Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy 2nd Anniversary, BISTF!

Mozart is attending my anniversary party. That automatically makes me pretty cool.

I forgot to celebrate BISTF's first anniversary. I made an effort not to forget about it this year. I like being part of the precious film blog universe. It's fun and there are tons of awesome opinions floating around from the most dedicated, insightful people I will ever know.

March 22. Nice date to remember.

I had a particularly good day today, despite a two-hour blackout in the evening. Then again, I was accepted to UCSB earlier today, so that definitely lightened up my mood.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Comparison: The Age of Innocence vs. Dangerous Liaisons

A truly beautiful shot. I really wanted her to turn around.

I just finished watching The Age of Innocence for the first time. It is an achingly beautiful period piece about a romance that is simply not meant to be.

Director Martin Scorsese has once again proved (to me, at least) that he is a fearless director who possesses endless versatility. Whether it's a biblical epic or a gangster shoot 'em up, Scorsese seems to live and breathe cinema.

The Age of Innocence
is no different.

Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) are two very compatible people who can't live happily ever after because they fall in love in the wrong time and wrong place. However, Archer is engaged to the young, traditional May Welland (Winona Ryder) and the Countess Olenska is contemplating a socially unacceptable divorce from her Polish husband.

What results is an aesthetically gorgeous feast and a compelling and lightly satirical look at the romance and drama of those who dwell in the gossipy obstacles courses of New York high society of the late 1800s.

What a lovely cinematic couple. Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer should make another film together someday.

And, not to mention, Daniel Day-Lewis, in this film in particular, is incredibly handsome. I thought of how well he is able to wear the period garb in this film and how attractive he made those insane, flamboyant costume pieces in Gangs of New York look. If I were a man, I would want Daniel Day-Lewis' physique. Just sayin'.

Just looking at this picture reminds me of the electricity between Close and Malkovich. What chemistry.

But as I watched The Age of Innocence, I was reminded of another period film (and Pfeiffer flick), Dangeorus Liaisons, directed by Stephen Frears. Frears, for the most part, is almost as versatile as Scorsese but doesn't seem to get the same level of undivided attention.

In Dangerous Liaisons, you have John Malkovich, fearlessly and successfully tearing through a conventional lothario role with his unconventioinal looks. And that impeccable last shot of Glenn Close is simply haunting.

While The Age of Innocence takes place a century later in an entirely different continent, there is the same discreet, hush-hush mentality regarding uncontrollable feelings that deviate from the norm. Yet, strangely enough, everything feels so much more liberated in Dangerous Liaisons. Perhaps that's due to the naturally manipulative nature to the characters in Dangerous Liaisons, in contrast to the characters in The Age of Innocence, who, deep down, just want to do the right thing.

I personally prefer The Age of Innocence, yet I also adore the exciting games played in Dangerous Liaisons, despite the fact that the film does feel too theatrical at times. These films would accompany each other well in a double feature.

So, which film do you prefer: The Age of Innocence or Dangerous Liaisons and why?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The 82nd Academy Awards in a nutshell

Christoph Waltz receiving his Oscar for his amazing performance in Inglorious Basterds. While completely deserved, it is among a number of predictable Oscar wins of the night.

I was planning to write some sort of review of last week's Academy Awards much sooner (i.e. when people actually cared), but then I realized I just didn't have a lot to say about it.

The last time I truly enjoyed an Oscar ceremony was back in 2007. I would admit that Ellen DeGeneres was certainly not the best host, but that was one of the best-run award shows I've ever seen. Classic Hollywood elegance. Amazing montages. Five wonderful Best Picture nominees. The awesome image of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola presenting Martin Scorsese a Best Director Oscar. I couldn't have asked for more.

So, gorgeous stage. Glad they brought the blue crystals back. The show ran smoothly, though the editing felt a little sloppy at times.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin took some awkward, yet amusing teasing shots at the audience. Exactly what you'd expect from two well-known actors who are very much immersed in the inside jokes of the film industry. Far from my favorite Oscar hosts, though. From recent years, I much prefer Jon Stewart's traditional and gracefully comedic hosting style.

I know the Oscars are already longer than they should be, yet I still miss watching the Best Original Song nominees being performed on stage. The Best Original Score performance was pretty damn cool, though. How about that for some DDR?

