Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

2010 has been a very special year for me. Before, back in 2009, I was another teenager who didn't careabout art in ovies and only wanted explosions and hot chicks (though I must confess that I still enjoy a film or two with these attributes, though I always prefer the arty-classy ones), but at the beginning of the year I (let's say) matured. I don't remember perfectly, but I think that at that time I discovered AFI's 100 Best Movies list. I checked it out and saw I had watched under 20 movies on the list, and I decided I should watch some more. Skipping the films I thought dull and boring at first I started watching new films on the list, and then those films that were dull and boring started to grow interest in me. I watched them all, all the 100 films in the list. Now I know it is not the best list out there, but it was some sort of personal challenge to watch them all before year end. And then these old black and white films became an enjoyment and pleasure, and I became a much more mature person, movie-wise. Modern films also changed, and while last year I enjoyed films such as 2012 and Fast and Furious (upon rewatching I mus say they were awful), thisyear I enjoy new kind of films like Black Swan, Winter's Bone and The Kids Are All Right.
2010 has been a very special year for me movie-wise. As I said, before I was a teenager who liked action movies, now I am a much matured person who can enjoy a well acted, smart and even slow-moving drama.
2010 has turned out to be a great year for movies. Despite a very lackluster first half, the second one came packed with the goods (The Social Network, Black Swan, True Grit, etc), and now I can say that the once-awful-year-for-films might be the best-year-for-films-in-a-while.
I will soon be posting (in around five or six days) my list of the best films of 2010 (it will most likely be a top 20 rather than 10), as well as a list of the most underrated and overrated films of 2010 and a list of my favorite performances of the year.
So I say goodbye to 2010, a very good year for movies, and welcome 2011, which hopefully will be a better year than this! So Happy New Year to all of you and my best wishes for 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shadow of the Vampire (2000) Review

Shadow of the Vampire

Director: E. Elias Merhige
Year: 2000
Country. United Kingdom

I usually agree with the critic's opinion about movies. When I watch a movie and thought it was bad, most of the time critics say the same thing. But from time to time there will come along a film in which the critics and I are in total disagreement. A good example of this is this horror film entitled Shadow of the Vampire, which the 81% of the Tomatometer critics liked, including Roger Ebert who placed the film in the top 10 films of 2000. But I'll explain my thoughts later, first here's a little summary.
Filmmaker F. W. Murnau is shooting his classical film Nosferatu. Everything is going fine until he casts the title role of Nosferatu, a mysterious actor who's ways of preparation are rather unusual, Max Schreck. As it turns out, Schreck is a real vampire who's ambition is to sink his teeth in Greta Schroeder, but most of the film's cast and crew ignore this, only Murnau knows. As the shooting progresses, Schreck starts giving trouble to Murnau, even murdering part of his crew.
As I said before, I thought this film was bad, unlike most of the people. While the film's premise is interesting and innovative, and the performances by John Malkovich (Murnau) and Willem Dafoe (Schreck) were excellent, I still thought the rest of the film was rather bland.
To start with, the characters are empty and have no significant value to the audience. Most of the characters don't have a background nor do they become important. Just maybe Schreck, who develops at least a little bit. But we only know he was turned to a vampire "by a woman" and that Murnau "found him on a monastery". The rest of the charcters as I said were empty, and ultimately they become rather a burden to the audience than relatable. We don't end up caring if they die or if they escape.
I didn't really like the direction. It was creative by using the title cards or iris lenses, but other than that there is nothing really exceptional. Besides this few details, the director only shoots his scenes with nothing really special going on. It was very formulaic. Also, I thought that in ocassions he wasn't very good with the actors, as some were just seen standing there doing nothing. I think that the director may have potential, he only doesn't show it in this film.
I also thought the film became ridiculous after some time. In the finale (WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD), even if three of his crew were killed the director only wanted to keep shooting, and that's pretty illogical if you ask me. Also, Schreck could have killed him, which apparently was his plan, but just let him keep rolling until daybreak. And there were other couple of scenes which were also pretty absurd, like the scene in which Schreck first appears. He only walked in, then walked out and he was gone in two seconds.
I have to say that Shadow of the Vampire is a very overrated film. Despite the film has a very interesting premise and the two leads give excellent performances, its numerous flaws, like the lack of depth from the characters or the absuridity of different scenarios, ultimately killed it for me. I'm sorry, but I couldn't really like it.
My recommendation: Well, maybe most people liked it so maybe some of you will, but I'd say that it is not a very good film. Its up to you.
My score: 38%

Requiem for a Dream: A Yet More Disturbing but Worthy Expierence

Requiem for a Dream
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Year: 2000
Country: USA

I have only seen two films by Darren Aronofsky, this and The Wrestler, but he is already becoming one of my favorites directors. I still have to see Pi, The Fountain and Black Swan, but if they are just half as good as these two were, then they are certainly incredible. Now, for this film, the drug drama Requiem for a Dream, a very underrated exceptional work, can be Aronofsky's masterpiece. And while I haven't seen over half of his filmography, I a pretty sure that beating this film will be hard to accomplish, but whom other than the very man that did it? I guess I'll have to wait to watch them so I can safely say which is his masterpiece.

Requiem for a Dream explores the themes of how addictions can degrade human beings. The film tells the story of Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connely), his mother Sarah (Ellen Burstyn) and his friend Tryone (Marlon Wayans). Harry and Marion have the dream of opening a fashion store with Marion's designs, but to do this they need money, so they enter the world of drug trafficking. Tyrone's dream is to escape the life of the streets, and he needs the money too. But while dealing with drugs these three characters get hooked with heroin themselves, and that drives them to a world of addiction and they would do anything to get the drugs. Sarah's dream is to appear on Television, and when she receives a call that tells her that she will in the next couple of months, she starts a very strict diet and starts taking pills to lose weight, but those pills ultimately drive her crazy.

I had been looking for a while for a film that would actually scar me. Its not that I wanted to be scarred, but it was kind of a test for me. I had seen many films that have been categorized as disturbing but they weren't too much for me and after a couple of days I had forgotten the feeling they had made me experience. I finally found a film that did this a few days ago (check my review for Oldboy), and yet I still thought that films could get a whole lot more disturbing. And then I watched this. This film might not be appropiate for people around my age, but I think this is a good age to watch it. And while the graphic material displayed in this film may be too much, the film shows how the world of drugs can affect people, and in a world were people get hooked with them around 15, I think this might be the perfect age to watch it.

The film has a very powerful message, which is clearly that drugs can harm human beings, degrading them and making them lose their dignity. The message, transmitted by the strong images, can become quite disturbing as you watch the film, but you have to let it sink in to really make an effect. And believe, after watching this film you'll probably want to stay as much as you can away from narcotics.

The performances are impressive all around. Ellen Burstyn was, deservedly, nominated for an Academy Award. She embodies her character, she adapts to every tick or expression she has, every thing she says she means it, and when she breaks down you will think it was all natural. Jared Leto's performance was also pretty good, he fits his character and he can be him. Marlon Wayans, surprisingly (you've seen him in the Scary Movie films, Hot Chicks or Little Man, and you'd know his acting credentials aren't really special), delivers a pretty good performance too, taking his character's small characteristics and making them his. Jennifer Connelly delivers what could be her best performance (maybe even better than in A Beautiful Mind) as she becomes her troubled character. All her scenes you can see she believes what she says and what she does, she makes her character her, she feels everything that her character feels, and in the final scenes you can see how she descends even lower not only in her acts but in her eyes, you can see how it affects her.

