Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Thursday, 6 March 2014

And the Academy Award goes to...

Welcome to the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Sunday night it was definitely one of the most glorious nights in Hollywood, with celebrities waiting anxiously to see if they would get one of those golden Uncle Oscar statues with them. There were definitely some winners, and some not so winners, but in this industry everyone who has the courage to take a stand a follow their dream is already a winner. 

However, let's see in some more detail who did actually take a golden statuette. Hosted by the ever so brilliant Ellen DeGeneres the show started with the usual monologue of the presenter - sarcasm, offensive and penis jokes - definitely what the Oscars were missing.

I would say the big winner of the night was definitely 'Gravity' - for all the technical awards - leaving 'Dallas Buyer's Club', 'Blue Jasmine' and '12 Years a Slave' up for grabs on all the acting awards. Sadly 'The Wolf of Wall Street' and the much hyped 'American Hustle' remained unmoved, just I had predicted. 

But let's not stall any longer and let's take a look at Sunday night's winners:

Best Motion Picture of the Year

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Other Nominees:
American Hustle (2013)
Captain Phillips (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Gravity (2013)
Her (2013)
Nebraska (2013)
Philomena (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

(Just like Ellen said at the beginning of the show: "there are 2 possibilities. Possibility no.1 for '12 Years a Slave to win Best Picture and possibility no.2 you're all racists". Well, the Academy proved not so racist after all, since they indeed picked this film as Best Picture. Now, whether they picked cause they genuinely liked it or not to prove themselves as racists, we will never find out. I guess it's a little bit of both, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Other Nominees:
Christian Bale for American Hustle (2013)
Bruce Dern for Nebraska (2013)
Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave (2013)

(Despite all the jokes online regarding the Oscar not being given (yet again) to Leonardo DiCaprio, the race for this particular award was never between DiCaprio and McConaughey, but rather for Ejiofor and McConaughey. So, well deserved this award was given to McConaughey who campaigned for this film and the role alike and not for a single moment did he gave up on what he believed in.)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine (2013)

Other Nominees:
Amy Adams for American Hustle (2013)
Sandra Bullock for Gravity (2013)
Judi Dench for Philomena (2013)
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County (2013)

(Like I said in my review of this post, she was a sheer delight to watch hoe neurotic she got. Loved her in the film, a well deserved Oscar in my opinion, although I would have liked Adams to also be given her chance to shine, but I'm hopeful she will at some point in her career.) 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Other Nominees:
Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips (2013)
Bradley Cooper for American Hustle (2013)
Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave (2013)

(Now for this one, I was really anxious. I was really rooting for Leto from day one and I'm glad the Academy made the right choice, albeit the fact that they had to consider such actors as Fassbender and Cooper, who are equally brilliant in their own way.)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Other Nominees:
Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine (2013)
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle (2013)
Julia Roberts for August: Osage County (2013)
June Squibb for Nebraska (2013)

(The most single best deserved Oscar of the evening. No actor deserved this Oscar more than Lupita Nyong'o. We knew it, the Academy knew it, the whole friggin' world knew it. Brava to this girl, this Kenyan woman, who even as she first received her Oscar the first thing she said was to thank the person who albeit her sorrow offered her at that moment such joy; the woman whom she portrayed, who was based on the real life story of 'Patsey', who was described by Solomon Northup in his book of slavery. What a brilliant actress she is, and what a bright young talanted woman. Well done!!!)

Best Achievement in Directing

Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity (2013)

Other Nominees:
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
David O. Russell for American Hustle (2013)
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Alexander Payne for Nebraska (2013)

(The master! The triumph! The glory! WELL DONE, Cuaron finally made it. He achieved to receive the Oscar which he so deserved even from 'Y Tu Mama Tambien'. Also would have been a worthy winner for Steve McQueen to have gotten it, but alas, the statue is only one, so I'm fairly sure McQueen has plenty more chances of winning something again in the near future, as he's a brilliant director too.)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Her (2013): Spike Jonze

Other Nominees:
American Hustle (2013): Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine (2013): Woody Allen
Nebraska (2013): Bob Nelson
Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

(I have to admit I came to screen this film quite late in the award season, so I didn't have time to digest it and take it all in, but boy did it impress me. From the get go, it's a beautiful little story, a gem if you ask me, and it so deserved to receive an Oscar for script-writing.)

