Tuesday, February 28, 2006

For your consideration...

Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor
It’s quite hard to say anything new about Hoffman’s performance, as I believe that every film review has just about got it all covered. But just to refresh, Hoffman truly does deserve all the plaudits he’s earned. His portrayal of egocentric writer Truman Capote is frighteningly accurate, yet so much more than just a mimicry. True, he gets all Capote’s little affectations and actions perfect, but he also shows the side that was less noticed in Capote’s time – the cold, calculating mind of his writer. However much we loathe Truman Capote and his selfish using of anyone and anything, Hoffman ensures that he’s always watchable, whether camp, inquisitive, or quietly emotional. It wasn’t an easy task at all, but Hoffman has surpassed himself in terms of talent, and given a memorable performance, possibly the best work of the new millennium thus far.

The Simpsons and Futurama Rule.

An old article I did for my school mag on The Simpsons & Futurama. It's a bit outdated, but read anyway.

All of you out there must have heard of The Simpsons, if not, where have you been? Luckily, Jellie are going to give you a quick guide to this 18 time Emmy winning comedy cartoon about the dysfunctional family living in Springfield.

The Characters

Homer Jay Simpson
Homer Simpson, (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) works as a nuclear power technician, and head of the Simpson household. It may seem, from his lazy ways that all he does is mooch off other people, but Homer isn’t all bad: he loves his family and always (most of the time) has good intentions.

Marge Simpson
Marge Simpson, (voiced by Julie Kavner) is a happy homemaker and mother of three. In the past she’s been a police woman, a pretzel maker, and an anti-war campaignist. She’s very proud of her children and her husband, although Homer frequently loses his keys.

Bart JoJo Simpson
Bart Simpson, (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) loves pulling pranks. He’s always in trouble of some kind and doesn’t is always bottom of the class. Bart does posses some decent qualities: He looks out for his sister, Lisa and he's befriended outcasts and misfits like Milhouse Van Houten and Ralph Wiggum.

Lisa Marie Simpson
Lisa Simpson, (voiced by Yeardley Smith) is only 8 years old but can’t wait for college. She has an IQ of 155 and is a very talented saxophonist. Lisa wants everyone to know that she is a vegetarian and that if she could have one thing (besides world peace), it would be a pony. Lisa is the most sensible of the Simpson family.

Maggie Simpson
Despite being only one, Maggie has achieved an awful lot in her life, the most exciting was shooting Mr Burns. She loves her mother Marge dearly, and sucking on her pacifier while others comment on how cute she is.

Did you know…
Crazy facts that you never knew about The Simpsons…….
· It costs around $50,000 to make an episode of The Simpsons and takes around three weeks.
· “The Simpsons” is the most popular cartoon ever created.
· Homer is named after Matt Groening’s dad.
· The sucking noise of Maggie was recorded by Matt Groening himself.
· The Simpsons started life as slightly wobbly short animations in The Tracy Ullman show.
· Believe it or not, the first ever episode of The Simpsons was aired in 1989. This cartoon has been going on for 14 years!
· Recently, The Simpsons celebrated their 300th episode, an episode called “Barting Around.”
· The Simpsons have had over 300 special guest stars, and these are just a few of them: Phil Hartman, Tom Jones, David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson, Robbie Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Meryl Streep, Danny DeVito, Pierce Brosnan, and lots lots more.

If that hasn’t convinced you to watch this great show, I don’t know what will!

By 1999 everyone had heard of The Simpsons, but Matt Groening wanted something different. He wanted to create another cartoon, but instead of it being about families, he wanted its theme to be “the future.” Matt Groening and The Simpsons' co-producer and writer David X Cohen has a few meetings, came up with the entire thing, and that was how Futurama came to be.

The Characters

Phillip J. Fry
Fry, (voiced by Billy West) got frozen while delivering a pizza. He woke up on December 31 2999, where he met Leela. She found him and together Leela and Fry got jobs working on a delivery plane. Although he had affairs with Amy before, the woman he is really into is Leela who acknowledges his feelings but won't return them. Fry isn’t exactly the brightest apple on the tree, but he has a good heart and always tries to do the best he can (which isn't very good.)

