Following up from last summer's movie awards...
Most Deliciously Perfect, With Most Impressive Live-Action Terrier
The Artist (2011)
"With pleasure." (Jean Dujardin as George Valentin)
I only saw this a week before the Oscars and thought maybe all the hype and awards and such would dampen the experience for me. Surely it couldn't live up to all the accolades? Reader, it surpassed them. This film is magic, moving enchantment. It couldn't have been made without Jean Dujardin, who is so perfectly cast as the dashing silent film star. If Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Clark Gable had had a child, it would be George Valentin. His eyebrows alone deserved awards. Bérénice Bejo as the female lead was lovely and loveable. The dog, Uggie, is an animal star as only a Jack Russell can be: incorrigible and irresistible. This film was funny, touching, tragic and elevating. If you love old movies, you have to see this homage to old Hollywood. As I left the theatre, I knew I'll own this on Bluray as soon as it's available. I won't say anything else as I don't want to ruin it for anyone! But by now you'll all know about the Oscar wins - hooray!
Most Hit and Miss, With Best Capture-Animation Terrier
The Adventures of TinTin (2011)
"Great snakes!" (Jamie Bell as the voice of TinTin)
I'm a TinTin nut. I have read and re-read all the books since childhood, and still do on occasion. A few weeks before the movie came out, I attended a talk given by Michael Farr, a TinTinologist on the inspirations behind the characters in the novel. All very interesting. The movie was not a let down nor a triumph in my opinion. After some wonderful opening credits featuring the 2D imagery I love so much, the motion-capture animation was very clever, but lacked heart. I think the problem is the eyes, which are, let's face it, surely the hardest thing to animate. But the original illustrations just used simple pen dots... fair enough as the 2D illustrations were exactly that. The motion-capture animation seems to seek to make as life-like an impression as possible. And at times it was breathtakingly so. But the eyes! The eyes didn't work, especially for Bianca Castafiore, whose sexy, limpid lids in the drawings were replaced by rather piggy little affairs. Her voice was wishy washy, except when she sang (Renée Fleming did the duties there - nice!) The other voices were very well done but the film lost me when Captain Haddock gave a weirdly out-of-character pep talk to TinTin. I suppose it's hard for a film directed at young people in this politically correct time to just accept that Haddock is a raging alcoholic who'd often as not rather stay home than go off on some hair-brained adventure with his young ace boy reporter friend. I'm not sure I'd bother with seeing a sequel. But Snowy was cute!
Most Emotionally Rollercoasting, featuring Best Performance by an Imaginary Planet
"I want the planet to get them!" (Blog Princess G)
Okay, I did whisper that to my companion half way through the second half of this movie, but I wasn't entirely serious. What I meant to express was that the characters were driving me nuts, but in a good way. This movie made me laugh, get angry, get sad and made me think. For that alone I am grateful. Ultimately I thought it was beautiful and haunting. I wasn't in the mood for a Lars von Trier film, but I was lured by the prospect of the Tristan und Isolde "Prelude" being used. It was, repeatedly. For those of you who don't know the premise, a planet named Melancholia appears to be heading for earth. Will it collide? Will life on earth end as we know it? Will Kirsten Dunst overcome her depression with the aid or hindrance of her various family members? I highly recommend this unusual film. This worked where Tree of Life didn't. Alex Ross didn't like it as he references the Bill Viola video in the Peter Sellars production of Tristan that we're getting here in Toronto next year. I can't wait.
Oh, and I don't usually talk during movies. In fact, this was the first, and last, time.
Most Abusive to Ornate Wooden Doors
"I'm perfect!" (Rafe Spall as William Shakespeare)
Yes, Shakespeare was. And I don't care who wrote the plays; they're all brilliant.
What an impressive cast list... and so much energy... and SUCH strong sets! I mean, none of those magnificent wooden doors could just be opened and walked through. Each door had to be flung open so that it crashed and banged, as the walker strode angrily or lustily or imperiously through it. The art direction was memorable. But the story was implausible and I fell asleep. Twice.
Most "Wow, is there anything Meryl Streep can't do?"
The Iron Lady (2011)
"It used to be about trying to do something. Now it's about trying to be someone." (Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher)
No, there's nothing she can't do. Meryl Streep is a goddess, a magician, a force of nature. The film itself was kind to Thatcher and didn't have any particular insights into anything. I have forgotten much of it already.
Most Almost Grrrrrreat, Alpha Male, Liam Neeson Glowerfest
The Grey (2011)
"We're going to get a large branch and sharpen the end of it, and we're going to shove it up this thing's ass. Then we're going to eat it." Liam Neeson as Ottway
** SPOILER ALERT**
After a terrifyingly well-filmed plane crash, Neeson leads a team of Arctic miners through a wolf-haunted frozen landscape, trying to reach civilization. Neeson means business. If I'm ever stuck in an Arctic survival situation I want Neeson with me. He's so big, a group of us could cut him open and crawl inside to keep warm. And he's so fierce, glowering across the frozen wasteland, daring fate/God to do him in. So far, so good. You have the makings of an excellent survival movie, on a par with Alive (1993, which the film references) or The Edge (1997). So what's with demonizing wolves? That got to me, it really did. It was unnecessary and annoying. And the end drove me crazy. Grrrrr.
Most Moving Family Drama
A Separation (2011)
"He does not know me but I know that he is my father." (Peyman Moadi as Nader)
I'll admit it: I didn't want to see this movie. When my friend called me up and suggested it, I was tired from work and vertigo, and I assumed this would be a politically charged, highly depressing experience. I wasn't in the mood. Well, I was persuaded and I'm grateful I was, and expressed this to him as we left the cinema. This isn't a political drama (not that there's anything wrong with that but there was something wrong with my assumption that it would be). It's a family drama... Leila wishes to leave Iran to give her daughter other opportunities in life. Her husband, Nader, wishes to remain in Iran to care for his father who is weakened by Alzheimer's. They separate and he hires a caregiver for his father. And there the drama unfolds. I won't say anything more. I just urge you to see it. And, if you care for this sort of thing, it won the Oscar last month for best foreign language film.