The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Here are the results for the 69th Golden Globes, which is usually a pretty good indicator for the Oscars (and yes, just as predictable). No big surprises aside from Martin Scorsese getting an award for his directing in HUGO…

The Artist got away with its award for best comedy, Meryl Streep and Clooney won for their performances in a drama (both very well deserved) and Steven Spielberg went home with an award for Tintin.

Aside from that, the evening was pretty restrained: no big tears, no big shocks… and sadly no big insults from Ricky Gervais (this time it felt he was really holding back). However funnily enough the best moment had nothing to with any of nominees below, but was the pleasure of seeing a montage of films with Morgan Freeman for the Cecil B DeMille Award.

Underneath you can read all the nominees, the winners and some of my (silly) comments too.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

WINNER: The Descendants (2011)  

The Help (2011)

Hugo (2011/II)

Moneyball (2011)

War Horse (2011)

I am really happy to see this little film getting this award. I’ve always liked it since I first saw it .

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

WINNER: The Artist (2011)

Bridesmaids (2011)

50/50 (2011)

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Well of course… It had to win. Everybody loves it even though there are a lot of better films out there.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

WINNER: George Clooney for The Descendants (2011)

Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar (2011)

Michael Fassbender for Shame (2011)

Brad Pitt for Moneyball (2011)

Clooney truly deserved this award. His performance in the Descendants is possibly his best performance ever.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (2011)

Viola Davis for The Help (2011)

WINNER: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011)

Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

She had to win. She’s still the best living actress around. A legend! She’s got class to sell (in her speech she thanked all actresses who have not been nominated!). I just wondered: how dare they play music over her to push her off the stage?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

WINNER: Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011)

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard (2011)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt for 50/50 (2011)

Owen Wilson for Midnight in Paris (2011)

I was really hoping for Ryan Gosling or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but let’s face it, it was never going to happen. Jean Dujardin gave a lovely speech with a nice “silent” touch at the end.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Jodie Foster for Carnage (2011)

WINNER: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Kate Winslet for Carnage (2011)

This was to be expected. It’s going to be between her and Meryl Streep at the Oscars (who probably deserves it more thought). Her speech was heartfelt and lovely.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Nominees:

Albert Brooks for Drive (2011)

Jonah Hill for Moneyball (2011)

WINNER : Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2010)

I did say it at the time. This one of the best performances of the year. TOTALLY deserved! I am so happy 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Bérénice Bejo for The Artist (2011)

Jessica Chastain for The Help (2011)

Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs (2011)

WINNER: Octavia Spencer for The Help (2011)

Shailene Woodley for The Descendants (2011)

She really deserved it… Though i must confess I did actually fall in love with Shailene in The Descendant. 

Best Director – Motion Picture

WINNER: Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011/II)

A night where both Scorsese and Spielberg win a Golden Globe can only be a good night in my opinion, however if you asked me Alexander Payne deserved this.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

WINNER: Midnight in Paris (2011): Woody Allen

Moneyball (2011): Steven ZaillianAaron SorkinStan Chervin

Not so sure it deserved it, especially against Sorkin, Payne and Clooney… But maybe it got it because the voted split among all the others.

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

Albert Nobbs (2011): Brian ByrneGlenn Close(“Lay Your Head Down”)

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011): Elton JohnBernie Taupin(“Hello Hello”)

The Help (2011): Mary J. BligeThomas NewmanHarvey Mason Jr.Damon Thomas(“The Living Proof”)

Machine Gun Preacher (2011): Chris Cornell(“The Keeper”)

WINNER: W.E. (2011): Madonna, Julie Frost, Jimmy Harry(“Masterpiece”)

It was quite funny to hear her acceptance speech. It sounded as if she was expecting the award for her direction for the film… Madonna, it’s just the song. Get that statuette and go home!!

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

WINNER: The Artist (2011): Ludovic Bource

Hugo (2011/II): Howard Shore

W.E. (2011): Abel Korzeniowski

It was to be expected since the whole film relies on the soundtrack and nothing else… But I really thought John Williams’s score was beautiful.

