Monday, February 28, 2011

CHECK OUT THESE QT CUPCAKES!



And here are the full list of presenters, 'cited!
•Tom Hanks
•Hugh Jackman
•Robert Downey, Jr.
•Annette Bening
•Jude Law
•Nicole Kidman
•Reese Witherspoon
•Cate Blanchett
•Josh Brolin
•Russell Brand
•Scarlett Johansson
•Hilary Swank
•Javier Bardem
•Helen Mirren
•Matthew McConaughey
•Amy Adams
•Mila Kunis
•Justin Timberlake
•Kevin Spacey
•Marisa Tomei
•Jake Gyllenhaal
•Oprah Winfrey
•Jennifer Hudson
•Kathryn Bigelow
•Halle Berry
•Sandra Bullock
•Steven Spielberg

Sunday, February 27, 2011

(Hurried) 2011 Oscar Predictions.


Best Picture - The Social Network
Best Director - David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress in a Leading Role - Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Original Screenplay - The King's Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay -  The Social Network
Best Animated Feature - Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film - Incendies
Best Cinematography - True Grit
Best Film Editing - The Social Network
Best Art Direction - Alice in Wonderland
Best Costume Design - The King's Speech
Best Makeup - The Wolfman
Best Original Score - The Social Network
Best Original Song - "If I Rise", 127 Hours [ugh to both the last two]
Best Sound Mixing - Inception
Best Sound Editing - Toy Story 3
Best Visual Effects - Inception
Best Documentary Feature - Waste Land
Best Short, Documentary - Warriors of Qiugang
Best Short, Animated - Madagascar, A Journey Diary
Best Short, Live-Action - God of Love

I'm predicting with my heart rather than my brain here, but please please PLEASE can TSN win over King's Speech? Good lawd.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My 10 Favourite Films of 2010.

I can’t tell a lie, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the majority of 2010 releases. Much of this was my own fault – I didn’t frequent my little arthouse digs quite as much last year (hence the highly commercial nature of the majority of my top 10) and whilst there are usually two or three obscure little treats in my top list, due to the fact that I barely watched any art films this year, the top 10 is the most blockbuster it’s been for a while. And what I did see, on the whole, I wasn’t impressed with. Should I have time I may do a least favourite 10, but until then, the goodies.

10. StreetDance 3D [full review here]
I have big, unapologetic love for my dance movies (Step Up 2 made the same position on my top list of 2008 two years ago). StreetDance 3D is very similar to the Step Up movies; it centres around dance and disaffected youth and looks at how dance gives them a raison d'etre, and like with the original Step Up with Channing Tatum, it fuses hip hop and street dancing with the more refined skills involved in ballet. As so much of the film revolves around the dancing spectacles, the acting, plot and dialogue aren’t the greatest, but they more than suffice, plus there’s the novelty of seeing Charlotte Rampling cast as a ballet teacher; even in autopilot, she’s nothing less than a queen. Set in inner-city London, the city is shot in a way that Woody Allen captured London in Match Point- practically on a pedestal, and the cameos from Britain’s Got Talent acts such as Diversity and Flawless, the acting debut from the wonderful cheeky chappy George Sampson, the trendy soundtrack and the modern day Romeo and Juliet parallel all somehow fit together slickly. So whilst it’s a simple enough film in terms of character and plot, the dancing is anything but, and StreetDance 3D is one of the few films wherein watching it in 3D genuinely does heighten the viewing pleasure. Definitely worth singing and dancing about.

09. Somewhere [full review here]
As I may ram down the readers’ of this blog’s throats (yep, all three of you), I was not a fan of Lost in Translation. Quite why I hate it so much is a topic for another day, but, the point is, on viewing the trailer of Sofia Coppola’s film about boredom, isolation and family, I got a distinctly Lost in Translation vibe from it and expected to dislike it as well. Which just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a film by its trailer, because, whilst there were still discernible echoes of Lost in Translation in Somewhere, Somewhere washed with me a lot better. There’s a very likeable sort of gentle chemistry between on-screen father daughter pairing Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning and various scenes which Coppola may have put in out of pure indulgence (such as the ice-skating sequence) actually add to its charm, and Coppola’s credentials as a music video director work to her advantage here, especially in the memorable and beautiful scene where Dorff and Fanning sunbathe to the pool to the melancholy lyrics of “I’ll try anything once.” Paint-by-numbers Coppola filmmaking, perhaps, but as a study of the things in life that matter, I connected with it, and it also serves as a delightful modern-day counterpart to Paper Moon.