Turanga Leela
Leela, (voiced by Katey Sagal) is the only person from her species that lives on earth. She was brought up in an orphanage but because of her one eye she was often made fun of. She later got a job as a fate assignment officer and after a while met Fry while she was assigning a career to him. He convinced her to quit and she was then offered a job, along with Fry and Bender, on the Planet Express delivery crew where she impressed Professor Farnsworth enough for him to make her captain.

Bender Bending Rodriquez
Bender, (voiced) by John DiMaggio took up a successful career in bending Girders but tried to kill himself when he found out they were for suicide booths. He was saved by Fry and later took up the job of ships cook at Planet Express. His other pastimes include watching TV, smoking cigars and stealing. Bender is a selfish robot who likes manipulating everything he meets. Deep, deep, down, Bender has a heart, but that’s just a human heart, which he ate for lunch.

Other Main Characters
· Hubert J Farnsworth
· John Zoidberg
· Amy Wong
· Hermes Conrad

What Happened Next?
Futurama aired on 31st December, 1999. It was an instant hit. Many people loved it, and they loved it for it’s new style of jokes, the great storylines, not because it was created by the same person who brought us The Simpsons. Futurama then went on for four more successful series, each time getting better and better.

The Difference
People have always asked, “what is the difference between The Simpsons and Futurama and which one should I watch?”
There are many differences between The Simpsons and Futurama. Firstly, Futurama, is set in the year 3000, The Simpsons is not. The characters are different, the feel is different, even the cartoon characters have slight differences, despite them being drawn by the same person. But despite the differences, Jellie think that the two shows are equally brilliant.
But if you just want to pick one show to watch, take out advice: Futurama is more cynical than The Simpsons, and suited to a slightly older audience (10 +)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The most heartbreaking scenes in a 2005 film

2005 was an emotive year, and many scenes have resonated in their misery. But essential to tragedy is life, and it is for that reason that I have emitted some “obvious scenes” – Peter’s funeral in Jarhead, the begging for food/money in Cinderella Man, or the “obituary” in Proof – I just didn’t connect with them. Some of the selected scenes, are admittedly, manipulative, others just spoke out to me. Read. Enjoy. Comment. Cry.

07. “I’m your father!” - Transamerica
Far better than anything Star Wars serves up, Huffman is astonishing.

06. Finding the statue of liberty - Crash
Don says a world without opening his mouth.

05. Driving away from Ennis – Brokeback Mountain
Gyllenhaal is superb in his sadness, despair, and look of utter self-loathing as he approaches the prostitute.

---- Zone where tears have been shed ---

04. Not accepting the lollypop – Kung Fu Hustle
This scene’s a bit hazy now, because it was so long ago that’d I’d seen it, but what I do remember is that our lead, brilliant in his crappy fighting, tries to hold up a mute sweet-seller. What he doesn’t realise immediately is that she captures everything he lost – his goodness, and wishing to use kung fu for the greater good. A flashback occurs where she’d been bullied into giving up her lollypop by some bullies, and he’d rescued her. She’d tried to say thank you by giving him the lollypop, but he never accepted it. She, however, kept it, and offers it to him again. And, again, remembering how na├»ve he’d been and resentful in how things have turned out, he rejects it again. Trust me, this scene is sadder, and a lot sweeter, than it sounds.

03. Cradling the shirts – Brokeback Mountain
Ennis del Mar visits then house of Jack Twist, love of his life, his raison d’etre, intending on getting his ashes. He doesn’t; instead he finds something else – two shirts. One of these belongs to Jack, one is his, and they fit together like a glove. As Ennis remembers the Jack that he loves and had lost, he cradles the shirt, the only memory he has left of him. In this scene, Ledger is astounding, changing everything, even his breathing, to display the quiet, discomforting mourning that Ennis does. It’d be less upsetting if he just bawled.

