant at first, the Spotlight team agrees to investigate the story, unearthing more information than they had bargained for. Though it started out with interviewing one man, Phil Saviano, the Spotlight team learn that it is not just one priest accused of the allegations, but as little as thirteen who may have committed these heinous acts. Determined now to not only find the truth behind these cover ups from the Church, but to also find justice for the victims, the Spotlight team fights a race against time and power in order to do what's right and uncover a scandal bigger than they could have ever imagined.
When making a film based on a true events, not only do you have the pressure of creating a movie that will be well received by its' audiences, but there is also the added struggle of keeping the plot accurate to the real events in which it is based upon. Before seeing Spotlight, I did not know much about the scandal that was uncovered by the Spotlight team. However, since watching the film, I have done some research of my own, and learned that the movie tried very hard to stay true to its' source material. Not only is that an important thing for any film based on real events to do, but it is perhaps even more important for Spotlight to have done this, given the seriousness of the film's topic. Had they added in an unnecessary amount fabrications to add "drama", as some films do, it would take significantly take away from the movie's overall impact.
Part of what makes Spotlight not only incredibly believable, but powerful as well, is the cast members that make up the film. While watching Mark Ruffalo, who plays Spotlight team member Mike Rezendes, it is clear that he is emanating the characteristics of a real life person and not someone who has been created for the purpose of a story. There are subtle mannerisms he portrays, from the way he moves his mouth while talking, to consistently putting his hands in his pockets, where Ruffalo disappears and Rezendes takes his place. Alongside Ruffalo's performance, is the incredible work done by the rest of the Spotlight team members. Each person is impacted in a different way by the horrendous information they find, and their reactions are what makes the film's content really take a hold of the viewer. It is as if you are investigating the case with them, and are just as anxious to get to the story out to the world as they are.
Similar to the film Zodiac, Spotlight focuses a lot on the journalism side of investigations, rather than just the legal side of it. Though the members of Spotlight contained no powers for arrest, they were able to bring justice through the power of determination and their written words. Given the intense amount of investigation that was done by the members of Spotlight, the film could easily have been much longer than two hours. By focusing on the main aspects of the story, and not going too deep into detail, it makes the movie to be more accessible to its' viewers, and allows the true importance of its' plot be heard.
Upon first watching Spotlight, I was really taken aback by how impressive the film was. I knew that it had won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but other than that, I hadn't heard very much about it. The collection of the performances by its' cast, alongside the writing and fast-paced storyline, all comes together to create a stunning addition to the world of cinema.
2016 Best Picture Winner- Spotlight
2016 Best Original Screenplay Winner- John Singer and Tom McCarthy
Miracle on 34th Street
Probably one of the greatest Christmas films in existence, Miracle on 34th Street is perhaps the most magical and heartwarming holiday classic of all time.
Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), is the coordinator for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the hired Santa turns up intoxicated, Doris must quickly find a replacement. To her surprise and delight, a mysterious older gentleman who goes by the name Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) and bears a striking resemblance to Santa, arrives at the parade and volunteers to be on the Christmas float. Once the parade is in session, Doris returns to her apartment to be with her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood). It is there she sees that Susan is spending time with their new neighbor, Fred (John Payne). Fred is trying his best to get Susan to believe in the magic of Christmas, but her mother has taught her not to put her hopes into fairytales.
The next day, Fred takes Susan to Macy's so she can see Santa. Kris Kringle, who has been hired as the department store Santa, is there listening to children's wishes. In an effort to give each child the Christmas of their dreams, Kris tells a parent where they can get a toy for their child, and its' not at Macy's. Suddenly, Kris has put the Christmas spirit back into the season, and his enchantment begins to spread throughout New York City. Though Kris knows himself to be Santa Claus and has many people believing it as well, it is Doris and Susan who need the most convincing.
If the film wasn't in black and white, it would still be clear that Miracle on 34th Street is a movie from an older time. It portrays Christmas in a scaled down and simplistic way, and focuses more on the importance of giving and love during Christmas, rather than flashy toys or commercialism. Of course, given that the movie is set in a Macy's department store, there is corporate talk of money making during the busiest shopping season of the year, but it is the soft and and gentle enchantment of Edmund Gwenn's Kris Kringle, that wonderfully steals the show.
Though she was only eight years old, Natalie Wood's work in the film should go on record as one greatest performances by a child in film. Her character is skeptical and spunky, and makes you take the journey of learning to believe, right alongside her. Maureen O'Hara's character is that of a loving, but very protective mother. She only wants the best for her daughter, even if that means refusing to let her waste her time on fantasies. O'Hara is able to show the growth needed of her character, to not only allow her daughter to embrace the magic, but to open her own heart to Christmas as well.
Christmas movies are not the types of films that are ever up for Academy Awards, yet Miracle of 34th Street won three. It is impossible to watch this film, and not see the remarkable skill behind its' story and performances. Edmund Gwenn won for best supporting actor, and I truly feel there have been few as deserving as he. While watching the movie, it is impossible not to be captivated by his smile, and the twinkle in his eye. It is because of his performance that, by the end of the film, you can't help but believe him to be the real Kris Kringle and in his magic.
Thought it was made so many years ago, Miracle on 34th Street feels more important now than ever. When you watch the movie, there is an inexplicable warmth that fills your heart, as you see the true meaning of the holiday take form. It is a film that has the ability to make you want to give rather than receive, and to be loving rather than unkind. When the Christmas season approaches, I get excited, not just because of the holiday, but because it means I finally get the opportunity to watch Miracle on 34th Street again.
1948 Winner Best Actor in a Supporting Role- Edmund Gwenn
1948 Winner Best Writing, Original Story- Valentine Davies
1948 Winner Best Writing, Screenplay- Valentine Davies
Some Like It Hot
Hilarious, entertaining, and progressive for its' time, Some Like It Hot is well deserving of its' legendary status.
Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are two struggling musicians working in a speakeasy in the year 1929. When their place of work gets raided by the police, the two men are out of a job and in need of money. They go to see several talent agents, and are told of a band on its' way to Florida in need of a bassist and a saxophone player. The only catch; it's an all girls band. Jerry thinks they have an opportunity to make some good money, as long as they pretend to be women; Joe however, is not keen on the idea.
Taking a different job that is a fair distance away, Joe and Jerry go to a garage to borrow a car belong to a friend of Joe's. While in the garage, Joe and Jerry accidentally witness seven gang members get gunned down by big time crime boss, Spats Colombo. In an effort to flee the scene and Spats' goons, Joe and Jerry put on disguises and hop on the train to join the all female band as Josephine and Daphne. On the train they meet band member, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), and the two guys realize that pretending to be women is going to be a lot harder than they anticipated.
Some Like It Hot was the first film that I had ever seen Marylin Monroe in, and it was definitely an excellent first choice. Though her acting definitely wasn't as skilled or well polished as the work done by Tony Curtis or Jack Lemmon, she definitely held her own against the two male leads. Her character states in the very beginning that she isn't very intelligent, but Monroe makes her appear more naive and childish rather than dumb. Sugar could easily have been an annoying character, what with her simple minded ideals and breathy voice, but Monroe's allure and star quality make her not only likable, but a character you are rooting for.
Given the time period in which this film was made, it is really quite surprising what got passed the Hollywood censors. There are moments where Sugar's costumes are more than a little revealing and Joe and Jerry's intimate thoughts about the women in the band aren't exactly represented in a subtle way. However, without those additions to the movie, the film would not be nearly as good as it is. The fact that Some Like It Hot seemed to push the envelope, makes it all the more enjoyable. You feel as if you are watching something almost too scandalous for its' time, which aids in creating the film's compelling and comedic atmosphere.
Of the two male stars of the film, it is really hard to decide which one I consider to be more amusing. As tough of a choice as it is, if I had to choose, I would say Jack Lemmon narrowly surpasses Tony Curtis. It is Lemmon's comedic timing and ability to change his facial expressions to fit the scene that made me continuously laugh throughout the film. That being said, Lemmon has more of the intentionally funny scenes and lines throughout the film, whereas Curtis possesses a slightly more straight-laced character arc. Together, the two create an immensely humorous duo, and their on screen chemistry is one of the many reasons Some Like It Hot is such an excellent film.
Some Like It Hot is a rare film of its' genre, where it is both intelligent and intriguing, which are two concepts that are commonly missing from the comedic genre. It is the type of movie that you can watch over and over again, without ever getting tired of the story. One viewing of Some Like It Hot will prove to any viewer, why it is considered such a classic.
1960 Academy Award Winner-Best Costume Design, Black and White- Orry-Kelly
In usual Pixar fashion, Ratatouille presents a charming, creative, and lovable film for viewers of all ages.
Remy (Patton Oswalt), lives within his family's rat colony, but doesn't feels as if he fits in. Where they are all see food as fuel and are contented eating off the street, Remy is able to smell and taste every ingredient. In order to make his culinary creations come to fruition, Remy sneaks into the kitchen of the human's house his family lives over. While in her home, he is able to watch the cooking show hosted by the visionary Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett). It is here that Remy realizes his true dream in life is to become a chef just like Gusteau.
When Remy's culinary escapades expose his family's nest, they are forced to evacuate. In the mass panic, Remy gets separated from his family, and finds himself floating through the sewers, all the way into the heart of Paris. After noticing the large neon sign, Remy makes his way towards Guseau's restaruant. It is here that he meets Linguini (Lou Ramano); a newly hired garbage man who dreams of being a chef, but has no talent for cooking. Though hectic at first, Remy and Linguini begin to form an unlikely partnership.
One of the many things that Pixar is famous for, is their impeccable attention to detail. Though I may not be a trained chef, it is clear to see the amount of effort that went into making every cooking scene in Ratatouille appear accurate and realistic. It is that remarkable amount of effort that not only makes the food in the film look real, but be incredibly appetizing as well.
Pixar films are never fully based in reality, but that doesn't hinder the enjoyability of the movie. Even if you know the concept of a rat being able to cook is ludicrous, you are still rooting for Remy from beginning to end. Ratatouille has an immediate magic to it, and that is not only due to its' brilliant production company, but to its' voice actors as well. Patton Oswalt gives Remy's voice the passion for cooking that is needed to sell the entire plot of the film. Had Remy not appeared as infatuated with the culinary world as he did, the viewers would not have been as easily enthralled with the innovative story line. Voice casting is just another way that Pixar is able to prove their superiority over other animation production companies.
When I first watched Ratatouille, I was a little taken aback at the maturity of some of its' material. This is by no means a negative remark on the film; in fact its' just the opposite. By not dumbing down their material for the sake of being a children's film, Ratatouille becomes a well thought out and intelligent animated feature. The creators didn't shy away from presenting complex characters or plot lines, and by doing so, they make Linguini seem like a real person, and not just an image created on a computer.
Though it may not be the most talked about, Ratatouille is one of my personal favorite Pixar films. It may not have the heightened action of the Incredibles, or the touching story behind Up, but it is still a wonderful movie. It is truly one of a kind, and thanks to all the little details put in by the creators, is very easy to watch over and over.
2008 Winner Best Animated Feature Film-Ratatouille
In a collection of incredible performances, The Help is heartwarming, emotional, and impressively done.
In the town of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, a young college graduate named Skeeter (Emma Stone) has just returned home. Within the first few days of her return, Skeeter meets up with her high school friends, and discovers that she has nothing in common with their new lifestyles. She realizes her friends now spend most of their time ignoring their children and ordering their maids around, to which Skeeter is happy to not fit in with.