Best Animated Film

Cars 2 (2011)

Puss in Boots (2011)

Rango (2011)

Isn’t great to see Spielberg accepting an award again… (and for a cartoon!!).

Best Foreign Language Film

The Flowers of War (2011)(China)

The Kid with a Bike (2011)(Belgium)

WINNER: A Separation (2011)(Iran)

The Skin I Live In (2011)(Spain)

Best Television Series – Drama

“Boss” (2011)

WINNER: “Homeland” (2011)

Everybody has been telling me for months to watch this series. It look like I am going to have to catch up soon

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

“Episodes” (2011)

“Glee” (2009)

WINNER: “Modern Family” (2009)

“New Girl” (2011)

I love this show and the acceptance speech was just as wild as the show itself.

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Cinema Verite (2011) (TV)

WINNER “Downton Abbey” (2010)

“The Hour” (2011)

Too Big to Fail (2011) (TV)

Mildred Pierce was fantastic, but everybody seems to love the Brits of Downton Abbey these days.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama

WINNER: Claire Danes for “Homeland” (2011)

Callie Thorne for “Necessary Roughness” (2011)

Claire Danes is always a winner on TV. This is her 3rd win. And now I have another reason to watch Homeland.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

WINNER: Idris Elba for “Luther” (2010)

William Hurt for Too Big to Fail (2011) (TV)

Bill Nighy for Page Eight (2011) (TV)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

WINNER: Peter Dinklage for “Game of Thrones” (2011)

Paul Giamatti for Too Big to Fail (2011) (TV)

Tim Robbins for Cinema Verite (2011) (TV)

Eric Stonestreet for “Modern Family” (2009)

A mini-actor for a miniseries… hehehe… sorry, that was a bit cheap.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Evan Rachel Wood for “Mildred Pierce” (2011)

Pity for Maggie… She hasn’t got many award season left…

J. Edgar – Review

J. Edgar (2011) 

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Dustin Lance Black. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprioJosh HamiltonGeoff PiersonNaomi WattsJudi DenchJeffrey DonovanDermot Mulroney

I am finding really hard to find something good to say about this latest dull dull dull film by Clint Eastwood. I am actually even beginning to think that it’s probably time for Clint to enjoy his retirement, instead of giving us every year a film which borders between the cheesy, the flat and most crucially the rhetorical propaganda! I am sorry to say this, because I love the guy as a person, but let’s face it, both Invictus  and (especially) Hereafter were real stinkers

As far as J. Edgar is concerned behind the thin patina of gloss, the actual true fascinating story and an impressive cast, there is otherwise very little to enjoy.

Eastwood directs it all almost by numbers, as if he wasn’t even there, without any visual flair, any care or attention for details, any subtlety, or  worse any real ideas or anything to say.

Every decision behind the making of this film seems to have been wrong one: the decision to break the film up, flashing backwards and forwards makes it too complicated to follow and keeps the audience emotionally detached for at least the whole first half. The decision to allow Eastwood to recycle his usual plain piano notes soundtrack, which sounds exactly the same as every other one of his films and actually here is used in the most cheesy possible way to its worse effect. The decision to have J Edgar Hoover telling the story of his life to a biographer (my God, can it all be a bit more obvious please!?), but most crucially, the decision to have Di Caprio & Co acting with (not very good) prosthetics for half of the film thus forcing the audience to get constantly distracted by the bad hair lines, the dodgy fake wrinkles and the rubbery feel on people’s faces. I must have spent half of the film looking at the make-up thinking “God, this is bad” and even when sometimes I though “mmm, this is a bit better…” I was always aware of it. Even when you look at the publicity stills from the movie (the picture above this review) you can see tell how fake the hairline is. In an age of seamless CGI (look at the ageing effects of Benjamin Button!!) I am surprise to see such shoddy  work (hopefully it’ll look alright on DVD, but on the big screen I saw this, digitally projected, it all looked incredibly ropey).