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

12 Years a Slave (2013): John Ridley

Other Nominees:
Before Midnight (2013): Richard Linklater
Captain Phillips (2013): Billy Ray
Philomena (2013): Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): Terence Winter

(Although I had a sneaky suspicion that the 'Wolf' would possibly win this, I'm so glad it went to '12 Years a Slave' instead.)

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Frozen (2013)

Other Nominees:
The Croods (2013)
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Ernest & Celestine (2012)
The Wind Rises (2013)

(The Disney phenomenon in years. Hope Disney learns from this formula that 'Frozen' has already cast and they keep up the brilliant work. Brava to the good ol' Disney.)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

The Great Beauty (2013): Paolo Sorrentino(Italy)

Other Nominees:
The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012): Felix Van Groeningen(Belgium)
The Missing Picture (2013): Rithy Panh(Cambodia)
The Hunt (2012): Thomas Vinterberg(Denmark)
Omar (2013): Hany Abu-Assad(Palestine)

(Albeit it not exactly what I was rooting for, this film has come a long way and it's been quite a long time since the Italians have graced Hollywood with their presence. Well done to them and their Fellinish atmosphere.)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Gravity (2013): Emmanuel Lubezki

Other Nominees:
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska (2013): Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners (2013): Roger Deakins
The Grandmaster (2013): Philippe Le Sourd

(I think I called this one when I was reviewing 'Gravity'. To be fair, Lunezki is a cinematography master, in all the films they've done with Cuaron, they've excelled, so well done to him.)

Best Achievement in Editing

Gravity (2013): Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger

Other Nominees:
12 Years a Slave (2013): Joe Walker
American Hustle (2013): Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers
Captain Phillips (2013): Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Martin Pensa, John Mac McMurphy

(Not to bother with the much technical awards in the evening, but it seems that 'Gravity' nailed it in every possible way, as you will also see below it won most about every technical award there was on Sunday evening.)

Best Achievement in Production Design

The Great Gatsby (2013): Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn

Other Nominees:
12 Years a Slave (2013): Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker
American Hustle (2013): Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
Gravity (2013): Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, Joanne Woollard
Her (2013): K.K. Barrett, Gene Serdena

(A nice addition to the list to see Baz Luhrmann's extravaganzza of a film receive some kind of recognition.)

Best Achievement in Costume Design

The Great Gatsby (2013): Catherine Martin

Other Nominees:
American Hustle (2013): Michael Wilkinson
12 Years a Slave (2013): Patricia Norris
The Grandmaster (2013): William Chang
The Invisible Woman (2013): Michael O'Connor

(Again, well done to the team of 'The Great Catsby' for their meticulous detail in stylizing the film.)

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews

Other Nominees:
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013): Steve Prouty
The Lone Ranger (2013): Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua Casny

(A unique choice to give this award to, despite that the nominations were not very rich in this department I'm glad the team of the 'Dallas Buyers Club' got it in the end.)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Gravity (2013): Steven Price

Other Nominees:
The Book Thief (2013): John Williams
Her (2013): Will Butler, Owen Pallett
Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Thomas Newman
Philomena (2013): Alexandre Desplat

(Like I already said...wonderful, mesmerizing score by Steven Price and I was ecstatic it got its recognition that it deserved. Well done!!!)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Frozen (2013): Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez("Let It Go")

Other Nominees:
Despicable Me 2 (2013): Pharrell Williams( "Happy")
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013): Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Brian Burton("Ordinary Love")
Her (2013): Karen O("The Moon Song")

(Albeit the performance of this piece during the evening went from mediocre to awful - what was that high pitch note right at the end Idina? where you ticked off by Travolta's mispronounciation of your name?, such a disappointment - it has proven to be a global phenomenon and it was a very well deserved award for this category.)