Pushing herself further away from her "friends", Skeeter takes a job at her local paper answering an advice column called Miss Myrna, which specializes in housekeeping questions. In order to give accurate advice, Skeeter asks to interview some of her friend's maids. As she begins her discussions, Skeeter realizes that there is a greater story to be told, and that is the unspoken tales of the lives of African American maids and how they are treated by their employers. Knowing this is a risky endeavor, Skeeter first approaches a maid named Aibileen (Viola Davis), and hopes that with her help, she can get other women to tell their stories, and change the way of life in Jackson, Mississippi.
There are many scenes in The Help where you laugh along with the spunk of the characters, but there are also moments in the movie where the emotions being brought to the screen are almost too real to bear. It's one thing for a movie to make you tear up, but it's a whole other situation when a film can make you have tears consistently streaming down your face for the entirety of a scene, and even after the movie is over. The Help is a film that did this to me. It is a testament to not only the performances in the film, but also to the writers, that the movie is able to evoke that level of emotion from its' viewers.
The Help was nominated for four Academy Awards and won one, given to Octavia Spencer for her supporting role as Minny Jackson. Spencer's performance was wonderful, and incredibly deserving of its' Oscar win. That being said, it was the work done by Viola Davis and a very short scene with Cicely Tyson that stuck out to me as the most memorable. Davis did win an Oscar a few years after this movie's release, but I personally feel she should have won for this film alongside Octavia Spencer. Her character exudes power and strength, but secretly struggles with her own internal battles. Davis finds the perfect equilibrium with her character's many hardships, doing so in a remarkably touching way.
One of the many things I love about filmmaking, is the color schemes in which the creators decide to use to help their movie emulate a specific time period or atmosphere. Many times, the tinting of the movie is not a natural tone that we would experience in real life, but is necessary in order for the film to have the right feel. In The Help, there is a general overtone of muted yellows, greens, and lavenders throughout the movie. By sticking to this color palate, every scene instantly puts the viewer into the correct time period, and pulls them right in with the characters of the film.
The Help is a movie that I had wanted to see for a long time, but I had never gotten around to it, due its' longer than average run time. I can honestly say that the film could have been two hours longer and I wouldn't have minded. Every aspect of the film makes the movie practically impossible to take your eyes from the screen, and even though I watched it only a few days ago, I am already wanting to watch it again.
2012 Academy Award Winner Best Actress in a Supporting Role-Octavia Spencer
Where the mob meets 60's Batman, you will find Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy.
Set in an undisclosed time period and in a world where gang villains are named only by their bizarre features, detective Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) is on a mission to clean up the streets. In order to do so, he must take down big time mobster, Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino).
Caprice is trying to take over the town through illegal gambling and drinking, but he knows that Tracy is going to be the major hitch in his plan. With the help of his boys, Caprice does his best to get Tracy out of the way, but success appears to be an impossible feat. It is only when a mysterious faceless villain , a lounge singer named Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), and a young homeless boy who goes by the name "Kid" (Charlie Korsmo), all come into the picture, that Tracy's wits are truly tested.
The first time I watched Dick Tracy, I was very unfamiliar with the comic strip in which it was based upon, so I was taken aback by the outlandish look of the mobsters in the film. Once I learned more about the film's source material, I was able to fully take the film in for how great it was. The color scheme throughout the movie is jarring in all the best ways, making for an incredibly bold and eccentric story.
Warren Beatty performance as the straight laced detective sets the tone for the film, and though his character is very one dimensional, Beatty makes Tracy to be intriguing. Though they may not be the main characters in the movie, it is the scenes between Tracy's girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly), and the Kid that are my favorites. The two have an effortless chemistry with one another, and they also aid in humanizing Tracy's character.
When a film is as heavily stylized as Dick Tracy is, it is practically impossible to compare it to other movies. It is one of a kind in both its' characters and its' creative choices. The backgrounds in Dick Tracy were clearly painted sets, and by doing so, it helps in the film's attempts to stay true to its' comic strip material. Personally, I appreciate it when movies don't use computerized effects, and had Dick Tracy relied on technology rather than artistry and costumes, I don't think it would have had the same impressive result.
I have always been oddly fascinated by stories based around organized crime, but sometimes they are too emotionally heavy and violent to sit down and relax with. That's what so nice about Dick Tracy; it has all the action and plot twists of a mob movie, but presents in a fairly light hearted and colorful way.
1991 Academy Award Winner Best Art Direction/Set Decoration-Richard Sylbert and Rick Simpson
1991 Academy Award Winner Best Makeup- John Caglione Jr. and Doug Drexler
1991 Academy Award Winner Best Music Original Song- Stephen Sondheim "Sooner or Later"
The Blind Side
Though it may be predictable, The Blind Side is still heartwarming and charming.
Seventeen year old Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) comes from an incredibly rough part of Austin. Due to his drug addicted mother, he has now become a ward of the state and finds himself being homeless. One night, while walking to the school gym for shelter, the Tuohy family notices him wandering in the cold night. The mother, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) invites him to stay at their home.
Quickly, the Tuohy family take a liking to Michael, and begin to treat him like a member of the family. The Tuohy's are huge football fans, and given Michael's size, try and get him to go out for the school football team. Though his grades are not great, Michael works hard in order to play for his high school. With people in the community taking notice of Michael's football skill and the unusual circumstances of his new life, the Tuohy family and Michael must learn to stick together in order to triumph over adversity.
Almost every single sports film in the world is going to follow a similar patten. They are almost always based on true events, and they are most commonly some form of an underdog story. The Blind Side definitely fits into that pattern, but that is one of the reasons it is an uplifting movie. You have a pretty good idea of what the final outcome of the story will be, but you are looking forward to see how the characters will get there.
