Tuesday, February 26, 2008

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Daniel Day Lewis, Dillon Freasier, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds


"When ambition meets faith"

Cinema 4, Gateway Cineplex


My fiance asked me if this film which lasted almost 3 hours (2 hours and 40 minutes to be exact) was boring. My answer how can any film with Daniel Day Lewis be boring? OK well admittedly I am biased, I am a fan of the British actor who has the immeasurable ability to totally immersed himself in any role. He effortlessly becomes the character he is hired to portray.

In this film, he is Daniel Plainview. A man who with pure grit and willpower lifted himself from very dire circumstances to become a wealthy oilman. In turn, he is consumed with unquenchable greed, conflicted with his inner competitive self and hounded by religion. His wealth hardly masks his troubled life which brings about a disturbing change in his flawed personality.

The main bone of contention between me and my sister is whether Plainview was an evil man from the onset or whether his ascent to power and wealth made him evil. By evil I am loosely referring to his burst of cruelty, his obsessively ruthless demeanor and I'd say he definitely has anger management issues. The fact remains that Plainview has always been ambitious. His success didn't surface overnight, it was achieved through sheer hard work, driven by his gnawing need to be the first one to discover oil in seemingly barren lands. A man who doesn't possess much social skills but he can be quite charming in his quest to 'rob' innocent, simple minded folks of their oil filled properties. A man willing to use an innocent child to warm his way into the heart of the community. A person who can easily manipulate others but is too cunning to be manipulated himself.

The film is long indeed but it is a very interesting case study of a person you can't help but admire for his aggression yet at the same time you can't help but dislike for his overbearing mean nature. A love and hate relationship, I'd say. It also showcases strong father son bonding moments sans mushy sickening photographic scenes. It presents the relationship in all its complicated glory. Special mention goes to the young child, Dillon Freasier who portrays the endearing H.W. Plainview. His doe eyed face was a good contrast to the hardened chiseled facade of Daniel Day Lewis.

The first few minutes of the movie is stunningly silent. You merely see a scene of a man working himself to the bone. You wonder if you accidentally walked in to a silent film. Your senses are jarred back by the narration delivered in a deep throated voice. A few seconds pass by when you suddenly realize it is indeed Daniel Day Lewis speaking as Plainview. From then onwards, his presence is in every single frame yet you don't get bored with his performance. You are riveted to the screen as if in a trance.

As opposed to the numbing silence in the beginning of the movie, some scenes are fraught with a piercing soundtrack of music that feels like it is drilling deep into your brain. It slices across a cinematography of oil rich filled land in the vast frontier of early turn of the century, extreme close ups of Plainview's anguished face to scenes of nameless gullible faces being swayed by the machinations of a intriguing false preacher. This movie is well crafted, cleverly directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and powerfully essayed on screen by the masterful artistry of Daniel Day Lewis.

As to my prognosis whether he was 'evil' or not. I maintain that he was a despicable character from the onset. He has always been that way, it is just unfortunate that his rise to success merely edged it out of him instead of turning him into a nurturing likable person. But it has to be said that in portraying such a complicated and conflicted character in his esteemed film career, Daniel Day Lewis truly deserved the accolade he got from winning the Best Actor Award in the recently concluded 80th Academy Awards (the Oscars). His eloquent speech said it all:
My deepest thanks to the members of the Academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town. I'm looking at this gorgeous thing you've given me and I'm thinking back to the first devilish whisper of an idea that came to him and everything since and it seems to me that this sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad, beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson.

I wish my son and my partner HW Plainview were up here with me, the mighty Dillon Freasier. So many people to thank. One amongst them would be Mrs. Plainview down there, the enchantingly optimistic, open-minded and beautiful Rebecca Miller.

I hope that all those to whom I owe and to whom I feel the deepest gratitude will forgive me if I say just simply, "Thank you, Paul."

I've been thinking a lot about fathers and sons in the course of this, and I'd like to accept this in the memory of my grandfather, Michael Balcon, my father, Cecil Day-Lewis, and my three fine boys, Gabriel, Ronan and Cashel. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.


I thank you Daniel Day Lewis for yet another memorable character, we will cherish for years to come.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Academy Awards Acceptance Speeches

You know how it goes. The winners are announced then they scramble to the stage and try to express their gratitude to the people who helped them win the award. Then the pesky music sneaks in and they get cut off unceremoniously. Here are the transcript of this year's acceptance speeches at the recently concluded 80th Academy Awards. so we can better understand what they truly said that night.

CATEGORY: BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
SPEECH BY: SCOTT RUDIN, ETHAN COEN AND JOEL COEN
FILM: "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN"
Scott Rudin:
This is an unbelievable honor and a complete surprise. So many people have a part of this, chief among them Cormac McCarthy, who wrote a wonderful book that it was an honor to make into a movie. The three men sitting down front, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, without them there would be no movie.

These two gentlemen [to Joel and Ethan Coen], I can't think of anybody I would rather be standing here with than the two of you. Thank you so much for this.

