86th Academy Awards – Winners

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

It’s official! The dust is settling as the Oscar statuettes are on their way to their new homes. “12 Years a Slave” has been named this year’s victor, as it walked away with three awards including Best Picture, but a pyrrhic victory it surely was. Continue reading

86th Academy Awards – Predictions

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

It’s that time of the year again when the entire world gathers around their TV sets, computer monitors, twitter feeds or what have you to watch rich people give each other awards… I mean The Oscars. Therefore, just for fun I’ve prepared a list of who in my opinion will win tonight. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I think the following films should or deserve to win, but I am now testing a quasi-scientific method and I hope I’m up to something here. Continue reading

Minireview: “Dallas Buyers Club”

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Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, “Dallas Buyers Club” was most likely conceived with the awards season in mind, as it checks all the necessary boxes to be officially considered ‘Oscar bait’, and it is never a good sign. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner, the film is a biographical piece about Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), a flesh-and-bone Texan who contracted HIV back in the mid-80’s when not only the treatment had not been properly developed, but the fact of being diagnosed with AIDS went hand in hand with being cast out to the margin of (a very conservative) society; Continue reading

85th Academy Awards – Predictions and Wishful Thinking

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‘Tonight’s the night… And it’s going to happen again and again… It has to happen.’

That quote from “Dexter” pretty much sums up the atmosphere surrounding what is going to happen in the next couple of hours. The awards season is about close again with the most widely recognized ceremony in the history of everything ever – The Oscars. I have to admit I feel a bit like a serial killer (but with a code) on the prowl now and I am quite certain I’m not the only one. Many of us have our own personal predictions, favorites and what-not. Therefore, I figured I would devote a bit of space to the Oscars and see how I do when it comes to making predictions. Continue reading

“Les Misérables” – ‘Meh’ in A major

Have you ever seen a Bentley commercial? Who am I kidding, you probably have, but I sure haven’t. You don’t see them very often at least. The point I’m trying to make here is that good quality product sells itself and does not require extensive marketing campaigns and such. With all the noise and fuss about “Les Mis” (I still can’t get over this sad realization that the title is abbreviated for the sole benefit of native English speakers who would injure themselves while trying to pronounce it properly) I got what I deserved – a dud.

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I am not big on musicals, I have to say, but I can appreciate good talent and a good story and for the record, “Les Misérables” has plenty of talent and a story that just had to sell – especially with all the hoopla. I shall reiterate what probably most critics have stated already: If you like musicals and you are a fan of the West End and Broadway productions of “Les Mis”, you’ll probably love it. I, however, did not.

It was a struggle beyond belief, a two-and-a-half hour long ordeal with me anxiously looking at my watch every other minute and contemplating the possibility of putting myself out of my misery. I clearly don’t get what the fuss was all about with this film. Sure, I see how Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman had managed to win the Academy over and scored their respective Oscar nominations. Other than that, I seriously suspect that most of the praise for “Les Misérables” comes from the fact that ‘it is expected for you to do so if you don’t want to look like a moron’, like there was some sort of a cult around it. Well, I don’t mind looking like an idiot, so why don’t you sing about it while you’re at it?

Watching “Les Mis” felt really awkward, because I assumed that having a camera at your disposal would enable you to show things inaccessible on stage. Nothing was achieved in that particular department. And, no – shooting everything in close-up did not work for me at all.

Why on Earth would you take a perfectly OK stage production and just film it? I mean, try to be creative and do something to adapt it for the screen. You can’t just cram the stage in front of a camera, yell ‘action’ and expect to produce something different than a steaming pile of doo-doo. Take away all the whoop-dee-doo and you are left with 157 minutes of cheap-looking theatre-like decorations smeared with CGI here and there… and singing people, of course. Don’t get me wrong, through the first 40 minutes or so, I actually cared and appreciated their respective talents. After a while, however, it just became more and more annoying to the point of preventing me from being able to follow the story. I know it’s the trait of the genre and I know the characters need to break into a song to vocalize their thoughts, but I feel it belongs on a stage, where fake sword fights and songs do mix. All I was left at the end of the day was a fragmented storyline and little sense of what actually was going on…

Correct me if I’m wrong, but my spidey-sense is telling me that “Les Misérables” was created solely in order to woo the Academy and score big time at the Oscars with all the big names and Broadway nostalgia, but in reality the film seems forced, stuffy and unpleasant. And the only tears I shed were the tears of joy when the credits rolled. Full stop.

The ‘D’ is silent – “Django Unchained”

However I would like to slice it, I just cannot stay unbiased when I think about Tarantino. I just can’t get over the fact that this man in some way guided me through my adolescence (together with some other fellas) and truly ignited the love for film that burns within me. Or should I say, he let me take some of his fire and make it my own. If you’re looking for anyone who simply lives for the movies – look no further. Quentin Tarantino is the quintessential (Quentinessential?) film junkie. I mean he’s a real crack-head when it comes to movies. He loves his references, he winks to other film junkies out there all the time and he’d take any genre, bring it back to life and preach it. Say what you want, love him or hate him – but you cannot deny him that. He loves what he does and his work really lets that feeling sparkle.

