2 Days In New York – Review

2 Days In New York (2011) 

Director: Julie Delpy. Cast: Julie DelpyChris RockAlexia LandeauAlexandre NahonKate BurtonAlbert DelpyDylan Baker.

Strictly speaking this is a sequel of the 2007 Woody-Allen-esque 2 Days in Paris” (well…Woody Allen in his old days, of course), but it also stands on its own and works simply as a stand-alone story and certainly you won’t need to have seen the first part in order to find your bearings through this. However if you have seen “2 days in Paris“, you’ll probably come into “New York” with a certain baggage and knowledge which might help you in appreciating (and liking) the central character of Marion a bit more than this film gives you reason for.

A lot in the depiction of Julie Delpy‘s character Marion and her relationship with American boyfriend Mingus has to be taken for granted here, even if it’s all quite unbelieveable. Don’t take me wrong, it’s all rather charming and light enough to be entertaining, but the script lacks the subtlety, the romanticism and the sharpness from its predecessor, while at the same time it plays up all the possible French clichés one would expect: and so the French seem to have no sensitivity,nor social skills, no hygiene and of course they all love their fromage: these are all predictable targets and I suppose the only surprising twist  is that all comes from a French person willing to make fun at her own country (Julie Delpy also wrote and directed the film).

It’s all rather superficial but the jokes keep on coming, the culture clash at the centre of the film brings enough laughs and mercifully the overall lenght is only 96 minutes. There are some indulgences which I didn’t find particularly successful: Mingus’s monologues in front of a cardboard cut-out of Omaba are not as funny as they should be and the sequence where Marion tries to buy her soul back from a notoriously difficult actor playing himself (I won’t spoil here who it is, but if you google him you’ll be able to find out quite easily) is too indulgent, too knowy, and outstays its welcome  and in the end looses that potentially quirky charm it could have had.

But the biggest  and most refreshing surprise of the “2 Days in New York” is actually Chris Rock who despite the lack of chemistry with his co-star and an underwritten role, manages to pull out not just the best performance in the film (sweet, understated and charismatic) but possibly the most interesting and revealing of his career. Let’s just hope this is the first of many others to come.

6.5/10

OSCAR Winners 2012

The Oscars played it very very very safe this year (well..  this year and every year in fact!): the biggest shock was probably the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo winning best Editing (quite unexpected, especially because the editors had won it last year with The Social Network). Hugo went home with most of the technical awards, best scripts awards given to Woody Allen and Alexander Payne and the big ones (film, director, actor) went to the Artist as expected… And the Artist for Best music too. Meryl graced our screen once again with her class and beauty and her oscar is one of the most deserved of the year. She is the embodiment of greatness! And finally, Spielberg got home with no award, however he got a big thanks from Octavia Spencer.

Check out my post of Oscar Snubs

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Artist (2011): Thomas Langmann  (WINNER)

The Descendants (2011): Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011): Scott Rudin

The Help (2011): Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan

Hugo (2011/II): Graham King, Martin Scorsese

Midnight in Paris (2011): Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum

Moneyball (2011): Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt

The Tree of Life (2011): Nominees to be determined

War Horse (2011): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir for A Better Life (2011)

George Clooney for The Descendants (2011) 

Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011) (WINNER)

Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Brad Pitt for Moneyball (2011)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (2011)

Viola Davis for The Help (2011)

Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011) (WINNER)

Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Jonah Hill for Moneyball (2011)

Nick Nolte for Warrior (2011)

Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2010) (WINNER)

Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo for The Artist (2011)

Jessica Chastain for The Help (2011)

Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids (2011)

Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs (2011)

Octavia Spencer for The Help (2011)  (WINNER)

Best Achievement in Directing

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (2011)

Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist (2011)  (WINNER)

Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (2011)

Alexander Payne for The Descendants (2011)

Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011/II)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

The Artist (2011): Michel Hazanavicius

Bridesmaids (2011): Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo

Margin Call (2011): J.C. Chandor

Midnight in Paris (2011): Woody Allen  (WINNER)

A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

The Descendants (2011): Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash  (WINNER)

Hugo (2011/II): John Logan

The Ides of March (2011): George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon

Moneyball (2011): Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011): Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

A Cat in Paris (2010): Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli

Chico & Rita (2010): Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011): Jennifer Yuh

Puss in Boots (2011): Chris Miller

Rango (2011): Gore Verbinski  (WINNER)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Bullhead (2011): Michael R. Roskam(Belgium)

Footnote (2011): Joseph Cedar(Israel)

In Darkness (2011): Agnieszka Holland(Poland)

Monsieur Lazhar (2011): Philippe Falardeau(Canada)

A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi(Iran)  (WINNER)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Artist (2011): Guillaume Schiffman

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Jeff Cronenweth

Hugo (2011/II): Robert Richardson  (WINNER)

The Tree of Life (2011): Emmanuel Lubezki

War Horse (2011): Janusz Kaminski

Best Achievement in Editing

The Artist (2011): Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius

The Descendants (2011): Kevin Tent

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter   (WINNER)

Hugo (2011/II): Thelma Schoonmaker

Moneyball (2011): Christopher Tellefsen

Best Achievement in Art Direction

The Artist (2011): Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan

Hugo (2011/II): Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo  (WINNER)

Midnight in Paris (2011): Anne Seibel, Hélène Dubreuil

War Horse (2011): Rick Carter, Lee Sandales

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Anonymous (2011/I): Lisy Christl

The Artist (2011): Mark Bridges

Hugo (2011/II): Sandy Powell  (WINNER)

Jane Eyre (2011): Michael O’Connor

W.E. (2011): Arianne Phillips

Best Achievement in Makeup

Albert Nobbs (2011): Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnson, Matthew W. Mungle

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin

The Iron Lady (2011): Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland   (WINNER)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

The Adventures of Tintin (2011): John Williams

The Artist (2011): Ludovic Bource   (WINNER)

Hugo (2011/II): Howard Shore

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011): Alberto Iglesias

War Horse (2011): John Williams

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

The Muppets (2011): Bret McKenzie(“Man or Muppet”)   (WINNER)

Rio (2011): Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett(“Real in Rio”)

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Bo Persson

Hugo (2011/II): Tom Fleischman, John Midgley  (WINNER)

Moneyball (2011): Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco, Ed Novick

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Peter J. Devlin

War Horse (2011): Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Drive (2011): Lon Bender, Victor Ray Ennis

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Ren Klyce

Hugo (2011/II): Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty   (WINNER)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
War Horse (2011): Richard Hymns, Gary Rydstrom

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, John Richardson

Hugo (2011/II): Robert Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning  (WINNER)

Real Steel (2011): Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Danny Gordon Taylor, Swen Gillberg

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, John Frazier

Best Documentary, Features

Hell and Back Again (2011): Danfung Dennis, Mike Lerner

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011): Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011): Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

Pina (2011): Wim Wenders, Gian-Piero Ringel

Undefeated (2011): Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, Rich Middlemas  (WINNER)

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (2011): Robin Fryday, Gail Dolgin God Is the Bigger Elvis: Rebecca Cammisa,
Julie Anderson

Incident in New Baghdad (2011): James Spione

Saving Face (2011/II): Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy   (WINNER)

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011): Lucy Walker, Kira Carstensen

Best Short Film, Animated

Dimanche (2011): Patrick Doyon

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011): William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg  (WINNER)

La Luna (2011): Enrico Casarosa

A Morning Stroll (2011): Grant Orchard, Sue Goffe

Wild Life (2011): Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby

Best Short Film, Live Action

Pentecost (2011): Peter McDonald

Raju (2011): Max Zähle, Stefan Gieren

The Shore: Terry George, Oorlagh George   (WINNER)

Time Freak (2011): Andrew Bowler, Gigi Causey Tuba

Atlantic (2010): Hallvar Witzø

Les petits mouchoirs – Review

Les petits mouchoirs (Little White Lies) 2010 

Directed by Guillaume Canet. Starring François CluzetMarion CotillardJean Dujardin

When watching Carnet’s third film, you’ll be excused from drawing some obvious comparisons with the 1983 hit classic the Big Chill:  not only the story of a group of friends gathering together for a holiday and ending up taking their skeletons out of the closets is a fairly familiar territory, but also the way the film itself is handled, with that mixture of comedy and drama and a constant (and most of the times fairly random) soundtrack of old American songs playing in the background.

The film starts off with a spectacular piece of cinematic bravura: a one take wonder which serves as an introduction for the rest of the film (though I must confess it’s so perfectly well choreographed that actually makes you expect the big surprise that’s about to come). Unfortunately this perfectly well-timed sequence is a rather isolated example in an otherwise indulgent and over-long film. In fact, after the striking beginning it takes at least a good 30 minutes before the actual holiday (and the real film) starts. Thinking back at it, with hindsight, it would have been quite easy to cut all that part out and set it all up just during the holiday. It would have also brought the film down in length from those 154 minutes. Yes, the accident sequence was very good, but did we really need to see it ?

But aside from few indulgences, once the film actually gets going it is a real delight. There are some individual very funny moments (the one where two friends get stranded on a boat gets my top marks…) and generally speaking the inter-relationship between all the various characters is beautifully portrayed and very well observed.

Of course, the whole things couldn’t be more French and, seen from the eyes of a foreigner, all the so-called clichés that you would expect from these sort of people seem to be there: from the hysterical dialogue, to the wine drinking, the talk about sex and to the fact that they could all end up in each other’s bed… and just when you think you’ve seen it all, a man shows up with a baguette under his arm (really!).

However none of that takes anything away from the genuinely affecting drama that unfolds under your eyes.

And just like in “the big chill”, underneath the surface and all the laughs, there’s an impending sense of nostalgia that permeates the atmosphere.

All the performances are top-notch; so much so that they make real even some of the most far-fetched situations. These could be friends who spent most of their life knowing each other.

François Cluzet, resembling more and more Dustin Hoffman, gets some of the best lines: his storyline about a man who’s just been told by his best friend that he’s in love with him, is probably the most original and definitely the most entertaining. Everything else is pretty standard for this sort of “re-union” films and yet perfectly enjoyable and very engaging.

But while some of the characters work better than others, sadly it’s the women that are most two-dimensional (with the single exception of Marion Cotillard) to the point that more than an hour into the film I was still not quite sure about how many where actually there.

The film runs slightly out of steam towards the final act where the dialogue becomes more forced and a certain tendency to give every character a cathartic moment starts to creep in.

The tearful drawn-out ending to the notes of Nina Simone’s version of “My Way”, however moving, was probably a step too far and where subtlety really went out of the window.

On the whole it felt like a very personal film made by a director who should have been kept more on a leash by a more watchful producer. There’s absolutely no excuse for a film of this kind to be so long!

And yet, despite all its weaknesses I’m still giving it a thumb up. Would I watch it again? Definitely not. But I certainly did enjoy it the first time around.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec – Review

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010) 

Directed by Luc Besson. Starring Louise BourgoinMathieu AmalricJean-Paul Rouve

Director Luc Besson finally returns to live action after a 6 years hiatus, though after watching this film, I wished he had waited a little bit longer. 

The film is adapted from Jacques Tardi’s early ’70s comic book series, set in 1912 Paris: in fact it’s taken from 2 different adventures (the first one is the story-line about the pterodactyl and the second one about the mummies) and throughout the film there is so much going on that I really wished thinking they had sticked to just one of storylines.

The international posters sells “Adele Blanc-Sec” as a cross between Indiana Jones and Amelie (and that’s an already pretty bold and yet suspicious claim as the two films despite being both very good are surely quite incompatible with each other), but there are also hints from the Tintin strips and even reminders to Lara Croft herself.

The film certainly looks very stylish and quite expensive (though some of the CGI work looked a bit ropey): both the cinematography and the art direction are top-notch, as we’ve come to expect from Besson’s films. The 1900 Paris is recreated with ravishing details as the camera swoops along the many sets, and locations but unfortunately it’s the story-line that ultimately lets it all down.

The plot is so convoluted that in the end it takes all the fun away from what could have been quite an enjoyable experience.

It’s hard to see what the target audience for this film should be. Sometimes it is all so silly that you could be forgiven to think this is one for the kids, and yet the use of the voice over and the actual structure of the story both seem to aim at a much more mature type of audience (and let’s not even mention the completely gratuitous nudity, which is just baffling and really pointless).

There are individual some good scenes here and there (for example the Indiana-Jonesenque adventure in Egypt) which give you a glimpse of what the film could have been if it had sticked to a more simple genre.

But where the film really fails completely is in its comic timing (there’s one funny joke toward the end, to do with a certain pyramid in Paris…): the comic characters are so stupid and over the top that not only are more reminiscent of Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther films, but they somehow manage to diminish the impact of the rest of the film, especially from both the most poignant moments.

In the end it is very hard to take any of that seriously, or to care for any of the characters on the screen (despite a good performance by Louise Bourgoin, in the title’s main role). All you’re left is a sour taste about all that money wasted on a messy and flippant film which is all style and very little substance.

Mr. Spielberg, do watch it closely and learn your lessons for your your upcoming Tintin.

6.0/10

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