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Author Topic: Jon's Best Picture Oscar Marathon  (Read 10890 times)
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« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2009, 05:13:00 AM »

I'm going to have to watch something incredibly shit soon as an antidote. Time to blow the dust off Last House on the Left Wink
Red Card Hey I like it Sad
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2009, 08:30:39 PM »

1967
In The Heat Of The Night
4 out of 5




Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a black homicide detective from Philadelphia is travelling in the deep south when he is arrested for murder, based simply on the colour of his skin. When the bigoted chief (Rod Steiger) realises his mistake, he is forced to accept Tibbsí equally unwilling help in catching the real killer. 

This otherwise ordinary police thriller is given a lot of character by the mood, setting and above all the fantastic cast. Race is the driving force of the plot, but it is handled more subtly than you might assume. Sydney Poitier is brilliant as the quiet, but confident Virgil. Rod Steiger probably has the harder role as the Chief and he is fantastic, better even than his work on On The Waterfront. Heís bigoted, heavy handed, but also vulnerable and intelligent. He clearly wrestles with his own and his townsí horrible views, while realising Tibbsí is essential. The interplay between these two men is enthralling, first as they come to an understanding and then eventually to something that could almost be a friendship, or mutual respect at least.

American cinema has always done very well at interpreting foreign methods and tailoring them for their own ideals. This is a looser style to previous entries and likely reflects the French New Wave. Itís ideal for the moody, fractious, character driven environment and this is the first in this marathon Iíve noticed using songs for the soundtrack alongside a traditional score.

Steiger got a well-deserved win for Best Actor, but I was disappointed that Poitier wasnít at least nominated. It was also nominated for screenplay and Iím a bit torn there. Characterisation and dialogue as Iíve been saying are beyond first rate and there are several stand-out scenes with wonderful language, but the murder plot is weak and some thugs a bit obvious. I might be being very picky, but I canít buy that the police are quite that stupid as to arrest the wrong people twice. Actually, no, three times counting poor old Virgil himself! Although it importantly uses the racism as an effect, rather than a cause, it concerns me that no-one ever solves a crime correctly there! I did like that Virgil is briefly shown to be prejudiced as well though. The audience would love to see him ďbring the fat cat down off his hillĒ of course, but life isnít that neat.

The concerns about the plot are very small. This is a fantastic thriller that has stood the test of time and is possibly still relevant and the central performances are captivating.

By the way, Poitier starred with Richard Widmark in No Way Out some years before this. It deals with similar issues (Poitier's plays a Doctor treating a bigoted white man responsible for race riots) and is also very good indeed.
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« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2009, 08:40:36 PM »

This marathon just ain't big enough for:

The French Connection (1971)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather Part II (1974)

I've only seen them recently. All three are amongst my favourite films, but there's too little time to watch them again now! Suffice to say, The French Connection, based on a true story, contains Hackman's best performance with one of the greatest car chases ever (though technically not chasing a car) and it brings us well into the 1970s gritty, mumbling, independent style. I love it! And what hasn't been said about The Godfather films? Utterly magnificent, though there are a couple of people on this forum who do actually disagree! Scientists will be studying them to find out what's wrong...  Tease
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2009, 01:36:35 AM »

1975
One Flew Over The Cuckooís Nest
5 out of 5




McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is a petty criminal whoís playing the insanity card to get an easy stint at the local loony bin. There he meets an assortment of people with mental problems and Nurse Ratched, whose routine he is determined to mess with.

1975 was an excellent year. One Flew Over The Cuckooís got a well deserved Best Picture oscar and I was born. Cheesy

Jack Nicholson gives one of his signature roles as McMurphy and he is superb throughout, as is the stone faced Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and their little battles are great fun.

I canít think of another film that can so easily and successfully switch from being exhilarating to heartbreaking in a single scene. The fishing trip is a massive highlight as is the basketball game with the wonderful Chief. Of course setting it in a loony bin helps. All extremes of human emotion are played out by an excellent cast of character actors including Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd at various stages of being completely nuts. The strange score, played out on glass rims and saw blades somehow works very well to evoke just the right mood.

The contrast of emotions is no more vivid than in the films legendary final moments. Itís just a beautiful experience from start to finish. Somehow I want to liken it to The Shawshank Redemption and while that doesnít feel quite right, I do think you will enjoy this if you liked Shawshank.
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2009, 01:37:13 AM »

1978
The Deer Hunter
5 out of 5




Three men from Pennsylvania go to Vietnam. Captured by Vietcong, they are forced to play Russian Roulette and the experience changes them forever. Returning to their old lives is impossible in many ways.