When this film was originally released in 2009, the main thing that was talked about was the performance given by Sandra Bullock. This film earned her an Oscar, and it does feel well deserved. Leigh Anne Tuohy doesn't go through any major hardships or transformations throughout the story, but she is consistently protective and strong for her family, and Bullock never lets that sentiment falter.
Part of the appeal to sports films, is the excitement and energy that usually is brought to the screen by its' story. The Blind Side does have more quiet moments than some other sports movies that I have seen, but it certainly has its' fair share of scenes that get your heart going. Oddly enough, those don't always come from the scenes showing Michael playing football, but from scenes where Leigh Anne is fighting for Michael's rights. It is the combination of the action filled football scenes, and the heartfelt moments between Michael and the Tuohy's that make the Blind Side not disappear into the collection of the numerous other football movies out there.
I doubt that there are any fans of football or sports movies that have not at least heard of the Blind Side, but if they haven't, then they certainly should see this film. It has all the checkpoints for a great sports movie, and is entertaining from beginning to end.
2010 Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role- Sandra Bullock
Sense and Sensibility
With a phenomenal script written by Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility will forever be one of my favorite films.
The four Dashwood sisters have just suffered the loss of their father, and their wealth. According to law, all of their father's money is to be inherited by their half-brother, and thanks to their sister in law Fannie, they are now expected to survive on only 500 pounds a year, as well as be forced to leave their estate. Before officially moving to their new cottage, the eldest sister Elinor (Emma Thompson) begins to fall in love with a man named Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), but he is called away before their romance can officially bloom.
Once in their new home, Marianne (Kate Winslet) finds herself being courted by John Willoughby (Greg Wise), who is strongly disliked by their new family friend, Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman). With so many new faces in the lives of the Dashwood women, the ladies will need to rely on one another more than ever in order to navigate their unexpected challenges.
Sense and Sensibility was the first period piece and Jane Austen story that I had ever experienced. The moment I was introduced to the language, style, and concept of this film, I was hooked. Every time that I watch Sense and Sensibility, I am immediately mesmerized by it, and can't help but be pulled into the beautiful world created by the original novel and the creators of the film.
Even before I had seen this movie, I had loved the acting style of Alan Rickman. Most notably, I had seen him in the Harry Potter series, but I had never seen him in something where his character is supposed to be so gallant and chivalrous. The combination of his voice and his effortless skill as an actor, Rickman makes his performance as Colonel Brandon to be the most memorable in the film. Alongside Rickman's brilliant portrayal, Emma Thompson's work as Elinor is equally as stunning. Though Elinor's mother is a prominent character in the story, Thompson's portrayal makes Elinor appear to be the matriarchal figure in the family. She gives her character the strength as the protector, but is sure to bring Elinor's own troubles to the surface, but in a subtle way.
When a film is a period piece, there is always the added difficulty of not only making a movie that will be well received, but also have it appear to be set in the right time frame. Right from the start, Sense and Sensibility transports the viewer into its' world. There is not a single piece to the film that allows to viewer to remember that the movie was made in the 90's and that the actors were not actually living in the 1800's. The set and costume designers of the film most certainly deserve just as much credit as the director and actors.
Whenever I am in need of something to lift my spirits, I almost always turn to Sense and Sensibility. There is an indescribable magic that I associate with this film. No matter what, I will always love this movie just as much as the first time I watched it, and I know that will never change.
1996 Best Writing, Screenplay on Material Previously Produced or Published- Emma Thompson
Filled with Tim Burton's strange, colorful, and bizarre trademarks, Beetlejuice is definitely one of the famed director's best.
Simple and happily married couple, Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitland, are excited for their at home vacation. On their way home from a routine trip to the hardware store, the Maitland's swerve their car to avoid hitting a dog, and their car plunges off a bridge and into a river.
When the Maitland's return to their home, they begin to notice peculiar changes in the house, including a book titled "Handbook for the Recently Deceased". Along with the realization that they are ghosts, comes a new family that has bought their home and plans to invade and completely renovate it. In order to rid their beloved house of its' new inhabitants, the Maitlands take to drastic measures and look into hiring a bio-exorcist named Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). What seemed like a good idea quickly turns into more than they bargained for, and the Maitlands find themselves way in over their heads.
Tim Burton's career has proven that he is a master of the unusual, and Beetlejuice is a prime example of that. From the very beginning, this film is unlike any other, but Burton's style exudes such a sense of confidence, that you don't question any of the offbeat choices that he makes. He has the ability to take a scene of a claymation sand snake chasing Alec Baldwin, not only appear sensical and important to the plot, but somehow, almost normal.
With a cast full of colorful roles, it is expected that the title character would be the most memorable. Michael Keaton's role could have been seen as an impossible task. He had the challenge of creating a character who lacks any real life reference, and also had to make it so Betelgeuse wouldn't be so far fetched that the audience would lose any connection with him. Not only did Keaton generate a character that perfectly matched the tone and atmosphere of the film, but he also created an icon. Of the numerous Tim Burton characters and films, Keaton's Betelgeuse is most certainly one of the most legendary.
Part of what makes almost any Tim Burton film so compelling, is his use of visual effects and color. Having the family that moves into the Maitland's home be into surreal design aesthetics, allows for Burton to stretch his creativity to its' farthest reach, and in turn have an extremely unique setting for an equally odd story. That's one of the great things about Beetlejuice; there's so much going on in the house, that every time you watch it, you notice something new.
Beetlejuice is a movie that I took too long to finally watch. For the longest time I had an aversion towards Tim Burton films, and I think that is because for a short period of time, I had only seen the work of his that had received less than stellar reviews. Once I saw Beetlejuice, I was immediately hooked on the story and style, and now it is always one of my go to movies to watch during the Halloween season.