02. “I did all I could” – Capote
Truman, after getting a telegram from Perry, rushes to see him before he gets hung, and Perry greets him with an odd mixture of sadness, knowing and acceptance. Up until now, Capote has been awash with mixed feelings about whether or not he wants Perry Smith to be hung. The perfect novel, or love? Fate opts for the former, though it’s also no thanks to Capote’s intervention, a la public readings from his judgemental novel “In Cold Blood.” When he meets Perry now, it almost seems that he knows, and in essence, so does Capote. In the most subtle of subtle scenes, Hoffman casts off any shade of camp and fights back his own tears to try to explain, yet all he can say is “I did all I could.” It sounds like such a bare-faced lie, considering everything that has happened, but I believe that with such an egocentric, ambitious temperament as Capote, maybe he really did do all he could.

01. “I wish I knew how to quit you!” – Brokeback Mountain
20 years after their first encounter, the love affair still going strong. Well, until now, where Ennis has revealed that it won’t be until November that he can see Jack. Jack Twist, 20 years older but none the wiser, can’t understand why Ennis can’t make the time to see him. From the 20 years of bottled-up frustration and rage comes the iconic “I wish I knew how to quit you!” monologue, tragic yet quasi-comedic in the inane ramblings that come out. Ennis follows with his rebuttal and the two men collapse into the floor together in a frantic embrace, which resolves nothing. The fact that Jack’s flashback of much better times follows only accentuates how destructive and heartbreaking their relationship is. In another time and place things wouldn’t have turned out this way.

My Reaction to the BAFTAs.

Rain, Rain...
The Americans have sun. We have rain. Let the Britishness commence.

The night as a piece of entertainment
Now, I adore Stephen Fry, but sometimes, he can take it a bit too far. Clearly, he'd been reading the dictionary last night, because he went completely overboard with his introductions, "I waxed Jake last night," "The wholly winsome and winningly wholesome Rachel" as well as "Let us rub our hands together 'til they burn and blister for Miss Charlize Theron" were not lines that raised even a smile.

The opening montage was pretty (and cheeky too, in that it showed Munich, a film, completly snubbed by BAFTA to an extent of Million Dollar baby) and there were some unintentionally hilarious moments, (Rupert himself that Editing was the most important factor in a film and Matthew Modine called Harry Potter Harry Potty were key moments), but overall, I would have liked to have seen everyone make a bit more effort. Reese didn't even show up, Phil looked fat, Jake should've shaved, etc.

The fashion
Mr Fry was exactly right when he said everyone looked like the cast of March of the Penguins. I mean, talk about going overboard with the bow tie! Nonetheless, here were the people who I thoguht looked good...

Mischa Barton

Thandie Newton

Catherine had nice hair too, but I couldn't be bothered to find a picture of her.

Best Hair and Make Up
Best Costume
Production Design

Meh, whoever wins these, I don't really care.

Film not in the English language – The Beat My Heart Skipped
Kung Fu Hustle was better.

Best Editing -The Constant Gardener
This was predictable but not understandable. The editing in this film actually gave me a headache. However, I knew it would be between this and Brokeback - for the past three years, BAFTA have awarded the smaller, more efficient editing of Focus Features.

Best Film Music - Memoirs of a Geisha
Oh yes.

Best Cinematography - Memoirs of a Geisha
Oh No. It was gorgeous, yes, but too saturated with colour. Brokeback and March of the Penguins deserved it more.

Best British Film - Wallace and Gromitt
Many wrongly predicted that The Constant Gardener would win this one, just because it was the only was in the category nominated for Best Film. BAFTA don't work that way. In past years Touching the Void and My Summer of Love have won best Brit flick, even though they've been in the same category as Best Picture nominees. Anyway, Wallace and Gromitt and A Cock and Bull Story were both deeply amusing films - I wanted one of those to win.

Best Original Screenplay - Crash
A deserved win; racial prejudice is every bit as important as sexuality. For a writer, Haggis could have said a bit more, though.