But what's probably the best aspect of this film is Darren Aronofsky's direction. His style is something that I hadn't seen before (not even in The Wrestler). You can see how he made the effort to transmit the message he wants to give and it is clear that he succeeds. When the characters do drugs he doesn't show them inhaling or injecting or swalling pills (maybe he does a little) but instead he does rapid cuts which shows how the drugs enter their system. It is a little hard to explain, but it was an impressive work.

I have to mention the film's score which is almost entirely composed by the composition Requiem for a Dream. The song is very powerful and epic, and in the scenes it plays it is perfect, it makes the effect it tries to create.

The only real problem there is with the film is that it is way too disturbing, though that was essential to deliver the message it tries to give, but it will certainly become a problem to many people, and that would explain why some critics didn't like it. I guess they weren't ready for something like this, and nor was I but still I liked it. However, its strong graphic material will prove too much for some viewers.

Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (his probable masterpiece) is an essential film that people should see for the strong message it delivers. The film is packed with excellent performances and outstanding direction. And while the film can be very disturbing, which can be the problem with many people, it is a very important film that teenagers should see (even if it can be too much for them) for its message, so they can stay away from drugs.
My recommendation: It can be too much, but I think that everyone should see it.
My score: 97%

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Director: Michael Apted
Year: 2010
Country: United Kingdom

Its been two years since the last Narnia movie, and I wasn't really looking forward to this one. That's the problem with the Narnia franchise, there is too much time between movies that people start to lose interest. I think that maybe if they made one each year, or at least in closer time instead of two or three years gap, the Narnia franchise could become something like the Harry Potter series, or at least close. And as I said, I wasn't really expecting much from this one. I'm glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The movie follows Edmund and Lucy Pevensie and their cousin Eustace Scrubb who are sucked into a Narnia by a painting of a Narnia boat, the Dawn Treader. As the water from the painting starts to fill the room, the three are transported into Narnia where they're rescued by Prince (now King) Caspian and the crew of the Dawn Treader. Caspian is on a mission to rescue the seven lost lords and their swords to save Narnia from an evil that lives on an island that will soon escape and corrupt the whole country.

Narnia movies are no masterpieces. They aren't award worthy (save for technical aspects) and they aren't all that memorable. Nevertheless, they are still entertaining rides full of magic and enjoyment. And while Prince Caspian and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are clearly superior to the Dawn Treader, the latter is still a good entry to the franchise, though still a weak one.

What I liked most about the film was its visual glory. Its special effects are very good and convicing. Just think about the green mist, crawling from behind in the dark. It was very convincing and very well done. The creatures and monsters were also very well designed, as well as the battle sequences had great visuals too. Also, its art direction is pretty wonderful too. The ship was very well done, as well as the edifications and even the rock formations were very good. The costume design is also very well done, and the camera work is fine too.

I also liked the performances, though nothing really special. All the actors did credible jobs, but nothing outstanding. I think worth mentioning is Tilda Swinton in her cameo as the White Witch as she tries to tempt Edmund. She was in the film less than a minute and she was still very frightening. Ben Barnes did also a belieavable job as Caspian, but I think he was better in the previous one. Gary Sweet as the captain Lord Dirian was probably my favorite performance. His mysterious and full of wisdom character was probably the most interesting.

I didn't like how the film flowed, though. It went by way too fast. I thought we were just in half an hour when they were already on their way to the dark island. And they get transported into Narnia in less than 10 minutes in, while in the past two we had to wait for some time before it happened. Though I think the battle at the end did go in appropiate time. Oh, and that's another thing, there is not too much action in this one, and while that's not usually a problem you have to take into account that this is an adventure film, and it is required that something happens as the movie flows.

I thought the story and the characters were weak in general. I didn't like how they tried to make Edmund fill Peter's role. He was the one who wanted to go back to Narnia badly, just as Peter did in the previous one, he was the one that was maturing, he was the one that felt jelous about Caspian (or that was rather in one scene, but still that was Peter's role in the previous one) and he was the one who wanted to be authoritarian. I also didn't like how Lucy wanted to be "as beautiful as Susan", but I guess that's important for her character to grow up. I thought that Caspian was just a useless douche who did nothing but just try to be a leader, and I really liked his character in the last one. And that Eustace kid was really annoying, though that was the idea, but when he finally found "the hero inside him" he was still annoying.

The film also tried to be other films, many which are superior. It tried to be Harry Potter in its quest for maturing, it tried to be the Lord of the Rings in the scene of the cave, Pirates of the Caribbean while trying to make the viewer feel like the sea's their home, and even borrowing from Stardust in the part of the beautiful star and Pan's Labyrinth in the Aslan table scene.

The film is pretty enjoyable. It has entertaining mythology and battle scenes and its power lies on the visuals. And while its story and characters are a little weak, the pace of the film goes in a flash and it tries to be what its not, it is still a good entry to the series. The previous two may be superior, but this is still a fun one.
My recommendation: Its an enjoyable family adventure. I would recommend it to fans of the franchise, or at least for people who are familiar with it, because maybe outsiders will find the film boring ad ridiculous.
My score: 68%

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010/2011 Award Season

2010/11 Award Season

As the year comes to a close Award season begins. We have had already some nominations announced and a few awards already presented. And while there have been a few (or more) surprises, the movies we had expected to be honored were (and that's kind of a sad thing, being so predictable). So anyway, here are a few thoughts that I have for this season:

Part I: The Award Ceremonies

Golden Globes:
The nominations for this year's Golden Globe were already announced, and they came with a few surprises. For the Best Motion Picture - Drama category the films that were expected to be nominated (or at least most of them) were, and these were Inception, Black Swan, The King's Speech, The Socia Network and The Fighter. I was expecting 127 Hours instead of The Fighter, but I can't really complain here. My real complain is with the comedy nominations: The Kids Are All Right (the only one really worthy), Red, Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque and The Tourist. Three of the five got a Rotten rating at RT. I would have changed Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque and The Tourist for Toy Story 3, Greenberg and Cyrus maybe, and maybe even Red for Love and Other Drugs (though that one also got a Rotten rating but it is more of a comedy). I seriously doubt the credibility of this year's Golden Globes...

Critics Choice Awards:
The critics choice awards are a ceremony that, even if they have a lesser prestige than the Oscars or BAFTAs, are highly important in Hollywood. This year we have good nominations and I dare to say that they are similar to what the Oscars may be. For Best Picture the nominees were: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, The King's Speech, The Town, True Grit, Toy Story 3, and Winter's Bone. I think this comes close to the 10 Oscar nominees, and I would say that I feel comfortable with them (though I would have liked The Kids Are All Right to get in). The six favored films are the ones nominated in the Best Director category, and those are Inception (Christopher Nolan), Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky), The Social Network (David Fincher), The King's Speech (Tom Hooper), True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen) and 127 Hours (Danny Boyle). I would place my bet on David Fincher and his movie, and most of the time this gets what the Oscars get too.

Screen Actors Guild Awards:
Another ceremony of high pedigree, very important for the Actors (especially when winning here is almost a lock for the Oscars), the Screen Actors Guild Awards have also announced their nominations and are good too. For Best Actor we have Jeff Bridges for True Grit, Robert Duvall for Get Low, Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network, Colin Firth for The King's Speech and James Franco for 127 Hours. I would vote for Colin Firth, and I would also like to say that I would have liked too to see Bardem being nominated for his role in Biutiful. For Best Actress we have Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrene for Winter's Bone, Natalie Portman for Black Swan and Hilary Swank for Conviction. I think it is bewteen Portman and Bening, and, while I haven't seen the film, the critics seem to be favoring Portman slightly. I would have liked to see Tilda Swinton for I Am Love, but it will now be hard since she has been overlooked for several ceremonies now.