I am usually a huge fan of Di Caprio: I loved him since  “A Boy’s life” when he upstaged even Robert DeNiro (in a time where DeNiro was actually still good), he was absolutely amazing in “What’s Eating Gilberg Grape” (to this day one of my favourite films), I thought he was one of the most mesmerizing Romeo in  Baz Lurhman’s “Romeo + Juliet“, I even liked him in Titanic (in fact, I think, special effects aside, some of the success of that film was because of his ability to draw us in.. and to draw millions of little girls back to see the film over and over again). He was great in the Aviator, the Departed and he even managed to bypass the fact that he had a baby-face in both Catch me if you Can and Revolutionary Road, just because he was so good in both! But on “J.Edgar” Di Caprio is forced to spend half of the film covered in that damn thick prosthetics which prevents him to convey any real emotion to his character. I felt like I was always watching Di Caprio in a fat-suit as opposed to J.Edgar.

To be completely honest, it’s not all his fault. Eastwood ‘s direction jumps from scene to scene, sometimes quite randomly, trying to cover as much ground as possible from the undoubtedly intriguing real life. There are way too many characters, too many story lines, most of which are left hanging without a real sense of place and eventually the emotional focus of the film gets diluted and any understanding of his character gets lost.

There are some potentially very strong moments: for example the relationship between J.Edgar and his domineering mother (the always very watchable Judi Dench) and the sexual tension between Di Caprio and Armie Hammer, are both potentially very strong, however in the hands of Eastwood they all fall into schmaltzy and clichés as those cheesy piano notes tell us “a now, watch out… this is going to be emotional”. It’s all handled so badly that it even kills a potentially good performance like the one by Di Caprio.

The rest is just a hollow mess where characters come and go without leaving any real mark: we never really know why Naomi Watts‘s character decides to stick with J. Edgar right until the end, we never really get a grip on the procedures that made finger prints database possible, we never really get a sense of what could have happen if the real J.Edgar had been exposed and while all sorts of lawyers and politicians appear and disappear in a seemingly random succession we are getting more and more lost in irrelevant subplots.

It could have been a fascinating story: a closeted gay, the first director of FBI, a man who lived through presidents like Truman, Kennedy and Nixon. There could have been so much here and yet it’s all wasted in bad storytelling, staging and wrong choices at every turn.

I blame the direction, the script (surprisingly the same person who had penned the quite gentle and a lot more subtle Milk),but also the editing: obviously a lot has been cut out trying to condense 50 years into 137 minutes. But instead of loosing entire subplots and deciding to make it all more focused, somebody made a terrible decision to actually have it all in. The first 20/30 minutes are some of the most disjointed and messy I’ve seen in any film recently.

It would probably deceiver even less than a 5/10 rating, but some of central performances are quite good, despite everything else around them.

5/10

Inception – Review

INCEPTION 

Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen PageTom HardyKen WatanabeCillian MurphyTom BerengerMarion CotillardPete PostlethwaiteMichael CaineLukas Haas

THIS REVIEW ASSUMES THAT YOU HAVE SEEN THE FILM AND IT’S FILLED WITH SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YOU SHOULD NOT READ IT, BUT YOU SHOULD GO OUT RIGHT NOW AND BUY YOURSELF A COPY ON DVD OR BLURAY !!

So much has been written and talked about this movie that it’s hard to say anything new about it. However I didn’t want to miss my chance to talk about what I thought was one of the most inventive and challenging blockbuster of the last few years (and the top film of the year in my view), and with its release on DVD and BluRay (I guess the first of many), to the risk of repeating what’s already been said, I’ll just add my voice to the many others among the people who loved this film.

I have already seen it three times and I guess I am now fully comfortable with its story and structure, but also I did notice the few cracks here and there.

However, it is so refreshing to finally see a big budget Hollywood movie that doesn’t treat its audience like a band of lobotomized idiots but actually attempts to do something a bit more challenging, beyond the silly Pirates of the Caribbean or the awful Transformers movies, but it seems to me that this is what blockbusters have become in the last few years. I honestly cannot remember what’s the last big Pop Corn summer movie I have enjoyed. Can anyone help?

This film makes no apologies for its labyrinthine structure and it’s as if  you could almost hear Nolan saying to me “c’mon, keep up! Keep up!”. It is a mentally draining experience (I don’t think I have been so exhausted since Nolan’s Memento, which I loved, or even Mullholland Drive, which I’m still trying to work out… ). Basically in this film if you miss even 5 minutes, you’re screwed! And I love it for it!

But the most interesting thing I noticed this time is that the film is actually made in such a way that even if you don’t completely understand it, you’ll understand it enough to be able to appreciate the action and the basic plot with its intricate layers of dreams.

You’re supposed to get lost in the beginning, but never lost enough to lose your patience… and then slowly you start to understand just enough to be able to cope with it… So basically, the film makes you believe that you are pretty clever in being able to work it out by yourself, while in fact the huge amount of exposition helps you immensely.

People have been criticizing the fact that half of the movie is essentially exposition, where the characters are telling you what’s going on and what they are going to do and how… Well, funnily enough I though that was part of the fun. I don’t mind exposition, if it’s done in a clever, fast and intriguing way like in Inception.

People have been criticize it for its cool and clinical approach to characters. I have been hearing people complaining about not feeling anything for Di Caprio’s internal  pain. Well, I don’t know what to tell them about that, but I thought the scene where Marion Cotillard commits suicide was actually emotionally incredibly strong and Di Caprio’s performance was pretty faultless. Yes, maybe Ellen Page’s character was just a functional piece of the puzzle but actually pretty two-dimensional, but hey, does it really matter? Was I sitting there thinking “Oh My God, what is she feeling? I want to know more about her?” No!! I was completely unwrapped in the story to notice any of that and it didn’t matter to me. Marion Cottilard is utterly terrifying as the ever-present ex-wife. Just her presence is enough for me to give me a great sense of unease. She’s perfect in it and she’s quickly becoming my favorite French actress. Cillian Murphy in his character manages to convey both strength and weakness: at the beginning you think he’s got the world in his hands and at the end you almost feel pity for him and you understand his pain. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is incredibly watchable. Surely it must not be too easy to be next to Di Caprio and come out just as strong and sympathetic as he does. We’ll be hearing a lot about him (but then again, I was already a fan from the time he did “Mysterious Skin”). Tom Hardy is the surprise of the film. I knew what to expect by all the other ones, but Hardy really took me by surprise and did so much with what was quite an underdeveloped character, making him likable, sharp and witty. Finally I should probably mention Michael Caine, who does almost nothing in this film, and yet, just by the fact that he’s there he gives me a sense of security and serenity that it’s un-replaceable.

Also the visuals obviously are so stunning that you sort of want to forgive even any little character development. The CGI effects in Paris are some of the best ones and most inventive I have seen in recent times. It is so hard nowadays to still be able to amaze us with any Visual Effects and yet Nolan has been able to do it over and over again in this film. It’s the combination of clever Production Design, imaginative Visual (and most of the time Practical) Effects that make it work seamlessly.

The corridor sequences are just a joy to watch and the cross-cutting between the van falling off the bridge in slow motion and all the other levels is just so pleasing and works so well: it’s intricate and yet so simple at the same time, so much so that you wonder why hasn’t anyone done it before?

Where the film falls a bit is in the final act, the so-called “James Bond moment”, that is when we get to the level with all the snow. Maybe because at that point it becomes in part almost like a normal action film, and actually not a very good one either. The staging of the shootout and the chase sequences on the snow are all pretty average and slightly drawn out. Mind you at that point there are so many other things going on and you’ve been so bombarded by so much that you don’t really mind it too much, but it is the weakest part of the film in my view. Also in a way, since you are in a dream, they should have probably pushed it a bit further. But hey, I’m really picking needles here.