Everybody at Vantage and Miramax who financed the movie together.
The entire team at Miramax who did a brilliant, brilliant job telling it. Thank you to all of them. I want to thank Mark Roybal, It's a pleasure to work with him every
day. I want to thank my friend, Sydney Pollack, who taught me that with the responsibility -- with the opportunity to make movies comes the responsibility of making them good. This for him.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
SPEECH BY: JOEL COEN AND ETHAN COEN
FILM: "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN"
Ethan Coen:
I don't have a lot to add to what I said earlier. Thank you.

Joel Coen:
Ethan and I have been making stories with movie cameras since we were kids. In the late '60s when Ethan was 11 or 12, he got a suit and a briefcase and we went to the Minneapolis International Airport with a Super 8 camera and made a movie about shuttle diplomacy called "Henry Kissinger, Man on the Go." And honestly, what we do
now doesn't feel that much different from what we were doing then.
There are too many people to thank for this. We're really thrilled to have received it, and we're very thankful to all of you out there for letting us continue to play in our corner of the sandbox, so thank you very much.



CATEGORY: PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
SPEECH BY: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
FILM: "THERE WILL BE BLOOD"
And that's the closest I'll ever come to getting a knighthood, so
thank you.

My deepest thanks to the members of the Academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town. I'm looking at this gorgeous thing you've given me and I'm thinking back to the first devilish whisper of an idea that came to him and everything since and it seems to me that this sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad, beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson.

I wish my son and my partner HW Plainview were up here with me, the mighty Dillon Freasier. So many people to thank. One amongst them would be Mrs. Plainview down there, the enchantingly optimistic, open-minded and beautiful Rebecca Miller.

I hope that all those to whom I owe and to whom I feel the deepest gratitude will forgive me if I say just simply, "Thank you, Paul."

I've been thinking a lot about fathers and sons in the course of this, and I'd like to accept this in the memory of my grandfather, Michael Balcon, my father, Cecil Day-Lewis, and my three fine boys, Gabriel, Ronan and Cashel. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.


CATEGORY: PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
SPEECH BY: MARION COTILLARD
FILM: "LA VIE EN ROSE"
Oh -- thank you so much. Olivier, what you did to me, Maestro Olivier Dahan, you rocked my life. You truly rocked my life. Thank you so much to Picturehouse for your passion, members of the Academy, thank you so, so much. And -- wow. Well, I'm speechless now. I -- I -- well, I -- thank you life, thank you love, and it is true, there is some angels in this city. Thank you so, so much.



CATEGORY: PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
SPEECH BY: TILDA SWINTON
FILM: "MICHAEL CLAYTON"
Oh, no. Happy birthday, man. I have an American agent who is the spitting image of this. Really truly the same shape head and, it has to be said, the buttocks.

And I'm giving this to him because there's no way I would be in America at all ever on a plane, if it wasn't for him. So, Brian Swardstrom, I'm giving this to you. And Tony Gilroy walks on water, it's entirely official as far as I'm concerned, and Jen Fox and Steve Samuels, our incredible producers.

And Sydney Pollack, and George Clooney, you know, the seriousness and the dedication to your art, seeing you climb into that rubber bat suit from "Batman & Robin," the one with the nipples, every morning under your costume, on the set, off the set, hanging upside - down at lunch, you rock, man.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


CATEGORY: PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
SPEECH BY: JAVIER BARDEM
FILM: "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN"
Wow. Alright, this is very amazing. It's a great honor for me to have this. I want to & I have to speak fast here, man. Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think that I could do that and put one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head.

Thank you for really proving my work. I want to share this with the cast, with the great Tommy Lee Jones, with the great Josh Brolin, with the great Kelly MacDonald. And I want to dedicate this to my mother, and I have to say this in Spanish, and I'm sorry ... [Speaking in Spanish]

Thank you very much!


CATEGORY: ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
SPEECH BY: DIABLO CODY
FILM: "JUNO"
What is happening? This is for the writers, and I want to thank all the writers. I especially want to thank my fellow nominees because I worship you guys and I'm learning from you every day, so thank you very much. I want to thank the Academy, I want to thank Fox Searchlight, Mr. Mudd, Mandate, Dan Dubiecki. I want to thank our
incredible cast including the superhuman Ellen Page. I want to thank Jason Reitman, who I consider a member of my family, and I'm in awe of his talent as a filmmaker. I want to thank Sarah Self. I want to thank Mason Novick who knew I could do this before I did. And most of all, I want to thank my family for loving me exactly the way I am.


CATEGORY: BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
SPEECH BY: CYNTHIA WADE AND VANESSA ROTH
FILM: "FREEHELD"
Cynthia Wade:
Thank you. It was Lieutenant Laurel Hester's dying wish that her fight for, against discrimination would make a difference for all the same sex couples across the country that face discrimination every day. Discrimination that I don't face as a married woman. Sheila Nevins and HBO for making this film have a broadcast and a
home on Cinemax later this year. To my husband Matthew Syrett, who took care of our children and held down a full-time job so that we could make this film. And to our incredible team in New York, thank you so much.