The Deer Hunter is very long and not a lot really happens. It tests the viewer by refusing to bow to any convention and sticks rigidly to a steady pace. But by the end of the three hours running time its power should be obvious. This is hard to like, but then it never tries to entertain you. This is no ordinary war film. In fact, this is no ordinary film full-stop.

It starts with a group of friends leaving a steel mill. Three of them will soon be on the way to Vietnam, but first one of them is getting married and there is a hunting trip to fit in too. Finally they retire to a bar where one of them plays the piano and without warning we cut to Vietnam.

This has taken well over an hour, but it very importantly pulls us into their lives and routine, mundane and normal though it may be, complete with random moments that have no bearing on the plot. The jolt to the horrors of Vietnam must be exactly how it felt. There is little to the Vietnam sequences, aside from the harrowing Russian Roulette game and the three getting split up, but this is a film about the three men and the contrasts in their lives. Throughout, the gorgeous theme (Cavatina I think itís called) evokes the right note of emotion. How it wasnít even nominated I find very odd.

Only Michael (Robert De Niro) returns from the war. Steven (John Savage) is in a military hospital and Nick (Christopher Walken) is still in Vietnam. Michael returns to get him after trying to briefly to fit back into the old routine.

De Niro is incredible as Michael. I think this is his most honest and real performance and itís a shame he missed the Oscar. Jon Voight got that, but I havenít seen Coming Home so canít comment. At least Walken got a deserved award for his supporting role. Iím not sure heís ever been better which is a hell of a thing to say considering itís Christopher Walken! The rest of the cast including Meryl Streep are excellent too and help make this the most emotional of all the Vietnam based films. Most of those movies like any war film have agendas; either about the war or about the return back home, but only The Deer Hunter treats it as real.

It can be ponderous. The 70s is my favourite period of filmmaking, but many from that era do have the habit of not speaking properly; shrugs and murmurs makes for a conversation! Iíd have also liked to have seen a lot less at the wedding (just why so much innuendo about the bride?) and a lot more of the beautiful hunting sequences (two, which frame the plot brilliantly). Overall though this is one of the closest times that film has come to pure art, and an excellent study of humanity.
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« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2009, 01:47:26 AM »

One dose of Vietnam is enough for one marathon! Unless I was doing a Vietnam marathon of course... Huh? So, anyway, Platoon can sit this one out, as I've only seen it quite recently anyway. In comparison with the Deer Hunter though, it doesn't try in anyway to present these men as having normal lives to return to. Stone's movie is about the raw conflict and there are few better. Well, he was one of the few filmmakers actually to have been there and it makes a difference.

I'm also missing two of my favourite movies, Dances With Wolves and The Silence of the Lambs, again because I've only seen them recently anyway. The latter is one of the best thrillers ever, a very intelligent film and has two amazing performances. By the way, the "Ultimate Edition" is amazing quality. First DVD I played on my new Blu-Ray player and although the BR would be better, I can't see the need of an upgrade in this case. It looks gorgeous.

Costner's epic was slated by some because it denied Scorcese his Oscar. Tough titties. Dances With Wolves is far better than Goodfella's and while I do like that film, I also find it blurs the line a little in Scorcese's career between true brilliance and slight indulgence. So there.  Wink

I just realised that means I've missed the 80s entirely. Ah, well. The 80s was an odd decade, art wise. Everyone went a bit shit for a while, especially music and clothes... my2cents
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 01:49:06 AM by Jon » Logged

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« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2009, 03:21:06 AM »

1992
Unforgiven
5 out of 5




William Munny (Clint Eastwood) is a retired outlaw with a terrible reputation, tempted out of retirement by a young gunfighter (Jaimz Woolvett) on the promise of a bounty that would help support his two young children.

Clint Eastwood is one of my favourite directors. He has a wonderful old fashioned style rooted in good stories with well drawn characters. While Hollywood was built on the Western, theyíve usually neglected the genre come awards time, so it seems fitting that itís Clint who should finally do it with a film steeped in tradition, yet defying every convention.

As it was there was little against it that year. Eastwood should have got a Best Actor award too, but he was against stiffer competition there; Al Pacino was playing a blind man and while I hate to be cynical, the Academy does love the afflicted. Thank goodness Gene Hackman came through for his powerful supporting role as sadistic sheriff Little Bill (against A Few Good Menís Nicholson, no less) as Iíve always enjoyed his work and this is one of his best. I canít understand why it wasnít nominated for score as itís wonderful. Itís on the DVD menu and I couldnít bring myself to select an option before it finished a cycle! Pathetic, I know, but itís so bound to the film, setting a mood of regret from the start that cuts through the violence.

