Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Oscar Nominations

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Atonement (2007)
Juno (2007)
Michael Clayton (2007)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
There Will Be Blood (2007)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney for Michael Clayton (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises (2007)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Julie Christie for Away from Her (2006)
Marion Cotillard for Môme, La (2007)
Laura Linney for The Savages (2007)
Ellen Page for Juno (2007)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild (2007)
Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton (2007)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There. (2007)
Ruby Dee for American Gangster (2007)
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement (2007)
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton (2007)

Best Achievement in Directing
Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton (2007)
Jason Reitman for Juno (2007)
Julian Schnabel for Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Juno (2007): Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton (2007): Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille (2007): Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco
The Savages (2007): Tamara Jenkins

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Atonement (2007): Christopher Hampton
Away from Her (2006): Sarah Polley
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Ronald Harwood
No Country for Old Men (2007): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Achievement in Cinematography
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007): Roger Deakins
Atonement (2007): Seamus McGarvey
No Country for Old Men (2007): Roger Deakins
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Janusz Kaminski
There Will Be Blood (2007): Robert Elswit

Best Achievement in Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Christopher Rouse
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Juliette Welfling
Into the Wild (2007): Jay Cassidy
No Country for Old Men (2007): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Dylan Tichenor

Best Achievement in Art Direction
American Gangster (2007): Arthur Max, Beth A. Rubino
Atonement (2007): Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Golden Compass (2007): Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
There Will Be Blood (2007): Jack Fisk, Jim Erickson

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Across the Universe (2007): Albert Wolsky
Atonement (2007): Jacqueline Durran
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007): Alexandra Byrne
Môme, La (2007): Marit Allen
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Colleen Atwood

Best Achievement in Makeup
Môme, La (2007): Didier Lavergne, Jan Archibald
Norbit (2007): Rick Baker, Kazuhiro Tsuji
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007): Ve Neill, Martin Samuel

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Atonement (2007): Dario Marianelli
The Kite Runner (2007): Alberto Iglesias
Michael Clayton (2007): James Newton Howard
Ratatouille (2007): Michael Giacchino
3:10 to Yuma (2007): Marco Beltrami

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
August Rush (2007)("Raise It Up")
Enchanted (2007)("Happy Working Song")
Enchanted (2007)("So Close")
Enchanted (2007)("That's How You Know")
Once (2006)(“Falling Slowly” )

Monday, January 21, 2008


"Approximately seven hours ago some *thing* attacked the city. If you found this, if you're watching this then you probably know more about it than I do."
Written By: Drew Goddard
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Michael Stahl-Davis, Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller
My rating: 8/10
Cloverfield is, as everyone has already assumed, The Blair Witch Project in the city. Pretty accurate description. However, the nature of the film, the amount of special effects necessary and the constant action means that it is one of the most technically accomplished films I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
The film follows a bunch of twenty-something, yuppie, beautiful people from a farewell party in a trendy Manhattan loft, through the madness of NYC under attack from a monster and finally to a wonderful final sequence in Central Park.
Sickeningly shaky camerawork aside, this film is incredibly enjoyable and serves both as a relentless thrill-ride and as a brainy "what if..." that realistically considers a monster attack from the perspective of the people on the ground, as opposed to the usual military/journalist/president, etc. This experiment in realism worked so well because the filmmakers took such care in creating the illusion. It would take only one bad actor, or one dodgy special effect to blow the entire feeling of realism. Luckily, this never happens. The special effects are cleverly obscured by smoke and debris which both heightens the curiosity about the monster and also masks any dodgy CGI that might otherwise have stained the film.
The design of the camera movement is also extraordinarily clever in it's deliberately accidental catching of the tail end of the monster and other important events. The camerawork never feels set up and much to the irritation of the audience it often misses important things and teases us by coming in too late, etc. The effect of all this realism is quite harrowing and there are plenty of proper jumps and scares to ensure that everyone feels suitably terrorised.
This film probably would have gotten five big shiny stars if it weren't for the fact that the characters are so annoying and the dialogue got very hammy in parts. The love story arc that forms the plot gets bumped up to far too high a priority for my liking and as the film progresses, it becomes more and more the focus of everything. This is a shame because the fact that is starts to feel like a soap opera takes away from the adventure slightly. However, kudos must go to the filmmakers for bravely killing off so many characters throughout, unexpectedly and tragically.
Overall, this film is at least enjoyable and at best revolutionary. If you have a problem with seasickness then be warned, this is shakier than The Blair Witch Project and more action-packed. Otherwise, I highly recommend it and at 85 minutes, it certainly won't be a waste of your time.
- Charlene Lydon 21/01/2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

There Will Be Blood

"There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone."