Vanessa Roth:
And to all our supporters and families who believe that even a 38-minute movie could change minds and lives and our children who remind us about what's really important. And to Stacie, who's here tonight, who's really auto mechanic by day but hero in life who always did what was right. And she's here tonight. So thank you so
much.

Cynthia Wade:
Thank you.

Vanessa Roth:
Thank you.y'all standing on the shoulders, we know this, of Daniel Day-Lewis, who isn't here right now, but thank you all so much. Thank you. And Helen. Thank you so much.


CATEGORY: BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
SPEECH BY: ALEX GIBNEY AND EVA ORNER
FILM: "TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE"
Alex Gibney:
Wow. Thank you very much, Academy. Here's to all doc filmmakers. And, truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I'd make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition that simply wasn't possible. This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a Navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let's hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light. Thank you very much.


CATEGORY: Achievement in cinematography
SPEECH BY: Robert Elswit
FILM: "There Will Be Blood"
John Toll won this a number of years ago said that the production designer on his movie, that 50% of it belonged to him. Well, 80% belongs to Jack Fisk and his production crew. And David Crank and Dylan Tichenor. But it really, we all know it really, really belongs to Paul. That this is his imagination and his energy and his
extraordinary vision. It sort of enabled us to create the world of "There Will Be Blood." Thank you, Paul. We're really all standing on the shoulders, we know this, of Daniel Day-Lewis, who isn't here right now, but thank you all so much. Thank you. And Helen. Thank you so much.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)
SPEECH BY: DARIO MARIANELLI
FILM: "ATONEMENT"
Well, that was a very long walk, it felt like. I feel like -- I'm a very lucky man. Thank you very much, Academy. I'm very lucky because I was part of a fantastic group of people that made a fantastic film. It's called "movie" because it's a moving film. I'm really grateful, above all to Joe Wright, the director, to have included me in this fantastic group of gifted people. I'm very grateful to my good friends for supporting me through lots of things, through these years, and my family, who I love very much. My girls, and my father and my mother. Thank you for passing on a very deep and strong love of music. Thank you.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)
SPEECH BY: GLEN HANSARD AND MARKETA IRGLOVA
FILM: "FALLING SLOWLY" FROM "ONCE"
Glen Hansard:
Thanks! This is amazing. What are we doing here? This is mad. We made this film two years ago. We shot on two Handycams. It took us three weeks to make. We made it for a hundred grand. We never thought we would come into a room like this and be in front of you people. It's been an amazing thing. Thanks for taking this film seriously, all of you. It means a lot to us. Thanks to the Academy, thanks to all the people who've helped us, they know who they are, we don't need to say them. This is amazing. Make art. Make art. Thanks.

Marketa Irglova:
Hi everyone. I just want to thank you so much. This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just to prove no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream and don't give up. And this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are. And so thank you so much, who helped us along way. Thank you.


CATEGORY: BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
SPEECH BY: STEFAN RUZOWITZKY
FILM: "THE COUNTERFEITERS" (AUSTRIA)
Thank you very much. There have been some great Austrian filmmakers working here, thinking of Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Otto Preminger, most of them had to leave my country because of the Nazis, so it sort of makes sense that the first Austrian movie to win an Oscar is about the Nazis' crimes. Making this movie, I had a most brilliant cast, a wonderful crew, the best of all families to support me at home, so actually, it was easy for me. Thank you very much.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
SPEECH BY: CHRISTOPHER ROUSE
FILM: "THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM"
Forty-eight years ago, my father was privileged enough to receive an Oscar, and I'm deeply, deeply honored that you put me in his company tonight. To the brilliant Paul Greengrass, to Frank Marshall, thank you, thank you, thank you. To everybody in post-production, led by my good friend and colleague, Mark Fitzgerald, each and every one of you share in this award with me. To Universal Pictures, to the Academy, my deepest, deepest thanks. To the amazing Matt Damon, thank you. And to my family, especially Anne, Anno, Ava and Fiona. My kids, I love you. Thank you so, so much.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
SPEECH BY: SCOTT MILLAN, DAVID PARKER AND KIRK FRANCIS
FILM: "THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM"
Scott Millan:
Would it be all right to kiss Halle Berry now? We'd like to thank the Academy, certainly, Per and Karen, just thank you, principally everybody, Frank Marshall, Pat Crowley. Our director, Paul Greengrass. Chris Rouse, our picture editor. Everybody at Universal, Per and Karen, of course. Everybody at Todd AO, our team there.

And I'd like to add one thing, kind of a somber note, this last week we lost a colleague and a friend, who was also a member of the Board of Governors here at the Academy, his name is Paul Huntsman. I would like to dedicate this to Paul. So, thank you very much.

David Parker:
Thanks to everyone who worked on sound for the film and thanks to the Academy. Thank you very much.


CATEGORY: Achievement in sound editing
SPEECH BY: Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
FILM: "The Bourne Ultimatum"
Karen Baker Landers:
Oh my God, I went blank. It's such an honor to be here. I want to thank, we want to thank the Academy. We want to thank Universal Studios.