Gotham Independent Film Awards:
The spirit of Independent cinema is here at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. The big winner has been Winter's Bone, with the awards for Best Film and Best Ensemble. The other four nominees for Best film were Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, Blue Valentine and Let Me In.

Though the nominations haven't been announced yet I'd like to speak a little about the BAFTAs. The BAFTAs are as important as the Oscars for British films. I think this year the winner may be The King's Speech, as they ted to favor British productions, but it may also be The Social Network (hopefully, winning the Trifecta). The other nominees may be 127 Hours, Black Swan and maybe The Ghost Writer? or rather The Kids Are All Right. I don't know, but I don't see them nominating Inception for a lot this year.

Ahh, what is probably the most important award in the film business. The ceremony that gets all the attention, the mighty (and may I say flawed) Oscars. This year there is big competition, but I think it is safe to guess who will the winner be. Anyway, if you want to know more about my thoughts on the Oscars keep an eye for my next predictions...

Part II: The Favored Films

The Social Network
I think it is not hard to guess that this will be the big winner at the Oscars. The critics were raving about it when it was released and now it has been receiving alot of praise from these ceremonies. The film is most ikely to win the Oscar for Best Picture, the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama (though here they tend to go with more commercial films) and possibly the BAFTA. The film will also receive Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, as well as other minor awards like Editing and maybe music. Who knows? It has already received numerous awards that it is hard to count.

Christopher Nolan's epic follow up to The Dark Knight may have become his most financially and possibly critically succesful film. It has already been nominated several times for the desired Best Picture and Best Director in many ceremonies, and it has won a few other awards too. However, I think this movie is destined to lay under The Social Network's shadow, but if Warner Bros gives a strong campaign, who knows what could happen. Whatever is the case, I'm sure this will be a hell of a competition.

The King's Speech
The British production of the year (apparently). I think this may rule the BAFTAs, and other ceremonies too. However, when its about winning Best Picture it is very hard to win over The Social Network. Nevertheless, the praise this movie will receive this season is in the acting categories. Most likely, Colin Firth will win Best Actor in most of the ceremonies, and Helena Boham Carter for Best Supporting Actress is too a good bet, plus Geoffrey Rush in the Supportin Actor department is good. Most likely, the film may win Best Ensemble and Best Actor in many ceremonies, including the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Oscars, while the Supporting categories may fall short in the big awards.

Black Swan
Aronofsky's new project, a psychological thriller where everything is not what it seems like a delicate Ballet Ballerina can be a monster. The film has received excellent critical praise and many are saying that Portman may win the Oscar for Best Actress, while the film itself has good odds in Best Picture. It has already won a couple of awards in recent ceremonies, including Best Actress in the New York film critics Online, and I think they won't stop here.

127 Hours
James Franco and Danny Boyle have appeared in several ceremonies already. Franco has won already but I think Boyle hasn't yet (though maybe he'll get it soon). The critics love Franco's performance and many have speculated that he may take the Oscar too. And while he'll have to to Firth for that, he does stand a good chance.

The Fighter
Another film whose power lies in the performances and another strong contender for Best Ensemble at the SAGs. Receiving outstanding praise is Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg's crackhead troublemaker brother. When I first saw the trailer I said to myself "he's got a chance to win the Best Supporting Actor award", and he's done it... several times. Also, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are getting nominated for a few ceremonies, and Mark Wahlberg has too. And while this film may not have big chances to win Best Picture, it definitely has for Performances.

Toy Story 3
The animated film of the year. Pixar's return. A new adventure of Woody and Buzz. The film that captivated the hearts of millions has been nominated in all Best Animated Feature that has already been announced, and in all that have been presented it has won. The film stands a big chance to be nominated for Best Picture too.

True Grit
The film isn't out yet so I can't really say much about it, only that it is going to be awesome. With a 96% in the Tomatometer for early reviewers and a casting of this caliber, not to mention that the two masterminds that brought us No Country for Old Men and Fargo are behind it, I am sure this will get alot of Oscar attention. It has been nominated more than one time for Best Pictur and/or Best Director. I am not 100 per cent sure that this will make the Oscar 10, but I think it stands a great chance.

The Kids Are All Right
Boosted by excellent performances from its cast all around and a marvellously charming script, Lisa Cholodenko's family film has received great reviews and it is most likely to be garner a few nominations with the Oscars. For the ceremonies it has already they have been nominated for its screenplay and performances (mostly Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo). Bening stands a real good chance for Best Actress (and she has already won in many), but I do think that Moore should get nominated too. Sadly, it all points that she won't.

There are a few others that I would like to mention but I don't want to make this post longe than it already is. So the point of this blog was to express my thoughts on the award season this year. Soon I'll be posting another update in my Oscar predictions, and now it will be much more easier. So anyway, this award season brings alot of surprises but also alot of exciting competition to see. It will all close in February 27.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oldboy: A Disturbing and Yet Worthy Expierence

Director: Park Chan Wook
Year: 2003
Country: South Korea

Blood, slashing, violence, torture, dismembration, sex, revenge. All these in one single movie, and that movie is Park Chan Wook's 2003 hit Oldboy. Rarely you'll find a movie more disturbing and violent than this, but yet it is worth every second you have to bear through it. Behind all the blood and violence there is an excellent, psycholgical and even artistic movie that it is worth watching.

The film tells the story of Oh Daesu (Choi Min Sik) a normal man who's life changed forever on a single night when he was imprisoned in a locked up room. For the next 15 years he was locked inside the place, suffering from hallucinations and slowly descending into dementia. He then is released after the 15 years has passed and finds himself in a South Korea unknown to him, but that won't stop him on his quest of answers and revenge. Even if he isn't locked in that room, he is still trapped in a web of never ending corruption and violence. And, unexpectedly, in the middle of his quest, he falls in love with a sushi chef who helps him reach his goal.

I feel a little shaken and disturbed after watching this film - and I'm not shaken or disturbed easily. This film is so violent that it coul easily have received an NC 17 rating from the MPAA, but its not its violence that makes it disturbing, or not completely. The couple of twists we get are actually what can disturb the most, and trust me, they are very disturbing. I am not going to give it away, but it is very very disturbing.

I'll try to stop using the word "disturbing" from now on unless it is absolutely necessary (but I'm afraid it will be hence this film). So the film is great for many different aspects.

The direction is probably what makes the film for me. Park Chan Wook is a very talented director, and though this might be the only film coming from him that I've seen, he is probably one of the best Asian directors of recent years. He did Thirst, a succesful horror/drama about vampires that, long with Let the Right One In, put Twilight to shame. And he's done two other films, in which the theme of revenge is predominant, that have been succesful too. And Oldboy, which many people call his masterpiece, is very richly directed. How he shoots the film, making simple shots be more traumatic than they should and focusing on each frame for the time they need, not revealing anything until the time arrives, and maintaining the tension throughout are some of the few great things Chan Wook can do. After watching this I am more interested in watching the rest of his work.

The performances are pretty good, especially coming from central protagonist Choi Min sik. He embodies his character in every scene. When he needs to be a calmed and expressionless fellow he is, and when he needs to be an out of control psycho he is, and when he needs to be a scarred monster he is. He can be all of the faces of his character and he shows it in every scene. Yu Ji tae, who plays the central villain, also plays a powerful role with his full of hate and anger character. He takes the scenes in which his character is at and he takes them to a far different level, but still without stealing the show from Min sik.

