THE OSCARS – THE REST

As promised here are my thoughts on the other main contenders.

The Social Network was primarily a superb script (Aaron Sorkin) and a brilliant demonstration of how fast time moves. It also captured the modern media zeitgeist with brilliant observations. Fincher made sure that he didn’t portray MZ as an all American hero. He was neither a hero nor a villain. You admired his brilliance but disliked his lack of loyalty. Well worth revisiting on DVD – which is always a good accolade for a movie.

Inception was mesmerizing and baffling. Visually it did not live up to the trailer but the Paris dream scene will probably remain in cinematography folklore. I found the fighting scenes in the snow a bit too Bond-ish and tedious. Having seen it the second time, I still think that Nolan has managed to create a great combination of blockbuster-meets-arthouse science fiction movie. And don’t even dare liken it to the Matrix… Much better and far more complex…

The Fighter is based on a true story and it almost feels like a British socialist/realist movie a la Ken Loach. This is a snapshot of the tragicomic life of a very dysfunctional blue-collar family in which boxing is the only means of ‘airing’ one’s talent. The elder brother’s former momentary success simply paves the way to addiction. A classic ‘has been’, yet very oblivious of it. The younger brother is swayed between enhancing the legacy, family loyalty and attempts to forge his own identity. The director’s strong point is his brilliantly observed depiction of a ‘run of the mill’ inspirational story without over-sentimentalising it. It feels like a really good documentary that makes you smile and moves you to tears. BTW, Christian Bale was absolutely sensational.

True Grit was slow, measured and very classy. It felt like I was watching a play rather than a movie. That tells you that it was all about the story and the actors. Of course, the young actress, Hailee Steinfield stole the show, while Jeff Bridges mumbled his way through the script while still acting brilliantly. I have never seen the original – but this felt like a classic movie that you never tire watching again and again. As an unexpected plus, it seemed to be very funny all throughout.

 

 

THE KING’S SPEECH

I really didn’t know what to expect. Everyone bar one of my friends thought it was superb. He described it as ‘beige’. I still expected to like it, and the beginning was really promising. I was well acted and witty. But then at some point it became terribly formulaic. SPOILER ALERT. Man has a disability that cripples his confidence. He comes across an unusual inspirational therapist – and then bingo – all gets sorted.

Although a British film it was terribly Hollywoodian in its cheap ‘feel good’ factor. It was deemed as ‘inspirational’ but it turned out to be a ‘diet/sugarfree/fat free’ version of inspirational (bland). It seemed somehow short and the characters were very sketchy. We knew so little about them, particularly the rest of the royal family.

Pet peeve – I really found the scene with the tirade of swearwords a cheap shot meant to make those – who ‘didn’t get the rest of the humour’ – laugh outloud. It reminded me of the early days of Sacha Baron Cohen that later had to ‘dumb down’ his humour so that everyone will ‘get it’. If that sounds snobbish – I am guilty as charged. All in all, my verdict is that it was a bit ‘magnolia’ rather than beige. It was watchable, pleased most of the crowd, didn’t challenge the mind to much, left us all a bit cheerful – but ultimately unexceptional.

PS
Having also seen True Grit, The Fighter, Inception & The Social Network – I definitely liked them all more than TKS. A mini review of each to follow….

 

INCEPTION REVIEW

I was quite intrigued by the plot of this new Nolan release and after hearing the good ‘doctor’ Kermode reviewing it so positively I became even more curious. Before going the blockbuster way with the last two Batman movies, Christopher Nolan created a real unique masterpiece in ‘Memento’ – an original and yet a very complex film. It took me about three viewings to sense the flow of the plot. It probably has to do with my inability to follow the non-linear and backward storyline.

The premise of Inception sounds fantastic: a ‘dream spy’ (Leo) who has the ability to infiltrate people’s dreams and stealing personal details – wants to go to the next level by creating an idea and implanting into someone’s subconscious via a dream (or in our case an ever increasing sets of dreams). So you have to get your head around the entire concept of dreams vs. reality.

Yet for me it disappoints: the script is far too clunky (going too much into the explanations), the action scenes are cheap Bond-like, the pace is drawn-out and visually the only three amazing pieces (the folding street, the crumbling shores, the train on the road) of cinematography are the ones you seen in the trailer. In the end I was bored and exhausted.

The acting is good – to be expected with the calibre of actors available. There are some witty pieces of writing in the script. As expected (in my humble opinion) it ends up with the almost classic scene reminiscent of The Shutter Island and the Sixth Sense. This is far too obvious for an ambitious project like this but maybe a way for a sequel.

Probably Nolan tried to marry a blockbuster with an art house movie. For me, it did not work. I can think of much better (and imho, successful) attempts to deal with the issues of reality/dreams/time travel/alternative existence: Fight Club, The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or even Donnie Darko.

I am aware that I am at odds with most of my friends (some of them true film buffs) as well as some of my favourite reviewers. Which makes me think that maybe I have missed something….

REDEMPTION

Wonderful clip about the power of redemption: changing something broken, ugly, discarded and frightening into something beautiful, inspiring and different.

Redemption (click on it)

Reminds me of Paul’s words:

‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light’

‘And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’

and

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’

The West Wing

Last week I have finished series 7 (the last one) of (imo) the best scripted and acted TV series. It has been a tearfully sad affair (well, almost). An end of an era. Several initial remarks:

  • It has opened my eyes to the intricacies of the political world – US and global –  (as fictional as the series might have been). As easy as it seems for us to see what politicians should do – it is actually far more complex.
  • It has mesmerised me with the strength of relationships between the team members in both the Bartlet and Santos teams.
  • It seemed that most romantic relationships (apart from the Bartlets) are a bit of a mess – see Josh, Donna, Toby and CJ. Even the Santos’ marriage would have been seriously ‘on the rocks’  if Sorkin would have written another series… The toll the high-powered jobs takes on the ‘love life’.