Per Hallberg:
And the pleasure of doing something like this with filmmakers like Paul, and I'm blanking out, too.

Karen Baker Landers:
Frank Marshall

Per Hallberg:
Pat Crowley

Karen Baker Landers:
Pat Crowley

Per Hallberg:
Chris Rouse

Karen Baker Landers:
Chris Rouse. Paul Greengrass.

Per Hallberg:
You said that already.

Karen Baker Landers:
Mixers. Scott Millan, David Parker. We planned this and we blew it.

Per Hallberg:
And, anyway, most of all, we want to thank the crew that works with
us every day.

Karen Baker Landers:
Yes, gosh, Chris Assells, Dan Hegeman, I know, I know, music. Thank you so much.

Per Hallberg:
Thank you, thank you.



CATEGORY: ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
SPEECH BY: JOEL COEN & ETHAN COEN
FILM: "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN"
Joel Coen:
Thank you very much for this. Thank you, Scott Rudin for bringing us this novel and giving us the opportunity to make the movie. I think whatever success we've had in this area has been entirely attributable to how selective we are. We've only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy, so thank you.

Ethan Coen:
We, uh and thank you very much.



CATEGORY: BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
SPEECH BY: PHILIPPE POLLET-VILLARD
FILM: "LE MOZART DES PICKPOCKETS (THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS)"
Thank you, thank you very much. I don't really speak English. I'm very bad student. I can say I'm very happy and I want to thank my producer Fabrice Goldstein and Antoine Rein and my wife Gaby and my son Sebastien. And merci beaucoups& [speaking French] Merci au revoir.


CATEGORY: BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
SPEECH BY: SUZIE TEMPLETON AND HUGH WELCHMAN
FILM: "PETER & THE WOLF"
Suzie Templeton:
This is for everyone. This for our fantastic crew and this for everybody who worked so passionately on our film to make our dream come true.

Hugh Welchman:
Yeah, no this really is a fairy tale ending for us, but hopefully it's only the beginning for Peter and this amazing award, and it will help keep Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" in the hearts and minds of children all over the world. So, the Academy, thank you so much. it's been amazing.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
SPEECH BY: "DANTE FERRETTI AND FRANCESCA LO SCHIAVO"
FILM: "SWEENEY TODD THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET"
Dante Ferretti:
Thank you to the Academy. And thank you to Tim Burton, fantastic director. Thank you to Richard Zanuck. Thank you to everybody, thank you to my team, all the department, everyone. Thank you, Johnny. And I'm sorry, i forgot something, but I'm very -- thank you anyway.

Francesca Lo Schiavo:
Just i would like to say, this time, thank you, thank you to the Academy. I'm so happy, so grateful. And thank you to Tim Burton. Great director. Johnny Depp and all the actors, Everybody, for this fantastic movie.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
SPEECH BY: DIDIER LAVERGNE AND JAN ARCHIBALD
FILM: "LA VIE EN ROSE"
Didier Lavergne:
Thank you very much. Thank you to the Academy and what can I say? I'm really happy and proud to be here with you. Bye.

Jan Archibald:
Thank you to the academy for this huge honor. I'm overwhelmed. It's just amazing. I have a lot of people to thank. My assistants, particularly, my Czech crew that worked with us in Prague and in Paris, they were amazing. They worked very hard and I owe a lot to them. And just, it's so exciting to be here. I don't know what to
say. Thank you.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
SPEECH BY: MICHAEL FINK, BILL WESTENHOFER, BEN MORRIS AND TREVOR WOOD
FILM: "THE GOLDEN COMPASS"
Michael Fink:
We just want to say "Thank you!" We just brought a small quote from Walt Disney, who said "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

And along with that, I want to extend some thanks to Phil Pullman, Chris Weitz, Susan MacLeod, our producers, our incredible crew from all over the world. And to especially to our families and to my wife, Melissa, my handsome son Alex.

Bill Westenhofer:
And to my family, Rhythm & Hues, Sue Rose out there watching this, Thank you.

Ben Morris:
Thank you to my family and my wonderful crew at Framestore CFC.

Trevor Wood:
A great crew and a great family. Thank you very much indeed.

Ben Morris:
Thank you!


CATEGORY: BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR
SPEECH BY: BRAD BIRD
FILM: "RATATOUILLE"
I think I'm gonna throw up, too. I want to thank the Academy and I also want to thank my junior high guidance counselor for a meeting we had where he asked me, "What do you want to do with your life?" And I said, "I want to make movies." And he said, "What else do you want to do with your life?" And I said, "Make movies," and he said, "What if you couldn't make movies," and I said, "I'd find a
way that I could."

"What if movies didn't exist?"

"I'd have to invent them." And it went on like this until we were sick of each other and i only realized just recently that he gave me the perfect training for the movie business. So, I want to thank my wife Liz, who I love, my sons, all the dreamers at Pixar and Disney, John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull. Wrap it up. I hate that thing. Producer Brad Lewis, Jan Pinkava, and Dick Cook, and all the dreamers who are supporting a rat who dreams. Thanks.