The writing of this film is also pretty strong. The idea and concept of this film is very original and innovative and nothing like we have seen already. The only film that I think approaches the film more in similarity is Kill Bill (and not only for its revenge theme) and yet it is far to be like Oldboy. The characters are well designed, they have their story and they get enough screen time to develop, they grow into the audience making them love or hate them. The dialogues are smart and well written, but nothing really memorable.

As I've said before, this film is wildly and unsettlingly disturbing (yes, I said it, but I had to this time). And this might be the only problem (though actually really small) problem I had with this film. I'm not saying I didn't like it because of its crudeness, but I am saying that its highly traumatic content can become a turn off. There are a few scenes that can make the viewer stay all night, like the octupuss scene in the restaurant or the tongue scene towards the end, or maybe the ants scene. But the twists are the ones that can surely scar you for life. There are only about two or three, but they are pretty unsettling especially the big one (you know which one I'm talking about if you've seen it). That had me shaking.

So Oldboy is an unsettling piece, a wild and disturbing piece, but it is also an ingenius and innovative piece. And while its violence and other disturbing issues can be too much for some viewers, it is definitely a must see for the ones who can take it.
My recommendation: High, but only for the ones who can stand torture, violence (included some sexual violence), disturbing themes and some really f***ed up scenarios.
My score: 97%

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2010 Academy Award Predictions (UPDATE)

2010 Academy Award Predictions
November is gone by and we are currently at the last month of the year, December. As in many past ocations, many of the films which receive alot praise from the Oscars come from the November - December season, so now it becomes much more easire and also more interesting to try to predict who will make the five nominees and possibly who will win. This may be the last prediction I do in 2010, but I'll do at least one more before the nominees are announced, and then again when they are I'll share my thoughts about them and I'll try to guess who will win.
This time I'll try to guess some other categories that I haven't included in my past predictions (though some others will inevitable be left out), as well as the most important categories that I usually do. Also, I'll add a brief description under each category.
So here are my last predictions in 2010 for the 2010 Oscars:

Best Picture:
The Social Network
Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Town
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
Winter's Bone
The Ghost Writer
Toy Story 3

This year's race for Best Picture seems to be a very hard one, and argues to be a tougher one than last year's. This year we have a variety of films that can make the list, and these are what I think will do. From this list, I think the winner will ultimately be The Social Network, which is the movie that is getting more praise from the critics (along with Toy Story 3, but I don't think the Academy will give the award to an animated feature), so I think it is the safest choice so far. But there are other movies with the potential to win, like The King's Speech (which I think will get the BAFTA) and even Ghost Writer is got a chance, as it just won the European Film Award for Best Picture. But the favorite contendor to go against The Social Network is Christopher Nolan's Sci Fi/Action film Inception. Big budget, great production values and an almost garanteed strong campaign make this possibly the biggest rival The Social Network will have to face. And though I think it is safe to say that the winner will be The Social Network, this competition will prove to be far more interesting than last year's Avatar vs The Hurt Locker. But, if we take into account that the Academy has overlooked Nolan several times in the past, there is also a chance that he will get overlooked this year as well. Lets just hope this is not the case.

Best Director:
David Fincher - The Social Network
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Tom Hoper - The King's Speech
Ben Affleck - The Town

his year's race for Best Director also seems to be a very hard and close one. From this list, the only one that I would say that may get thrown out when the nominees are announced would be Ben Affleck, he can be repleaced by Danny Boyle or Roman Polanski or maybe Lisa Cholodenko, but so far I'd say he may get in. For the other four, they still may get put aside but so far I think they are in. The winner appears that will be David Fincher for The Social Network, but I'm sure that the other nominees will also present a tough fight.

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
James Franco - 127 Hours
George Clooney - The American
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
Javier Bardem - Biutiful

This is another very tough competition and is probably hard to try to guess who will win, that assuming that my predictions are right. There are also a few other possible candidates that may enter the list (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Eisenberg or Ewan McGregor maybe?), but so far this are the ones that are most likely to get in. I'd say that the award will probably go to Colin Firth for The King's Speech, a performance which the critics are raving about, but also a very strong contender might be Javier Bardem in Biutiful, who won Best Actor at Cannes and many critics are guesing that he may take home this award too.

Best Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit's Hole
Tilda Swinton - I Am Love

We are flooding on tough competitions this year, but the one that's probably the hardest one is the Best Actress race. With a year full of great performances by female players, this are probably the ones who will get in. I had to remove Julianne Moore from the list, but not because she doesn't deserve to be here, on the contrary I fully 100 per cent support her being nominated, but this year's race seems to be so hard that the Academy will most likely favor Annette Bening over her. And to guess who will win the award can be even harder to try to guess who will make the five, but I would go with Annette Bening or Natalie Portman. Before I considered Tilda Swinton the one who would take it, but after re-watching The Kids are All Right and hearing all the praise for Natalie Portman (I haven't seen the film yet) I'd say that the award will probably be between them.

Best Supporting Actor:
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
Sam Rockwell - Conviction
Christian Bale - The Fighter

With the Supporting Actor category I think that the winner may be Christian Bale in The Fighter or Geoffrey Rish from The King's Speech. Though I have not seen these two films, you can see from the trailer of The Fighter (I know basing one's opinion in a trailer might be tricky, but in this case I think this might be safe) you can see that Bale has taken his role to a whole new level, and with Geoffrey Rush, he's been getting alot of praise too and he's been nominated already for a coupl of awards. Jeremy Renner may also stand a chance, but I think the competition will be between the said two.

Best Supporting Actress:
Olivia Williams - The Ghost Writer
Marion Cotillar - Inception
Helena Boham Carter - The King's Speech
Violante Placido - The American
Cecil DeFrance - Hereafter

And while in the other categories the race seems to be a very hard one, in here it isn't really that tough. While a couple of possible conteneders may still get left out, I don't think there will be alot of competition coming from here. I think the award will go to Helena Boham Carter from The King's Speech, who has also been receiving praise and nominations like her co-stars, but I would like to see Marion Cotillard stand in that stage once again winning in this category, but I don't think it will happen.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Social Network (Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book The Accidental Millionaires by Ben Mezrich)
Winter's Bone (Written by Debra Garnik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell)
The Ghost Writer (Written by Roman Polanski and Robert Harris, based on the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris)
Shutter Island (Written by Laetta Kalogridis, based on the novel Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane)
The Town (Written by Ben Affleck, based on the novel The Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan)

This year there are many possibilities to end up in this list, but I think this are the ones who will get in. The award this year is most likely to go to Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network, but the rest of the nominees may also present a hard battle against it.

Best Original Screenplay:
Inception (Written by Christopher Nolan)
Toy Story 3 (Written by Michael Arndt)
The King's Speech (Written by David Seidler)
Black Swan (Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and Jon McLaughlin)
The Kids are All Right (Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)

Unlike its adapted counterpart, the Original Screenplay race looks seems to be a harder one. With nominees such as the ones above, the competitions looks to be very interesting, not to metion that there may be a list of others that may not make the list. From here, I think the Award may go to The Kids are All Right, but it is a very hard choice, as the other four potential nominees are great also and are likely to be favored by the Academy.

Best Animated Feature:
Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon
Despicable Me

The battle here is likely to be between Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, but it is not hard to try to guess who will win. Toy Story 3, coming from the undefeatable Pixar, will be the one chosen, not to mention that it may also be nominated for Best Picture.

Best Visual Effects:
Iron Man 2
Tron Legacy

Hard once again, but I would place my bet on Tron Legay.

Best Film Editing:
The Ghost Writer
Shutter Island
The Social Network
The American

The award is between Inception and The Social Network, and it is very hard to try to guess right now but The Social Network may be the one to take it (just think about the Winklevoss Twins).

