Written by: Dan Fox - Vidette reporter, blogger, & ISU student
“Good evening,” said Anthony Hopkins in that familiar Hitchcock tone in Sacha Gervasi’s film of the same title. Hitchcock looks at the latter years of the famous film director’s life as he tries to recapture some of his previous success.
Unsure about the direction his film career is going, Hitchcock decides to do something to revitalize his career – make an adaptation of the novel Psycho. Now, horror movies are a mainstay is in the mainstream of cinema, but it wasn’t always like that. Back in the late 1950s such films were considered under the dignity of directors the stature of Hitchcock. But, he didn’t care. Upon disapproval by his peers and movie studios he decides to finance the film himself.
The parallel storyline is of his love life. Apparently he was quite fond of and overly controlling of his “fantasy” leading ladies. And his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) wasn’t too fond of that, so she starts a bit of a fantasy relationship of her own with who I believe is a fictional character — Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).
I loved the movie without the extra storyline. While I’m sure Alma was very important to the life and career of Hitchcock, I would have rather the story focused more on the main character. To my knowledge, this is one of the first movies to look more closely at the life of Hitchcock. There was no need to bog down the movie with specific details of his personal life. It would have worked better to just stick to some of the more generic details of Hitchcock. Instead of focusing half of the movie on somebody most (at least younger viewers) have probably never heard of. The tone of the film was lighthearted and humorous, which made it hard to care about “Hitch’s” love life.
Hopkins was great. It didn’t take the movie very long for me to quit seeing Hannibal Lector and start seeing Hitchcock. If anything Hopkins biggest weakness as an actor is his extremely distinctive looks. It seems no matter how much make-up they put on him he still looks like himself. Oh well, no matter – his acting makes up for that. The other characters in the movie are pretty forgettable. Scarlett Johansson plays Psycho leading lady, Janet Leigh. She and Mirren were alright, but not that memorable, nor should they be. They were there to compliment Hopkins and they did a great job of that.
Despite a couple of my gripes about this movie, it is still very good. It received average, at best, reviews. But, I think it is quite a bit above an average movie. It kept my attention, made me laugh and taught me a little bit about an age of movies I really don’t know much about. I would definetly recommend Hitchcock.
Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette reporter, blogger, & ISU student
This year many thought Ben Affleck would get a long-awaited nomination for an Oscar for Best Director. He will have to wait – he was snubbed again. But the movie he directed and co-produced, “Argo” is a top candidate to take home Best Picture.
The real-life dramatization of events that took place during the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, focuses on six American diplomats who were in-hiding from Iranian militants, in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. The militants are on the heels of the diplomats and it is only a matter of time before they catch them. Having considered all possible solutions, the CIA along with the Canadian and U.S. governments decide on what Ben Affleck’s character CIA agent Tony Mendez says “is the best bad plan we have, sir.” They decide to stage a fake movie production, and sneak the diplomats out of the country under the guise of a production team scouting locations for their “fake” movie.
Some of the best scenes of the movie are the cuts from the Iranian Revolution to the extravagant goings-on of 1970’s Hollywood, and back again. It really puts the seriousness of the situation into perspective. It makes you think about how different the two worlds really are, and the ludicrousness of the proposed plan. How can a fake-movie-production-plot to enter a hostile area and extract the most wanted people in the country be overlooked by the entire Iranian military?
Well, the answer to that is what makes “Argo” such a good movie. Real-life is often stranger than fiction, and the fictitious accounts of real events are even better. While anything that is reported to have happened by the CIA must be taken with a grain of salt, just to say the event is based on real events adds a certain amount of wonder and intrigue to the story.
The film is nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor, Alan Arkin. He relieves some of the tension of the film with his gritty-horse-voiced quips. “If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit,” he says to Affleck’s Tony. “Argo fuck yourself,” Arkin repeats whenever asked about the movie. He really adds a dimension to an already multi-faceted story.
I think “Argo” has a good chance of taking home the top prize this year. I give it a 3 to 1 chance.
Usually independently produced films that are primarily character driven, are stuck in the doldrums of the under-advertised and under-seen world of limited theatrical and straight-to-DVD releases.
People who are really into film might see it eventually – it might gain critical praise and receive an award at the Cannes, Toronto, Sundance or other film festival – but they are generally ignored by a wide-audience. The thrust of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” nomination for Best Picture, at this year’s Oscars, will force the public to pay it its due respect, for the marvelously raw work of art it is.
The lead is played by the youngest ever Oscar nominee for Lead in a Female Role, nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis. Her depiction of Hushpuppy, a tough nine-year-old girl who holds it together in the face of adversity better than most adults, is as poignant as it is unsettling. Her poverty stricken Delta life is unraveling too fast for her young mind can handle. While Hushpuppy’s demeanor is always strong, her mind (in my opinion) compensates for the trauma by imagining pre-historic aurochs are being unleashed due to the melting icecaps. She is trying to imagine her reunification with her mother while dealing with her abusive, alcoholic father Wink (Dwight Henry), who is quickly dying of a mysterious disease. As Hushpuppies home and what’s left of her family unravels, she remains composed as she searches for her lost mother.
While Wallis’s Hushpuppy is getting a lot of the attention for her role, she isn’t the only one who deserves it. Henry’s Wink is disturbing and tragically sympathetic. And, Benh Zeitlin gained a nomination for Best Director in his first full-length motion picture. Zeitland began making movies at a young age and prior to “Beasts” he worked as a teacher. His nomination is sure to draw attention for the young director.
Overall, the metaphors melded into fantasy, and the end-result is a highly emotional, entertaining and beautiful take on poverty, family and the deterioration of our world’s both physical and emotional landscape.
Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette blogger & ISU student
“Django: The D is silent,” is what the title character (Jamie Foxx) said when asked what his name was in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar nominated film “Django Unchained.”
The story follows Django, a recently freed slave, as he seeks to find and rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a sinister plantation owner (Leonardo Dicaprio). Django is freed and assisted by German bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz).
Shultz (who is the only non-repulsive white person in the entire movie) is a wide-grinnin, quik-witted German with a strong disregard for slavery, and a high regard for bagging bounties. He takes Django on as a partner and after a successful year bagging WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE criminals, he agrees to assist Django in finding his love.
The movie is a strange mix of old-western, comedy, exploitation-film, action, romance and drama. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. All Tarantino films are unique to say the least. While I’m not always his biggest fan, his way of mashing genres and styles is original, even if his core ideas usually aren’t. Even this film’s name is taken from an old western and the ultraviolent-revenge-porn idea is stolen from his 2009 film “Inglorious Bastards.” Insert group of people from history that people want to see shattered here – execute — repeat.
It was still a very stylish and entertaining movie, highlighted by strong performances by Foxx, Dicaprio and Waltz who is nominated for supporting actor. Waltz was good, but he isn’t the one who deserved the nomination. It was Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of conniving house slave Stephen who really stole the screen. I think the controversial and rather taboo nature of the role ultimately led to the snub. In my opinion, this will go down as one of, if not THE defining role of Jackson’s career. I mean for a while I was thinking – who is that – that is a completely possessed performance.
“Django” is a good movie, but I feel it was helped by the widening of the Best Picture category to include up-to 10 films. Its box-office success and popularity might give it a small chance, but ultimately I don’t believe this is the year for a Tarantino film to take home the grand prize. I give it a one-in-eight chance of pulling an upset.
When I went into the theater to see “Life of Pi” I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. All I knew is it was a story about a boy on a boat with a tiger. Sure enough – it was a story about a boy on a boat with a tiger. Not much more to it than that, but it was delivered with such vibrant imagery, near-flawless direction and engaging narrative it is one of the most visually pleasing movies of 2012.
The story, as told by a grown up Pi (Suraj Sharma) to writer (Rafe Spall), focuses on Pi and his epic Cast-Away-esque voyage across the ocean on a lifeboat accompanied only by an ape, hyena, zebra and tiger.
Pi’s family decides to move from India to Canada in search of prosperity, and bring their animals from the family owned zoo with them to sell in North America. The sea voyage is cut short by a storm that sinks the boat mid-journey. None of the passengers survive except for Pi and the aforementioned animals. The rest of the movie is one without many words. Only the thoughts of Pi are ever heard, but the lack of dialogue is welcome.The striking cinematographic storytelling does more than fill the senses with all of the emotion and stimuli needed for a rewarding trip to the movies.
Director Ang Lee delves into the fantasy with so much gusto you forget you are in the theater, and for a few moments feel the struggle of Pi, as well as the connection between him and his carnivorous friend. Just when you think you know how the story will end, a wrench-of-sentiment is thrown into mix. And the movie ends with a twist that will make the most alpha-male fight back and compose themselves.
“Life of Pi” has received nine nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. While I loved the movie, I do not like the chances of “Pi” winning the Best Picture Academy Award at this year’s Oscars. Going against the likes of favorite “Lincoln”, “Argo” that has been receiving Oscar-talk for months now and the controversial “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Pi” probably will not beat out this year’s top-dogs and take home the top prize. I give it a punchers chance of 12-1 at taking home Best Picture.
Director Ang Lee is looking to win his second Academy Award for best director following his win for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006. Lee was also nominated in for “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” in 2001.
Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette blogger & ISU student
When I first started really paying attention to movies, I thought of the Academy Awards as way for the pretentious types to display their elitist disparagement for popular culture, and flood our minds with their ideas about what good movies are and should be. If a movie looks pretty but puts you to sleep, there is a good chance that movie will get serious consideration for an Oscar. In retrospect, I realize I might have been a little harsh.
Over the years, I have come to realize the Academy usually isn’t too far off when deciding what the best movies and performances are. Even though there are arguably too many movies nominated in the Best Picture category, when it comes down to picking a winner it usually does a pretty good job of selecting a film that entertains, is easy on the eyes, has good cinematography and direction, has fresh writing and sharp dialog and — what I feel separates a good movie from a classic work of art — it stands the test of time.
Of course, there are those movies that are great at the time, but after a few years they lose its zeal. They just become dated (“Gladiator” seems pretty hokey now). Or they simply turn out to be not that good (do I even need to mention “Crash”). Other times, a movie stands the test of time, is beautiful and brilliant, but it just doesn’t appeal to a mass audience, which is usually be the case.
Since the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to include up to 10 nominees, the last three winners “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Hurt Locker,” all, were well put together movies, but failed to garner much box-office success. The expansion of the category has let in many blockbuster nominees (most don’t belong) to no success thus far. That might change at this year’s ceremony. This year’s favorite is “Lincoln,” which has demanded much critical praise, and has also been very successful at the box-office.
Challenging front-runner “Lincoln” is the CIA thriller “Argo,” voyage adventure “Life of Pi,” revenge flic “Django Unchained,” classic musical “Les Miserables,” Bin Laden quasi-biopic “Zero Dark Thirty,” rom-com-dram “Silver Linings Playbook,” fantasy “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and French drama “Amour.” This year’s list of nominees is a good mix of different genres. It mixes popular films with relative unknowns, foreign-language films with English language films, action films with romance film and so on…
Over the next few weeks, I will give my critiques, praises and opinions about this year’s Best Picture nominees.
To be continued…