CATEGORY: ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
SPEECH BY: ALEXANDRA BYRNE
FILM: "ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE"
Wow. Thank you to the Academy. Thank you to Working Title and Universal. To Shekhar and Cate. And a huge thank you to my brilliant team and to my family.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

VANTAGE POINT

VANTAGE POINT
Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Eduardo Noriega, Edgar Ramirez, Said Taghmaoui


"8 Strangers. 8 Points of View. 1 Truth"

Cinema 4, Robinson's Galleria



This non linear film actually focuses on just one event. The assassination of the US President while he addresses a huge crowd in a plaza in Salamanca, Spain. We are shown the scene unfolding in 5 minute frames from the point of view of 8 different people. Each of them playing a major part in the situation. It is futile to discuss each of the portions at length, it needs to be seen on the big screen. I believe it is in the neatly executed presentation of these vantage points where the film somehow "succeeds."

The manner the director chose to narrate to the audience the main scene with its repetitive sequences is a different film technique. He does it with non stop action filled sequences of car chases, exploding bombs and a sense of terrifying panic. All vividly executed by a good ensemble cast of a bevy of international actors (US and Spanish) like Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker and Eduardo Noriego to name a few. The setting is in a sunny Spanish city/town with its tiny streets vibrantly teeming with huge throes of humanity.

The implausible story line does have some loopholes but the fast paced action scenes glosses over them. You really don't get a detailed explanation behind the assassination plot and its mastermind. You assume it is to prove a point. That we live in vicarious times. Or that not even the most protected head of state in the world is safe from terrorist attacks. Or that some people just want to make a statement by resorting to violent means.


By the 4th or 5th vantage point, you slowly piece the puzzles together to get the whole picture. You don't mind going through the repeated scenes of disturbing footage of an exploding plaza filled with people and the lapse in the Secret Service security, the very people assigned to protect "Potus". You get chills from the cunning ability of the terrorists to have a well organized plan to carry out their violent strategy.

It is no doubt deeply absorbing and makes for a thrilling cinematic moment while it lasts. Then you leave the theater and realize that these events can and do happen for real. The scary part is that the truth of the matter is never fully explained and their (the news spiel filtered to the media by the government) version of the truth will prevail simply because it was announced in the evening news. So it is probably best you leave your conspiracy theory tendencies at home and simply sit back to get an adrenaline rush from the film.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE ILLUSIONIST

THE ILLUSIONIST
Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Paul Giamatti


"Nothing is what it seems"


Star Movies





For some reason, this film which was shown at roughly the same time as "The Prestige" never made it to the theaters in this part of the globe. So thank God for cable and Star Movies, I was able to see it and understand why it would surely be compared with the Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman starrer. But beyond the fact that both films dealt with magicians and their baffling tricks, they are different in so many ways. This review won't delve into a comparative analysis and aim to discern which of the two movies was better. I believe that every single film must be seen for its aim to tell us a story and should not suffer in comparison with other films in the same genre.


This film is based on a short story entitled "Eisenheim, the Illusionist" by Steven Millhauser. The fact that the writers were able to extend it into a film version is laudable. It is set in Vienna, one of the oldest cities in the world at the turn of the 1900s. The tone of the film was neatly depicted in the authentic art direction and cinematography. It tells the tale of Edward Abramovich, an enigmatic young boy who falls in love with Sophie, a fair maiden from the upper part of society. After they were separated by certain events, he returns to the city 15 years later as the newest sensation in town ... Eisenheim the Illusionist. It has to be stated that during those times, shows of such nature were the hit form of entertainment for an easily gullible crowd. True enough, the young lovers are reunited but conflict ensues. Sophie is now the Duchess Von Teschen and is bethroned to Leopold, the Crown Prince of Austria. Throw in an eager Police Inspector who is determined to learn the tricks of the trade and you have an ensemble cast set to beguile you in this film.

The cast has to be credited for churning out quite believable performances. Edward Norton complete with facial hair and genuine accent plays the illusionist with aplomb. According to some articles, he even performed some of the magic tricks himself after he was coached by some of the best known masters of illusion in the world today. Paul Giamatti as Inspector Uhl is in his elements. He completely takes over every role that you simply forget he is merely acting. Rufus Sewell as the protagonist was brilliant. So much so that despite being the 'villain' you still sympathize with his character. I mean for God's sake the Crown Prince was simply progressive in his views and ideas for the country. But alas during those times, such characteristic wasn't cool (for lack of a better word). The only one who didn't score well in my books is the below average acting of Jessica Biel. She is just a pretty face sans acting skills. I expected her to be more reactionary in her role as Sophie. I believe she was miscast. The lack of chemistry between her and Edward Norton was evident in some scenes.

This period piece was boosted primarily by a good cast and clever visual effects. Midway through the film, you can already more or less figure out how the story line would play out. But it still made for good entertainment viewing. If only to be mesmerized by the strong screen presence of Rufus Sewell as the brooding Count Prince Leopold. His character was loosely based on the real Crown Prince of Austria, a rather tragic historical figure.

I conclude by admitting I was much more intrigued by the plot line of "The Prestige" for what it's worth.