Written & Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano

My rating: 8/10

The highly anticipated new film from Paul Thomas Anderson (his last film being 2002's Punch Drunk Love) is a complete change of pace from all of his previous work. The epitome of indie auteur, Mr. Anderson takes on the form of the great Orson Welles (who was, I guess, the original indie auteur) in this huge epic story of the lust for money and power in the early part of 20th Century America.

Contrary to some criticisms I had heard about this film, and my own misgivings, Anderson does not attempt to delineate the greed of this great oilman to the wild capitalism in today's society. He tells a story, utterly unpolitically, which is a brave and rare thing to do these days and for all the people who label Anderson as pretentious, this films lack of agenda makes a great counter-argument!

The film follows Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a man who came from nothing to build a huge oil company. The film mostly involves his involvement with a town called Little Boston and how he manages to wrangle it from the townspeople with the false hope of economic resurgence and turns it into an oilfield.

The central relationships are between Plainview and his son, H.W., who he rescued from a life as an orphan and aimed to teach his skills to, and Plainview's nemesis, a local preacher, Eli Sunday. His close relationship with his son is a rocky one. His closeness and clear adoration of him seems paternal at first but he proves time and time again that his son, like anyone else is merely a companion to keep him from being completely alone. The central dramatic struggle however, is between Plainview and Eli. This relationship was the main problem I had with the film. Eli Sunday's character goes through several unlikely changes and a lot is presumed about him unfairly that makes little sense. Ultimately, Eli's character could have been the most interesting in the film and Paul Dano's performance was so strong that to tamper with the character seemed criminal.

At 160 minutes, this film is no walk in the park and because it is so challenging in its storytelling that you tend to feel physically drained by the end. However, the difference between whether you leave the cinema pleased or not will depend on how you take to Anderson's frankly insane denouement. Personally, after a long struggle to make my peace with it, I decided that I just wasn't comfortable with where the story went as it completely turned on its head, creating issues that had not been foreshadowed or referred to. However, many people were charmed by the film's change of pace from Welles to slapstick oddness. Many people whose opinions I respect felt it was profound and brave. Although I cannot agree, I do challenge audiences to watch it and decide for themselves.

Overall, the plot, as it was for the first 140 minutes is wonderfully gripping, full of wonderful characters and actors. Daniel Plainview is a complex, nerve-shreddingly soulless character that, weeks after the event, I am still picking apart psychologically, and his nemesis Eli is a slimy do-gooder who is so full of stifled rage that it is difficult to watch. It plays like a movie from the golden age of Hollywood and it proves that the wonderful Mr. Anderson really is living up to his potential and has given us, yet again, a philosophically rich, beautifully shot portrait of some really complex characters.

- Charlene Lydon 18/01/08

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My films of the year

Hi everyone,

It amuses me as I look back through my reviews on this blog that I have given five films five stars this year. So, I guess these films would represent my favourite films of the past year. Of course, there were other films that I very much enjoyed but didn't review for whatever reason, such as Eastern Promises, Planet Terror (NOT Death Proof), There Will Be Blood, Reign Over Me, Once, Superbad, The Bourne Ultimatum, Beowulf, Breach, Waitress, Garage, Hairspray and many many more. However, having a blog means I can recap on my own thoughts at the end of the year and I surprised myself by what turns out to be my top 5 of 2007. Here goes (oh, I put these in order, that was challenging)

5. Blades of Glory
4. Zodiac
3. No Country For Old Men
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
1. A Prairie Home Companion

The top three are pretty much a tie but A Prairie Home Companion edges in cos its soooo warm-hearted. It has killed me every time I've watched it. I surprised myself to see I gave Blades of Glory 5 stars. Not very Trinity Film Graduate of me. But y'know, fuck it! No apologies! I think its worthy of 5 stars. I loved it :)

Anyway, not that anyone cares, but they are my top 5 of 2007.

Happy 2008,


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

"You think it's all made up don't ya? You think it's all yarns and newspaper stories. "

Written By: Andrew Dominik

Directed By: Andrew Dominik

Starring: Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell

My rating: 10/10

Rarely have I sat through a film and immediately come out thinking "that was a perfect piece of cinema and I wouldn't change a thing". The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is definitely the one of the best films of the year, if not THE best. It is a great blend of fine storytelling, captivating performances and astonishing cinematography that would appeal to anyone who can tolerate it's 2 hour, 40 min length.

The film tells the story of Bob Ford (Casey Affleck) who becomes involved in Jesse James' gang through his brother Charley (Sam Rockwell) and is clearly obsessed with Jesse, the hero from so many stories and legends. From the opening scene, Bob is a hateful guy. He is arrogant, pathetic and proud. Everyone around him recoils in his presence. He is so unlikeable, in fact, that it is difficult not to feel sorry for him. Meanwhile Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is coming slightly unhinged. With the wild west being tamed by the incoming justice system, his sense of place and legend status is reaching an anti-climax. After various back-stabbing and betrayals of trust, the characters fear each other and constantly watch their backs, never knowing when their last hour will come.

