Monthly Archives: February 2012

Oscars 2012 Rants and Hopefuls

The live telecast of the 2012 Academy Awards will be tomorrow (it’s currently a hot and sunny Sunday morning here in the Philippines, Feb. 26). Unfortunately,  unlike last year’s broadcast, there won’t be any live updates from my Tumblr as I’m no longer a part of the 99%.

It’s not that much of a deal for this year, though. I haven’t seen much from this year’s batch of Best Picture nominees, and the films which my friend, A.g. and I were hoping to be nominated were snubbed (Drive for example). Ryan Gosling was snubbed for the Best Actor nomination, as well as Albert Brooks for his role as the main antagonist from Drive.

On a side note, however, I guess that this year is actually quite special in the sense that A.g. and I finally had the same opinion of a film. For the first time in a long while, both of us agree that David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a piece of shit film. He found Rooney Mara‘s acting as very “Filipino”, while I thought that it was nothing but a splendid looking grind-house feature. Thus, for those whining about  Dragon Tattoo getting snubbed for the Best Picture film, chill-out. It deserved the snub coz it’s a shit movie.

I wouldn’t know much about the Acting Nominations as I haven’t seen much of the performances save two: Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spyand Rooney Mara for Dragon Tattoo. I thought Gary Oldman playing a lead protagonist role is refreshing to see. He plays the role with such restraint that it’s a pleasure seeing him mellow unlike his usual hammy but effective performances for his villainous roles from The Professional and The Book of Eli. As for Rooney Mara, does she deserve the nomination and should she win? In a sense, yes: her nomination is well earned. She underwent an extensive physical change, and appeared naked on film. That alone should be Oscar worthy. *wink*wink*

Regarding my Oscar hopefuls, some nominees from the technical categories of the films seemed interesting. My money’s on Rise of the Planet of the Apes for Best Visual Effects. Those are some of the best performance capture scenes I’ve seen since Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. The visual effects of Transformers 3D is pretty awesome too, definitely something you’d expect from a Michael Bay film. But is it mindblowing enough for an Oscar win? I’m not entirely too sure. The same would be for Deathly Hallows 2‘s Visual Effects nomination: though it looks pretty on screen, it isn’t as groundbreaking as Rise of the Apes’ visual candy. I haven’t seen Hugo and Real Steel yet though, so I cannot say much about that. I find it strange that The Tree of Life wasn’t nominated for its Visual Effects as they were indeed one of 2011’s prettiest visual effects on film (not to mention that it wasn’t a blockbuster film)

But as for the Best Picture and Best Directing nominees, who is on my hopefuls list? Straight up, I want Terrence Malick to win Best Directing for The Tree of Life. It is definitely one of the best movies of 2011, and the direction alone for the coming-of-age scenes is one of the history books. And kudos to Malick for narrowly navigating the film away from pretentiousness. In the hands of a lesser talented director, this film would be standing high and mighty alongside Satan’s Alley in winning the coveted Crying Monkey award. Knowing the Oscar, however, I’m sure that the Best Picture film will be given to a film which nobody in the general movie-going audience knows and cares about.

Cheers to the current pretentiousness of the Academy! May next year be a better one!

The Grey (A Short Review)

Taken with wolves, this film is not. This is a bleak, uncompromising tale of survival of a group of men in the Alaskan wilderness. Unfortunately, the film suffers from an overlong 3rd act and an abrupt ending which makes the film’s climax anticlimactic.

The Good (Spoiler Alerts)

This film was made to showcase Liam Neeson‘s talents. He gives a brutally powerful performance, as well as hints of vulnerability and despair.

The cinematography and the production design is amazing. Extreme close-ups, hand-held shots, and the abundance of icy-cold white colors in the scenes of the icy wasteland really serves their purpose. The extreme close-ups highlight the actors’ performances (as this is more of a character study rather than plot driven). That and the hand-held shots heighten the tension. And the setting in the icy wastelands of Alaska strikes me as quite Dante-esque (the 7th circle of Hell is frozen). These characters are journeying in Hell, far from the warmth of the Almighty’s love.

Finally, this film definitely made wolves scary again. The wolves constantly pursue the survivors with an almost supernatural quality. At one point in the film I was almost sure that I was watching horror, not adventure. The wolves are unstoppable, blood-thirsty, and relentless in their pursuit.

The Bad (spoiler alerts)

If it weren’t for the following two points, I would definitely call The Grey the first great film of 2012. Honestly, I am still tempted to call this the first truly great film of 2012. However, the following bad points for The Grey are so distracting and annoying that it ultimately detracts from the viewing experience.