And it is violent. The first real difference with most Westerns is the fact people die and with consequence. The characters are layered and challenging: though he is trying hard to stay the right course, set by his late wife, Munny is a tortured man capable of the worst human qualities; the sheriff, while upholding good and defending his town, is a sadistic bully; and the only truly redeemable man dies needlessly. Itís a sophisticated and adult screenplay by David Webb Peoples that asks difficult questions about the nature and consequence of violence. In an interview on the DVD, he mentions Taxi Driver as an influence and strangely, it does share themes.

Not that an opinion of Taxi Driver predisposes you to this. It is a Western and of a more old fashioned time... Although, if you havenít seen many Westerns, I recommend you see some others first. Unforgiven works best as a late chapter in the genre.

Eastwood comments that he feels a filmís quality is often marked by its smallest characters and so all his supporting characters are well-rounded, especially Richard Harris as English Bob, a gunman exaggerating his legend while Munny is trying to bury his. Little Billís character assassination of him and Bobís parting words are very funny.

The Western is an unfairly neglected genre and many called this the best one. It isnít, but itís certainly in the top drawer. Others said itís the best Western for twenty years, but thatís lazy journalism in such a barren field. It really only comes up against Eastwoodís own films and this is certainly his best. Qualities such as wonderful cinematography, score, and characters with dialogue you can chew are a tribute to his historical career, while the themes are powerful and relevant enough to be ahead of his time and mark him as one of cinemas greatest directors. His recent output only confirms what Unforgiven promised. Actually, Play Misty For Me promised it, but this made it impossible to ignore.
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« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2009, 10:29:59 PM »

1993
Schindlerís List
5 out of 5




Tells the story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), Nazi party member and war profiteer who nevertheless went on to save the lives of over 1100 Jews, right under the noses of officers like Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes).

There is little I can or should say about Schindlerís List, but you know me! Iíll find something. It is the only film I have seen that is above criticism because itís too important. What do you need to read if you havenít seen this film? That itís well acted? Well written? Has a great score maybe? It has all those qualities and more, but none are a good enough reason to watch it. It is directed brilliantly and the director was finally rewarded for a successful career, is getting somewhere, but still, you should see it because it will humble you and you will tell lots of people about the story and maybe this atrocity will never be allowed to happen again. All because this film in a small way is an ďabsolute goodĒ. It at least led directly to the Shoah Foundation which isnít just important, itís essential.

I hope we can assume that merely watching it is a moot point, so itís better to speak about what happened in its wake, because there was criticism, as there should be. Schindler was no hero to begin with and an unattractive prospect to start a story. He was a Nazi party member and sympathiser who would profit from the war. He was probably the last person that the Jews thought they could get help from, but they did get help and how is an inspirational development.

How apt then that it should be directed so personally by the person least expected to pull it off. Itís hard to imagine now, but Steven Spielberg was unfairly dismissed by many critics as a glorified popcorn seller who would never produce something truly important. In the same year as Jurassic Park, how he proved them wrong! And I canít think of any film that could be more important. Maybe Ikuru, but even then, Schindlerís List relates to such a huge event that to even call it a film does it a disservice.
 
Some didnít like that it concentrates on the 1100 that lived, not the 6 million who didnít. I canít agree at all, because itís important to that no matter how bad things get, there is always a glimmer of hope. But itís a weak criticism anyway because youíre never in doubt of the scale, not for an instance. Some sequences seemed like hell itself to me. And itís no small victory when the direct descendants of the Schindlerjuden (6000) outnumber the Jews left in Poland (4000). Schindler was a great man, of which there should be no doubt.

Like any film of an historical event, it has to dramatise some things, but facts like that one above prove its validity. Anyway, the story is much worse than depicted of course. For instance, the train of women accidentally rerouted to Auschwitz were trapped there for nearer three weeks than the mere hours depicted. Spielberg is an entertainer at heart and though this is him at his most brilliant and raw, there are brief moments that you may think are indulgence, such as Oskarís final scene. His judgement in moments of black humour, even during a devastating ďGhotto LiquidationĒ, is beyond reproach though. Itís an astonishing achievement and when he speaks of being profoundly changed by making it, I believe him. You might be profoundly changed by merely watching it.