The film is slow-moving, deliberately paced, but no scene goes by without pushing the plot forward. The dialogue is beautifully written and the characters are extremely well fleshed out by both the screenplay and the fine ensemble cast.

Like Andrew Dominik's notorious previous film Chopper this film examines the nature of celebrity and the thin line between legends and criminals. Although less brutal then Chopper, Jesse James shares his amusement with people's perceptions of him. He revels in his hero status, although the film finds him at a time where he seems to be realising its inevitable end. The intimacy and beauty of the characters are perfectly reflected in Dominiks direction and in the awe-inspiring cinematography. Not surpringly, the director of photography was Roger Deakins, the man who gave us Fargo and The Shawshank Redemption. Nobody else can capture stillness of nature and characters' intimacy with their environment quite like Roger Deakins and this film is no exception. The cold, open spaces of Canada, doubling as Missouri for most of the film act both as a beautiful expression of the freeness of their lifestyle and also as a desolate void that imposes more and more on the characters as their relationships become more complex. The film shows a lovely mix of flamboyant expressionistic mythicism and naked grit which highlight both the glamour and the lows of the legendary gang.

Adding to the deliberately brooding cinematography is Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' moody score, which adds considerably to the noble and chilling tone of the film. Like the film itself, the score is both starkly bare, and also richly entertaining. Like 2006's The Proposition, also scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the score gives the film texture and terror that could not have been there otherwise.

Overall I would recommend this film to anyone. I think dads and grandads would enjoy it as much as arthouse cinema dwellers. It has enough heart and soul to win anyone over and is certainly worth seeing if only for Casey Affleck's brave, creepy turn as the slimy Bob Ford. No film this year will beat its visual and aural beauty and few films have ever examined so sophisticatedly the intricacies of celebrity and idolatry. Fingers crossed for all involved at the Academy Awards but I'm pretty sure No Country For Old Men is representing the Western genre this year and Oscar town probably ain't big enough for the two of 'em.

- Charlene Lydon 16/01/2008

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I Am Legend

"(to mannequin) I promised a friend I would say hello to you today...please say hello to me...please say hello to me"

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Written by: Akiva Goldsman & Mark Protosevich

Starring: Will Smith

My rating: 8/10

I Am Legend tells the story of the last man on earth left behind after everybody else had been killed by a virus. Based on the novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, the story has had two previous incarnations on screen, one starring Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) and the other starring Charlton Heston (The Omega Man) which are legends in their own right. Hollywood's disregards the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra as usual and decided to remake the story yet again.

Two things make this film stand out from most Hollywood apocalypse epics. Firstly, the visually stunning depiction of a empty, modern New York is simply amazing and impossible not to marvel at. The production design really gives the haunting impression of a city stopped in its tracks. New York City is so familiar a character in films, that its ghostly appearance is all the more striking. Secondly, the casting of Will Smith as pretty much 90% of the cast was a stroke of genius as few actors of our generation have the intense likeability and wonderful acting skills that Will Smith has, as well as being able to easily pull of the action hero role. The twice Oscar-nominated Smith acts up a storm here as he carries the entire film with dialogue spoken to his dog and some mannequins. Many, many scenes which could have been really hammy were saved by Smiths ability to stay in touch with basic, primal emotion.

The film also bravely keeps the pace very slow for the first hour, apart from a few chase sequences, the events in Robert Nevilles life are shown to be mundane and lonely. The human aspect and sense of loss is elevated here and as the audience sees Neville begin to lose control of his sanity at certain points, it takes on the veneer of a tragedy. The last half hour contains more action sequences and running around but overall the story stays centred on the central character.

The film, unfortunately, is extremely flawed. The filmmakers made the dreadful mistake of creating the CGI monsters. With our advanced technologies today, one may have hoped for a better outcome, but the monsters look like rejects from a 1990's computer game. This was extremely distracting and destroyed much of the tension surrounding the creatures advancement. Also, the screenplay left out so many important plot points and left so many threads up in the air that its hard to believe anyone even read the script before production. It is never explained why Robert Neville is immune to the virus, it is suggested that the monsters are becoming less and less human, yet they have learned to use pretty sophisticated techniques of trickery without the least reaction of surprise from Neville.

However, despite its problems, the film does exactly what it set out to do: it entertains, thrills and tugs at the heartstrings. After all, it's a blockbuster, not an art film, so the very fact that it bothers to address the delicate human tragedy makes everything else seem forgivable. I would recommend seeing this film to be entertained, and try to avoid over-thinking the plot-holes (of which there are many). Sit back and marvel at the wonderful job they did of portraying post-apocolyptic New York City...its worth the admission price alone.