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I think we all have to agree on the premise that Tarantino’s films are always kind of special. He’s not exactly a prolific writer or director, he takes his time, but his projects inevitably provoke excitement. What’s it going to be about? Who’s going to star in it? Is it going to be bloodier than the previous one? (Of course it would, I’ll get to that in a second) And most importantly: The quotes. Gimme them quotes. Maybe not all of Tarantino’s pieces are as quotable as “Pulp Fiction”, but at the heart of every single one of his films is the dialogue – sharp, fast, witty, dark, provocative, controversial, offensive and hilarious. And in this regard, Tarantino never fails. He kept the bar high with “Django” and he brought it home like a champ.

Right, so “Django Unchained” is in essence a Tarantino’s play at the western genre. It’s a story of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (once again after “Inglorious…” – mind-blowing Christoph Waltz). They wander through the mid-1800’s America killing baddies in a quest to reunite Django with his wife. Yes, the gist of the story can be nicely condensed into two sentences. If you need more than that, you wouldn’t really be describing a western.

As I already stated before, Tarantino’s films are always unique. And this one is no different. You watch it and you know it has Tarantino written all over it. “Django Unchained” is not just a western. It’s a wonderful parade of fantastic dialogue, unforgettable acting (Leo DiCaprio – who is my personal favourite to take Al Pacino’s place at the right hand of God, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson… Let’s not forget a ridiculously hilarious episode of Don Johnson’s), gory violence and just about enough foul language to keep you giggling like a school-girl through-out the whole movie. And while on the subject of bad language, since the story takes place in the slave-driving southern states in the 1850’s, “Django” boasts a really exceptional usage of the word ginger. For those of you who don’t know who Tim Minchin is or are resistant to comedy just watch this and you’ll know what I mean by that. Anyway, what I think is very notable, is the fact that good ol’ Quentin has managed to convince me of the comedic potential of the word ginger. Yes, within certain boundaries it just stops being all that offensive and instead greatly serves to elevate the dialogue. Somehow it makes the characters seem more realistic and hilariously grotesque at the same time – or should I say more Tarantino-esque?

So, there couldn’t be a Tarantino movie without a massive pool of blood. And so it seems that my dear Quentin is either placing bets against the audience or pushing blindly in order to see where the boundaries are. So far I think he’s miles away from getting me to say “I think I’ve had enough, Quentin, thank you very much”, as the violence in his movies is purposefully comedic, surreal and cheap-looking. When you look back, you’d see that a trend emerges with his next film being more bloody then the last one. And “Django” nicely fits into this equation with its jolly fountains of really fake-looking blood and a slap-stick touch to most of the gore-containing sequences.

Overall, it’s a very solid film and on a scale of Deathproof-to-Pulp Fiction I’d give it a solid Kill Bill. It most definitely won’t become a cult movie (not to me at least) even though it is very quotable. Tarantino’s cameo is unforgettable as usual (but this time it is more, shall I say, bombastic). Looking at the Oscar nominations I’m rather doubtful “Django” actually stands a chance against some of the Oscar powerhouses like “Lincoln” – and having non-gingers calling gingers ‘gingers’ (wink) walk left and right on the screen won’t really steal the academy’s hearts – but I will retain hope while silently crossing my fingers for Quentin to finally get his Best Picture Oscar. What? I love a good underdog… However, I’ll be very sad if Christoph Waltz does not get the Oscar for his role because he is just about perfect. Again.

What more can I say? “Django” is a very good movie and for anyone who enjoys what Tarantino does to genres, it’s a must-see. And I’ll have you know that having watched it I am not so sure that ‘cool guys don’t look at explosions’ any more. Oh, no. Some of them do. They just wear shades.

The Oath… Why so serious…

With only as much as 35 days left until the Movie Christmas (The Oscars, cough), I realized I have only seen 7 out of 24 nominated features and that includes only the so-called main category nominees (which includes “The Hobbit”, “The Impossible”, “The Avengers”, “Skyfall”, “Prometheus”, “Ted” – though it was nominated only for a song, but still counts – and “Django Unchained” that I saw today). That gives me less than 33 % rate of success. If I include the remaining 5 full-length animations, 10 documentaries (long and short), 4 foreign features and 10 shorts (both animated and live action) that sums up to a grand total of 53 films to watch. And right now I’m sitting at a measly 13.2 %. However, it just so fortunately happens that many of these either are in cinemas right now or will be premiering in the UK in the following weeks, thereby giving me a good chance at seeing them before the Oscars are awarded. So with the internet as my witness (I am still talking to myself, aren’t I?) I solemnly swear that I shall do everything in my power to watch as many nominated films as humanly possible before the big day. I had never done this before, but I do think it would be a nice way to spend the remaining month. Let the games begin. And they shall begin tomorrow with my little review on the “Django”. As much as I’d like to do it now, I really can’t be arsed to think straight at this ungodly hour.

Peace.