Saturday, 20 January 2007

New Gay on the Block!!

Well not exactly. Considering the music industry has been buzzing about him for a while now, even before hearing his debut album. And now he looks set to have a top five, if not number one hit on his hands over here in the UK. Young, talented and gay. Move over Jake is Mika!!!

Oh My God........Girl friend needs a new manager

Matthew Knowles is now blaming racism on the fact Beyoncé (with the accent on the 'e' to make her fancy) lost Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical to Meryl Streep. For starters there are six categories for movie acting and three of them were won by black actors. hmmmm. Add this to the fact that Beyonce lost to Meryl Streep (Godess of all thespians), and you have one very delusional man. What I find upsetting in this whole laughable mess is how some people are so quick to scream racism in order to cover up personal failures. Honey, get a grip. Get your daughter to RADA and stop making excuses for her lack of acting talent.

Shame on you Madonna

I love the woman, but I really thought she would be more responsible than wearing a fur coat just because she was given it. What happened to all her Kabbalah "we are what we put out there" babble. Many people will say "well you wear leather shoes and belts" and yes that is true, but these days I only buy the fabric/plastic/pleather options. And beside, unless you are a Sherpa, it is not that cold that you need to wear fur. Just check with global warming if you don't believe me. Just my little rant......back to the shallow halls of the Academy Awards soon.

Thank you to kcaruana over at You tube for this!

Mini Review number 6 - exceptionally short notes on a few.

United 93 A-
The people who feel this film is ‘too soon’ need to wake up. Paul Greengrass has crafted a powerful and humbling tribute to the men and women who gave their lives to save others. All the more powerful to know the friends and family of the victims gave their blessing and support. I am glad I watched, while others had their head in the sand.

Little Miss Sunshine A-
A road movie to put into check all those that came before it. The Hoover family drive to California in a bright yellow mini van so that their daughter can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. What sounds like simple, light fair is doused in dark realism by the assured direction of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the hysterical and emotionally honest script by Michael Arndt, and the actors who’s level of realism make you believe they are actually a family unit. Plus a comedy that can make ME laugh from beginning to end says a lot.

Volver A-
Almodovar + Penelope Cruz = Movie magic. Å sexy, supernatural, family drama filmed in Technicolor with murder, prostitutes and ghosts……OH MY!!!!!

Children of Men B+
A bleak and vivid drama set in England 2027, when all the world's women are suffering from an inexplicable infertility. The result is political turmoil, social breakdown and universal despair. This realistic vision of the future is all the more disturbing because of its plausibility. Clive Owen has reluctantly become saviour and protector to the first woman to get pregnant in 18 years. While shielding her from the general public, people who wish to use her child as leverage and rioting illegal immigrants, Owen is forced to deal with a loss in his own life. Owen is supported brilliantly by Michael Caine and directed superbly by Alfonso Cuaron.

The Devil Wears Prada B+
Smart, funny and oh so biting. Meryl delivers one of her best incarcerations in years as Miranda Priestly the editor and chief of Runway magazine. What could have been a one note performance has, under Meryl's capable hands, become an in-depth look at the sacrifices women with power have to make to compete in a man's world. Brilliant. That’s all.

Little Children B+
A dark and disturbing drama about suburban life highlighted by the amazing central performance of Kate Winslet as a house wife who starts an affair with a married neighbour seemingly out of boredom. The film is a little long and does suffer from an awkward narrative flow, but is made up for by superb acting.

An Inconvenient Truth A-
See this movie. The world depends upon you seeing it.

The Queen B
A carefully wrought exposé of the royal family during their gloomy days in 1997 when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II with great skill and buried emotion. Her supporting cast, especially Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, are excellent as well. Overall, this film reveals the aloofness of the queen without being wholly unsympathetic.

Babel B-
Out in the Moroccan desert two brothers tend to their herd of goat. Ahmed is the older brother, but lives in the shadow of his cocksure younger brother, especially in his father's eyes. Yussuf, in a silly sibling competition, carelessly fires a bullet at a tour bus to show his older brother that he is the better marksman.