08. Date Night
Scoff all you like, but I thought this film was bloody genius. At the centre you have a comedy King and Queen, Steve Carrell and Tina Fey, as a suburban husband-wife combo who get through life perfectly fine, albeit noticing that their marriage is slipping up on what Thierry Henry would dub the “va-va-voom.” On one of their date nights, they decide to venture into New York City, and in order to get seats at a pretentious restaurant, take on the identities of “the Tripplehorns”, which sets off a hilarious comedy of errors. With cameos from Leighton Meester, Mila Kunis, Mark Walhberg, Taraji P. Henson, Ray Liotta as well as two of this year’s Oscar nominees (for other films, obviously) Mark Ruffalo and James Franco, this is very much a Hollywood star back-pat sesh, but the smugness isn’t totally smeared in our faces as much as other films, such as Ocean’s 11. Steve Carrell gets to use his comic timing to perfection (“he turned the gun sideways!” had me chuckling loudly) and Tina Fey delivers more of the deadpan, observation-comedy, but together, they make a wonderful comedy duo, and Date Night a very enjoyable film.

07. Made in Dagenham [drunken review here]
A delightfully charming true-life tale of how a group of women in the Ford plant in Dagenham campaigned for pay equality for women, Sally Hawkins steals the show and it’s a disgrace that such a sweet film was completely forgotten about come awards season. Like Starter for 10, Made in Dagenham is probably more likely to be fully appreciated by Brits, but there’s definitely a universal appeal in the theme of not giving up against the odds, even when practically everyone is telling you to sit down and shut up. Rosamund Pike gets to subvert her ditzy image and play against type as a stay-at-home mother who’s actually a lot smarter than her husband but has to pretend she isn’t, Jamie Winstone is the epitome of Essex in her brash bolshiness and up-and-comer Andrea Riseborough provides merriment too. Forget The King’s Speech, this was by far my favourite British film about overcoming adversity of the year.

06. Easy A
When we look back at the somewhat blah cinematic year that was 2010, one thing that I will definitely remember about it is it being the year that Emma Stone truly established herself on the scene. She’s always been nothing short of delightful in the past, even in truly dire films such as The House Bunny, but getting a film to herself and being expected to carry it is a big ask, yet Emma fulfils her job – and then some. As Olive Predergast, the maligned protagonist of the film who is wrongly dubbed a whore, slut and floozy by all of her fellow schoolmates, Emma Stone keeps the tale always on the right side of jovial, even when events take a turn for the problematic. She’s obviously helped by some terrific zingers and one-liners, as well as a supporting cast that features Amanda Bynes hamming it up as a Christian fundamental, Thomas Haden Church as the chilled English teacher, Lisa Kudrow as the school councillor (and his wife) who cheats on him and gossip girl’s Penn Badgley as the love interest, but the fact of the matter is that there are just too few actresses in Hollywood that are as naturally likeable as Emma Stone, and her sexy, swaggerous red-hair, basque and ray-ban combination will long be copied, never bettered. It doesn’t need to be said but I’ll say it; that girl will go far.

05. The Fighter
The Fighter opens to the tune of The Heavy’s “How do You Like Me Now” as Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, cast half-brothers from the same mother Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, strut down their neighbourhood, mini-heroes for their status as boxers (Eklund had a good run before he descended into crack addiction, and Micky has a few fights lined up). Coming from a family with seven sisters ruled under the iron fist of their loving but sometimes ill-advised materfamilia Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), Micky has always taken the advice of his family members, even when it’s ended up backfiring. When he starts dating local barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams), however, she opens his eyes to the fact that he needs to train to start sticking up for himself and his own best interests. Micky wants to win fights but he also wants to appease his family, thus the key premise of The Fighter. The acting is uniformly excellent but Christian Bale really stands out in his twitchy performance as the drug-addict who still rides on his former glory, oblivious (or simply refusing to accept) that he’s become a joke; the scene in jail wherein he watches the documentary about himself is heartbreaking. Despite the fairly grim plot-line, the film still managed to be funny and lively throughout; I in particularly enjoyed the shy sweetness of Micky and Charlene's tentative romance. There’s something about the whole against all odds type film that just appeals to me massively, and the flawed characters and themes such as loyality and fraternity elevate The Fighter from standard fight-movie fare and give it an extra one-two punch. Like Micky at the uplifting finale, this film is a winner.