1989 Academy Award Winner for Best Make Up- Ve Neil, Steve LaPorte, and Robert Short
Little Miss Sunshine
A movie that holds nothing back, Little Miss Sunshine is daring, humorous, and touching.
The Hoover family is not like many others. The father, Richard (Greg Kinnear) is in the process of trying to make it big as a motivational speaker, and uses his patented "Nine Steps" to influence his parenting. Richard's father Edwin (Alan Arkin) lives with the Hoovers due to the fact that he was kicked out of his retirement home for selling heroine. The mother, Sheryl (Toni Collette), is just trying to keep her family glued together, but learns that her brother Frank (Steve Carrell) has tried to commit suicide and cannot be left alone, so he has to move in as well. Frank must sleep in the same room as Richard and Sheryl's son Dwayne, (Paul Dano) who has taken a vow of silence until he can get into flight school. The only seemingly "normal" person in the family, is seven year old Olive (Abigail Breslin). Olive is kind to everyone, and though she may not fit the typical "look", she wants nothing more than to compete in beauty pageants.
When Olive learns that she has become runner up in a local pageant and is now qualified to go to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California, the whole family goes along for the trip. Given the collection of unusual characters that make up the Hoover family, the trip is destined to be a doozy.
Little Miss Sunshine was the first time I had every seen an indie comedy-drama, and it was a wonderful introduction into the genre. I had never experienced a film that could make me laugh, but could also pack an incredibly strong emotional punch. It is thanks namely to the cast and writers that this movie made such a large impact on me.
Though the Hoover family is incredibly dysfunctional, they all agree on one thing, and that is they want the best for Olive. Part of what makes Little Miss Sunshine so wonderful, is the scenes in which the family is protecting Olive or just trying to make her happy. Those scenes break the palpable family tension that is present throughout the movie, and also adds an instantly heartwarming element to the film.
Whenever I watch movies where one of the main characters is a child, and their performance is truly remarkable, I always wonder how someone so young is able to bring such a sense of realism to their character, and Abigail Breslin's portrayal of Olive is definitely one of those times. Though she did not win the Academy Award that she was nominated for, it still makes me incredibly happy that she was recognized for her work, because her acting in this film is simple, yet powerful. The rest of the cast give equally impressive performances, and together they create the unique and troubled Hoover family that shows their love in the most peculiar ways.
Of course I know that Little Miss Sunshine wasn't the first film of its' kind, but to me it appeared to be the catalyst for similarly styled movies to follow suit. The other films that I have seen that seem to bear a resemblance are not bad movies whatsoever, but they still can't match the ingenuity and boldness that make Little Miss Sunshine such a memorable film.
Academy Award Winner:
2007 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role - Alan Arkin
2007 Best Writing, Original Screenplay- Michael Arndt
In perhaps the most tear inducing Pixar film ever, Up is heartwarming and full of adventure.
As a child, Carl Fredrickson wanted nothing more than to be like the famous explorer, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), and dreamed of some day going on his own adventures. One fateful day, he meets a girl named Ellie, who shares his spirit and dreams, and they quickly form a life long relationship and romance.
Years later, Carl (Edward Asner) is now widowed, and the house he and Ellie called home is being surrounded by city developments. When the construction workers knock down Carl's mailbox, he hits one of the men, and is forced to move to a retirement home. In order to escape his predicament, Carl attaches countless balloons to his home and takes to the skies for an adventure. Unbeknownst to Carl, a young boy named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who earlier had appeared at his door looking to earn his final scout badge, has accidentally made it into the air with Carl, and is now along for the trip to Paradise Falls.
Pixar is no stranger to making its' viewers cry, but I think Up may the most famous for it. I doubt if anyone can get through the first ten minutes of the film without reaching for tissues. It is a major testament to the creators behind Up that they can make a film that was not only nominated for Best Animated Feature, but Best Motion Picture as well, and it is most certainly due to its' incredibly beautiful, but heartbreaking, opening sequence.
As it is with all animated films, the voice acting is key to making the movie successful. Not only does the voice of the elderly Carl perfectly match the character, but he adds a level of emotion to the role that almost makes you forget you are watching an animated feature and not something with live actors. Not to be forgotten is Jordan Nagai who is the voice for Russell. He is able to bring the whimsy and adventurous spirit that comes along with childhood, and is also gives his character's personality some tenacity and humor along the way.
Though the beginning of Up may not appear to be something that you would find in a film targeted for children, the rest of the movie makes sure to add in enough color, comedy, and action to please any viewer. The concept of adding in the characters of dogs with the translating collars was a stroke of genius, and was hands down one of the funniest pieces in the movie.
If you have never had the privilege of seeing Up, it should move to the top of your to do list. Never have I experienced and animated film with such heart and emotion as Up has, and it is truly one of the greatest movies that Pixar has put out.
2010 Best Animated Feature Film of the Year Winner- Up
2010 Best Achievement in Music Written For Motion Pictures - Michael Giachinno
The Silence of the Lambs
In this legendary and deeply unsettling film, Silence of the Lambs continues to be a memorable and brilliantly put together movie in the horror genre.
A student at the FBI academy, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) has caught the attention of Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), who leads the Behavioral Science Unit. Crawford believes that Clarice will be able to aid in the investigation of capturing the notorious serial killer who goes by the name of Buffalo Bill.
Crawford believes that by studying the minds of other serial killers, they may be able to gain some insight into the thought process of Buffalo Bill, which will hopefully lead to the discovery of Bill's true identity and whereabouts. Clarice is asked to question Dr.Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychologist who has been incarcerated for murder and cannibalism. Lector is quick to notice that Clarice is new to the game, but finds her fascinating nonetheless. With the help of Hannibal, Clarice begins a dangerous investigation in the search for Buffalo Bill.