An American tourist (Cate Blanchette) is hit by a bullet while on holiday in Morocco. Her husband (Brad Pitt) is panic stricken when he realizes just how foreign this place is when they don’t have the comfort of flashing their credit cards or using roaming on their mobiles, and instead have to rely on communication and the kindness of strangers.

In San Diego, Mexican nanny Amelia (the heart breaking Adriana Barraza) is taking care of two children whose parents are out of town. Since Mum and Dad are unexpectedly unable to return in time for her to attend her son’s wedding in Mexico, and since she’s unable to find anyone to help, Amelia elects to take the children with her - a decision that will have grave consequences.

Finally, Chieko (the fearless Rinko Kikuchi) is a deaf-mute Tokyo high school student dealing with the recent death of her mother while attempting to restore a relationship with her distant father. She is also desperate for more intimate contact, to the point where she makes brash and ill-advised overtures towards members of the opposite sex. Unlike the others, she is alienated in her own country, her disability making her a different kind of “foreigner.”

As the title suggests, “Babel” is about communication, the lack thereof, and the difficulties therein. The movie is told in five languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and sign), emphasizing the barriers when dealing with cultures totally foreign to each other. But also this movie deals with the pain of communicating feelings with one another, the ties of family and the fragile relationship between employer and employee.
Such a shame then that, although all four stories are connected, they play like four separate movies each one with various degrees of success. Perhaps next time director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu should stick to just one story instead of all this cross narrative and intrusive editing.
The Tokyo segment deserves an ‘A’ while the Mexican and Moroccan family stories each gets a ‘B’. Such a shame the Pitt and Blanchette story brings it all down with their ‘it took us facing death to work out our problems’ bullsh*t, so it gets a 'D'.

The Last King of Scotland B-
Monsters as political leaders are nothing new and the horrors they inflict fail to move me anymore. Perhaps it is just the world we live in with its media saturation, or perhaps I have come around to the opinion that power does indeed corrupt so where is the shock any more. Idi Amin was a charming sociopath and Forest Whitaker does an impressive job mimicking him. However, it is James McAvoy who steals the movie with his naive and bewildered performance as Nicolas Garrigan, the fictional medical advisor to Amin. To bring a fictional character to life has always impressed me more than the heralded copying of famous people (Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburn in ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ being an exception). While the film has its merits (assured direction, performance and strong screenplay) it comes across as another history lesson most people will not learn from.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Mini Review number 5 - Dreamgirls

It’s not all about the Beyoncé.

I love musicals. Some times there is too much feeling and passion to express in the confines of words that a powerhouse vocalist and backing band is needed. You are transported to a world full of sparkle, lights, passion, and tight choreography. Emotion, expelled from the heart and from the gut in the form of verse, hits you square between the eyes and leaves you reeling in the spell it has put you under. This is why I love Musicals, and this is why I was so upset Dreamgirls fell so flat.
By now you know the story: Set in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, “Dreamgirls” follows the rise of 3 women—Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose)—who have formed a promising girl group called The Dreamettes. They are discovered by an ambitious manager named Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who offers them the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the back-up singers for headliner James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). Curtis gradually takes control of the girls’ look and sound, eventually giving them their own shot in the spotlight as The Dreams. That spotlight, however, begins to narrow in on Deena, finally pushing the less attractive Effie out altogether. Though the Dreams become a crossover phenomenon, they soon realize that the cost of fame and fortune may be higher than they ever imagined.
First the bad:
The movie has no real energy in itself. It looked perfect but felt lazy and unenthusiastic, almost like watching the first dress rehearsal of many. It seemed to rely only on its actors to bring it to life and this is where it succeeds and also ultimately fails.
Jamie Foxx is dull. He is supposed to be the films villain, but comes across bland, uninteresting and static. Oscar winner…really? What makes a villian is charisma (Lawrence Fishburn - What's Love Got to do With It), and unfortunately Foxx comes across as a cardboard cut out of himself.
Then there is Beyoncé walking through the film like she has taken far too many Quaaludes. The make up and hair department did an amazing job of channelling Diana Ross. It is a shame then that Ms. Knowles couldn’t bother to do more than strike a series of Ross inspired poses. Deena is supposed to be an ambitious superstar. There was no ambition, or star, in the performance.
The Good:
Tony award winning Anika Noni Rose was criminally under used. How I wish Condon had cast her as Deena instead, as she not only has a fantastic voice, but the acting chops to convey the naïve hunger of Deena. Such a shame she was given the small role of Lorrell instead.
Eddie Murphy was sensational as James Early; he injected the movie with a much-needed energy with his natural charm. He used this opportunity to remind everyone why he became a star in the first place and will likely walk away with an Oscar nomination.
Lastly there is Jennifer Hudson. This is her movie. She proved what was hinted at during her time on American Idol, that she is a bloody great performer, and now she is rightly considered Oscar worthy. Her Effie is full of sass and sexual allure, and when she is off screen the life seems to drain away from the movie. Forget her powerhouse vocal, where Hudson truly shines is in the moments when Effie shows glimpses of heart breaking vulnerability (“Am I ugly to you Curtis?”) before hiding it away behind her anger and pride. Sure Effie is self destructive, but she comes across as a real person, especially noticeable because the movie around her is mainly plastic.
Jennifer Hudson A, Movie C