04. Shutter Island
Completely forgotten about in awards season due to its release date in the first half of 2010, Shutter Island stands as my choice for the most underrated film of 2010. Adapted from Dennis Lehane’s book, Shutter Island is rife with mystery and feelings of foreboding throughout, and even having read the book beforehand, I was still thinking about it long after the credits had rolled. Atmospheric, tense and scary as hell, there’s more than a small dose of The Cabinet of Dr Caligeri in it, Martin Scorsese does some of his best directing in this perfectly sculpted and ingeniously shot (the bright lighting only goes to add doubt about what’s real and imagined) about Leonardo DiCaprio pretty much losing his mind. Inception who? There’s only room for one film about what’s real and what’s not with Leo DiCaprio wherein he has a crazy wife, bitches, and for me, that film’s Shutter Island!

03. True Grit
Whether it be Kill Bill, The Lion King, Hamlet or Inglourious Basterds, I do like a bit of the ol' revenge film genre. That said, the Western genre is probably my least favourite. If anyone could make me like the latter genre, though, it would be the Coens, by fusing it with the former. True Grit centres around 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who wants to avenge the death of her father by tracking down Tom Cheney, the man who killed him. She enlists the help of the unreliable but tough Rooster Cogburn, and soon the Texas Ranger LaBeouf wriggles his way into the mission, for he too has unfinished business with Cheney. On their journey they encounter various travails which truly test the level of grit they hold. True Grit is very much a film that embodies the whole The Climb mentality; the journey is almost more important than the destination, and no one captures this better than the heroine Mattie, played by Hailee Steinfeld. It’s hard to believe that this is Hailee’s first film role, because she is a revelation, her character is smart, resourceful and caring, and annoyingly stubborn. There is also a loveable normality to her heroine status; her attempts to fire a gun throughout the film always end in fail, and there’s also the novelty of seeing someone in such neat plaits talking about their plans for murder. Her performance, Shawshank Redemption-er Roger Deakin’s stunning cinematography and the film closing on Iris Dement’s gorgeous rendition of the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” give True Grit a huge sense of beauty.

02. The Social Network
I had my doubts about whether a film about Facebook would justify its two-hour running time, but the story behind did actually make for compelling viewing. As soon as Mark Zuckerberg (his annoyingness captured perfectly by Jesse Eisenberg) goes home after a bust-date and logs onto livejournal to whine about it, I knew this was my mind of film (I do exactly the same, haha). The sequences of Zuckerberg coming to piece Facebook together with his uncannily good HTML skills were exhilarating to watch, but there were also small joys in watching the social misfires of him and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (I still maintain that the way Garfield shimmies up to Zuckerberg in the Harvard Jewish Mixer alone should have been enough to bag Garfield a Supporting Actor nomination, but whatever). Saverin, played by the delectable Andrew Garfield, functions as his right-hand man and put up the funding for his Facebook idea, yet, later on, got shot out from Facebook, both financially and as a founder. It is this kind of lack of scruples and mercantilism that make Mark Zuckerberg a difficult character to warm to, but thanks to Eisenberg’s performance and the sharp script from Aaron Sorkin (it makes sense that he is so adept at writing political dramas because there is a huge deal of politiquing in The Social Network), there is at least a context to his narcissism, if not a justification. Going from intensely funny (“I'm 6'5", 220, and there's two of me”) to very serious in the matter of moments, what The Social Network ultimately illustrates is that no-one rises to the top without a cost, and, by the closing shot of the film – Zuckerberg pathetically refreshing Facebook repeatedly in the hope that the girl he created Facebook to spite/impress will accept his friend request – whether or not all that money truly made our nerdy protagonist happy is still open to debate.