The subject matter of Silence of the Lambs is incredibly dark, and you wouldn't necessarily think that it would appeal to the masses, but the filmmakers knew when and where it was appropriate to show any grotesque details, and when it would be best to leave the horrific imagery to the imagination of the audience. It is that level of intelligence and control that makes Silence of the Lambs such a masterful horror film and not a gruesome slasher movie.
What is strange about the story of Silence of the Lambs, is that Hannibal Lector is not an unlikable character. You go into the movie expecting to hate him, given the crimes he has committed, but his protectiveness of Clarice puts the viewer practically on his side for most of the film. As immoral as that may seem, it is a testament to the source material, filmmakers, and actors, that this movie can turn a murderous cannibal into a charismatic and charming character.
This movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won five, which is a pretty impressive percentage. Two of the Oscars that it won were for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Leading Role, and deservedly so. Anthony Hopkins not only gave a chilling and brilliant performance, but he also turned Hannibal Lector into an iconic character. Many people have tried to match the style Hopkins gave to the role, but few have been able to come close. Jodie Foster's portrayal of Clarice Starling equally matches Hopkins work as Lector. Foster is able to make sure that Clarice appears strong, determined, and fierce, but also gives her character an underlying vulnerability that can only be brought to the surface by Lector himself.
There are times when a movie is so well done, that it is near to impossible to find a fault with it, and Silence of the Lambs is one of those films. Every piece of the movie comes together beautifully, and the end result is a film that has become a remarkable addition into the archives of motion picture history.
1992 Best Picture Winner-Silence of the Lambs
1992 Best Actor in a Leading Role- Anthony Hopkins
1992 Best Actress in a Leading Role- Jodie Foster
1992 Best Director- Jonathan Demme
1992 Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published- Ted Tally
If you are looking to watch a movie full of color, comedy, emotion, and ingenuity, then look no further, because Zootopia meets all of those requirements.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of proving to the world that if you stick to your aspirations, even a bunny can become a police officer in the bustling metropolis of Zootopia. Among the other large mammals who are training to become policemen, Judy shocks the people who doubt her determination, and rises to the top of her class.
Once an official member of the Zootpia Police Department, Judy is overjoyed at the idea of making the city a better and safer place. Much to her dismay, she is assigned the position of "parking duty", but she won't let that stop her from achieving her goal. When she meets a fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), her big city fantasies begin to come true, but not in the way she expected.
Zootopia is definitely in my top five favorite children's films. Not so much for the message behind the film, which is great, but for the incredible amount of creativity that went into it. Every time I watch this movie, I notice something that I had never seen before. They add in so many little details, that its' impossible to catch them all, but it adds to the impressively innovative effect that the movie has.
Zootopia is full of references that are almost guaranteed to not be understood by its' target audience, but that's one of the many thing that make it so great. Some of the most memorable animated films are ones that can be enjoyed by both young and old, and since the first moment I saw this film, I knew that it would be remembered as one of the greatest in its' genre.
The best children's movies know when and where do add their underlying moral. Zootopia clearly has a message that its' sending out, but it is not forced or overdone. It is scattered in and out throughout brilliantly timed humor and originality. I feel that the theme Zootopia tells, is more important now than ever. Its' odd that it takes a movie targeted towards children to really make the concept of acceptance seem more tangible and easily understood for adults.
I don't consider Zootopia just one of my favorite animated films, but one of my favorite films in general. It is most certainly well deserving of its' Best Animated Feature Academy Award win, and a must see for all ages.
2017 Best Animated Feature Winner- Zootopia
Both brilliantly written and acted, Juno is a film that is unusual in all of the best ways.
Juno (Ellen Page) is not your typical sixteen year old girl. She beats to her own quirky drum and doesn't care what people think about her. Though she leads a simple life, her basic teenage existence is thrown a curveball when she discovers that she is pregnant.
Knowing that she is not ready to be a mother, Juno makes the decision to have the baby and put it up for adoption. Through a pennysaver add, she finds Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) Loring; a wealthy couple who has been trying to start a family for five years. With the help of her supportive parents and her own plucky personality, Juno tackles the situation that is well beyond her years with humor and resilience.
In the many movies that I have watched in my lifetime, and believe me, I have watched a lot, Juno contains some of the greatest dialogue that I have encountered. It is strange and eccentric, but doesn't appear forced or out of place. I remember when this movie came out and hearing it being quoted constantly, and it was definitely with good reason. I wish that this movie had won more awards, but I am very glad that it won for Best Original Screenplay.
The acting of the main cast is spectacular. Though Juno and her sometimes boyfriend Paulie (Michael Cera) aren't exactly what you would call main stream characters, they are peculiar, charming, and lovable. Also deserving as much attention as the leads are JK Simmons and Allison Janney who play Juno's father and step-mother. The two of them help to make Juno a movie about unconditional love, rather than just about teen pregnancy.
If memory serves correct, there were people who thought that Juno glorified the concept of being a pregnant teenager, but those who thought that clearly did not watch the movie with the right mindset. If anything, it shows how frightening and overwhelming the life changing event can be. Juno is a film that I have seen so many times that I have lost count, but every time I watch it, I still find myself experiencing the same sense of humor and emotion that I did when I first watched it. It is truly one of my favorite movies, and I know that will never change.
2008 Best Original Screenplay Winner- Diablo Cody for Juno
In what is probably one of their most innovative ventures, Inside Out continues Pixar's reign of children's movies that appeal to young and old alike.
Meet Joy (Amy Poehler) , the first feeling that 11 year old Riley ever had as a baby. Joy is in charge of making sure all of Riley's emotions stay in check so that Riley can live the best life ever. Along with Joy are Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) . Together, they bring emotion into Riley's life and help her make choices and memories.