Best Adapted Screenplay - Brokeback Mountain
No film, not even Capote, was better written. Romance is such a difficult genre to present well, but Brokeback's script was subtle, humane, and believable. A job well done for Larry and Diana, if only they'd bothered to show up

Best Supporting Actress - Thandie Newton
Slightly annoying as Michelle was much better, but BAFTA need a bit of patriotism, due to all those Constant Gardener “snubs,” and her speech was quite beautiful.

Best Suporting Actor – Jake Gyllenhaal
A wonderful choice, and Gyllenhaal truly deserves it. Note, too, how his win was every bit about BAFTAs ardent penchant for double nominations as it was about talent – Cheadle and Dillion split the vote for Crash, Syrianna and Good Night and Good Luck split the vote for George. Result? A runaway win for Jake. Now he's well on his way to getting the Oscar.

Best Actress – Reese Witherspoon
Whilst Reese was undoutably the soul of Walk the Line, I still would name Joan, Felicity, and Maria as better actresses in a lead role this year. However, Reese was the best in BAFTA’s category.

Best Actor – Phil S. Hoffman
Yay! I was worried for a moment that BAFTA might do a Scarlett/Bill and award Heath, but they went for the right guy. Phillip, in my opinion, gave the best performance of the year as Truman Capote, yet he so graciously thanked Bennet, his director, in his acceptance speech. Lovely.

Phil and Jake - Brokeback Mountain II

Best Director - Ang Lee
This both surprised me and pleased me. I was hoping it’d happen, of course, as Ang Lee, someone who I’m not usually dazzled with, has moulded a quiet, haunting masterpiece, that actually did dazzle. But BAFTA is not known for kissing a film’s arse too profusely (they awarded Lord of the Rings about 5). They rarely give best director and best film in the same year, but this year, due to Ang’s magnificent work, they broke their own rules. Fantastic.

Best Film – Brokeback Mountain
Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes. And the same will happen on Oscar night, no matter what that fat idiot ebert says.

Brokeback wins a Mountain of BAFTAs. (Well no, it only won 4, but there you go...)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Good Night, and Good Snooze.

I saw Good Night and Good Luck today, and it was, without a doubt, one of the most boring, bloated films I'd ever seen in my entire life. I don't entirely hate it - Strathairn was inspired, some of the dialogue was snappy and the production design was excellent, but generally, it felt like Clooney was writing a Media Studies essay, and desperate for an A* in it. It deserves its space in the back of the Oscar queue.

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Truman wishes he knew how to quit Perry.

On the 14th November, 1959, two men participate in the killings of a Kansan family. The next day, hot off the success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, esteemed novelist Truman Capote sets out, with his friend Harper Lee, to research the killings. A few days later, the killers are caught, and Capote, using underhand tactics and dirt tricks, befriends one of them, Perry Smith, in an ambiguous bond that both makes him (In Cold Blood made him famous) and breaks him.

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For first time director Bennet Miller, it may seem like a risk, making the biopic of one of America’s most famed writers. He had nothing to worry about; Capote is an excellent film. The central character, Truman Capote is surprisingly well rounded, showing his naturally flamboyant side, (“Dad!?”) as well as his sensitive side, which are accentuated with his scenes with Perry Smith.

It is here that Capote truly shines as a piece of art. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in a career-best performance, with newcomer Clifton Collins Jr prove to be an fitting pair, two misunderstood souls, one searching for redemption, the other searching for a hot topic. As the film progresses, Capote’s intentions becoming increasingly less ambiguous, but so does his own state of mind. By allowing Perry Smith to die, Capote gets the book and recognition he’s always wanted, but he realises, before it takes place, that that isn’t what he truly wants.