01. Toy Story 3
As a study of letting the things we once loved so much we couldn't imagine them not in our lives, nothing works better than Toy Story 3. Toy Story 3 marks the end to a  franchise that I grew up to; Toy Story I was the first film I saw in cinemas in England, true story. It also completes a highly impressive personal hat-trick for me of their’s: WALL-E was my #1 film of 2008, Up was my #1 film of 2009 and now Toy Story 3 is my favourite film of 2010. And rightly so, because I highly doubt anyone other than Pixar could have me shed as many tears over toys as I did in the closing scenes of Toy Story 3. Featuring flawless visuals (the details to which the children’s playroom was rendered with showed weeks and weeks of work and attention to detail - that Totoro doll! Priceless) a voice cast featuring Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, John Cusack, Wallace Shawn and the inspired casting of Michael Keaton as Ken (haha!) as well as the introduction of a vaguely sinister purple teddy bear and a creepy looking giant baby, Toy Story 3 was not at a lack of intrigue, danger and suspense as well as the standard comedy bought by Buzz, Mr Potato Hed and T-Rex. Andy might have gone off to college and grown up, but Toy Story 3 illustrates that there is always a part of us, deep down, who holds onto the things that are most precious from our childhood. By the end of the film, my eyes were practically red from the crying, but those were happy tears. A bittersweet goodbye to a wonderful trilogy of films.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sour Dreams and Ugly Nightmares.

Right now, the Film Noir Blog-a-thon is occuring, hosted by the very brilliant The Self-Styled Siren and Marilyn Ferdinand. The blogathon is occuring as part of a fundraiser to raise money for The Film Noir Foundation, a very worthy cause which helps to restore classic films. Click here to donate.

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When looking for a film to review for the blogathon, I couldn't decide between reviewing or re-reviewing some of my all-time favourite noirs (Sunset Blvd., Mildred Pierce, Laura, Double Indemnity to name but a few), or to watch something new. In the end I opted for the latter -- because why not watch a new film in the hope of discovering a new gem? -- and I picked the somewhat obscure 1947 Maxwell Shane picture, Fear in the Night.



Vince Grayson (DeForest Kelley) dreams that he kills a man and when he wakes up he finds he has bruise marks around his neck from the guy trying to strangle him in self-defence. Seriously spooked out, he tries to hand himself into the police by telling his brother-in-law, Cliff, a cop, only to be told (quite fairly) that he cannot be arrested for a crime that he committed in his sleep, "you're dreaming. You've had those things before". Unfortunately for him, that’s not the end of things, as he notices what he thinks is blood on his suit sleeve. It turns out to be only nail varnish, but even so, Grayson is so perturbed by the matter that he comes to obsessively chase leads on the murder he supposedly committed, as well as feeling déjà vu in various moments in life.

Fear in the Night is one of those good old fashioned films noirs, complete with ominous narration and a highly sinister string score. At just 70 minutes, there’s precious little running time, but the story is told neatly and completely during it. As the main character visits the room of mirrors that he saw in his dreams, the music score comes to a shuddering crescendo, putting a brilliantly creepy spin on the hall of mirrors motif. DeForest Kelley is very very good in the lead (this was actual his cinematic debut, he would later – at much older – star in a series of Star Trek movies), for the most part taciturn and surly, just how we like our protagonists in film noirs, but at the same time sympathetic enough and clearly a good guy so that we’re curious into his plight and wanting him to be innocent. Kelley’s best acting occurs in the scene where he re-visits at the scene of the crime that he’d seen in his dream, and his confusion is excellently performed. He arrives there with his friend and brother-in-law Cliff, wherein the latter demands answers, not believing the excuse of having dreamt it. As it transpires, it turns out that he indeed hadn’t dreamnt it – it had happened, but whilst our poor lead was under hypnosis by the film’s true antagonist - master-hypnotist Lewis Belknap, and Grayson sets to prove his innocence by setting up another encounter by the hypnotist.

