Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar 2015 - ... what's left to say ...


M. Gustave: The beginning of the end of the end of the beginning has begun. A sad finale played off-key on a broken-down saloon piano in the outskirts of a forgotten ghost town. I'd rather not bear witness to such blasphemy.
Zero: Me neither.
("The Grand Budapest Hotel" - Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness)


I've decided to write an extra entry this year, just before the awards, while thinking if it's not a better idea to get to bed instead of watching live if I get any predictions right. Unfortunately I have other work to do = the decision lies in the end between keeping the TV turned on or not (what do you think we'll be the choice ?). So, I thought it might not be a bad idea to point out some sections I generally avoid (especially since I'm really thinking on not doing another round of this next February). For instance, writing. Where we have the original category: "Boyhood", "Birdman", "Foxcatcher", "The Grand Budapest Hotel", and "Nightcrawler". Here's quite hard to choose to be frank (even "Boyhood" has a decent script), but I guess the winner is the one including the quote above. If it doesn't get at least that ...

The adapted writing section is also hard to choose from. The reasons are completely opposite though = I don't know who's the less weak among the worse roundup I've seen in years: "American Sniper", "Inherent Vice", "The Imitation Game", "The Theory of Everything" and "Whiplash". Cliche, cryptic, classic, dry, and tiring. I'll pick the middle choice, "The Imitation Game":

Joan Clarke: Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
("The Imitation Game" - Graham Moore)


Another section I'm writing about quite rarely is ... make-up. "Guardians of the Galaxy" unfortunately doesn't have any chance, not even here. Everybody gives "The Grand Budapest Hotel" as winner. I would point out "Foxcatcher" though, as the first movie after a series of constant failures in transforming the main character, culminating probably with "J. Edgar".




And if I talked about makeup, let's talk about costumes too. More nominations: "The Grand Budapest Hotel", "Inherent Vice", "Into the Woods", "Maleficent", "Mr. Turner", but easier to predict. I'll go along the general opinion:




If on what's above I usually avoid talking because I'm not really able to tell a lot based only on what I see in a movie, on actors I avoid writing because I'm too subjective. I wouldn't do it this year as well, but I can't help making an exception. For leading actore we have as nominees Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bradley Cooper, Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. All the predictions indicate as winner the last one in this list for the role of Stephen Hawking, who I do not deny requiring a consistent effort. I would point out though as much more complicated to perform the transformation I've seen on Steve Carell in a total atypical role, in "Foxcatcher":




I decided to write this entry also because I thought I ended way too acid this year. However ... :) yet again ... I don't think I've ever seen a list of nominees + the most probable winners (of whom I hope that many won't coincide with my prediction) so ... f***ed up as this year. Culminating I guess with animation, where I won't even bother to enumerate the nominees, out of whom the most probable winner is a sequel (should be easy to pick it out). For me though, it's something else:




which ... is not among the nominees :) But in the end, who cares about who's there & who wins, right ? ;)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar 2015 - Best Picture


I don't like this year Oscars. I've said that before, right ? I barely have one movie in the nominees list that I really enjoyed. The only positive aspect to say so, is that a couple hours before the show the situation seems to be a bit different (at least that's what critics say), and we don't have anymore a clear winner ... Well, I'll stick to my initial opinion about who'll get it. But I already said too much considering the this year's competition level, so let's get to something more visual ...

"American Sniper" or the perfect example of cliche in a war movie. Starting with the love for country that brings us in the first line of battle (doesn't matter that's on a different continent) up to the best looking girl in the bar falling for an uniform (I'm exaggerating ... but the movie is not far). The worst movie made by Eastwood since "Space Cowboys" ... And I think I enjoyed that one more.




"Birdman" or how to test the patience of the audience for half of the movie so that the 2nd half to seem by contrast the greatest achievement in the director's career (why do you think we have "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance" as subtitle?). I can't deny that the 2nd part of the movie, and especially the ending are not good (although severely depressing). That's why I can say that I see as a positive aspect the awaking of various guilds (directors, producers) who, through the recent awards given, brought some suspense in deciding this year Oscar winner. Still ...




"Boyhood" or how to test the patience of the audience for the entire movie. And when the movie is 3 hours long, my recommendation is to skip the cinema option. At least you deserve the right to have a pause button. Not that you couldn't skip some 5-10 minutes intervals ... don't worry ... nothing unexpected happens. Maybe that's where the appreciation wave emerged from. Finally a movie where we don't have any suspense on how it's ending. The only surprise would be to lose the Oscar.




"The Imitation Game" or "who's left without a biopic?". If the question isn't clear, count the "real-life based" nominees. Half of them are biopics. In any case, I think Alan Turing has a more interesting story, and also the movie has less cliches than the first entry in the list. Not much chances though for The Weinstein Company. They exhausted their "luck" for an indeterminate time after the "King's Speech" 4 years ago...




"The Grand Budapest Hotel" or the only movie that deserves a Best Picture Oscar this year. Unfortunately it won't get it. Again, I don't think this is the best movie done by Wes Anderson ("Moonrise Kingdom" rulz - here the budget made the difference), but compared to the rest is in a different league. Unlike all other nominees "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a movie that will be remembered. Even if only for the pink hotel ...




"Selma" or the yearly politically correctness exercise made by the Academy. I have nothing against the movement for black voting rights lead in the '60s by Martin Luther King. But, come on ... The only other nomination "Selma" has this year is for Best Song. By comparison "Foxcatcher" has 5 .. and none for Best Picture. No comment ...