Parting wish.

Florence Ballard was the inspiration for Effie White. The original lead singer of the Supremes who was pushed aside for the more attractive Diana Ross. Florence had unsuccessful attempts at a solo career before dying in poverty at the age of 32. Jennifer Holliday was the original Effie on Broadway. After winning the Tony for best actress, in what is still widely regarded as the greatest Broadway performance ever, Holliday never found the same success again.
I hope the same cannot be said for Jennifer Hudson’s career. Take your time, and continue to push yourself and your acting ability. And most importantly, retain your humble and gracious demeanour.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Here come the freaks.

Let’s face it, a lot of people think ‘Oscar watchers’ are freaks. Sure the awards mean a lot to the movers and shakers in Hollywood, and can launch some actors career into the stratosphere, but why do they matter to us?
For me it all comes down to ego. Every year I try and see as many of the buzzed films I can, and make up my mind as to their merits. More often than not, as Oscar season approaches, I see the over blown and over hyped films (I am talking to you Million Dollar Baby, A Beautiful Mind, Crash) and brush them aside. This leaves, what I consider to be, a few gems. Last year it was Brokeback Mountain, the previous year it was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Aside from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Silence of the Lambs, I have been disappointed by every eventual winner of the main award and swear every time “This is the last year I will follow these bloody awards!!!!”
This is why I love them. They give me a sense of superiority. In my own little world I have the best taste in film, performance, and music. No one can equal it. Not even the collective body of the Academy.
I first get the first rush on nomination day. Madly writing the nominees down on a scrap of paper while listening to the announcement through my phone as my loving partner holds the hand set up to the television. Squeeling, crouched at my desk, in my cubicle at work, “Jim Carey wasn’t nominated???!! Those idiots! Where was Uma Thurmans name!!?? YAY Samantha Morton got a nom!”
Then there is the build up until the big day. Frantically seeing movies that got in. Predicting who will win, or what front runner will trip up for what media malfunction. Frantically looking at various websites to see who is predicting who, and hopefully seeing randomness.
Then there is the big night. Filling in my prediction sheets, stupidly voting with my heart over my head and going for the long shot and trying to reason with those around me why Heath Ledger or Shohreh Aghdashloo will win over the general consensus.
And finally the telecast starts. So boring, so long. Hardly any surprises happen (aside Jack Nicolson getting drunk and reading out Crash instead of Brokeback Mountain last year) and it is all over.
And usually I am left only feeling this….I have better taste than the Academy.

Golden Globe Winners!