Due to it’s low-budget and relatively B-list credentials, Fear in the Night is not able to delve as deeply into the character’s minds as much as we would like. Instead, it is short and to the point; the only real action of the film occurs in a chase scene at the end. The film focuses more on the mental warfare involved and revolving around themes such as guilt and imagination. Unlike other film noirs which have been told in flashback with discernible gaps in storytelling for us to piece together, Fear in the Night comes straight from the horse’s mouth, so we gather all the information as our main character does. Not the most challenging of films, but as pulp noirs go, it remains highly entertaining and accomplished, especially considering its practically negligible budget.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BAFTA Predictions, 2011.

I'm excited for the BAFTAs tonight! Lovely costumes, loads of film banter and the majority of Hollywood showing up and looking fine, fresh fierce. What more could a movie buff and fangirl ask for? So, here are my predictions for who'll win what!

BEST PICTURE The King's Speech.
Alternative: The Social Network.



Personally I greatly prefer The Social Network to The King's Speech, but I'm not sure, I think the Britishness of the latter may sway it for BAFTA voters.
BEST DIRECTOR David Fincher.
Alternative: Christopher Nolan.



BAFTA don't tend to make a habit of giving both Best Film and Director to the same film (though they have done this quite a lot in recent years, Brokeback Mountain and Slumdog Millionaire bagging both, as did, weirdly, The Crap Locker), so I'm going for different predictions here. It wouldn't surprise me at all of Chris Nolan won Best Director this evening actually, BAFTA could give it to him as a "sorry you weren't nominated at the Oscars" thing.

BEST ACTOR Colin Firth - The King's Speech.
Alternative: Javier Bardem - Biutiful.



As if it's going to go to anyone other than Colin Firth! The biggest lock of the night, to be honest.

BEST ACTRESS Natalie Portman - Black Swan.
Alternative: Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit.



I think Natalie's got this one locked, although I would love, love love for Hailee to win it; she characterised what is and will be the fiercest young character to ever wear braids. Her character really did have true grit.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Christian Bale - The Fighter.
Alternative: Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech.



I would love for Andy Garfield to be walking up to the podium collecting this prize, but I highly doubt it. Oh, Andy. At least you win something. I know, it's cold comfort. :p Nonetheless, I can't begrudge Bale of his win. He is a terrific actor and was uncannily good in The Fighter. What is it with men with the surname Bale who were born in Wales? They're all exceedingly talented.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Lesley Manville - Another Year.
Alternative: Miranda Richardson - Made in Dagenham.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY The King's Speech
Alternative: Inception



If Inception takes this, I will figuratively choke up a kidney from the lolage.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY The Social Network
Alternative: True Grit
BEST BRITISH MOVIE  Another Year
Alternative: 127 Hours

BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Alternative: The Secrets in their Eyes

CINEMATOGRAPHY Inception
Alternative: True Grit

COSTUME DESIGN Black Swan
Alternative: Alice in Wonderland




SOUND Inception
Alternative: True Grit

EDITING Inception
Alternative: The Social Network

It'll make me chuckle if Inception actually does win this, as I found the film tediously boring, and surely a sign of good editing is that the film doesn't feel overlong? Anyway.

FILM MUSIC Inception
Alternative: 127 Hours (oh good god I hope not)

So all in all, I don't hope for much. I'd much rather The Social Network or True Grit won Best Film over Inception and The King's Speech, and I would lovelovelove for Hailee Steinfeld to win Best Actress. Or anyone other than Natalie Portman, to be quite honest. And Inception to not get anything important. I would like BAFTA to pleasantly surprise me by giving How to Train Your Dragon a Music Win and Toy Story III a screenplay win, but, I doubt it!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

04. Les quatre cent coups (François Truffaut, 1959)

lol, yeah, I really need to train with this countdown of my top 100. My last review for #5 was almost seven months ago. Blimey. So here we are! Number 4.

12-year-old Antoine Doinel just can’t seem to get it right. At home, his mother and father neglect him. At school, all he ever seems to does is get himself into trouble (the French translation of faire les quatre cent coups means to raise hell), and he’s happiest when he’s bunking school, just roaming the streets. He’s not a bad egg by any means, just one who seems to be the unfortunate one who gets caught doing something even though everyone else is (case in point—his classmates pass around a picture of a nude lady, but when the teacher walks in it is he holding it). The film follows his misdemeanours during a few days, which involve his hilariously poor attempts to come up with an alibi for why he doesn’t come into school, as well as well-intentioned plans that result in bigger mistakes—such as starting a small fire, as well as downright plagiarism for a homework task.