We sometimes talk of films making you think for days after. This will make you think and feel for years. It is a devastating experience that will nonetheless leave you with a glimmer of hope.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2009, 11:05:29 PM by Jon » Logged

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« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2009, 02:02:02 PM »

Itís hard to imagine now, but Steven Spielberg was unfairly dismissed by many critics as a glorified popcorn seller who would never produce something truly important. In the same year as Jurassic Park, how he proved them wrong!

Ironically, one of the most vehement critics of the movie was Claude Lanzmann, whose Shoah influenced Spielberg in the first place.

My main problem (aside from my deep dislike for Spielberg) with the movie is that the Holocaust is not a redemption story, but the movie essentially is. The black and white pictures and the camera work suggest a false authenticity, which is made bearable for the viewer by its combination with the kitschy melodram, happy ending inclusive. Thanks to Spielberg, everyone now knows how bad it was with that Holocaust stuff - but at least something good (a glimmer of hope) came out of it. Imre Kertťsz (Holocaust survivor, Nobel laureate, author of Fateless) called that the new Auschwitz lie.

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« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2009, 08:17:26 PM »

Ironically, one of the most vehement critics of the movie was Claude Lanzmann, whose Shoah influenced Spielberg in the first place.

I read about that at the time. I should say I was speaking strictly of film critics who generally couldn't agree on whether Spielberg would ever deliver on his early promise. I always found it an odd view, considering he'd already done Empire of the Sun.

My main problem (aside from my deep dislike for Spielberg) with the movie is that the Holocaust is not a redemption story, but the movie essentially is. The black and white pictures and the camera work suggest a false authenticity, which is made bearable for the viewer by its combination with the kitschy melodram, happy ending inclusive. Thanks to Spielberg, everyone now knows how bad it was with that Holocaust stuff - but at least something good (a glimmer of hope) came out of it. Imre Kertész (Holocaust survivor, Nobel laureate, author of Fateless) called that the new Auschwitz lie.

"Deep dislike"? Goodness, that's strong! Sounds like fuel for a decent thread elsewhere. Wink No love for Jaws? Duel? The Sugarland Express, even? He certainly isn't as potent as he once was, but how about Munich in recent years?

I know we differ immediately on Spielberg's talents, but with this story any director would have been the same if so committed and passionate. Most aren't. I have seen other work, including Night and Fog, the acclaimed documentary by Alain Renais. Is it better? Does it matter? Much as I respect Claude Lanzmann's opinions, ask the average guy on the street who he is and they'll have no idea. Ask them if they've seen Schindler's List, more than likely. Let's be honest, that same average guy would never get anything from Night and Fog. Spielberg knows how to communicate with a mass audience and he goes straight for the heart. And has Lanzmann's work led to something on the scale of the Shoah Foundation?

But your main problem seems to be with the fundamental story, so the real culprit is surely Thomas Keneally. First I strongly disagree that it's purely a redemption story. Schindler is our guide, not our focus, which is why his final scene seems indulgent.

 I can only go by my own reactions and bear in mind that my generation, here in England, had no connection with WWII. I'd been taught about the Holocaust at school, briefly, but our curriculum was pretty bad and concentrated on WWI and local Victorian history. I'd read more about it since though, and before Schindler's List. It never seemed real and Schindler's List for the first time made it real. The first time I saw it I had no feelings of hope, I was devastated.

So in one sense, by concentrating on Oskar Schindler, it helps the entirely ignorant understand the bigger picture (I include myself and would appreciate if Eric doesn't comment! Laugh). I for one never thought he in any way alleviated the situation or offered an explanation or even a vague promise it wouldn't happen again. By concentrating on the 1100 who lived, it goes some way to humanising what was lost and making it impossible to ignore how huge it was. "Whoever saves one life, save the world entire" indeed. That's the important message and it doesn't remotely dilute the Holocaust.

I don't know why I'm so apologetic for it though. What was the alternative? To not tell the story of those survivors?  Shrug
« Last Edit: February 18, 2009, 08:19:23 PM by Jon » Logged

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« Reply #25 on: February 18, 2009, 09:01:24 PM »

I hate to dump a Gump in the middle of this, but it has to be done!  Hysterical
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« Reply #26 on: February 18, 2009, 09:01:42 PM »

1994
Forrest Gump
4 out of 5




Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) is the most innocent of figures and we see a generation of America develop through his eyes.