Best Sound Editing:
Tron: Legacy
Shutter Island
The Town
Iron Man 2

I think the winner will be Inception but Tron Legacy may win also. I would bet for Inception, but we still have to see Tron.

Best Sound Mixing:
The Town
Toy Story 3
Iron Man 2
Tron: Legacy

Here's the same case as in the Sound Editing category.

Best Cinematography:
Shutter Island
The American
The Social Network
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Many films have had excellent camera work this year, with the ones above been the films that I think most deserve to get nominated, but there are also a couple of others that deserve it too. The award may go The American, which is full of excellent shots and camera work, but Inception also had great cinematography, so maybe that is my second choice.

Best Art Direction:
The American
Alice in Wonderland
The King's Speech
Never Let Me Go
Robin Hood

I would say the winner is between Alice in Wonderland and The King's Speech.

Best Costume Design:
Robin Hood
The King's Speech
Never Let Me Go
Black Swan
Shutter Island

Robin Hood's costumes were very good, Shutter Island's also, and Never Let Me Go received good praise for its costume design among other things. But Black Swan is likely to be ignored, leading me to who I think will win: The King's Speech. You can see with clips, pictures and trailers that its production is wonderful, and many are praising it for its realism. So The King's Speech really stands a chance to win this award.

Best Make Up:
Black Swan
Alice in Wonderland
The King's Speech
The American
Never Let Me Go

Alice in Wonderland and Black Swan are most likely to be the two front runners here, but The King's Speech, The American and Never Let Me Go also stand a chance.

Best Original Score:
Never Let Me Go
The American
Shutter Island
The King's Speech

Beautiful music in Never Let Me Go and The American, haunting score in Shutter Island and Inception, with an excellent soundtrack for The King's Speech. To tell the truth, I don't know who will win here, but I am leaning towards Never Let Me Go.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Dogtooth (Greece)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand)
Biutiful (Mexico)
Of Gods and Men (France)
The First Beautiful Thing (Italy)

Dogtooth received great praise in its country, Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives won Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Biutiful is being called Gonzales Inarritu's best feauture yet and has been excellently received at Mexico and at Cannes too, the same thing for Of Gods and Men, and The First Beautiful Thing received praise at the European Film Awards. Sadly, films like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo isn't possible to be elected as Sweden didn't submit it as its official submission for this award. But the films that may get nominated, I think the award is between Biutiful and Of Gods and Men.

Best Documentary Feature:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
The Oath

If it was my choice I would choose Exit Through the Gift Shop, an excellent look at the underground art of graffiti or street art, as the winner but I think the award will go to Restrepo, which I still have to see.

These are my predictions as of now. This is most likely to change when the year ends, but so far I feel good with them. It is very likely that I am wrong with most of the ones I think will win, and maybe also with the nominations. We'll have to wait to February 27 2011 to see. See you again at the beginning of January with a new list of predictions.

Friday, December 3, 2010

As Year Comes to a Close: What to expect in the remaining month from CACB

As the Year Comes to a Close
What to Expect in the Remaining Month from CACB

2010 is almost done, almost over. As we wait for another Christmas to arrive and take away the year I look back and see how significant this year was to me, but that's a subject for another day. I wanted to inform you, anyone who bothers to read my humble blog, and what you will be getting in the next couple of weeks. You have to remember that I am just a teenage student that goes to school and is about to start examinations, so I may not have enough time to go through all of your reviews or even post everything that I have planned from now on. But without any more blah blah blah here's what you can expect from CACB:

-Three or four more "2010 Academy Awards Predictions" until the nominations are announced, and then a blog about said nominations (what I think about them and what I expect from them), including a pre and post Oscar night blog (I know, I can be too intense with this subject). My next one will be ready overthe weekend.

-A blog about how special and significant this year was for me, movie-wise.

-An end of the year list about the best, worst, most underrated and overrated of 2010 in film, and possibly on TV too.

-Possibly a review on the last episode of the season of The Walking Dead, which will air this weekend.

-Reviews of "The King's Speech" (if it plays in a theater near me), "The White Ribbon", "Airplane", and "True Grit". (Remember, there's a chance that I don't get to any of these -.-)

So far, this is what I'm planning to do for the end of the year on this blog. Also I may send a Merry Christmas blog around. Just be prepared :)
If you like The CACB Blog and you're expecting any of this, look out for these, I'll try to make them as interesting as possible...

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Story Behind Facebook: The Social Network - Movie Review

The Social Network

Director: David Fincher
Year: 2010
Country: USA

Facebook is probably the world's biggest running social network in these moments. It has a bigger member base than any other socializing website and it is continuosly growing on popularity. But with Facebook it is not all hearts and butterflies, as there is a very dark and intriguing story behind its creation. And while this film shows a partly fictionalized version of said story, it pretty much gives a good idea of how it went. But the movie is not a simple docu-drama that tries to instruct the viewers of the rise of the biggest social engine, it is also a very well constructed, highly enteratining and frankly, one of the best movies, not only of this year, but of the past 10 or probably 20, becoming the movie that defines the generation of internet.

The plot, as many of you know, is the following: in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg was a simple but genius geek attending Harvard trying to get the attention of the clubs. On one night, after his girlfriend broke up with him, he started a small web page used to rate pictures of the girls attending Harvard. It quickly became popular, receiving 22.000 hits in four hours. But he had troubles with this, so it had to be shut down. But the Winklevoss twins, a pair of athletic and wealthy brothers seeking for a breakthrough for their project, notice Zuckerberg and want him to help them with this little project. But while he was "helping them", he was developing a little project of his own, which quickly grew into becoming the giant social network millions of users log in everyday that we call Facebook. But along the way of its growth, Zuckerberg had to face many challenges, including two lawsuits, one by the Winklevoss twins and one by his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. As the poster of the film reads: You can't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.
What is the best movie of the year, what it is likely to steal the show at the next Academy Awards, and what is probably the movie to define this present generation, was masterfully delivered to us, the audience, by its wonderful cast and crew. If it wasn't for them, the film would have probably been a simple boring documentary on economics, but thanks to likeable performances, flawless writing and perfect direction, also mentioning technical details like breathtaking editing and astounding music, The Social Network has become an event.

David Fincher, who has delivered to us films like Fight Club, Zodiac and Seven, has now achieved his masterpiece with this. He certainly deservesa nod at next year's Oscars, and in my book, a win. He gets his actors to do the best of themselves, and he captures them in all his glory. He also sets up the dark but still funny mood for the film, and the low lightening and great cinematography are also fantastic. But all this is fantastically edited, making the film a more pleasing visual expierence, without taking the substance out of the film. Fincher's direction has always been excellent, but with this film he achieved perfection, making it not only his best film but the film he will be remembered by in the future.

But what would be Fincher without his actors? Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the genius Mark Zuckerberg, has exceeded expectations and has played to perfection his role. He's perfectly fitting making it easier for him to become Zuckerberg, and, even though I promised to myself not to mention this in my review, he has beaten Michael Cera by stepping out of his usual character, though not into too far ground, and making a different movie. I really think he deserves to be nominated for an Oscar. Also, in the acting highlights is Andrew Garfield, playing Eduardo Saverin, Mark's best and only friend. He is probably the most sympatethic charater in the film, making the audience feel sorry for him. He also gets ahold of his character, making him his and he becoming part of his character. Another actor deserving to be mentioned is Justin Timberblake, surprisingly in a great performance, as the wild and partying Sean Parker. He was a surprise, a wild card, and yet he was amazing. It was a pleasure to see him perform in every scene he was in. Other actors deserving praise are Armie Hammer as both the Winklevoss twins, Brenda Song as Eduardo's girlfriend Christy Lee, and in also a surprising good role Rooney Mara, who early in this year gave a shameful performance in the equally shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Now I'm having more hopes for the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in which she will be playing Lisbeth Salader.