I love how this time around, they actually brought out actors who are somewhat connected to the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees they are presenting. Last year's introduction of each of the actors by well-known winners of yesteryear is just about the most bizarre cue card session I've ever witnessed. And Forest Whitacker directed Hope Floats? Wow. And, one word: Oprah!

This is perhaps the most predictable Oscar ceremony of recent years. Yes, it was absolutely elegant, strangely random (a montage of...horror movies?), but I wasn't glued to the screen or on the edge. It was a lovely production, but the exciting glamor had been eclipsed by by-the-numbers conventionality.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

And the Oscar (blindly) goes to... (2010 edition)

Ten nominations. Ridiculous.

I rarely do award predictions on my blog because usually, I haven't seen enough of the nominated films to write a credible entry. But consider this a birthday treat to myself. It's not every year that the Oscars ceremony lands on your birthday, right?

The only nominated films I've seen are Avatar, Inglorious Basterds, Julie & Julia, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. So that makes me a piss-poor predictor. Anyway...

The bolded types indicate my official predictions.

I want to throw a tantrum when I hear people talk about how Avatar will win Best Picture simply because it has earned a crapload of money. Avatar is simply not worthy of all the ridiculous amount of critical acclaim it has received. It's a fairly well-made film that has deservingly dominated the technical categories, but it is hardly a original, memorable film. Far from Best Picture material.

The only other Best Picture nominee I've seen--Inglorious Basterds--is an astoundingly entertaining spectacle. Since I've never reviewed Inglorious Basterds, I would just like to say how I thoroughly enjoyed Quentin Tarantino's wild, alternate WWII vision, but it simply did not blow me away. Great performances, crackling script, beautifully shot, glorious soundtrack...but I didn't feel that deep, personal connection that I usually feel for truly great films. Perhaps I'm just suffering from being purely underwhelmed by a film that has been loved by almost every other person I've spoken to, but hey, that's a legitimate excuse.

I'd whole-heartedly rather have Inglorious Basterds win the Best Picture win at the end of the day over Avatar. But I have a disgusting feeling that Avatar will take away the top prize. While I haven't seen The Hurt Locker, it currently stands as the only other serious competition Avatar has in the Best Picture race.

Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) seems like the likely Academy choice for Best Director. Again, I haven't seen the film, but I have a feeling that Bigelow is partially being awarded because she's a woman with the ability to direct like a man, or at least, the ability to direct a testosterone-fueled one-two punch. And is it kind of ridiculous that Bigelow is being praised as one of the greatest female directors of all-time when The Hurt Locker is probably the only film that she has gotten any serious recognition for? Correct me if I'm wrong about any of the above.

Jeff Bridges (The Crazy Heart) will win because he's a Hollywood veteran, has multiple previous nominations (his first nomination was for 1971's The Last Picture Show), is beloved by his fellow actors, and seems to have delivered a legitimately great performance.

I will preface my prediction for the Best Actress race for bluntly voicing my confusion about the supposed wonders of Meryl Streep's performance in Julie & Julia. And this is coming from a fan who thought her performance in Doubt triumphs Kate Winslet's in The Reader. Streep's performance as Julia Child is certainly an adorable performance. Streep humanizes Child, yet she doesn't quite capture the nuances of the woman behind the French cuisine. I may easily be wrong since Streep has won numerous awards and garned plenty of praise for her performance.

Though Julie & Julia is a pleasant film. Well worth the rental. A film made by women, for women, and doesn't have romance as a primary focus. That's rare.

If Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) wins, which seems rather likely, I can already imagine people complaining how unworthy her win is for years to come, simply because she has been typecast for years in bubblegum romantic comedy roles and perhaps because of the predictable quality of the film she was nominated for. But I'm sick of predicting with the norm--I want to see Gabourey Sibide (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) pull an Adrien Brody (The Pianist).

Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) is a lock for Best Supporting Actor. And it really is a devilishly charming, magnetic performance. This category seems to have quite a villain streak--I mean, Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)? Just sayin'.

Mo'Nique (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) is the name most spotlighted out of the Best Supporting Actress category, so I'm guessing she'll take the gold as well. Though I can totally imagine Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) pulling a Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) and no one really having a problem with it. (While I should see Michael Clayton, I do love, love, love Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There. That's just a stunning performance, man.)

Let's cross our fingers and hope that the telecast won't feel like a terrible mess.

All nominations can be found at IMDb.