"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Monday, February 09, 2009

Academy Award preview

A bit of guest blogging from my dad, fresh from screening the last of the five best picture nominees:

AUSTRALIA - This is a long but entertaining flick that reminds one of an old fashioned Saturday afternoon at the movies. It is an apparently serious epic with a side order of Roy and Dale, Indiana Jones and Gone With The Wind. The scenery is beautifully photographed and the performances are fine, especially the young Maori boy. Give it 3 out of 5 stars.

DOUBT - This is not a film for lightweights but it's a terrific, though provoking flick for drama lovers and great acting/screen writing afficionados. The title says it all. The viewer gets to make up his own mind on the issues raised. Doubt is everywhere throughout the whole effort. All four major acting roles have been deservedly nominated for acting awards. What can you say about a film featuring constant faceoffs between Hoffman and Streep. Absolutely rivetting! 5 out of 5 stars!

VALKYRIE - This is an above average film in the war, intrigue, action history genre. As with other reviewers, the only fault is in the casting. Every actor in the film is British (that's not a problem, they all do quite well, thank you) except for two. Tom Cruise in the lead role is one exception. While our boy Tom is quite ok, one has a difficult time at this stage in his career accepting him in this serious, good-Nazi role. His recent off-screen antics as a goofball, lightweight don't help him. The other exception to the all British thing is minor but made mechuckle. It occurs during the climactic sequence in the film when all hell is breaking loose and this Nazi officer rushes into the commandant's office to report on the hell-raising. Very serious stuff. However, the reporting officer is played by the German actor who used to play Sargeant Schultz on Hogan's Heroes. When he rushes into the commandant's office I expected him to announce, "I know noootthiiing! Anyway give it a surprising 4 out of 5 stars.

GRAN TORINO - A must-see for Clint fans. Clint plays himself, which is to say Dirty Harry with arthritis. Do not go if you are offended by racial epithets but you just have to understand Clint's character, you see. This is the guy's acting swan song for goodness sake so live with it. Anyway, the climax is surprising and there is a message. For auto buffs, you'll love the title "character" and Clint's garage shop. And I loved the bluesy song over the closing credits. The song is more Oscar-worthy than most of the junk that gets nominated. Anyway, "Make my day" and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON - I went to this film prepared not to like it. I'd seen the previews and it didn't appear to be my cup of tea. However, it passed the stern test and won me over. It is an excellent film, period. The Art Direction and scenery are second to none. the special effects and make up are much more Oscar-worthy than some ridiculous science fiction or action junkpiece. And Brad and the rest of the cast are fine too. The story sounds really schmaltzy but it is well told and really interesting and emotional. Try it, you'll like it. A surprising 5 out of 5 stars.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE - As with Ben Button I went prepared not to like this film. It's not my cup of tea again. This time, however, I liked it but not enough to say that it won me over. Recently, I read a review that called it a "shameless fairy tale" and compared it to "It's a Wonderful Life" (without the snow, I suppose). The review was entitled "Mr. Capra Goes To Mumbai", which I thought was rather clever and accurate. It is extremely well filmed often with hand-held cameras and the scenes of the Mumbai slums are striking to say the least. But the plot is predictable and there is no challenge for the viewer. The dance scene and catchy song at the end is supposed to make us feel good I guess but I was left wondering where Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly were. It's worth seeing but only 4 out of 5 stars from me.

FROST/NIXON - A terrific film highlighted by Ray Langella's portrayal of Tricky Dick. He is excellent and gives a portrayal of the former president that shows all of the pathetic warts. The climactic scene leaves one with a tight gut. However, the film is lifeless at other times, given to smiling and winking by Frost. It might have been interesting to let the viewer see more background on the formidable "talk show host" and his partner in crime Reston. On the other hand that might have detracted from the central character of Langella's Nixon. 4 out of 5 stars!


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the film reviews. Thanks..
FYI... The actor in Valkyrie cannot be Sgt. Schultz (John Banner) from Hogan's Heroes because Banner died in 1973...

the rev. paperboy said...

thanks to my Dad for the movie reviews, but before you start inundating the comments -- the actual nominees are:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire