MovieGeek is Back!

Dear friends,  neighbours, strangers, lovers and haters,

many of you may have been wondering “what the hell has happened to Moviegeek?”, “Has he decided he hates writing for this blog!?!”, “Did he decide that he had enough of movies?”, “Did he fall asleep during a screening of  The Tree Of Life and never woke up again?”.

Well, the truth is much simple.

Yes, true: I haven’t been updating these pages for quite a while (The last entry goes back to a year and a half ago). Those who are lucky (or unlucky) enough to have an insight into my life, know the real reason: I now have a son!

For many people this simple sentence is probably enough to understand everything.

And yet, despite the sleepless nights, the countless nappy-changes and all the rest that comes with having a new baby (don’t take me wrong: it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! And yes, before you ask, even better than watching E.T. in the cinema for the first time), I still managed to find some time to catch up with the latest releases and I’m pretty much up-to-date with everything out at the moment.

I just haven’t had any time all to write about a whole year of cinema releases. And it’s a shame because I really wanted to tell you how blown aways I was by Gravity, how delightful I found Saving Mr. Banks, how much I laughed during The Wolf of Wall Street and how I didn’t care it was so long. And then how I thought The Kings of Summer was a little gem that people should really try to seek, how pleased I was to re-discover Woody Allen with his Blue Jasminehow I found Prisoners absolutely terrifying, how I thought Matthew McConaughey‘s turn in Dallas Buyers Club was truly Oscar worthy (… and guess what? he actually won one!), how scarred I was by The Act of Killing and I thought they should have given Tom Hanks a special Oscar just for that last moment in Captain Phillips, possibly the best acting he’s ever done, and finally how I cried and cried and cried from beginning to end during Like Father, Like Sona film which I will find some time to talk about in more depth within the next few days, but that for I’ll just say: I loved!

You’ll be able to find a quick list of some of my favourite films of last year (2013) here.

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

Mario Monicelli (1915 – 2010)

CIAO MARIO, the Last Italian Maestro

I don’t really want this blog to become the “dead people’s blog”, but I feel I should acknowledge  and pay respect to one of the last remaining legend of  Italian Cinema. Film writer and director Mario Monicelli committed suicide, jumping out of the window of a room in a hospital where he was receiving treatment for a terminal prostate cancer. He was 95. During his active life, he was always in control… And so he decided to be in control of his death too.

I was lucky enough to be able to see a lot of his work back in film school. Sadly most of his movies today are not available in their English subtitled versions, so either you speak Italian or you’ll need to find a way to download them somewhere on web (www.allsubs.org, www.opensubtitles.org for example), or just hope for a re-run in somewhere.

Monicelli wrote and directed over 70 films, but I decided to pick up 3 of them out of all the ones he directed. These are  in my view, the ones you should look out if you can catch them somewhere.

I soliti Ignoti (Persons Unknown. Aka “Bid Deal on Madonna Street”). Made in 1958, this is probably the first of the great heist movies of all time. So many directors got inspired by this film, including French director Louis Malle with Crackers in 1986, Woody Allen with Small Time Crooks, George Clooney with Welcome to Colliwood, and even Steve Soderbergh with  “Ocean’s 11”. (and possibly many many others).

It i s also considered the one that started the “commedia all’Italiana” genre drawing from the neo realism and driven by a strong screenplay.The genre rose to prominence in the ‘50s, giving notoriety to a long string of highly talented actors like Totò, Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, and Ugo Tognazzi, just to name a few.

This is also the first time in Italian comedy where we witness the death of a character. However this doesn’t take anything away from the fact that this is still one of the funniest Italian film ever made.

It is the fusion between drama and comedy that will become Monicelli’s trademark. The film was so succesful that 2 more sequels were made (in 1959 and in 1985). It also received an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film in 1958.

La grande guerra (The Great War). Made in 1959 and starring Alberto Sordi (in one of his best performances ever!) and Vittorio Gassman this is still considered among the masterpieces of Italian cinema. It won the Venice Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. It perfectly encapsulate the type of cinema Monicelli was best at, mixing tragedy with comedy as it depicts the story of a group of Italians during the first World War using a style which is both realistic and yet at the same time romantic.

It is a wonderful film, very funny in places and incredibly moving at the same time. It’s the type of film that Roberto Benigni was certainly inspired by when he made “Life is Beautiful” (though his film was a lot more forced and contrived).

Amici Miei (My Friends). The film originally belonged to Pietro Germi who had written it and was going to direct it. But he fell ill the project was handed over to Monicelli who directed it and edited it. When the film was released in 1975, a year later Germi’s death, its opening credits rea: “A film by Pietro Germi”, Directed by Mario Monicelli.

Incidentally, two more sequels came after this one (the second one, also directed by Mario Monicelli, is just as good, or maybe even better than the first)

Still today these are is some of the most quoted films in Italy and it’s quite surprising that in an age of remakes and sequels, nobody has yet remade this one in English… Hey Hollywood, I’m giving you a tip!! This is a beautiful film about  friendship, seen (typically for a Monicelli film)  from a rather grittier and bleaker point of view. It tells the story of four middle-aged friends in Florence who organize together idle pranks (called zingarate, “gypsy shenanigans”) in a continuous strife to prolong childhood during the adult life. The plot is mostly composed by the elaborate practical jokes (some of them are truly memorable, especially in the second film) organized by the friends, including pretending to be mafia mobs committing “criminal acts” against a very annoying and not very likable old pensioner.


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