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Gravity (2013): Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro

Other Nominees:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Tony Johnson
Captain Phillips (2013): Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor (2013): Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, David Brownlow

(Technical awards go to..............Gravity!!! Sound mixing, glorious and very precise.)

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Gravity (2013): Glenn Freemantle

Other Nominees:
All Is Lost (2013): Steve Boeddeker, Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips (2013): Oliver Tarney
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Brent Burge
Lone Survivor (2013): Wylie Stateman

(Sound editing, again outstanding job with this one for 'Gravity'. Well done to the post sound production. It did wonders for the big screen.)

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Gravity (2013): Timothy Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould

Other Nominees:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3 (2013): Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Daniel Sudick
The Lone Ranger (2013): Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013): Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton

(No need to dwell on that. Of course it would have gone to 'Gravity'. That was the most obvious award to be received throughout the evening. So, well done of course.)

Best Documentary, Feature

Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013): Morgan Neville

Other Nominees:
The Act of Killing (2012): Joshua Oppenheimer, Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer (2013): Zachary Heinzerling, Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars (2013): Rick Rowley, Jeremy Scahill
The Square (2013): Jehane Noujaim, Karim Amer

(No comment due to I have not seen the Oscar nominees for this category.)

Best Documentary, Short Subject

The Lady In Number 6 (2013): Malcolm Clarke, Carl Freed

Other Nominees:
Cavedigger (2013): Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear (2013): Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls (2012): Sara Ishaq
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (2013): Edgar Barens

(No comment due to I have not seen the Oscar nominees for this category.)

Best Short Film, Animated

Mr Hublot (2013): Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares

Other Nominees:
Feral (2012): Daniel Sousa, Dan Golden
Get a Horse! (2013): Lauren MacMullan, Dorothy McKim
Possessions (2012): Shuhei Morita
Room on the Broom (2012) (TV): Max Lang, Jan Lachauer

(No comment due to I have not seen the Oscar nominees for this category.)

Best Short Film, Live Action

Helium (2014): Anders Walter

Other Nominees:
That Wasn't Me (2012): Esteban Crespo
Just Before Losing Everything (2013): Xavier Legrand
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? (2012): Selma Vilhunen
The Voorman Problem (2012): Mark Gill

(No comment due to I have not seen the Oscar nominees for this category.)

The awards this year offered minimal entertainment, with the exclusion of the tributes to the heroes in the movies montage and the tribute to the 'Wizard of Oz' with Pink's stunning performance. What did make the evenig wonderful was Ellen DeGenere's selfie (look below) and the pizza dinner which she so briliantly orchestrated for the celebrities in the crowd. Ellen was a wonderful host, having her bits and numbers - dressing up as Glinda as well, and I'm sure the Academy will definitely invite her back again to host. 

Onto next year's awards. Bigger, better and uncut. 

Hope you enjoyed the ride all you film junkies out there. 

Now, let's get back to reality. 22 Jump Street....juuuuuuuuuuust jokin'. 

Films to anticipate for 2014:

  1. The Hobbit: There and Back Again
  2. Maleficent
  3. Into The Woods
  4. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
  5. Far From the Madding Cow (remake)
  6. Godzilla (remake)
  7. Gone Girl
  8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy
  10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 
  11. The Immigrant
  12. Nymphomaniac Part 1 and Part 2
  13. Unbroken (Angelina Jolie's first directorial debut)
  14. Veronica Mars 
  15. Transcendence
  16. Noah
  17. How to Train your Dragon 2
  18. Sin City: A Dame to Kill
  19. Exodus
  20. Dracula Untold
  21. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Not Good, Very Bad Day
  22. Annie
  23. Pinocchio
  24. The Wind Rises
  25. Belle
  26. Paddington
  27. Stalingrad
  28. Grace of Monaco
  29. In Secret
  30. The Judge
  31. The Green Inferno
  32. Janis Joplin; Get it While you Can
  33. Paradise Lost
  34. Labor Day
  35. Only Lovers Left Alive
  36. How to Catch a Monster
  37. Imagine
  38. Before I Go to Sleep
  39. Third Person
  40. Dom Hemingway
  41. Blackbird
  42. Mortdecai
  43. The Garden of Last Days
  44. Magic in the Moonlight
  45. The Happy Prince
  46. Eliza Graves
  47. Wish I was Here
  48. Pele
  49. The Congress
  50. The Prophet
  51. Mood Indigo
  52. The Two Faces of January
  53. God Help The Girl
  54. Ex Machina
  55. Slow West
  56. The Imitation Game
  57. The Trip to Italy
  58. Serena
  59. Black Sea
  60. Manglehorn
  61. Men Women and Children
  62. Macbeth
  63. Mr. Turner
  64. Birdman
  65. Interstellar

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Her (2013)


Samantha: The past is just a story we tell ourselves.

This is probably my last pre-Oscars 2014 Ceremony but what a film did I choose to close with. On the one hand, I'm actually very glad that I happen to end this run with this film (not meaning there's not going to be any more reviews coming after the Academy Awards Ceremony), but on the other hand I have to admit that I oughtta feel a wee bit ashamed I wasn't able to screen this film sooner. 

As you might have already guessed, I'm quite in awe of this film and the themes it presents. 'Her' speaks about Theodore: a lonely man in the final stages of his divorce. When he's not working as a letter writer, his down time is spent playing video games and occasionally hanging out with friends. He decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world's first artificially intelligent operating system, "It's not just an operating system, it's a consciousness," the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha, the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. As an OS, Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn't, but how does she help him deal with his inner conflict of being in love with an OS? 

Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malcovich, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa) has chosen to present us a film which shows exactly how are society is evovling nowadays. The rapid evolution of technology is soon taking part of our every day lives in more ways than one could have thought of 100 years ago. The sentimentality, the humanity and the vulnerabilyt of the human psyche and the forces of the heart are purely a few of the themes explored in this social drama. Jonze is a filmmaker with a lot of soul, who wasn't afraid to write and direct a film that shows real human alienation, impossible affection and true love; albeit not the conventional kind that society has formed it to be, but definitely something totally fresh and advanced for the times which we are living in. 

Brilliantly so, one of the most underrated actors of his generation and currently in Hollywood, Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Walk The Line, Gladiator, Hotel Rwanda), embodies this lonely individual who give so much growth and emotion to his character. The on-screen chemistry with an invisible OS voice (voiced by the alluring yet calming voice of Scarlett Johansson) is just one of the most unique and complex on-screen performances I have seen in a long while. The depth and the absurdistic scenario of this unconventional relationship seems to be endearing and at the same time raising key fundamental questions regarding the evolution of modern society; alienation, loneliness, lack of human interaction. 

This is such a bittersweet tale that will transcend into filmmaking history for its warmth and raw truth of the human psyche. Quite notably so it's up for an Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Original Song. Let us hope that the Academy will do it justice and put it in the pedastal it deserves, alongside with the other heavy-weight for this year, '12 Years A Slave'. 

So, screen this film with an open mind and most importantly an open heart. See you after the Oscars everyone. 

Hope you enjoyed this year's Road to Oscars. 


Her (2013)

American Hustle (2013)


Irving Rosenfeld: She was the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate.

It is always a pleasure to indulge in the world of the 1970s. Especially when that world involves some clever plot narrative and an exceptional string of actors to acccompany this tale of conning. 