The 400 Blows is a touching, witty, but very heartbreaking portrayal of a young lad who is by no means bad or evil-spirited, simply, misunderstood. I found it very easy to sympathize with him, his parents show him very little real affection or love in the film, and any kindness they show him usually have ulterior motives (his mother buys him an extravagant ice cream, but only because she knows he has seen her cavorting with another man and wants to buy her son’s silence). It’s hardly surprising that, with the upbringing (or lack thereof) that he has been given, that he’s prone to doing the odd silly thing.

Jean-Pierre Léaud is insanely good as Antoine, and he would go on to collaborate with Truffaut in four other films about the trouble-attracting protagonist as well as the delightful Day for Night setting off one of the greatest director-actor combos in history. He’s very natural, often it doesn’t even feel like he’s acting, but in the blank, empty look in his eyes is a whole load of unsaid sadness and disillusion of a person wise beyond their years. Similarly, the odd cheeky looks he has in his moments of mischief make for some brilliant comic relief. Here is what is easily one of the child performances in cinema. The transcendent finale features my fourth favourite film scene of all-time wherein he’s been sent to a reform school but he finds the opportunity to escape during a football game, he runs and runs and runs, and comes to the sea. The final scene is Antoine turning and looking into the camera. For that moment, he is free, yet he can go no further.

Often hailed as one of the most prominent pieces to come out of of the French New Wave, The 400 Blows is realism at its gritty, grainy best. Whereas previous films were all about their happy endings and conventional story-telling, Truffaut ventures into new ground with his pseudo-documentary-style here. It was revolutionary at the time, but even now, more than 50 years on, The 400 Blows makes for compelling view, and anyone who’s ever felt disjointed or misunderstood would surely connect with it. There are sequences of utmost hilarity juxtaposed with sadness that hints at the disturbing malaise of truth. I think I first saw The 400 Blows when I was about 15 and I saw myself in the lead character straight away. Almost 6 years on, I still recognize myself in them. There’s really not a lot of films I could say that about, now. A true masterpiece.

My Jogging Playlist.

One of my 2011 New Year’s Resolutions was to lose weight by eating less and exercising more. Whilst the former has fallen flat on its face, I have at least sort of stuck to the latter, in that I go jogging on a every-other-daily basis. Obviously, doing any kind of strenuous activity is just not in my disposition, and I find I need some good jogging music to get me motivated. Thus, verily I present you, my jogging playlist.

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01. Mombasa – Hans Zimmer
02. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
03. Time to Pretend - MGMT
04. Something kinda Ooh - Girls Aloud
05. American Gangster – Jay-Z
06. Lose Yourself - Eminem
07. Ooh La La - Goldfrapp
08. Empire – Kasabian
09. What You Waiting For – Gwen Stefani
10. The Battle - Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard
11. All I Want is You - Barry Louis Polisar

All t'riffic songs to run to, but especially Mombasa, which is single-handedly to thank for keeping me from veering into the 10 stone mark.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Look Ahead to Best Original Score, 2010.

The nominees: 127 Hours: A.R. Rahman
How to Train Your Dragon: John Powell
Inception: Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech: Alexandre Desplat
The Social Network: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

My rankings and grades:
01. How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell)
Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon is a fresh, cute film about a lad and his dragon. From the very first couple of notes of the score (which begin as the film does), I thought “oh here we go ago, another standard boring Disneyesque film”, with an unequally uninspired score to match. But I was wrong, for, as soon as the narrator subverted my thoughts in his narration, the score also did, and went from cheesy to cheeky. There’s barely a scene in How to Train Your Dragon where music isn’t employed, but it never feels intrusive and its playfulness is an absolutely joy; listen to how the music modulates into schmaltz pastiche when the protagonist’s crush walks onto the screen. Exuberant, lively, and adventurous, John Powell has sculpted a score which embodies the film perfectly, and, in honestly, is a huge factor for why I enjoyed it so. He clearly had a huge amount of fun writing the score, and we as the audience share the enjoyment in listening to it. A.