But the one deserving all the praise and acclaim screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. His screenplay is probably the best of the year. He delivers smart and charismathic dialogues, funny and sad situations and very amusing and interesting characters, with certain charms of its own too. He is most likely to win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars and Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes. I think his screenplay was so wonderful that many of the dialogues in the film may go down in my list as some of the best in 2010, and I even go further into saying that it may be one of the funniest films of the year, even if it wasn't a comedy. And achieving that is something that I respect in a screenwriter. So, Aaron Sorkin, you're the true hero of this film. Its power lies in the writing.

But the film is also socially important. It tells the story of one of the most visited sites on the internet, and it does it so well that it becomes a film that people at almost any age can enjoy (though maybe for kids younger than 10-11 it may not be appropiate). It is like All the President's Men at its time, only more fun and amusing.

The Social Network is a masterpiece, not only for Fincher, not only for the year, but for the generation. It is one of the best movies to have come out in the past two decades, and it definitely is the best of this year. I see a big bag full of gold in next February, more specifically, Oscar night.
My recommendation: High
My score: A perfect 100 (this is the first film of the year that I have given this rating, and the only one I have given it (chronologically) since 2007's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which also has decreased a little bit since I saw it).
So, ladies and gentlemen, you are before, without a doubt, the best movie of the year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Man Som Hattar Knivvor) (2009) Review

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Director: Niels Adren Oplev
Year: 2009
Country: Sweden

What has become an international sensation, and one of my personal favorite books, has been successfully adapted into an award winning universally acclaimed film directed by Niels Adren Oplev, starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. Swedish film industry has done a come back in the past few years, with Let the Right One In and these films mostly, and they are heavy. This film is a very well done adaptation, though not too faithful with the source material, but still a great, thrilling and entertaining film.

Mikael Blomkvist (Micael Nyqvist) is found guilty of libel after publishing a story with no credible evidence about an industrialist magnate Hans Erik-Wennerstrom (Stefan Sauk). Months before his conviction to start, he is hired by a powerful and wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), head of the Vanger Corporation, to investigate what happened almost 40 years before when his niece, Harriet Vanger, dissappeared and was never found. But Blomkvist will need the help of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), genius hacker who helped the Vanger family with the research on Blomkvist. But to uncover the truth about Harriet's dissapearance they must have to deal with the Vanger family, a power thirsty clan that hides darker secrets than possibly imagined.

Part of what makes this film so excellent are the magnificent performances. Particularly good was Noomi Rapace as the antisocial, genius hacker, problematic Lisbeth Salander. She certainly acts, thinks, lives and breathes like Lisbeth Salander. She's perfectly fitting fr the role. The whole time while reading the book I had an idea of Lisbeth Salander quite similar to Noomi Rapace, and not because I had seen her on the posters or trailers (because I seldom saw them), so she's perfectly fitting, but not only that but also she becomes her character, adopting all the little expressions or ticks that she may have. Michael Nyqvist, who plays Mikael Blomkvist, is also great at becoming the journalist. His performance is, as with Noomi Rapace, a perfect impersonation of the character in the book, though there is one little detail: for some reason, I thought he would be blonde. But that aside, he's perfectly adecuate for the role.

What impressed me the most, probably, was the direction. The film is extremely well shot, employing perfect use of cinematography, capturing all the beautiful landscapes and settings the Swedish fields have to offer. But that's not all what the direction has to give, because it also can provide pulse-quickening pace and a suspenseful aura. Niels Adren Oplev directs his film perfectly, by capturing the wonderful view of the settings, creating a thrilling mood and getting his actors to do their best. Add all this with some fast pace editting and you've got a wonderful full of twists and thrills ride.

But then there is the screenplay. Here is where I probably had most of the problems I had with this film. I'm not saying that the film was badly written, no, on the contrary, its script is pretty good. But what is the problem here is the adapting of the book. While I don't want it to be a perfect adaptation, a complete translation from paper to screen, I would have liked it to be a little more faithful to Stieg Larsson's novel. This might not be a problem to most, but for me it was. The book is one of the most exciting and intriguing books I've read and certainly alot of what made it this way was left out of the film. *SPOILERS WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD.* For example, the fact that they wrote Anita Vanger out of the movie angers me a little. She was very important for the book's narrative, and she was the one that helped them solver Harriet's mystery, so by writing her out they simply skipped an important and interesting part of the book. Also, Mikael's relationship with both Cecilia Vanger and Erika Berger weren't even mentioned, and that constituted an important amount in the novel. As well as the Wennerstrom affair, which was barely touched in the film, while in the book it covers about at least one fourth and it was what motivated Blomkvist in the first place to take the job. I also didn't like the role the Vanger family as a whole played in the movie. While in the book extended paragraphs and even chapters were dedicated to develop many of these characters which was part of what I liked the most and made the story more intriguing, in the film they were barely there. Maybe there was too much to fit into the film, but the filmmakers could have at least given the family a more important role than being on the suspects list. And also, though this might not be too much of the film's faithfullness, I thought that Blomkvist's and Salander's relationship wasn't that strong in the film as it was in the book, and that is a very important aspect in the film. Just think if in Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling's relationship wouldn't have worked. The whole film as a whole wouldn't have either. And while in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo it is not a major issue, there is this feeling of the lack of the special chemistry they shared on the book. *SPOILERS OVER* But other than the unfaithfullness of the script and some other minor issues, the film has some powerful writing. The dialogues are sharp and smart and the characters, for the ones who are, are given their fair share of participation and development. So the only main problem I had with the film was it not being too faithful to the novel.

With Niels Adren Oplev's strong direction, astounding central performances by Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, and the power of Stieg Larsson's powerful source material, the film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo shines. If only the filmmakers would have stuck along with the story a little moe this film would have probably gotten a perfect score. But that aside, I can safely say that this is one of the best films released in 2010.
My recommendation: It may be too harsh at times for some viewers, but for those who can stand torture and sexual violence this is a must see.
My score: 92-94%

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
Director: David Yates
Year: 2010
Country: UK

It finally arrived, the first part of the final chapter in the Harry Potter film series, it is finally here. Almost ten years after the first (with the second part beeing released exactly ten years later) we finally get the beginning of the end of this enchanting series that marked my childhood and a generation. What was probably the most expected movie of the year was far from a disapointment, an utter failure that puts the other to shame. No, it was totally the contrary. It was surprisingly better than expected, and it may become one of the best Harry Potter films. And though I am not sure if its better than Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire, it is still a fantastic entry to the series, and who knows? maybe with Part II, regarding Deathly Hallows as a whole, we'll get the best of the series. But we'll have to wait until July 2011, but in the mean time let me tell you what I thought about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

Harry Potter is about to turn 17 and the mark that the ministry has upon him will vanish, but until then they can track every movement he makes. Harry is moved then to the Burrow, Ron's place, to be safe until this mark is broken. The place is later attacked by the death eaters, following the fall of the ministry, and Harry, Ron and Hermione see themselves forced to leave the burrow and are unable to attend their new year at Hogwarts. But they have a difficult task ahead of them: find the remaining Horcruxes, the objects were parts of Voldemort's soul are hidden, and destroy them. And on their journey they won't only have to face the common dangers one would expect, like coming across a couple of blood thirsty deatheaters or having to face nasty creatures, but also what can be the hardest mission they may ever have to undergo: survive as their friendship deteriorates slowly.