'American Hustle' tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. (source:

The film starts off demanding the viewer's attention. Introducing heads on, one by one each character, letting us know throughout who's who and what's what; a technique that lets us focus more on each character's individual journey and dramatic unravelling. Everyone has it's own little story to tell; from the con-man to the corrupt police-officer sitting beside his safety desk. 

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, Three Kings) is a cunning director, who cleverly popped into the filmmaking rader and made sure that we give him a chance. And boy, what a chance he got. The art of crafting visual stories is but a puzzle to him that he simply cannot wait to share with his audience. First indulging us into their lives, their small-town drama that seems to be taking on a more human note throughout the film. The intermixture between the comedic and the dramatic seems to have a key role in thickening of the plot, as it doesn't let the audience get weary of the variety of story lines. 

Likewise, just as the story interchanges from one character to another it tends to be a bit demanding of the director to keep up with who's dealing with who and what's going on when. All this trivial information tend to get entangled something which can easily make for a complex viewing, something which is not very well received from the average viewer. 

However, the brilliance here lies in the cast as well; the thespians. The talanted Mr. Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, The Machinist, The Prestige, American Psycho), who is the king of kings, a sort of Ozymandias to this entire expedition, portrays the key con-man, that woos and seduces his way through everything. Along the way, love seems to be his driving force, that ultimately leads him to a tone of redemption in his character. Bale is the kind of actor who put the phrase 'good acting' to shame; not because his in lack of it, but because he's in an overflow of it. His evocative presence on screen is something that we are unwilling to resist. Quite rightly so that he is also up for an Oscar of Best Actor.

Similarly so, the stunning and ever so glorious, Amy Adams (Enchanted, Doubt, The Fighter, Julie and Julia) she seems to bedazzle the audience; after one stops learing from her alluring physical seduction, he is in awe of what an incredible acting performance she gives out. Her engagement with her character, the warmth and her passion into the story is but a few examples that make one rethink of this hometown sweetheart who seems to not only blossoms in front of our eyes but engross us into her character's dramatic narrative. Adams is a worthy contender of this year's Best Actress nominations, and one should not underestimate her acting skills for she has come a long way and in 'American Hustle' she seems to be shinning as bright as she possibly can. 

Likewise, it would be a terrible omission not to include the likes of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who both seem to have been somewhat of a charm for David O.Russell. In all fairness, David O.Russell cleverly put his two most productive cast actors from his previous films together ('The Fighter' and 'Silver Linings Playbook') and once again seems to have struck gold in the hearts of his audience and for the Academy's committee too. 

'American Hustle' may not be the most brilliant con-plot story in filmmaking history but it's definitely clever, if not amusing to say the least. 

Hope you enjoy it. Make sure to take notes on how to avoid getting caught. The key is to pay attention to the details. 


Frozen (2013)


Olaf: Hi, everyone. I'm Olaf and I like warm hugs!

It's been a long time coming for this particular film, and most improtantly for Disney. From the makers of 'Pocahontas', Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, this film is everything every Disney lover was hoping for. 

'Frozen' tells the story of Anna, a fearless optimist, sets off on an epic journey - teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven - to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. From the outside Anna's sister, Elsa looks poised, regal and reserved, but in reality, she lives in fear as she wrestles with a mighty secret-she was born with the power to create ice and snow. It's a beautiful ability, but also extremely dangerous. Haunted by the moment her magic nearly killed her younger sister Anna, Elsa has isolated herself, spending every waking minute trying to suppress her growing powers. Her mounting emotions trigger the magic, accidentally setting off an eternal winter that she can't stop. She fears she's becoming a monster and that no one, not even her sister, can help her. (source:

With an incredible voice-acting and singing cast, that which most of all the likes of a them such as Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, this Disney masterpiece is all that an adult or a kid loving fan could have asked for. The music, the Hans Christian Andersen spin-off story of 'The Snow Queen', the moral messages, lest we forget them, the jokes, the chemistry. Take all that, mix it up together and you've got a dream film that Disney hasn't seen in years.