(but don’t just take my word for it, check out the amaze tracks yourself! The Drowned Dragon / See You Tomorrow / The Vikings Have Their Tea)

02. Inception (Hans Zimmer)
Hmm, Inception. It’s very difficult for me to be even in the same room as this film without wanting to throw something at it. But, credit where credit is due, Hans Zimmer knows how to – and clearly enjoys – penning the scores to action/adventure/thriller films. And often, as with Inception and The Da Vinci Code, his music proves to be the best thing about the lame excuse for a film. The track “Mombassa”, played when the action for the film was just kicking in, is terrifically fresh and frenetic, and at that point still gave me enough false hope to believe the film might be worth bothering with; the fusion of hyper-drumming and electro-rock give the film a huge sense of urgency and excitement, and the finale track “Time” is full of hope, sadness and despair in its elegiac string chords and powerful surges of crescendo as well as the blend of semiquavers and minims played in the beautiful “528491”, a track which I will forever now associate with Pete Postlethwaite. Unlike Christopher Nolan with the plot, Hans Zimmer keeps the musical ingredients relatively simple for Inception. And, by doing so, he shows that less is more. Take note next time you try to write/direct something about dreams ever again please, Chris Nolan. A-

03. The King’s Speech (Alexandre Desplat)
Alexandre Desplat, who also scored 2010’s Ghost Writer and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, finds himself getting his fourth nomination in five years for his score to what is now, after recent DGA and SAG ensemble wins, the front-runner for Best Film come February 27th. His other three nominations have come for his music to films about a wily fox, a man who ages backwards, and, curiously enough, the Queen of England. But Desplat avoids doing what many composers must be tempted to do; go through their rolodex of old musical notes used for The Queen and bung it in to The King’s Speech, justifying that, they are, after all, “both about monarchy in England.” No, Mr Desplat is nothing if not original, and the music to The King’s Speech dances with wit and whimsy. On personal listening, the tinkling piano, the sparse use of woodwork and the orchestral melodies don’t delight quite as much as they do with the pictures, and it far from sits in my personal top 5 Desplat scores (that, for your information, would be Birth, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Syriana, Lust, Caution and The Upside of Anger) but in fitting in with telling of King George’s journey from zero to hero, they certainly fit the bill. B+.

04. The Social Network (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
Whenever I try to remember the score to The Social Network, literally all I can ever remember is just a bunch of piano chords at all the most dramatic moments. Literally. Seriously, the score was a total non-entity and it absolutely confounds me how two people were required (one of which, Mr Reznor, is actually Nine Inch Nails' frontman), to put together such a musicalling mediocrity. I have no beef with the film whatsoever, in fact, I’d quite like it to win Best Film ahead of The King’s Speech, which left me somewhat cold, but please, not the score. That was crap, and the academy should definitely have deprived The Social Network of a nomination in this category and given it to the film where it deserved it - Best Supporting Actor. Oh yes, I'm still stanning Andrew Garfield. E.

05. 127 Hours (A.R. Rahman)
Speaking of crap, Jesus. I don’t get any joy out of ragging on A.R. Rahman, he did, after all, produce what I consider to be one of the most ingenious scores of recent years in Slumdog Millionaire’s terrific soundtrack. But if The Social Network was just a mishmash of sad-sounding piano chords, 127 Hours was just a mish-mash of weird sounds, with a bit of acoustic guitar thrown in to try and evoke the eerie, ethereal effect. I was not won over; the music left me feeling as viscerally sick as much as the arm amputating. F.

Who will win: The Social Network (urgh)
Who deserves to win: John Powell for How to Train Your Dragon
Who deserved to be nominated: Alexandre Desplat for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?? idk. On the whole, it wasn't the most memorable year for film scores. Pity. But John Powell's score to How to Train Your Dragon is absolutely adorable, and I'm actually quite pleased I forsaw this one getting nominated.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Look Ahead to Best Original Song, 2010.

