Time to catch up on four films I saw recently, all of which are jockeying for some Oscar nominations next month.
Jim Cameron’s latest has been (as always) controversial, because it cost a fortune. Was it worth the money, and the extra money I paid to see it in 3-D? The simple answer is yes – it’s a visual stunner that demands to be seen on the big screen and in its full glasses-required glory. What’s most impressive is that Cameron has created an entire world, complete with its own topography, species and tribal traditions.
The downside? The script is weak, and isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. It’s pretty much Dances With Star Wars. Much of the dialogue is bad, so the film relies on narrative voice-overs from Sam Worthington, the sexy male lead. Fortunately no matter what she’s saying, Sigourney Weaver rocks, as usual.
Overall I think this movie is worth seeing, because what you see is so arresting that you start to forget about that pesky plot. It’s a thrill ride that gives you a lot of highs, even if it leaves you feeling rather empty once it’s over. My grade – a solid B. For a simpler (and funnier) review – check out this link.
A Single Man
Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, this film is about dealing with grief – how does one cope when your entire world comes crashing down around you at once? The main character (George) faces the death of his long-time lover and their pet dogs by choosing the only way out he can imagine.
The lead is played by Colin Firth in a performance that is shattering, startling and sublime. He has a scene where he first finds out about his partner’s death, and the range of emotions that spread across his face – it’s just astonishing. An Oscar nomination for him is a sure bet. His co-stars include Matthew Goode (full of rakish charm) and Julianne Moore (a boozy British princess).
Tom Ford (yes, the fashion designer) directed the film, and it shows – his attention to detail is impeccable – every costume, set piece and prop is chosen with care. Unfortunately the script is a little thin – not very much happens here. It’s a minimalist story with rich ornamentation. I give it a B+.
I’ve been looking forward to this musical (an adaptation of the stage show, which is itself an adaptation of Fellini’s 8 1/2) for quite some time. With that cast of amazing actresses, combined with song and dance numbers, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), how could I not?
The good news is that the women are very strong. Penelope Cruz is a riot as Guido’s mistress, and easily has the best lines in the film. Close behind her is a strong performance by Marion Cotillard as the wife – she is all dewy delicacy. I want to go sit on her eyelashes and just hang out for awhile! Judi Dench gives a bravura performance reminding us of old Paris – such charm! Kate Hudson gives a great musical number, but she looks so much like her mother (Goldie Hawn) I could barely concentrate. The most surprising performance was from Fergie, who was smoldering and attention-grabbing in the show-stopper “Be Italian.”
The film really hangs on how you feel about Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido. If you find him charming and believe that he’s a lusty lothario, then it’s a winner. But if you don’t really buy that (I didn’t), then it can be a disappointment. So overall I give the movie a B-, but for some folks this could be a solid A.
The best of the films I’ve seen recently was the latest offering from Pedro Almodovar. Once again he delivers an intricate plot where the web between characters slowly becomes revealed. His ability to make his characters rich and complex is in full effect here once again.
This is a tale of a blind filmmaker who starts to tell his manager’s son the story of a lost love, and unreels secrets that never stop. Lluís Homar is the passionate lead, and his memories are of a lusty and ambitious Penelope Cruz. Their performances are passionate and engrossing, but that’s what we’ve come to expect in Almodovar films. He also brought his usual stable of actors – everyone from Blanca Portillo to Lola Dueñas. Seeing this movie made me want to run home and watch other favorites, like Volver!
Overall I give this movie an A-. It has enjoyable performances, it’s well-paced and is visually appealing. A few plot points bothered me just a touch, but on the whole this is solid. Unfortunately I think it will be overlooked this Oscar season, so check it out while you can!
So…that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Still on my list to see are The Princess and the Frog, Up in the Air, Young Victoria and Invictus. How about you?