When Riley finds out that her family is moving, Sadness begins to take over the Headquarters of her mind. Trying to help, Sadness accidentally sends Riley's core memories out of Headquarters, and Joy and Sadness must set out on an adventure into the depths of Riley's mind in order to retrieve them and restore the balance.
All Pixar movies are beautifully animated and tell a story that more often than not will make you cry, but Inside Out may be their most creative film to date. For one, the animation seems to have gone to a whole new level of detail, making the depictions of Riley's emotions have a subtle glow to them.
The plot for Inside Out is incredibly clever. The different places that Joy and Sadness travel inside Riley's head are so ingenious that no matter how many times I watch this movie, I will still be in awe of the thought put into the story. A scene that sticks out to me as an example of the movie's brilliance is when Joy and Sadness go to the production studio of Riley's dreams. If you haven't seen the movie yet, keep that part in mind, because its' great!
Each voice that was cast for the individual emotions were spot on. I had never put much thought into what the voice of a specific emotion would sound like, but clearly the creators of the film did, and they knew exactly what they were looking for. Amy Poehler makes her vocals match her characters personality by speaking in a pitch higher than her normal voice and puts an incredible amount of energy into it. Phyllis Smith's monotone way of speaking makes Sadness one of the most instantly recognizable voices in the film, and the contrast between her voice and Joy's makes for some of the more comical scenes in the movie.
I love all work done by Pixar, but Inside Out has been a favorite of mine ever since I first watched it. As with most films made by the studio, not only are they entertaining, but they can also be quite touching and emotional. Though most Pixar films tend to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, I whole heartedly agree with this being the winner for 2016, as it is a truly special film.
2016-Best Animated Feature Winner- Inside Out
In this second ever Academy Award winning film, Grand Hotel is a wonderful collection of the biggest stars Hollywood had to offer.
Set in Berlin in 1932, the Grand Hotel is filled with colorful characters from all walks of life. Though one of the first lines spoken in the film are, "Grand Hotel... always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.", it couldn't be further from the truth. Within the Grand Hotel, there is Baron von Geigern (John Barrymore) who is completely broke and has succumbed to hotel theft in order to pay off his debts. Along with the Baron, there's the aging ballerina Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) who fears her career is over, the struggling stenographess Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) who is working for the gruff businessman Preysing (Wallace Beery), and the terminally ill bookkeeper Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) who just wants to truly live his life to the fullest before he dies. In one form or another, the characters cross each others paths, and mystery, romance, and intrigue weave their way through the story.
With such an extensive cast of Hollywood legends, some actors stick out more than others. Greta Garbo stands out, but not for the right reasons. She seems as if she has forgotten that she is not in a silent film and therefore does not need to rely on over exaggerating her actions and emotions in order to sell the role. John Barrymore tries to steal the show, and almost does, but is put to the test by Joan Crawford and Lionel Barrymore's performances. Though she was new to Hollywood compared to her costars, Crawford was able to hold her own throughout the movie. Even though Lionel Barrymore's character is quite eccentric, it is his scenes with Crawford and the other Barrymore that appear to be the most natural parts in the film.
To add to the impressive cast, the design of the film is truly transportive. Of course Grand Hotel is in black and white, but the amount of detail put into each setting makes it very easy to imagine the wonderful color and glamour of the Grand Hotel. It is truly hard to believe that this film was shot on the MGM lot, and not in a real hotel filled with the beauty that the movie portrays.
Grand Hotel's plot may be a bit muddled and the characters sometimes not so realistic. Perhaps it only won the Academy Award due to its' star studded cast, but it is a film that is 100% worth a watch; especially for any fan of Classic Hollywood.
1932 Best Picture Winner- Grand Hotel
Room is unlike any movie I have ever seen. It is terribly poignant, but remarkably heartwarming and inspiring at the same time. Room is a film that can be very hard to view and even as I watched it for the third time, I found myself with tears in my eyes and my heart pounding as though I had never seen it before.
A bed, a wardrobe, a tub, and a sink; all confined within four walls. This is what Joy/Ma (Brie Larson), and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) are forced to call home and what Jack affectionately calls, Room. Joy, who was kidnapped seven years ago, tries to create a life and a routine for Jack. After Jack has turned five, she tries to explain to him the wonders of the world outside their captivity, but Jack, who has only known Room, refuses to listen at first.
Noticing that Jack is beginning to understand what could exist beyond Room, Joy devises a plan for an escape, if not for the both of them, then at least for Jack. There are dozens of ways the harrowing attempt for rescue could fail, but Joy knows they don't have a choice.
Brie Larson won an Academy Award for her role as Joy/Ma, and there is no question as to why. She brings to life the tormented emotions of a young woman in an unimaginable circumstance, involuntarily turned into a mother, and living in a state of constant fear. Her relationship with Jack is hauntingly genuine, and was most certainly aided by the remarkable performance given by Jacob Tremblay. Tremblay was around eight or nine years old while making Room, yet the skill level he brings to his character far surpasses actors who are at least three times his age. His not being nominated seems like a gross oversight by the Academy Awards Committee.
What makes Room a brilliant movie, is how it uses the concept of less is more. The movie is mostly told through the point of view of Jack, and because of that we are spared the grotesque details of the forced relationship between Joy and her captor. From that perspective, what could have been a film filled only with dark and hopeless emotions, Room becomes a story of survival and redemption.
2016 Best Actress Winner- Brie Larson
Though it was made 35 years ago, Tootsie remains to be witty, charming, and relevant.
Michael Dorsey(Dustin Hoffman) is a struggling actor trying to make it in New York City. He has a passion for the work, but can't seem to find a job. When he brings up the issue with his agent, he is informed that no one will ever higher him because of his history of being too difficult to work with. So what does Michael do? He decides to dress in drag and become Dorothy Michaels.