Hiya, I thought it’s high time I got my finger out and actually did some proper film blogging, haha. And what better way than to analyse each of the Oscar nominated categories? So, whilst I brush up on watching the remaining 2010 Oscar nominated movies that I need to watch, I thought I’d analyse the one category wherein I don’t need to watch the movies to analyse the category: best song. Of course, the whole aim of a song is that it’s supposed to epitomize the film, and in that case, having seen the film might improve my appreciation of the song, so in that case, 127 Hours and Toy Story 3 might be at a (dis)advantage. But I’mma try to analyse these songs from a purely aural point of view, ignoring context.

Oh yeah, and if you're wondering what the frick this is, it's basically me pretentiously rambling on about the things I love, the things I hate and everything in between in all the Oscar nominated categories (or just the ones I can be arsed with). Past examples: costume 2007 / score 2006 / supporting actress 2007 etc etc

The nominees are:
127 Hours: A.R. Rahman, Rollo Armstrong, Dido- "If I Rise"
Country Strong: Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges - "Coming Home"
Tangled: Alan Menken, Glenn Slater- "I See the Light"
Toy Story 3: Randy Newman - "We Belong Together"

My rankings and grades:
01. Coming Home/Country Strong
A country music ballad as good as they used to make ‘em, Gwyneth Paltrow’s surprisingly mellifluous voice (check her out in her performance in Glee, covering “Forget You”, he sass and swagger gave me a newfound appreciation of the song and cemented its place as my favourite song of 2010) sings about finding love and one’s place in the world. Standard topics, then, but her belting out “H-oooome” in the chorus is so powerful that it almost evokes the nostalgia-type emotions that I get in listening to my personal favourite song about homecomings, Kanye West’s Homecoming. A.

02. We Belong Together / Toy Story 3
When we're together/Gray skies are clearer./And I'll share them, till where I'm less depressed./And it's sincerely, from the bottom of my heart/I just can't take it when we're apart” go the sweet but very Disneyfied lyrics of Randy Newman’s Oscar nominated Toy Story 3 entry. Whilst not quite touching the heart quite as much as “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” did, it’s still an adorable song which can bung a smile or two on my face with its unapologetically uplifting lyrics. B+

03. I See the Light/Tangled

A very pretty song, but emotionally, it doesn’t really do anything for me. It starts with the female lead singing a verse, then the male lead singing a verse, then, surprise surprise, the two of them fusing into a harmony. Musically, it’s hardly revolutionary, and, as with Randy Newman’s Toy Story 3 song, the lyrics are so massively Disney that it borders on tedious. The guitars, strings and piano chords are all very nice though. C.

04. If I Rise/127 Hours
Urgh. I’ll be analyzing Best Original Score tomorrow, wherein I’m not gonna bother hiding my disdain for 127 Hours bagging a nomination for its joke of a score. But yet another travesty is that it stained the Best Song category, when there really were many other more deserving songs that should have been nominated. Dido, on seeing how successful M.I.A. got with her super-swaggerous “O Saya” in Slumdog Millionaire, teams up with A.R. Rahman to wail away on this crappy song. I quite like Rollo’s vocals in the chorus, but Dido’s caterwauling and the bland lyrics are just disgraceful. E.

Who should win: Coming Home
Who will win: I legit have no idea! Um, If I Rise from 127 Hours?
Who should have been nominated: “Sticks and Stones” from How to Train Your Dragon, and that ain’t even a fucking question!!!!! Such a good song that it’s already been employed in a bunch of “2010: a retrospect” type montages, it sums up the film perfectly; highs, lows, and loving life. Terrifically fast-paced and with more life than an energiser bunny, this really is an adorably sweet song. I was also a fan of “Never Say Never” from The Karate Kid, though that is hugely due to Jaden Smith’s “no pun intended, raised by the power of Will” line. Lawlzswagger.

But yeah, “Sticks and Stones” from How to Train your Dragon is literally sublime. And that's an Emmabung kind of literally, not a Redknapp kind of literally. ;) Me and my bro spent all Christmas dancing around our house to it like the nerds we are. You’ll hear it on lots more awards shows and montages, mark my words, so you best download it here now so when your mates say “I wonder what song that is, it’s nice”, you can wow them with your trivia. ;)