Friday, February 22, 2008

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD
Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell

Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex


Jesse James


Some points about this film which captured my eye:
  • The film is as long as its title. All 160 minutes of it.
  • The buildup towards the main event (the assassination) was a bit slow. There were a few wasted footage of sequences.
  • Stunning cinematography. Detail oriented shots of snow laden barren lands in the wide frontier. It made me shiver all the more as the theater itself was freezing. Yes unfortunately I once again forgot to bring some sweater or shawl to protect me. Some special technique of camera angles where the peripheral images are blurry but the central frame is crystal clear was used for some scenes. It was pleasing to the eye. There was a bleak bluish tone to the story line.
  • Very strong character development of the lead characters - a vivid study of distinctly contrasting characters. Good performances by Brad Pitt as Jesse James. His portrayal of the outlaw was believable. His personal anguish, his menacing presence, his violent streak bursting forth one instance. In the next shot he is calm and collected in his subtle ways and sometimes he was even funny - very humane portrayal.
  • I was also impressed by Sam Rockwell as Charlie Ford, the older brother of Tom Ford. His friendship with Jesse James was strong yet he also lived in fear and in awe of the larger than life public enemy. His petrified face near the end of the film was powerfully projected on screen.
  • But kudos goes to Casey Affleck as the cunning, wily Robert Ford. Never mind that his voice is high pitch and comes across as someone who laments and whines constantly. Well alright, he did whine a lot. A steely gaze with squinting eyes as he cunningly mapped out his betrayal sent shivers down my spine. But the film gave us a better understanding of Robert Ford. A troubled and tortured soul whose obsession with Jesse James was quite creepy in nature.
  • An authentic wardrobe from the era added to the Western genre.
  • The film was ably guided by a poetic narration of the events by someone who was never identified clearly in the film. But it felt like you were watching an audio tape of the book unfolding before your eyes with stunning visual effects.
  • The last 10 minutes or so of the film felt like a rushed afterthought. It could have been more neatly edited to fit the film. A bit disjointed but nonetheless essential to the plot.
  • I did like the film in the sense that it presented a realistic portrayal of a larger than life public figure immortalized in countless movies and songs. It also gave us a glimpse in the personality of the man who fell into infamy as the coward killer of the famed outlaw.

Cultural travel

Cultural travel
One of my frustrations in life is to go on a cultural tour of some of the finest cities in Europe. Simply hop on a train then disembark at a different city every week. Soaking in the picturesque atmosphere, visit museums, watch some musicals or play, eat authentic local fare and even sneak into a small theater to watch a local film. Never mind if I don't speak the language or the film doesn't have subtitles, I would simply be awed by the visual treat unfolding before my eyes.

With the advent of online booking sites, it is so convenient to go traveling these days. There is a single website where you can book your accommodations with just one click. For instance, I can start my cultural adventure by venturing to my favorite city in the world. The romantic capital city of France, I can choose from any of the Paris accommodation based on my budget.





Then the next week, I can find affordable places at Barcelona accommodation. Then visit The Queen and stay at any of these London accommodations. Then go forth and venture into nearby Scotland and choose from any of these Edinburgh accommodations. I might as well increase my enriching cultural experience by heading over to Ireland for some local flavor while enjoying my bed and breakfast which I picked from Dublin accommodation.
Ah yes well this frustration of mine will likely remain my lifelong dream!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

JUMPER

JUMPER
Hayden Christensen, Jaime Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, Rachel Bilson


"Anywhere is possible"


Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex




There is a line in this film uttered by one of the "jumpers" (Jaime Bell) who says to the main "Jumper" (Hayden Christensen) dude alluded to in the title: "You think you can go on like this forever? Living like this with no consequences? There are *always* consequences."

On that note, I would say yes there are *always* consequences! You sit in a freezing theater to watch a sci-fi film about some highly implausible plot of certain beings with some freaking power wherein they can teleport themselves here ... there ... and everywhere. The resulting consequence is getting dizzy when your head spins from all those teleporting moments shot with shaky camera angles.

Well alright sure you are awed with brilliant visual effects, computer generated images of famous landmarks like London's Ben Big, the head of the Sphinx in Egypt and even a fleeting shot of the Burj al Arab in Dubai.

You try to get emotionally involved in the characters development as the film progresses. The main hero, his love interest, his parents even the villains here known as the Paladins (the antagonists who hunt down jumpers simply because well they are abominations of the human race) and everyone else. You notice you cannot really take your eyes off Samuel L. Jackson's white dyed hair. As well as how Jaime Bell registered much more screen presence than main jumper dude Hayden Christensen. How sometimes Hayden resembles Ashton Kutcher with shorter hair.

You also try to make sense of the storyline. Even put yourself in the situation and wonder if you had such powers would you use it to your advantage or would you use it to help the less fortunate? How come you need to stab the jumpers with some special knife when you can just zap them with a million bolts of electricity?