"The Theory of Everything" or "who's left without a biopic? what, nobody? not even somebody still living?". I don't know Stephen Hawking received this movie, but for me it seems a bit strange to do a biopic about somebody's life, when the somebody has still something to say. On the other hand, I assume the result is more truthful (otherwise you could expect protests from the "lead character"). Anyway ... despite the appreciation wave it got, for me "The Theory of Everything" seemed to be a sort of "A Beautiful Mind" more dry, more depressing, and more superficial. I won't spend time now drawing a parallel analysis between the two movies (because I'm talking about the movies, and not the persons), but I think the pluses and minuses are quite obvious ...




"Whiplash" or why the Academy was felt a sudden relief when they found out that "Into the Woods" is not the only musical released this year. Otherwise it would've been hard to motivate adding it among the rest for best picture. Because, if there's one available, we definitely need a musical as Best Picture nominee. Ah, it's not the typical light comedy like "Chicago" or "Moulin Rouge"? It's a drama .. well, even better. I don't know. I'm still amazed by the preference of the public in the States for this genre. And I also don't like jazz ...




That wraps it up for this year. So, let's see who gets it ...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscar 2015 - Music


One of the few sections this year where we have a decent competition, without a certain winner is the soundtracks section. Alexandre Desplat, nominated constantly during the last years has two entries here. The first, which is also my option for the winner, is the score from "The Grand Budapest Hotel". The tune fits perfectly the movie, and remembers a bit of the rhythms from "Fantastic Mr. Fox". Well, same director, same composer, similar score ...




"The Imitation Game" is the second movie featuring music composed by Desplat. Completely different compared with the first nomination. From tempos to instrumental composition. I have to admit that lately I'm pleasantly surprised of how versatile can this guy be when writing music. Typically a movie score composer, no matter how good he is, starts to get repetitive. It's not the case here & I hope it'll last ...




Talking about good composers but who tend to re-use too much of what they're composing, we have another surprise this year. Hans Zimmer manages to produce something new in "Interstellar". Although still following the same style, superbly simple but incredibly efficient = incremental construction of tracks merged gradually, it seems that the nuances are more suave and the melodic variation at the level of the track is not anymore based only on loops executed with a different instrument, pitch, etc.




Until "Mr. Turner" I didn't hear about "Gary Yershon". Again, we have here something interesting. A soundtrack that I don't think I could listen outside the movie. The highs are so dense that they're scratching my ear. Somehow though, it gets tolerable in relation with what you see on screen = fits perfectly with the context.




Johann Johannsson has an ok soundtrack in "The Theory of Everything". However, a bit too ... normal. Which unfortunately tends to please the Academy, but I think/hope won't be the case this year.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oscar 2015 - Production Design


Production Design + Set Decoration to capture everything that gets nominated here, is this year a very easy category to predict. That's why I won't spend too much time with this entry, and I'll start with the winner: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (well, if it won't be that one ...). The production design has a major impact in this movie's "economy". Basically, almost everything you see on screen was specifically designed to fit the movie tone, and also the locations were picked to comply with that too. The clip below is not complete enough from that perspective, the focus being only on the main location = the hotel, but even so I think it's quite eloquent ... Probably one of the best movies nominated here since "Sweeney Todd".




In "The Imitation Game" we have a re-creation of the Bletchley Park environment during WW2. Looks good, but as a I was saying, all nominees present here seem to be in a different league compared to the above one, so let's cut this short ...




"Interstellar" is a bit atypical for this section considering the percentage of SciFi nominations compared to time pieces. Well, in this case I assume the diversity of the locations did matter enough ...




"Into the Woods" is probably the only other nomination that gets a bit closer to "Grand Budapest". Unfortunately ... it sort of left me with a monotony feeling for the production design part. Maybe because most of the action takes place ... well .. into the woods ...




The reason why "Mr. Turner" shows up here is (as said before) mainly because is a time piece. And also maybe as a more peculiar aspect that it "features" lots of Turner's reproductions in the set decoration. But, that's pretty much everything about it ...



Monday, February 16, 2015

Oscar 2015 - Cinematography


I decided to boycott the cinematography at this year Oscars. But this time I'm gonna do it loud = short text & bashing. Reason: who should win (well .. if they would have had the mercy to nominate him) - Hoyte van Hoytema for "Interstellar" + who will most probably win ...

Emmanuel Lubezki for "Birdman" ... I have nothing against this guy (one of the best directors of photography at the moment actually), and the visuals in "Birdman" are indeed impressive = one continuous shot from beginning to the end. The problem is the same as in the previous years. The confusion of the "grand jury". I thought we managed somehow to get rid of cinematography Oscar awarded for VFX at least once. But well .. I'm afraid we'll have one for something that looks more like editing (where by the way, surprise ... no nomination).




Robert D. Yeoman for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" should snatch the Oscar from what we have here (in the absence of "Interstellar") if the Academy awakens by some miracle and awards it objectively ... Which I doubt ...




Lukasz Zal & Ryszard Lenczewski also use in "Ida" a static camera. As in the one above. Unfortunately only in black & white. And since "Schindler's List" (> 20 years) the Academy decided that the cinematography Oscar should embrace the color era. So ...




Dick Pope for "Mr. Turner" : Superb light. Good cinematography. Small chances to win (we're at the Oscars, remember ? ... if it's not blue as "Avatar" then not ok).




Roger Deakins for "Unbroken" ... or how to reach 12 nominations without being given one single Oscar ... or how the Academy thinks it can compensate the lost opportunity to give it for "True Grit". Dream on ...