I wish all the blockbusters were just 20% as inventive, challenging and beautiful to look at as Inception was. I can’t wait to see what Nolan does next (well of course, Batman 3… but I mean beyond that).

9/10


Shutter Island – BluRay Review

SHUTTER ISLAND – (6.5/10)

Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Leonardo DiCaprioMark RuffaloBen KingsleyMax von Sydow

I am assuming that if you are reading this, you’ve probably already seen the film. If you haven’t and you don’t want to know how it all ends, please stop now as this review will be full of SPOILERS.

The film has been around for almost a year now and it’s even out on DVD and Bluray but it recently popped up again on the pages of Variety, Screen International and The Hollywood Reporter in a big campaign “for your consideration” as Paramount is trying to push it for the forthcoming awards season.

The Cinematography

Well, for a start the film is just too long (it’s at least 25 minutes too long, if not more) and it’s just too pleased with its mood and its look. In a way it’s just too self-indulgent.

There are just too many characters, most of whom have to go through long tortuous scenes with dialogue full of exposition (including the “shock” ending which is played out with Ben Kingsley basically having to explain the whole film to Di Caprio).

And it’s a shame because the whole thing looks beautiful! Scorsese obviously knows his cinema history and pays homage to so many classics of film noir and from the 50s, from Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor, to The Snake Pit, to Hitchcock’s Spellbound and even Psycho at one point.

This is as dark as it gets in terms of mood, colours, and the whole atmosphere of the film itself. It’s all enhanced by the strangest music, assembled from previously recorded material and assembled for the film by Robbie Robertson (most of which sounds just like a horn sound from a boat).

And yet the film’s main problem is that the whole thing is played out like a big mystery heading towards the final “shocking revelation” and yet the audience is always miles ahead of the main character played (impeccably, I should say) by Leonardo DiCaprio. Let’s face it, you know pretty much from the very start that he is mad.

The constant dreams and flashbacks that Di Caprio has, the weird encounters with some of the characters in the film (particularly Patricia Clarkson) are pretty much telegraphing the fact that Di Caprio is seriously disturbed, so much so that when a piece of paper turns up saying that there’s another patient in the island we all know that it’s him! (Especially if we have seen films like Angel’s Heart, where a very similar trick is played).

The film tries to mess things up adding a series of red herring to divert the attention of the audience, but in fact, all they seem to do is to make the film a bit too slow and heavy.

When the ending finally comes, it all feels like A) something which we half knew already and B) a bit of a cheap trick. Also, let’s face it, a film that spends the last 20 minutes explaining to you everything you’ve been watching up until that moment in a long dialogue scene has something seriously wrong going for it.

And it’s a real shame because the story itself is actually rather good, including that very last line in the film where you get the feeling that Di Caprio is faking his madness in order to get lobotomized and not have to live with the pain of his guilt and sorrow anymore. It’s a beautifully handled and very sublte scene.

In fact, I must confess I probably enjoyed Shutter Island more on a second viewing on the bluray, where I wasn’t so confused by all the names and characters and I knew what to focus on and how I should have interpreted all those long dialogue scenes, which on a first viewing don’t make a lot of sense.

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t mind being confused in films, but as long as me being confused is actually the intent of the film-makers. If I start wondering “who was that guy again?” then the film has failed to tell me a clear story.

If I were to judge this movie on the basis of its visual style and its atmosphere I would probably give it a 9/10, the acting is superb (Di Caprio is always good, that’s now not even debatable), so is Mark Ruffalo, and it’s nice to see Ben Kingsley playing against expectations, but I found the movie is just let down by a lack of editorial judgement which should have made it a lot tighter.

On a technical note, the transfer on the Bluray is perfect, and so is the audio, as you would expect from a movie of this calibre. However the extras were pretty thin.

6.5/10 (though I really want to give it more)

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