After a while, you simply rest your case. Stop questioning the plot loopholes, the mediocre acting from some of the cast members and the head spinning visual effects, sit back and just watch it for entertainment's sake. All 90 minutes of it. Then drink some meds for the headache it sadly induced. Then you realize and lament the fact that the theater was filled to the rafters for this average movie while a gem of a film like "Juno" was showing at a nearly empty cinema.

Oh well!

Friday, February 15, 2008

JUNO

JUNO
Ellen Page, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby


"A comedy about growing up ... and the bumps along the way"


Cinema 2, SM Megamall



Juno is a feisty young girl.

Juno is witty.

Juno has an eclectic taste in music.

Juno is 16.

Juno is pregnant!

Juno is also quite mature for her young age with a good head on her shoulders. She handles this setback on her own merit. Give or take a few hitches along the way, she manages to deal with the situation .

Now whether or not this film highlights, condones or even makes light of teenage pregnancy is not the point. It is the story of a young girl (named after a character in Greek/Roman mythology (the wife of Zeus) and not the town in Alaska) who maturely solves her 'problem'. Some would say she was rather emotion less and quite stoic but I'd say, she was being very practical. She was lucky her support system was pretty solid and they didn't react in a hysterical manner. In fact, I found them really cool in an independent not indifferent way.

The film starts with Juno's narrative of the events leading to her pregnancy. An animated sequence shows the opening credits to the tune of a catchy song. The story unfolds as we are introduced to the interesting characters. The dialogue is fast paced with whimsical, witty lines. All delivered in a distinct style that reminds me of the dialogue in "Gilmore Girls". It was peppered with a variety of songs that somehow didn't sit too well for me. I just got this sense that they went overboard by bombarding the film with cutesy tunes and grungy music to add some whimsical factor to the film. They overindulged in that department. Naturally, a crisis/conflict arises midway for some dramatic effect. Yet the film still manages to end with a pleasant feeling that everyone and everything is back to normal in their own little world.

Ellen Page fits the role of Juno to a T. Her overall aura of girlish charm disguises the fact that she is well tuned and quite witty in her own right. She is atypical young girl a bit off in her musical tastes as well as her outlook in life. Veering towards piercing sarcasm and practicality as opposed to idealistic tendencies. But deep inside she is still a young girl growing up in her own little world who just wants to be loved for who she is. That task surely takes a lot of effort, I'd say. The rest of the cast help in their subtle portrayal of their supporting yet still relevant roles. Although I didn't sense much chemistry between the adoptive parents but in essence it was meant to show they aren't the picture perfect married couple.

It is a pity there were only a handful of people in the theater. I'm guessing people tend to stay clear of a movie that seems to highlight teenage pregnancy, but they are wrong. It has a well written plot with interesting characters and well it just happens to deal with a heavy subject matter. Just be open minded and learn to appreciate a unique story, once in a while. It is worth it.
Juno is worth it!

Monday, February 11, 2008

THE BUCKET LIST

THE BUCKET LIST
Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, Sean Hayes


"When he closed his eyes, his heart was opened"

Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex



The main reason this rather predictable film shines is the credible performances of Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

They portray two very contrasting characters who are diagnosed with terminal cancer. Complete strangers who happen to share a room in the hospital where they receive treatment for their ailments. Complete opposites from the get go. They forge an enduring friendship. It takes off after they made a bucket list. A list of items they want to do and or witness before they hmmm kick the bucket, so to speak. I guess it certainly helps that Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is filthy rich. With his loyal aide/secretary (Sean Hayes) at his beck and call, he can afford to take them to places in his fancy private jet like the Himalayas and the pyramids in Egypt. Go sky diving, experience an African safari among others.

While the movie's main theme focuses on achieving everything on that list. It is the unique and strong friendship which develops between the two patients that adds soul to the film. Their nuggets of wisdom, the narratives of their loves and lives filter out during their trip. They also provide valuable life lessons.

So even though you actually already know how the movie will end, you find yourself drawn to their enthusiasm as they get a second kick out of their lives. It makes you want to actually make your own bucket list and go sail forth unto the realm of unfulfilled dreams and unbridled desires.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

THE DARJEELING LIMITED

THE DARJEELING LIMITED
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Natalie Portman, Anjelica Huston, Amara Karan


Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3



This latest offering from Wes Anderson is just as quirky and eccentric as his other films "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Rushmore". I liked the songs (combination of French, English and Indian music), the scenery shots of the train as it passes through the villages of India, the main compartment/wagon where the three brothers are mostly confined throughout their journey and the exotic feel which seeps through. It's almost as if you can actually smell the spicy flavor of that culturally rich nation. And having grown up in India, believe me I know what it truly smells like. I mean that in a good way.

But the film is more than just a train journey, it encompasses a spiritual trip for its 3 main characters, the Whitman brothers. Each one unique, contrasting characters all charming in their own way. The only common bond which binds them together is their surname, otherwise you won't really know or can't really connect them as brothers. One of them actually says: "I wonder if the three of us would've been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people." Probably not if you ask me.