The film had an overlong 3rd act. Things were starting to drag in the latter part. This usually doesn’t distract me, but this detraction, coupled with a really annoyingly, anticlimactic, abrupt ending really ticked me off. Fine, Neeson’s character accepts his fate that he’ll die. I could live with that. But the build-up to the “climactic” duel with the Alpha Male Wolf was so well done that when the screen goes black and the closing credits start rolling in, I felt cheated. Fine, maybe that was an intentional part of the director because a stylized wolf duel  would be quite distracting from the film’s point of accepting death when it comes. But if that were the case,  I really didn’t need to be subjected through the last minutes where Neeson prepares for the duel (and the imagery associated with it just looks so bad-ass).

The Verdict

An overlong 3rd Act and an anticlimactic ending are this film’s serious blunders. These aren’t just minor blunders, these are serious mistakes that really frustrates me for the rest of the film was so well done that I felt the ending just wasn’t satisfactory enough. The audience deserved something more than the current ending.

But, if you’re willing to look past these faults, then this is definitely 2012’s first great film.

4 stars out of 5.

A Pattern in the Filmography of David Fincher (Part 1 of 3)

I finally saw David Fincher‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yesterday. I am not surprised that I didn’t like it (check my Twitter for my thoughts at https://twitter.com/#!/EvilDrBok). You see, with Fincher, one can see a certain pattern with his films. He seems to be moving at a pendulum. Sometimes he makes decent films. Other times, he just sucks eggs. Still don’t know what I mean? Read on, you of little faith!

 

David Fincher Rims a Beloved Franchise (and atones for his Deadly Sins)

Fincher got his break from directing music videos with Alien 3. Despite the interesting premise of having the characters fight the deadly xenomorph  without the aid of futuristic technology, it just didn’t work, story-wise and direction-wise. Plus, Fincher’s directorial flair was still raw. It seems like he’s still playing around with what he can do. Overall, Alien 3 just wasn’t a good film to begin with, but that’s okay, considering that this is his first film.

His second film is the one that put him in the map, Se7en. This is one uncompromisingly bleak film which featured strong performances from Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey. Fincher shoots most of the scenes in rain, showing the cold, wet, and gritty environment that our protagonists have to work in to capture a serial killer who patterns his killings after the Seven Deadly Sins. Additionally, the ending is one of the most powerful, most uncompromising, and most devastating defeat ever caught on film. Sure, Freeman and Pitt are able to put a stop to the killings, but at the cost of pretty Gwyneth Paltrow’s head. Still, the scene was consistent with the theme of the film. This is definitely David Fincher’s magnum opus. Not bad for a sophomore effort.

Your Companions Aren’t What They Say They Are (post-sophomore efforts)

Fincher continued with the Michael Douglas thriller The Game. Admittedly, while the film is visually interesting (typical of a Fincher production), this thriller falls short in the story department. The experience watching the film was unbelievably frustrating for me because this film showed so much promise. The idea of being the subject of a joke amongst peers is frustrating enough. Imagine, however, if this showed goes beyond your house, your city, and your state. Imagine if every single person in your life, family included, was part of this elaborate “game” that you no longer want to be a part of. Unfortunately,  because you signed a damn contract, you have to play through it.

That was an interesting premise, and that became the film’s downfall. I believe the writers weren’t able to find a satisfactory way to resolve the conflict so they came up with an overly complicated, almost contrived, resolution that has the mark of “douche” ex machina written all over it. This could have been a great Fincher film. The writers just got lazy.

Fincher, once more, redeemed for past sins in the cinema by coming up with the initially panned, but now critically lauded Fight Club, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Norton is an insomniac employee in an automobile company, and Pitt is THE Tyler Durden… or is he? Together, these two angry men form a new therapeutic group called Fight Club, who then attracts men of various background. Under the leadership of “Tyler”, the group set out to wreak havoc against their consumeristic society, eventually leading to the planning of Project Mayhem, an act of terrorism aimed at crippling the economy, thus fulfilling Tyler’s dream of a world going back to basics.

With Fight Club, Fincher continues to wow us with his visual flair. The film has an undercurrent of green in its color scheme to show how “reality” for the Narrator (Norton) isn’t what it seems. That, and brilliant existentialist tones of the film shows us that Fincher isn’t just another Hollywood director concerned with the paycheck: we have here an artist who will tell a story with his own distinct artistic style.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…