So dreamy in fact that 'Frozen' has warmed its way into the Academy's heart and it's most likely the biggest contender of getting the golden statue at tomorrow award's ceremony, both for Best Animated Film and Best Song. 

For those who are look to have a good time, a totally old-magic-Disney time this film will not in the least bit disappoint. It also teaches, finally, that Disney female characters don't need saving by a male one. Go Disney!!! 


Frozen (2013)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Great Beauty aka La Grande Bellezza (2013)


Jep Gambardella: This is how it always ends. With death. But first there was life, hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah... It's all settled beneath the chitter chatter and the noise, silence and sentiment, emotion and fear. The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity. All buried under the cover of the embarrassment of being in the world, blah, blah, blah... Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don't deal with what lies beyond. Therefore... let this novel begin. After all... it's just a trick. Yes, it's just a trick.

This film was made to remind us of what we all forget to appreciate; beauty. Raw, extravagant, extraordinary, magnificent, omniposcent beauty. It's all around. Just sometimes we do not stand still to glorify it. Paolo Sorrentino made this film to help us remember the beauty in everything. From the silliest of conversations to the most magnanimous piece of art. 

'The Great Beauty' is about journalist Jep Gambardella, who has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city's literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. (source:

Pay close attention to the word 'absurd' in the description above, since it plays a key part in Sorrentino's film. The film is stylized in such a way that one cannot help but make the comparison between Fellini's masterpiece '8 1/2'. The visually stunning spectacle of Rome's landscape and the high society represented in both film is simply inescapable. From Rome in 1963 to Rome 2013 we see that 'the artist' is still struggling with himself to find his inner peace. 

Sorrentino cast Toni Servillo as his leading man, the tortured soul of the artist who goes from one luxury party to another, from one great hedonistic adventure to another all the while feeding us with the absurdism that surrounds still this modern society. In this journey of self discovery and inner peace there comes the brilliance in Servillo's acting; the haunted man, who finds little pleasure from the high end lifestyle he was so far leading, searching and yearning for a greater beauty.

Speaking in visual terms Sorrentino has drew great imitations from Fellini's Roman filmmaking, 'La Dolce Vita' and '8 1/2', all equipped with the glitz and the glamour of the decadance of the elite; the high society who circles its prey until they are left hollow and with no purpose in life, aimlessly wandering trying to find what it's all about. This point Sorrentino cleverely gives us a glimpse of what that hollowness feels and tastes like after years of endless extravaganza. 

The film however, tends to become somewhat of a long and tedious journey of an artist's search of his inner psyche, that at the end concludes into a nothingness of air; in other words as sarcastic as Sorrentino is trying to be about how vain our small little lives are, his visual eye seems to drift and strecth so much that it can easy pass on as nothing more than a story of surrealistic narrative. 

Despite its wombly bits, this film aims to rekindle a long forgotten bond between past and present, drawing to an open conclusion of what is real beauty in the end for each person. 

An excellent submission from Italy for this year's Academy Awards and from the looks of it this might be getting the dear old Uncle Oscar in the end, since it is truly a marvel to watch the evocative restless spirit of Servillo on the big screen. 


Monday, 24 February 2014

August: Osage County (2013)


Violet Weston: I'm so glad one of my girls stayed close to home. In my day, family stuck together.

Tracy Letts wrote a story about a family; a disfunctional family, a normal family. Something that resembles very close to home for anyone with a big family. Drama is of course a key ingredient, especially when you have family coming over. Do you want shouting? You got it. Do you want lying? You got it. Do you want deep dark family secrets? You certainly got it. Do you need excellent acting skills? You have it even before you think it. This film is a family symphony gone bad. 

The story is a look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. (source:

Much to our anticipation, the films starts somewhat off beat introducing us to the characters one by one, and their little quirks, up until the big family gathering at a funeral table. What a sheer delight that was. What every person is looking forward to when getting together with family after a long time. Of course script and play writght, Ms.Letts, does so brilliantly keep us entangled in each story line, reminding us, that this could easily be our family or the family next door. 