Well, the first part of the finale of this epic series was more than satisfying, and while it may not be perfect and may not be the best, it is still an incredible and exciting journey to take.

Part of what's wonderful about this film is how David Yates shot it. I have always had some doubts about David Yates as director of this films. He seems that he prefers to make the film dark and add his style rather than to deliver the story. But it seems that for this film he has learned his lesson. I'd say this is his directorial masterpiece within the series, not to mention the best of the ones he has directed. The way he directed the film, with the beautiful shots of the British landscapes or the thrilling action scenes, he has finally achieved what seemed he was looking for from the beginning: to deliver the story without sacrificing his style. And of course his dark tone wasn't tossed out in this film. He keeps the film dark, but without leaving out the joy or funny moments, like he did in the fifth film. So, in a way, he finally delivered what he wanted to do, making this his best directorial effort in the series plus the best of the three he has directed.

The acting is astounding too. The tree main actors, Daniel Racliffe, Ruppert Grint and Emma Watson have improved alot since they first put on their cloaks and grabbed their wands. They are grown actors now and they are able to deliver the emotions to their characters and are also able to carry out their scenes perfectly. I'd say that probably Ruppert Grint is the best one out of the three, but Radcliffe and Watson are also vry good in their roles too. Other than them, there are plenty of actors that shine in this film. Ralph Fiennes, who plays the evil Lord Voldemort, is as fantastic as in his previous films. He inpires a menacing and fearful feeling to any one who sets eye upon him. Helena Boham Carter is also marvellous as the insane Bellatrix Lestrange, although I think that she did a better job in 5 and 6. Brendan Gleeson, Mad Eye Moody, is also great though his performance has decreased too.

But what's really especial about this film is the excitement the film provides to the long time Harry Potter viewers. Its not only the flashy and awesome special effects (including the battle on broomsticks, the monster within the locket, the patronuses, the dementors, the spells, the snake, etc) or the thrilling action sequences (including the battle on broomstics -again-, the numerous chases like the one in the ministry, the deatheaters scenes, etc), but the big feeling that all fans will get while watching this film. And while I was in between nostalgia and excitement, the film finally did the trick with me and made me forget all about nostalgia and focus on excitement.

While we still have to wait to see the end in July, I can already feel the excitement of the final conclusion. In the book, the second half has more action and possibly more excitement, so I can't wait for Part II! So Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I is a very exciting film that all Potter fans will love, despite a few unspecified problems here and there.
My recommendation: A must see for all HP fans; for others, you might want to watch the previous films in the series in order to fully understand and enjoy this one, but it is worth the shot
My score: This is a little difficult. I want to rate it high, but I would be kidding myself. I guess I'll give the film a 92 in a Potter scale (a 92 in the series, with 100 being Goblet of Fire which is my favorite) but a, lets say, 84 in a real film scale. I think I'm satisfied with that.
It is still almost 8 months away, but I'm already starting to feel the excitement for the next one!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Harry Potter Film Series: My View of the Films

Harry Potter Film Series
My View of the Films
Analysing, Rating and Ranking Them

On the eve of the world premier of the first part of the Seventh and final Harry Potter film, I have decided to take a look at the wizarding world of Harry Potter, an event that marked my childhood and this present generation. The films, which started in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's in North America) Stone, have truly become a popular franchise, enough so that almost 10 years later the films are more popular than ever.

My expierences through the series:
I was about 6 or 7 when I first watched the first film. Back then I didn't really have great taste in films, and I wouldn't know if the film was good or bad because of the acting, writing, directing, character development, plot, etc. but the film did have an impact on me, making me try to become a wizard myself (lol). I remember about watching it about three or four times in the theater. It had blown my child mind away. It became my favorite movie (or rather one of my faves) and I found myself playing role playing games with other friends that were as psyched by the movie as I was (please, I was only a kid). Then, when the second movie came along, about 1 year after, it revitalized my love for the series and once again I was under the spell of the wizard world. I was much more mature by the time when the third one came, and despite I wasn't playing around with pens as wands the film still enchanted me, and as the wait had been long (and it was killing me) when I finally saw the movie I was more mindblown. Then, another year and a half later, the fourth film was released, and with it the first human appereance of Lord Voldemort, and it quickly became my favorite. The fifth one then, I wasn't as blown away as with the first films (which was ironic because it was the one that I had been waiting for the most; maybe I had my expectations too high) but I still loved it. And last year, the sixth installment in this magically epic journey came out, and it did the trick that the third and fourth had on me. And now, I am here in front of my computer, writing about how much I loved and still do this series, waiting anxiously for the final chapter (or rather the first part of the final book) to be released.

Books vs Movies and Series Overview:
I've read all the series of books and I've gotta say that the ovies are probably better than the books. The films have a more dark and serious tone, while the books still feel like a fairy tale, but they are still a wonderful adventure that young readers would enjoy embarking into.
The films are quite faithful to the books, especially the first two. They practically follow the storyline to the dot, but of course the whole book isn't in the movie, but it only leaves out a very few insignificant details that probably nobody really missed. But then Alfonso Cuaron came, and brought a whole new level to the Harry Potter world. While Chris Columbus was faithful to the source material, trying his best to bring this wonderful world to the screen, Cuaron practically rewrote the story to make it his. And while there were a few plot details that would have been nice to see on screen, the film was wonderful, and is probably the best of all the series. Then, Mike Newell sat in the director's chair to bring his own vision of the series. The film became much darker, and it has a "thriller" feel, and he effectively brought th Dark Lord to our minds to hunt us in our nightmares. After Mike Newell didn't sign to direct the next one, David Yates came along and once again we got a very different and much darker version than the last one. In this film, Yates made the film the darkest in the series, leaving out many details of the book. And it is probably one of the weaker entries, but it is still a fun ride, and its dark tone was very amusing for me. The sixth film, also directed by David Yates, feels like the previous one does, though much less darker and more humurous. It was a step up from the last, and was a very good entry to the series. But then again, it left out a few interesting stuff from the books (like some of the flashbacks), though probably it works well this way. And tomorrow we'll know how the seventh film ends up like. I think that was my favorite book, and if everything goes right it may become my favorite movie. Even J.K Rowling, author of the books, said the seventh was her favorite.