Winners in Bold

Best Picture Drama
The Departed
Little Children
The Queen

Best Picture Comedy/Musical
Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You For Smoking

Flags of our Fathers, Clint Eastwood
Letters of Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood (boo! hiss! At Condons expense)
The Queen, Stephen Frears
Babel, Alejandro González Inarritu
Departed, Martin Scorsese

Best Actor Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond (they are such star f*ckers, poor Ryan Gosling)
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, Last King of Scotland

Best Actor, Musical/Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Carribean II
Aaron Eckhart, Thank You for Smoking
Will Ferrel, Stranger than Fiction
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Kinky boots (the quirky choice of the year and totally unmerited)

Best Actress Drama
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best Actress Comedy/Musical
Annette Bening, Running with Scissors
Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine
Beyonce Knowles, Dreamgirls
Meryl Streep, Devil Wears Prada
Renee Zellweger, Miss Potter

Best Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck , Hollywoodland
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Brad Pitt, Babel
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"
Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"
Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"
William Monahan, "The Departed"
Peter Morgan, "The Queen"

Foreign Language
"Apocalypto," USA
"Letters from Iwo Jima," USA/Japan
"The Lives of Others," Germany
"Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico
"Volver" Spain

Animated Film
"Happy Feet"
"Monster House"

Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, "The Painted Veil"
Clint Mansell, "The Fountain"
Gustavo Santaolalla, "Babel"
Carlo Siliotto, "Nomad"
Hans Zimmer, "The Da Vinci Code"

Original Song
"A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit of Happyness"
"Listen" from "Dreamgirls"
"Never Gonna Break My Faith" from "Bobby"
"The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet"
"Try Not to Remember" from "Home of the Brave"

As expected.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Mini Review Number 4 - Notes on a Scandal

Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is lonely. She is a history teacher nearing a retirement she both fears, because of her loneliness, and welcomes for she never truly loved it.

She is un-married, un-partnered (aside from her cat) and has no real friends. Her job is her life, though she hates it, teaching the hordes of “future plumbers and shop assistants” that roll through the gates. Not even the staff warm to her (she refers to a plump collegue as a “pig in knickers”). She spends her time writing in her diary, detailing her life and highlighting good days with gold stars.
Then comes Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). She is a new art teacher and is carefully observed by Barbara. Initially, Barbara believes that Sheba has an ideal set up: husband, children, a large house, and beauty. But nothing is ever what it seems. Sheba's husband, Richard (a marvelous Bill Nighy), is old enough to be her father, her son has Down syndrome, and her daughter is a bit of a misery.

Barbara desires a friendship while Sheba, naïvely, sees Barbara as a kind older woman. The mother she always wanted, the one who listens and understands her. But after Barbara observes Sheba having sex with a 15 year-old student, Steven Connelly (Andrew Simpson), her first reaction is to go to the school principle, but quickly realizes that she can leverage this into a twisted basis for a friendship, after all nothing can solidify a friendship like a secret.

When Barbara's beloved cat gets terminally ill she weeps from the gut for the one thing that has showed her love in her life. Her only friend is going to die and unless she has Sheba she will truly be alone, and when she is let down, Barbara, fueled by grief and abandonment, seeks revenge.

Judi Dench is amazing. She could have played Barbara simply as a villain, and it would have worked well in the confines of just a thriller. But what she has done instead is to create a woman so alone, and so miserable in her life that you can’t help but feel some sympathy and understanding towards her. She is fiercely intelligent and witty, and yearns for some human contact. She has repressed her sexuality for years, and has become a hollow version of herself, desperately grasping at any hint of friendship another woman throws her. As in Brokeback Mountain last year, Notes on a Scandal illustrates how being denied the chance or opportunity to freely express your sexual self can eventually destroy the person you could have become.

As good as Blanchett is, I could not help but think her mis cast. She has a firey intelligence in her eyes that burns through the screen so much so that when she is asked to play weak and naïve she just doesn’t quiet pull it off. Sometimes people complain that an actor is too weak for the part…this is a case where I think the opposite.

Unfortunately, I think some people will not see Notes on a Scandal as a movie about loneliness and repression. They will simply see it as yet another ‘homosexuals are monsters’ film. Funny, considering villain of the film should really be the heterosexual pedophile.