Francis (Owen Wilson), the eldest likes to take it upon himself to plan out everything for his brothers even though he himself needs to figure out his own life. From ordering what food to eat, to coming up with a daily itinerary during their trip, he can be a tad overwhelming, sometimes. Peter (Adrien Brody) a soon to be father likes to hold on to the items of their recently deceased father, obsessively. While Jack (Jason Schwartzman) has his own troubles dealing with the recent break up of his complicated relationship. Together they venture on a train, the Darjeeling Limited in an effort to bond together as brothers as well as deal with their trust issues. Follow their adventures in the train as well as off as they travel with the monogrammed luggage(s) of their dead father. They are loaded with intoxicating medicines for their various ailments in their aim to find and reconnect with their mother, Sister Patricia Whitman (the brilliant Anjelica Huston) who has run off to a remote place in the Himalayas to care for orphaned children.

So there you go, is that quirky enough for you?

It has to be said that this sort of film doesn't really suit everyone! Yet if you are an adventurous film goer willing to be entertained with something different once in a while then by all means, stick around. Soak in the scenery, the spiritual aspect the movie tries to convey, the well developed and fetching characters as portrayed by three really talented actors who are the heart and soul of this film. Laugh at their situational comedic experiences as they explore the culture of India, its people and in the process despite and inspite of their strange journey they find their true selves.

Francis: I guess I've still got a lot of healing to do.
Jack: Gettin' there, though.
Peter: Anyway, it's definitely going to add a lot of character to you.

I conclude by saying that "The Darjeeling Limited" certainly has a lot of character to it!

MUSICNation

Music Nation
There is a fascinating website that caters to music lovers everywhere. Music Nation is an online music community which serves as the go between artists/bands and viewers/fans. The bands upload their videos on the site then the system re-directs viewers to the band's latest artistic offering. Fans can also share their favorite band's videos.

After you register, you can choose whatever genre of music suits you like Rock, Rap, Pop, Country etc and the system keeps feeding them to you till you say stop. The more people use the system the better it gets. The more users recommend videos of their favorite artists the better exposure for the bands. Bands which get a lot of play have a chance at getting signed by MusicNation.com's partner EPIC RECORDS!

There are also competitions you can join on Music Nation.com which entitles you to win tons of stuff. It’s different every time. Each competition has its own prizes, they are all clearly listed on its page. Their interesting blog contains all sort of information from obscure rock trivia to music news, as well as the stories behind famous album covers to the viral vids of the moment. So you will always be in on the latest music news.

So sign up now and be part of this engaging online music community.

Friday, February 1, 2008

P.S. I LOVE YOU

P.S. I LOVE YOU
Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jr., Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kathy Bates


"Sometimes there is only one thing left to say"

Cinema 12, SM Megamall



I never read the novel by Cecelia Ahern this movie was based on because I'm not into chick lit. But the main draw for me was Gerard Butler. The Phantom of the Opera and King Leonidas of Sparta himself! Here he is Gerry, a carefree Irish balladeer who is transported to New York City as a limo driver. He has been married to Holly for 10 years. Holly (Hilary Swank) is the 'responsible' one in the marriage, she has a plan for everything. From moving to a bigger apartment to deciding when to have children. One year later, we witness Holly's grief as she is suddenly widowed after Gerry succumbs to a brain tumor. The film picks up when on her 30th birthday she receives a cake and a tape recording from Gerry telling her to tidy up and go out to celebrate her natal day. The different seasons pass by and we see Holly living again ably guided by several letters sent by Gerry. A well conceived plan devised by Gerry (the non planner) so that Holly can move on with her life without him by her side. It also helps that she had a strong support system. She had her friends who stick by her. Her mother who has been through her own rough time dealing with issues of abandonment and separation. And a supportive male friend with his own syndrome.

But this so called plan by Gerry begs the question. How can she move on with her life when all she has to look forward to is receiving those letters? Won't it only firmly make her cling to her past? Well it works! In making her rediscover the person she was before she married Gerry. And the person I like to believe made Gerry fall in love with her in the first place. We all know how the travails of married life can sometimes make us lose focus on the true meaning of life. In the beginning of the film, Holly laments and argues about the direction her life has taken. She felt like she was always waiting for her life to begin. She is constantly planning everything. Being the responsible grown up one who worries all the time. Gerry answers her that that was it, this was their life now and I melted when he told her: "I know what I want, because I have it in my hands right now. You."

It is a sweet romantic comedy that surely gets your tears ducts flowing but it does have its flaws or plot loopholes. To mention a few - some wasted footage showing Holly mopping around in apartment during her time of grief. The forced romantic angle sequence with Harry Connick Jr. Or the fact that you wonder how she was able to support herself financially when she wasn't working because earlier in the film she was lamenting how she hated her job and they couldn't afford a bigger place. But the film does redeem itself with shots of the lush Irish countryside, the good acting performances of Hilary Swank and Kathy Bates, the right comedic timing of Lisa Kudrow being goofy and dare I say flash back shots of Gerard Butler singing tracks by the Pogues (an Irish folk band) with his Irish accent!

So although the film deals with death and grief. It is more focused on redicovering and re examining our goals in life. It is about celebrating the fact that as long as we live, we do have the right and the option to be happy no matter how difficult our life has been.
 

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