-Charlene Lydon 10/01/08

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

"I can guarantee the closest shave you'll ever know"

Directed By: Tim Burton

Written By: John Logan

Johnny Depp
Helena Bonham Carter
Alan Rickman

My rating: 7/10

Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd is a dark musical in the vein of his stop-motion animation ventures. It tells the story of a wronged barber who returns to London after spending years in prison only to find his wife is dead and his daughter is the ward of the evil judge who put him in jail. Sweeney Todd's bloothirsty rage and lust for revenge lead to murder of several clients. Luckily his new friend and landlady, Mrs. Lovett needs fresh meat to make pies for her establishment which bakes "the worst pies in London". With Mr. Todd's psychotic bloodlust being satisfied and Mrs. Lovett's business booming, Burton creates a chilling, Dickensian London that is sure to please most audiences.

As a film, Sweeney Todd impresses on many levels. It is beautiful to look at, it is wonderfully bloody and the lead performances are playfully dark. As a musical, on the other hand, the film faces problems. It is clear from the first 30 minutes of this film that Burton cares little for the musical elements of the adaptation and simply wants to tell the story in as spectacular way as possible. His casting of the two leads is evidence of this. Neither actor can sing. They cannot even pretend that they can sing. Not only can they not sing but their voices are in no way suited to the characters they portray. Carter's weak whispered falsetto counteracts her character of a tough, no-nonsense cockney woman. Fortunately, as Sweeney Todd's dementia spirals out of control, Depp's nasal warbling almost helps with his psychotic portrayal.

It is unfortunate that Burton chose to make Sondheim's musical, rather than just adapt the story as a film because in every other way he succeeds. However, if you choose to make as serious a musical as this one, you must be aware of the challenges.

The film has been criticised for its bloody second half, but the blood and gore is so gloriously B movie that it is in no way offensive. In the final act, events go so wildly out of control that it is pandemonium but Burton reins it in nicely to create a nice emotional denouement which affects despite the silliness going on.

Johnny Depp's performance is wonderful, as the man who can feel nothing only hatred and Carter is also great as the hard-as-nails woman blinded by love. Also noteworthy is Sascha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, overplayed with such ease that it feels like the part was written only for him. If you have some kind of aversion to Tim Burton's work, this will probably do little to sway you, but if you have a warm place in your heart for his dark psychosis, then you will probably be delighted with Sweeney Todd...if you can tolerate the singing!

-Charlene Lydon 7/1/08


"Hi, I'm calling to procure a hasty abortion... "

Directed By: Jason Reitman

Written By:
Diablo Cody

Ellen Page
Michael Cera
Jason Bateman
Jennifer Garner

My rating: 4/10

Juno tells the story of a tough, sharp-tongued 16 year old who falls pregnant after an awkward sexual encounter with her best friend Paulie. After chickening out of an abortion, she decides to donate her baby to a suburban couple.

The negative points of Juno pretty much overshadow the positive points but the sum of its parts present a film thats average enough to warrant two stars. For a film that managed to garner such universal praise, Juno is one of the most irritatingly standard American indie filcks I've seen in a long time. As a fan of the American Indie film, I understand the marks of the genre. Slow pace, oddly framed shots, clever banter, etc. However, Juno seems to have taken the Idiots Guide to Indie and raped it for every ounce of its worth.

Cutesy acoustic singer-songwritery soundtrack, blasse treatment of the topical issue of abortion and obligitory animated title sequence are all represented here. The thing that makes Juno feel more arrogant than other movies is its horribly overwritten dialogue which makes everyone sound like they belong in some ghastly mix of Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The pomposity of the dialogue departs slightly as the film goes on but it is so jarring at the start that it is hard to forgive the characters later.

The positive thing about overwritten screenplays is that the main characters are all given really nice arcs. Particularly the characters of the Lorins, who are seeking to adopt Juno's child. At first they seem like the typical boring suburban couple; he's likeable, she's not but over the course of the film, perceptions shifts on the couple and their fears and cowardices are uncovered. Unfortunately some other characters, such as the baby's father, Paulie (Michael Cera) are considerably less fleshed out, leaving Cera with little else to do than fumble about awkwardly, without ever receiving a redemption or any character development.

Although entertaining, and sometimes affecting this is a film to be watched only if you can tolerate pretentious teens and only if you're not easily offended by yet another so-called potrayal of disaffected youth. Surprisingly, this is the follow-up to Jason Reitman's wonderfully accomplished Thank You For Smoking which was directed like a pro and which was as sharp a film as one could hope for from Hollywood. Sadly this film seems like a step backwards, or perhaps more pointedly, a perception of "indie" from a director whose natural talent and style lies in Hollywood.

On the plus side, there are some good laughs and some interesting observations on the realities of love and companionship which are way more mature than what the run-of-the-mill teen movie would usually represent. However, if you're anything like me you may just hate Juno too much by the end of the movie to even want her to find happiness.

- Charlene Lydon 7/1/08