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In the key role, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is amazing. He is the very embodiment of Truman Capote, from the little affectations (glasses being a key one), his oft-practice catch phrases, (I have a 94% recall) and ostentatious speeches, no-one could play him better. But it is also in the smaller, more emotional scenes, that Hoffman excels – the sight of him rolled in a ball on a bed is a not a pleasing one, nor is the final, devastating, “I did all I could” scene, where our protagonist, filled with self-loathing and regret, fights back tears. It seems that, without even doing much, Hoffman can steal the show from his peers.
Where many movies had been blasted for not being subtle enough, the key problem for Capote is that it is just too subtle. The music too sparse, the camerawork too efficient, the editing too frequent. Its almost as if the low budget wants to show. But all this is redeemed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance, a tour-de-force in acting, and the heart of a tragically beautiful film.

For your consideration: Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Supporting Actor.

It's been Heath Ledger that's been getting much of the attention for Brokeback Mountain, but in this film critic's humble opinion, Gyllenhaal was just as good, if not better, although, admittedly, both performances wouldn't have been anywhere near as good without each other. His commitment to his role is both noticeable and notable, and very, very brilliant. The character of Jack Twist was a harder task, having to do much of the leading (and succeeds too, as shown, in the sizzling scenes with Ledger), and Gyllenhaal rose to the task commendably. He is everything Jack ought to be, tender, sad, doe-eyed, and hopeful. Gyllenhaal is all of those things, and, with added vivacity and charm. His sweetness is the key factor in Brokeback's heartbreak, and for that, as well as such a fabulous performance, built on nuance, Gyllenhaal should be duly awarded.

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8 Days Before the event... my ballot.

These are my predictions:

Best Picture - Brokeback Mountain
Best Director - Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Best Actor - Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Best Actress - Reese Witherspoon, Walk The Line
Best Supporting Actor - Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
Best Supporting Actress - Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Best Original Screenplay - Paul Haggis, Crash
Best Adapted Screenplay - Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
Best Cinematography - Rodrigo Prieto, Brokeback Mountain
Best Original Song - "In the Deep," Crash
Best Original Score - John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Foreign Film - Paradise Now
Best Documentary - March of the Penguins
Best Animated Film - Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Best Makeup - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
Best Film Editing - Munich
Best Visual Effects - King Kong
Best Sound Mixing - Walk the Line
Best Sound Editing - Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Art Direction - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Best Costume Design - Memoirs of a Geisha

Friday, February 24, 2006

For Your Consideration... Brokeback Mountain for Best Cinematography.

Now, I know my Brokeback is considered somewhat of a frontrunner for this category, but Memoirs of a Geisha, with its unquestionably lush visuals (not surprising, considering how it cost 5 x the price of Brokeback), but I still firmly believe that Brokeback Mountain was better shot. With its dreamlike fusions of colours, the iconic close-ups of the eyeframes, and the easy, gentle movement of the camera, the cinematography in this film was one of its main factors of its beauty. Where Memoirs of a Geisha, Batman Begins and The New World had the budget, Brokeback Mountain had the talented camerawork of a master, and results are stunning - Western meets 90's Art flick.
So, to refresh, if I were a member of the Academy (which I will be, as soon as I'm old enough to move to America and join), I'd cast my ballot:

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

My Review of Brokeback Mountain.

The Oscar race has begun. In the running we have Political films uncovering corruption and wrongdoing (Munich¸ Good Night and Good Luck, The Constant Gardener), biopics of people that have suffered for the sake of their Art (Capote, Memoirs of a Geisha, Walk the Line), as well as tragic tales of people that don’t quite fit in (King Kong, Crash). 

But the film I’m rooting for, Brokeback Mountain, successfully incorporates elements from all these films, yet bringing to us a story that is completely different. It is one of the biggest risks made in the history of cinema.

The year is 1963, and Ennis Del Mar (played by Heath Ledger), a ranch hand, and Jack Twist (the ever delectable Jake Gyllenhaal), a rodeo cowboy, meet on Brokeback Mountain in a summer job hoarding sheep. It’s the classic chalk and cheese story. Ennis struggles to mumble his own name, and Jack, the charismatic charmer, lives to communicate. Over time a slow, steady bond forms, which leads suddenly and surprisingly into a physical relationship. After Brokeback they leave to follow their own lives – Ennis marries a sweet, shy girl, Alma (Michelle Williams) and Jack marries into money through rodeo princess Lureen (Anne Hathaway), but the memory of Brokeback Mountain is one that engulfs the men’s lives for the next 20 years.