Criticising Forrest Gump is like kicking a puppy in the face. Well pucker up, Pooch! I’m gonna have a go… oh what’s the use? That’s the thing about Gump. To continue the puppy analogy, he just keeps coming back until he eventually makes you laugh by leaving a turd on the carpet or trying to hump your leg. It is a lovable film that has many good points, but it’s as dumb as its hero when it comes to delivery. Maybe that’s the point though. That it is in all respects, a simple, unassuming tale, representing something much bigger than its hero. Black Beauty then. Sorry, first puppies, now horses. Keeping up? Bag

Tom Hanks is marvellous as Gump, but Oscar worthy? He was for Philadelphia, but considering the incredible talent he was up against, here I’m not so sure. As I said once before though, Oscar loves the afflicted and they obviously see being thick as a disability! Best Film no excuse though because I should have been watching The Shawshank Redemption tonight. It’s the first time I think the Academy truly lost all common sense.

Although as subtle as a sledgehammer, it is fundamentally clever. Gump has nothing but an iron clad sense of right and wrong instilled in him by his “momma” (Sally Field) and that’s how he sees everything good and bad America has to offer through several decades. Told in flashback as he sits on a bench waiting for a bus, his habit of simplifying huge events is endearing and unavoidably stark. Some of the effects work when he appears in original footage is incredible (though the John Lennon sequence was misjudged). His effect on people is wonderfully uplifting, tempered by a strong sense of irony that crops up occasionally. The best sequence is in Vietnam and can represent the entire film; he barely has any idea of why he’s there or why anyone’s there. He’s just dealing with it, along with his friends, the equally dumb Bubba, whose stories about shrimp are hilarious, and the brilliant Gary Sinise (whatever happened to him?) as soon to be disabled Lt. Dan. EDIT: As Jimmy reminded me, the soundtrack throughout is amazing, evoking the perfect mood for each era. I wouldn't normally edit a review because of comments, but it really is that good and so important.

The other big influence on his life other than his mother, is Jenny (Robin Wright), the little girl who is the only one to show him kindness and whose life runs parallel to Gump’s. While he is like the feather at the start, just letting the breeze take him everywhere, she seems constantly in search of something, always refusing his devotion. I thought this was the films weakness, because like everything else, you have no idea where she’s going to end up, which in itself is fine, but then they kind of shoehorn in the last chapter. I didn’t like how she came across and I didn’t like that it was almost an afterthought. It was too much to tack on as an epilogue when the rest of the film was on the bus stop bench.

The bad points are largely inconsequential. You’ll love it or hate it, regardless. It is an original film with a good heart and a fiendish sense of humour. By the end, I was sold on the character and even the theme stopped annoying me!

However: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Read the card, you pillock. Roll Eyes
« Last Edit: February 19, 2009, 12:50:57 AM by Jon » Logged

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« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2009, 09:46:27 PM »

Criticising Forrest Gump is like kicking a puppy in the face.
I'm like you here. This is a film that I've liked the first and only time I've watched it, but I'm not sure that a second viewing will do anything but decrease my oppinion about it. This film is such an happy sugary one that I was surprised to like it even if it was force on me (my girlfriend at the time choose the movie we watched together).

One thing that you've forgot to mention : the soundtrack is really amazing, imagine the cost to buy the right for each one of these song...
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« Reply #28 on: February 19, 2009, 12:48:32 AM »

Criticising Forrest Gump is like kicking a puppy in the face.
I'm like you here. This is a film that I've liked the first and only time I've watched it, but I'm not sure that a second viewing will do anything but decrease my oppinion about it. This film is such an happy sugary one that I was surprised to like it even if it was force on me (my girlfriend at the time choose the movie we watched together).

One thing that you've forgot to mention : the soundtrack is really amazing, imagine the cost to buy the right for each one of these song...

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Stupid is as stupid does. I'm a idiot! That soundtrack is one of the best points of the film and I had meant to mention it. Those sort of soundtracks seem rare in Oscar winners.

If you enjoyed it once, Jimmy, give it another go one day. This was the second time I'd watched it properly and at first I was struggling. It's so damn nice I expected a bloody flower to grow out of my telly! Urgh. But then I started to see the ironies that are razor sharp and it gave the film a little bit of a backbone. Not much of one, but it's there all the same.  Wink
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« Reply #29 on: February 19, 2009, 06:04:34 AM »

I've seen all of Forest Gump once.  I did like it..but I haven't wanted to watch it again.  I think the biggest reason is because Jenny ticked me off.

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