Dorothy earns a role as the new hospital administrator on the soap opera Southwest General. While working on the soap, Dorothy/Michael meets Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange). Julie, also an actress on the show, is currently in a relationship with the misogynistic director of Southwest General. Through her role as Emily Kimberly, Dorothy's fame begins to rise. Meanwhile, a relationship is also beginning to form between her and Julie. To Julie, she sees Dorothy as a comforting friend, but for Michael/Dorothy, he begins to feel something more romantic for her. As Michael gets in deeper with his lies, he must find a way to dig himself out without hurting the ones he has come to care for.
What I noticed after my most recent viewing of Tootsie, was how the conflicts in the film are still unexpectedly relevant. Before Michael becomes Dorothy, he treats women like objects. He lies, cheats, and stands them up on a frequent basis. While under the veil of Dorothy, he begins to notice the same behaviors happening towards Julie, and then eventually to him. He sees how differently and disrespectfully women can be treated, and it is while being a woman that he begins to understand how he should be as a man.
Dustin Hoffman's transformation into Michael/Dorothy is one of my favorite roles he has done. When he becomes Dorothy, it is almost impossible to see Dustin Hoffman beneath the makeup and character that he has created. Dorothy is so believable and likable, that when the scenes with Michael come around, I find myself wanting Dorothy to come back.
Given that her character doesn't have any stand out personality traits or quirks, Jessica Lange had the difficult task of making Julie become someone that the audience would care about, but also believe. Tootsie earned Jessica Lange her first Academy Award, and though her role was simple, she gave it a flare that made Julie incredibly authentic and relatable.
Tootsie is a comedy that contains conflict that is perhaps more relevant now than it was upon its' initial release. It is sweet, touching, and surprisingly emotional on occasion. I personally have always like comedies that don't depend on slapstick humor or constant joke telling to be successful, and that is why Tootsie will always be not just one of my favorite comedies, by one of my favorite movies of all time.
1983 Best Actress Winner- Jessica Lange
A great choice for fans of Some Like it Hot and Mrs.Doubtfire
A wonderful book turned into an equally wonderful movie.
Rebecca is a film based on the book written by Daphne Du Maurier. It tells the story of a young woman, who's first name is never revealed, that goes from being the paid companion of a pompous aristocrat, to the wife of Maxim de Winter, played by Laurence Oliver.
The new Mrs. de Winter, played by Joan Fontaine, couldn't be happier with her whirlwind romance and marriage, that is until she gets to Maxim's estate, Manderly. Trapped within the walls of Manderly are the memories of Maxim's late wife, Rebecca. Throughout the film, Mrs. de Winter's struggles with adapting to her new life, but mostly living in Rebecca's shadow. Mrs. Danvers, the lead housekeeper of Manderly, refuses to give the new Mrs. de Winters any kindness, as she was fiercely devoted to Rebecca.
Rebecca is what I would consider to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's best movies. I have personally seen many Hitchcock films, and I think he truly shines in his black and white work. Of course his movies like Rear Window, the Birds, and Vertigo are suspense masterpieces, but when he works with black and white, his skill truly seems to shine.
There are many scenes in Rebecca where Hitchcock's use of shadow prove why he is still considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He knows how to take something as simple as Mrs. de Winters entering a room, and turn it into something visually stunning.
As a final note on this movie, it should also be mentioned that it does an excellent job of following its' original source material. I have personally read Rebecca, and I can honestly say it is one of the best book to film adaptations that I have ever seen.
Best Cinematography and Best Picture Winner-1940
So this is my first Woody Allen movie, so as far as comparisons go, I can't make any based on past work. However, I do feel that I picked a good one for my first Woody Allen experience.
Blue Jasmine is told throughout a combination of flashbacks and current struggles of Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett. Jasmine was once a budding socialite from New York, but when an incredibly unexpected turn of events drastically changes her life, she is forced to move to San Francisco and live off of her adoptive sister.
What could sound like a somewhat mundane plot is brought to life by the impeccable performance given by Cate Blanchett. She won an Academy Award for this role, and deservedly so. Her portrayal of Jasmine is one that can't be missed.
Throughout the film we see two different sides of Jasmine. There's the seemingly happy and posh Jasmine of the New York flashbacks, and the confused, substance abusing, and tragic Jasmine that takes the viewer through the present day of the movie.
There are many strong supporting roles in the movie, especially the role of Jasmine's adoptive sister Ginger played by Sally Hawkins. She does a great job of carrying her scenes, but is slightly overshadowed by Blanchett's role, as I found myself mostly waiting for scenes involving Jasmine due to the fact that I found them the most fascinating to watch.
Overall, I really enjoyed Blue Jasmine. Mainly for the performance I've written so much about, but also for its' brilliant job of blending flashbacks with present day, and not being overly obvious about it.
2014 Best Actress Winner-Cate Blanchett
The Shape of Water
I have been a fan of Guillermo del Toro since I first saw his film Devil's Backbone. Del Toro has a way of dealing with emotionally difficult and sometimes disturbing life scenarios, and turning them into a beautiful piece of motion picture history.
In this film we see a mute named Eliza who's job is to clean a scientific testing facility. Her day to day life is portrayed with a sense of monotony and contentment. Her life however is turned on its' ear when she stumbles upon a compassionate and empathetic sea monster.
Sally Hawkins, who plays Eliza, does an excellent job portraying a character who, though hindered by the inability to speak, can show more love and understanding than most of the other forms of humanity in the film.
Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer, is a character that to me almost stands out more than the romantic sea monster. Spencer's character is there for Eliza no matter what and is fiercely protective of her. She gives a humorous and strong performance that adds an extra sense of kindness to a film where the concept of human decency seems foreign.
Del Toro has stated that he loves his monsters, and this film proves that in spades. He tackles what could be thought as a silly or strange subject and creates a beautifully moving and heartwarming love story.
Winner of Best Picture 2018 and Best Director 2018