Here is my order of favorites, from least favorite to most favorite:
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
It was the first one, they were probably only learning, exploring new territory, but it was the worst (from my POV) of the series. That doesn't mean it was bad, on the contrary, it was the one that started my love for the series, but it is still the least good one. The film feels a lot like a kids or family fairy tale, and also feels like a kids movie, unlike the rest of the series. Also, the characters are underdeveloped, with the high majority being 2D, and it didn't have the dark tone of the next ones had. Nevertheless, the film is highly entertaining, with magical adventure and great sense of friendship.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Fancy, 5 on number 5? Haha, okay. So this film is not like the preceeding three and subsequent one, but it was still a good one. The film is probably the darkest in the series, dealing with the aftermath of Harry's battle with Voldemort and Cedric's death, displaying a Harry full of anger and desires of revenge, a one who even questions himself of his heart nature. But, while these subjects may be interesting, I feel that David Yates failed to execute them in a fashion that all the family would like. This was a more mature film than all the previous and subsequent ones, and it was a movie more directed towards teens rather than to the whole family. And while the previous film I've mentioned felt like a fairy tale/adventure film, this felt rather like a psychological thriller or even horror film, without the scares. So probably, that's the reason of why so many disliked it. Plus, it is the movie that follows more loosly the book, though the studio made the filmmakers cut about 45 minutes of the film, making it the shortest in the series, from the longest book. I think that probably if those 45 minutes had been left, or at least 20 of them, the film would have been better.
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The second film in the series to be directed by David Yates, the Half Blood Prince was a step up from the last one, but still it wasn't the best of the series. David Yates film is still pretty dark, but much lesser than the previous one, which I didn't really mind considering that the fifth book was darker than the sixth. What I really didn't like was that it had more humor than it should. I'm not asking for a stiff, melodramatic film, but one that takes itself more serious. It can have a couple ofjokes, like all of the others had, but not as much as it does. Anyway, I felt that the performances here from its three leads have improved, and also the rest of the under 18 cast did too, like Ginny or Draco Malfoy. I think also that Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore, gives what could be his strongest performance in the series, and considering that this is the installment that has him more involved, it is adequate. I also especially liked Helena Bohan Carter as the demented Bellatrix Lestrange. The writing improved from the last one, as it returned to the original screenwriter Steve Kloves. And in this film, the feeling of an adventure film returns.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Well, probably you wouldn't place it as high as this, but I am very fond of this film. This was my favorite for a long time, until in 2008 when I rewatched all of them and decided that I liked the remaining ones better, and it is still one of my favorites. The plot of the film is basically a haunted house crossed with a detective mystery, and I liked that. The basilisk is one of the most interesting creatures (along with Buckbeak and Fluffy) in the series, and the fact that we have Voldemort's past come to life is also very cool. But the film's characters are 2D once again and lacking of depth. I also didn't like that the film still feels like a family film, which has clearly evelotuionated into something different (a haunted house film crossed with detective mystery anyone?).
2. Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban
This is a common favorite, a popular opinion, that this is the best of all the series, and while I may agree, I don't think it is my favorite. Let me say, that Alfonso Cuaron is probably the best thing that ever happened to this series. His take into the films is so beautiful, so wonderfully dark and complex and so rich in surprises that this might really be the best. It features Buckbeak, the Hypogriphe, who is also one of the most interesting creatures, and the dementors are as chilling as hell. The film's increasing dark tone is what differentiates the film from its predecessors. I also felt that the performances increased here too. Gary Oldman and David Thelwis, who play Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, are wonderful in their roles, becoming each their own character, giving their depth and development. And the rest of the cast also do a great job too. Also, Cuaron's direction is top notch, with the dark tone and his view to the series being one of the great parts of the film, making the film feel like a thriller. And while this might be probably the best of the series, my favorite of course is...
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Precisely. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is probably the most entertaining of the series for me. It doesn't only feature one of the most exciting storylines in the series, the Triwizard Cup, but it also has the return of Lord Voldemort's plot arc, which takes in the whole movie secretly. Also, Alostor Moody, played magnificently by Brendan Gleeson, was introduced in the film, and his probably one of the coolest and oddest characters of the series. Other actors that were excellent in their roles were Ralph Fiennes as he-who-must-not-be-named, Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonnagal, Alan Rickman as the cold Severus Snape, Predrag Bjelac as Igor Karkaroff, among others. Also, Mike Newell's direction is great too. He makes the film what it is, giving it its dark tone and its thriller or action feel. So this is the most entertaining film in the series for me, for the Triwizard Tournament and the Lord Voldemort story arcs. It is my favorite of the series, and I'm gonna stick to it unless tomorrow we get something that tops this.
So I think a resume of this films and my like of them is like this: 5 and 6 lack the emotion of the first four films, but 1 and 2 lack the maturity and darkness of the next four, making 3 and 4 the perfect films of the series! Hahaha, but yeah, that is really what I think about them.
*And, if you were wondering what are the "feels" of each of the films I said here's a recap: Sorcerer's Stone a child fairy tale/adventure film, Chamber of Secrets a haunted house flick mixed with a detective mystery, Prisoner of Azkaban a dark thriller, Goblet of Fire a dark thriller too or an action film as well, Order of the Phoenix a psychological thriller or horror movie, and Half Blood Prince an adventure film. :)

So the Harry Potter series has a special place in my heart. And while I may have grown up now and I like other mature stuff, this will always be the movie of my childhood. I write with a tear in my heart of nostalgia, as the ending of this series probably means the end of my childhood, but also there is joy and emotion to see the final conclusion and climax. But then again, there is Part II in July 2011. We'll see how my view of the series changes after tomorrow when I see the seventh film. Who knows, there might be a new number 1 in my list. Expect to hear from me tomorrow for my review of the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, seventh film and first part of the finale of this epic series.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My favorites: Books

CACB's Favorite Books
Stepping aside from the movies for a while, here is a list of what are some of my favorite books. This is in no particular order if someone was wondering.
-1984 (Written by George Orwell): George Orwell's dystopic classic, which many regard as one of the best books of the XXth century, is certainly a masterpiece of its time, and it is still one nowadays. Its story about dictatorship and rebellion grabbed me into its world and didn't let me go until the final word was read. Highly recommended for anyone.
-The Shining (Written by Stephen King): Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, if not my favorite. He's stories are so wonderfully dark and intense that they are certainly amazing. And this, The Shining, is probably his masterpiece, one of the most entertaining, grabbing, thrilling and amazing novels I have ever read.
-The Lord of the Rings (Written by J.R.R Tolkien): This epic tale written in three volumes has become now a classic. Tolkien's wonderful world full of hobbits and elves will captivate you, hook you in and make you want to read the next volume when you're done with the previous one. It is most definitely an epic fantasy tale that one most read at some point in their lives.
-Farenheit 451 (Written by Ray Bradbury): Another dystopic science fiction classic, Ray Bradbury's story about censorship is engaging and amusing. The story one again grabs the reader in making him want to continue reading. Its a very enjoyable novel with a message to the governments who want to control everything in
the background.
-The Road (Written by Cormac McCarthy): An excellent post-apocalyptic tale about a father and a son on their journey to the sea. The novel entertains with its post-Armageddon argument while at the same tme displaying a touching father and son story, and it is this relationship that impulses the novel and the reader to keep going.
-No Country for Old Men (Written by Cormac McCarthy): Another book by McCarthy, this story is, in contrast, set in western Texas, where a man named Anton Chigurh chases Llewellyn Moss with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell trying to figure out what's happening. Adaptated masterfully by the Coen Brothers, this is one of the best books of the 2000s.
-Firestarter (Written by Stephen King): Second King book in the list, this is a story about a father and daughter on the run, the latter possesing the power of pyrokinesis, the ability to create fire. Its an excellent thriller with two likeable characters and intense narrative. King's Firestarter is definitely suspenseful.
-100 Years of Solitude (Written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez): What could possibly be the most important Latin American novel, 100 Years of Solitude is the excellent story of several generations of the Buendia family in the ficnional town of Macondo. With excellently crafted characters and touching and humurous situations, Garcia Marquez masterpiece is a must read.
-Sherlock Holmes (Written by Arthur Conan Doyle): This series of novels and short stories are what could be the best detective work ever put on paper. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most interesting characters in literature and his partner Watson is also a very likeable fellow. Their many adventures are garanteed to entertain any one who puts their eyes on them.
-Let the Right One In (Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist): The vampire tale of the XXI century. Its story is heart breaking but at the same time disturbing. With fascinating characters and gut wrenching situations, author John Ajvide Lindqvist creates his universe in a way that won't let the eyes of the reader go away.
-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Written by Stieg Larsson): While I haven't read the other two parts of the trilogy, already it is starting to become one of my favorite series in literature. For the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is breathtaking and addictive thriller featuring one of the mos bizarre and interesting characters put on paper, genius hacker Lisbeth Salander.