Staring from the spectacular, if not inconceivable, Meryl Streep, leading a cast that one can only but dream to see all gathered up, she portrays the matriarch of the family, the one who always survives, the grumpiest of them all, the oldest psyche that never ceases to be the sting that starts up everything. She is the core of everyone, and ultimately their destruction. 

Her wonderful cast of fiction siblings include actors such as Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor,Juliette Lewis, Sam Shephard, Chris Cooper, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch and Margo Martindale. As would anyone see, we're talking about an incredible line-up of actors who not only surpass the audience's expectations, but come to make justice to the originality of the characters from the play as well. 

However, and as truthful as we can be, as the plot thickens, and the best kept secrets are slowly being revealed, the film oftentimes feels to become strenuous and dragged on. The absurdity in which the family dialogue operates tends to strech past its supposed duration time, thus making the viewer lose even the slightest inclanation to what's going on in their drama. For this reason, we can easily pin-point from the beginning that the film tends to feel more like a dramatization of a stage play than a film altogther. 

The juice in the story is how vulnerable every character is, and the mutliple layers that they keep deep beneath. As soon as the yelling gets going, there seems to be a flare for the overexaggerated plot twist; the siblings who have fallen for each other. Oh the hubris. It happens in the best of families. Only with this one, the deterioration comes slowly and painfully at hand. But what a delight it is to see that life is so unprogrammed, that even the best of people can lose their way at some point.

One should definitely watch it with his folks, or spouse, or children, at that, and remember how it feels to not be able to stay away from your own blood, no matter the heartache and the traumas. 

Not much intented to say regarding the technical particulars, just to point out that the locations make it all too real to be in their family territory. Pulitzer winner playwright Letts, offers us a truly dynamic family drama that resonates for everyone who's ever been part (or even a hint) of dysfunctional in their household. Not the best drama out there, but definitely passes across some powerful messages regarding family bonds. 


Sunday, 23 February 2014

Philomena (2013)


-Philomena: And after I had the sex, I thought anything that feels so lovely must be wrong.
-Martin Sixsmith: Fucking Catholics.

There's always something heart-warming when you sit down to watch a film about self-discovery and atonement. And it's always equally surprising when you enjoy the film more than you initially anticipated.

'Philomena' tells the real life story of Philomena Lee, who after years of keeping mum, she went seeking for her long lost son. When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son's fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged. (source:

Steve Coogan (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Hot Fuzz, In the Loop, Tropic Thunder), who co-wrote the script with Jeff Pope, also stars as the gifted yet misunderstood journalist who is trying to find himself after his horrendous dismisal from the BBC. Coogan has proven time and time again what a brilliant comedian he is, but with this one he goes one step further in showing to the wide audience that drama suits him equally well. 

The sensitivity and the humanity in which both Coogan and Dame Judi Dench treated Lee's real life story is extraordinary. Two very un-similar characters onto a journey of soul searching. The humourous blends ever so subtly with the dramatic, keeping the viewer to sympathize even, with what the characters are going through. Who said that drama can't be hilarious? This film proves that even evil nuns can have their funny side. 

In all seriousness though, the genious behind the film is truly owed to the evocative story of the real Philomena Lee and the man who sought out to make her story be heard. Coming to add a little bit more of his genious is Oscar nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons), who makes sure that his audience does not fall into the trap of the melo-drama, but instead builds up the suspsense in sweet down-to-earth agony of where this story could end. 

The film is beautifully shot in locations between Ireland, England and the United States, giving the viewer a travelling feast between the then and now moments, whilst at the same time raising some serious fundamental issues regarding religion and faith. Cleverly so, the writers implemented their stories with philosophical and moral questions such as 'Is there God?' or 'Should one believe in God?' or 'How do you keep your faith, even after the nuns sell your child to the Americas?'. Coming back to an age where a good Catholic girl should be pious and pure, Philomena Lee had sinned, and for her mistake, she was punished rightly so, by having her son taken away from her. 