The opening half hour, in which Ennis and Jack are introduced to the audience as well a each other, is shot in a beautiful way that, whilst paying homage to the classic Westerns (with the fusions of the skylines and the grass, as well as the classic close ups of the eyes), has a dreamlike state of its own that bears closer resemblance of the 90s Art flicks. The colours and images presented to us by the cinematographer and utterly stunning, and the music, though used sparsely, is wonderful. It is impossible not to get sucked in to the story.

Adapted from E. Annie Proulx’s short story, screenwriters Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry have created a masterful script, one that stays completely true to the source material, yet combines some filmic techniques of their own, such as the foreshadowing: (Ennis moans over his lost shirt and we get a lingering close-up of Jack’s face; it is later revealed that Jack took his shirt), and adding in many more scenes - some that give the characters any additional depth that may have been lacking in the story (the masculinity of the relationship is emphasised with an antler shooting session), some just for the enjoyability value (Jack driving a tractor with his son is a pricelessly cute moment).

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Director Ang Lee has coaxed superb performances out of his young actors. Despite all the hype surrounding Heath Ledger’s performance, I was still astonished by his wordless, bruised performance as the brutal Ennis. Michelle Williams shines too, as the long-suffering wife, who has seen her husband with another man, but cannot bring herself to understand what it all means. Even Anne Hathaway, so mediocre in the Princess Diaries films, impresses as the disappointed Lureen. But the star of the show is Jake Gyllenhaal, in what must be a career-best turn. His doe-eyed portrayal of Jack is everything like how I’d expected him to be – vivacious in life, tender in love, brilliant on screen. The fact that Gyllenhaal is so 100% adorable just makes his change into a bitter, resentful old man even more depressing. Essential to the film is Jack and Ennis’ chemistry, and Gyllenhaal and Ledger have risen to the task commendably. Never before in a film have two actors had such amazing chemistry.

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To label Brokeback Mountain as “that gay cowboy movie” is a horrendously cruel oversimplification. For one, intimate scenes aside, the film is every bit as heterosexual as Casablanca, maybe more so. More importantly, this film is not just a 130-minute mediation on gays. No stone is left unturned in terms of their relationship – we see how the women are affected by the relationship (in a gruelling scene Alma confronts her husband on his “fishing trips”) and we see the suffering caused by the relationship. However much we’re rooting for Jack and Ennis to make it, something tells us that they won’t make it, yet the heartbreak, when it comes, is no less devastating.

There are a few scenes in the film that have really lingered with me. One is when Jack stands by the fire, half-asleep, and Ennis cuddles him and starts whispering sweet nothings into his ear. The affection and gentle charge of that scene makes it utterly unforgettable. Another scene is when Jack, sensing Ennis’ frustration at having to leave Brokeback, playfully throws a lasso over him, which leads to a fight. To me, this scene encompasses everything the film represents – Jack’s desire to make the relationship work and make Ennis happy, and Ennis’ constant pushing him away. The same could go for almost any forbidden relationship.

Brokeback Mountain is by no means an uplifting film. Although the first half-hour has a light, jovial tone to it, the rest of the film escalates into despair, and every scene with Jack and Ennis, however sweet, bears a sense of impending doom. However, Brokeback Mountain is essentially a tribute to love, and the goodness of love. Many people have found solace in this film, and this is because, like Jack and Ennis, everyone has had a love they could not keep. Age differences, religion, class and the opinion’s of other people are just a few reasons that lovers cannot be together. But Brokeback Mountain tells us not to shy away from love, because it is the most potent, wonderful feeling. Embrace it, and embrace the movie, a resounding triumph in every way; one of the best pieces of cinema to come along in recent years.

What this is.

I absolutely adore films, so here's my lil' blog for 'em! It's gonna be an exercise in mediocrity, but oh well. I love to write!~~