The humanity and the empathy in which Dench operates as Philomena is remarkable. Her humility and her strength to forgive makes us realize that there are greater things to hold onto nowadays than the anger that we are taught not to let go in modern day society. This wholesome feeling of faith is what truly inspires audiences and what makes them connect to Philomena's story.

A very heart-warming film that it is definitely worth a watch. Albeit nominated for Best Picture as well, it rightly deserves its place in the list. 


Friday, 21 February 2014

Blue Jasmine (2013)


Jasmine: Who do you have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?

Last week I happened to be in an interview and I was asked if my ambition in life would be to become Woody Allen. My response was 'God forbid, no'. And it was absolute. My answer was not due to any dislike towards Woody Allen. On the contrary, I relish in his filmmaking genius. How can one suppose himself that he can ever top this tiny little man with glasses and his profusion of witty dialogues and story lines? Truly this puzzles me. 

'Blue Jasmine' is a film that speaks to every neurotic nerve in every person's body. And I mean that in literal sense. It tells the story of Jasmine French, who used to be on the top of the heap as a New York socialite, but now is returning to her estranged sister in San Francisco utterly ruined. As Jasmine struggles with her haunting memories of a privileged past bearing dark realities she ignored, she tries to recover in her present. Unfortunately, it all proves a losing battle as Jasmine's narcissistic hangups and their consequences begin to overwhelm her. In doing so, her old pretensions and new deceits begin to foul up everyone's lives, especially her own. (source:

This time around Woody Allen chose to portray a woman who goes full circle in her journey; kind of more like a Mother Courage type of psychological journey, rather than a journey of atonement and self-discovery. The dialogue is beyond caustic, going from action-interaction in nano seconds. So brilliantly witty that one would be too ignorant or too much of a snob not to actually appreciate the hilariousness of the whole situation. 

To accompany this wonderful executed script came an equally talented actress, from the land down under, an actress whose proven more than capable to take on the role of Jasmine French. At first you would think that an eloquent name as Jasmine, would be the tale of a romantic 'flower' ahead. What Cate Blanchett so brilliantly give us is a much more perplexing yet at the same time endearing tale of a woman going from one nervour breakdown to the next. She is the kind of actress that makes a nervous breakdown a sheer delight to watch. Her microcosmos is nothing but a blimp but nonetheless is so absurdly humaine that the viewer cannot help but empathise with.

Aiding this wonderful journey of superficiality is the British born actress Sally Hawkins, who portrays Blanchett's sister; she is the other side of the story, the sister who was never given half the things her sister had in life but who is willing to stand by her blood. Hawkins and Blanchett blend so gloriously together that you get to such points as to relate with their sisterly bond, albeit the fact they are suppose to be step sisters. 

The brilliance of this film though comes all too much from the characters journey; this circle of the psychological journey they go through remind us of a much loved role by Tenesse William's "A Streetcar named Desire". Albeit the low budget look that the film carries with it throughout the film, the Blance deBois psyche praddling from our screens back and forth is there to show us that once the brain is rewired everything is on a non-stop repetitve rollercoaster. 

Worthy to briefly mention the appearance also of such actors as Alec Baldwin, the liar in the plot, Peter Sarsgaard, the false hope and the joker but ever so brilliant Bobby Cannavale

Perhaps not one of Allen's best ever, but personally I glorify the man's genius way of approaching female roles. My opinion is that he sees women as these wonderful creatures he can derive so much from and he knows as an auteur and a director, as well as a script writer how to fairly portray them on screen. 

Hope you enjoy his humour for those who will indulge in this film. As for the people who simply do not enjoy his sense of absurdism, try to read Ibsen and compary Allen's female characters with his to see how much relative their treatment of female psyche is.