I feel like this is the first time in years that there really have been a lot of really good movies to pick from in terms of Best Picture. I'm actually kind of floored how much better this year is than the last few in terms of quality.
In 2011, one of my five picks for Best Picture (since I hate the 9 or 10 picks idea) was also in my "Over-Rated" section.
In 2012, there was no competition against "The Artist", one of my picks wasn't even nominated for anything, and everything I didn't nominate ended up in categories that were lower than "Liked."
Last year was definitely better but I had started to claim I was getting cynical.
This year I'm almost overly positive. I really liked 7/9 of the movies nominated for Best Picture which is a record for me. Narrowing it down to five was only easy because four of these I gave 4.5 stars to (I'm notoriously stingy with five stars). FOUR. That's probably a record too.
This year I think I talk about fewer movies since I got lazy. I also haven't seen a bunch of the foreign movies on my list yet ("The Past", "The Hunt", and "Blue Is The Warmest Color") and the only other animated film I want to see is "The Wind Rises." Maybe I'll add some of those when I see them. Also, while I have seen a few documentaries this year, none got nominated for anything.
As always, starred movies are my picks for the five Best Pictures and ones with a plus signs are movies that weren't nominated for Oscars.
Previous Years: 2013 2012 2011
Movies I Really Liked:
Gravity*: This movie was a lot better than I was expecting. I didn't know about the use of IMAX 3D until about ten minutes in when George Clooney reached for a screw and I'll admit I was a bit disappointed by this discovery. While I may be stuck in the mud when it comes to my distaste for 3D, I can believe that this is a movie that uses modern technology to its advantage while still having a plot that can be enjoyed without it (unlike "Avatar" which I holistically hated). The plot may be a little thin but it really holds your focus in a classic sci-fi way (i.e. "Alien"). The attention to detail in the directing and effects more than make up for any of the minor issues and Sandra Bullock did a solid job, although I didn't care for Clooney who was mostly just doing his Clooney thing in space.
12 Years A Slave*: This is one of those movies that begs the question: good story or good story well told? Definitely, the latter. The directing was great, the acting was amazing, and the story was really compelling. I don't think I really have anything negative to say about this one so this is kind of a boring little entry. You could almost say the movie is too traditional but it really isn't thanks to Steve McQueen's interesting direction. It very well may be the Best Picture winner. (And I totally cried at the end.)
Her*: I wanted so desperately not to like this movie. It's written by Spike Jonze for God's sake. All I could think when I heard about this movie, a movie about a guy who falls in love with a computer program, was that it was bound to be an entry in "Stuff White People Like." The problem is: I like of loved it. It might be my personal favorite of the year. Yes, it's got a layer of pretension but overall it's a really thought provoking movie about communication and how technology affects the way we connect with others (with a thin layer of existentialism on top). It's also really interesting because it takes place about twenty minutes into the future. All the tech from the movie seems like something we could feasibly have in the next ten years which makes it dreadfully topical while still technically being a little sci-fi.
Wolf Of Wall Street*: Martin Scorsase has made this kind of movie many times before so I find it hard to judge this movie without in some way comparing it to its predecessors and I come up with this: better than "Casino", not as good as "Goodfellas." Heck, the opening scene of this movie is a direct callback to "Goodfellas". After realizing this, I was set up to find this movie to be an inferior copy but I couldn't help but like it in its own right. It was well told and there were some really fantastic directorial decisions and shots and every actor was giving it their all but the spectacle of the movie got kind of oppressive and distracting after a while. Still, a quality film.
Philomena*: This movie burrowed into my brain. That's the best way for me to explain it. I watched it, thinking it was going to be the fluffy feel-good Oscar nominee and while it did make me feel good in some way, I realized that it really made me think. It's true that it's just a story about a woman looking for her son but it's a really compelling story, well told and hilariously acted by Judi Dench. This movie gave me feels but it was still also good.
Nebraska: I don't really get Alexander Payne. Every movie I have seen by him has been perfectly competent and enjoyable but never utterly unforgettable or show-stopping. And again, he has made another one of those. The best thing I could say about this movie is that it strongly reminded me of David Lynch's "Straight Story" and overall gave a Lynch vibe in how it talked about small town America and I found that very appealing. I enjoyed it, I got laughs from it, the directing and acting were fine . . . and yeah. Now that I think about it, I think I liked it more than I originally thought. I actually kind of debated whether this one or "Wolf of Wall Street" should be my fifth nominee.
The Great Beauty: This was a movie that I initially wasn't sure what to think of. It's got a lot shoved into it and sometimes something will happen before you understand why it's happening. When it was over all I could think was, "That was the most Italian movie I've ever seen." Architecture? Check. Nuns? Check. Ridiculously well dressed people? Check. Reminds me of a Fellini film? Check. I felt a bit underwhelmed at first but when hours and hours passed and I was still thinking about the movie and deciding it needed a rewatch, I realized that I actually thought it was kind of great. The name doesn't lie.
Frozen: I loved this movie. I loved that it completely plays with your perception of Disney movies. I love that it's ultimately about two sisters and the love story is secondary. I love that it has a character who is both the main antagonistic force and a character you are supposed to sympathize with and support. I love that song "Let It Go" and wish it would leave my head. This is my favorite non-Pixar Disney movie since "Mulan."
Dallas Buyers Club: I went into this movie having no idea what it was about but having a vague idea that Jared Leto plays a transgender woman in it. It was really interesting and well-acted but unfortunately, I don't have much to say about it aside from the fact that I really liked it.
Inside Llewyn Davis: This was on the upper end of Coen Brothers movies to me but it wasn't "The Big Lebowski" or "No Country For Old Men." It was a fascinating time capsule of a movie about a folk singer in the 60s trying to get by and had some nice little reoccurring themes and the music flowed well within the context of the story. It reminded me that I should set aside some time to watch "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" because the Coens really do good things with music in their films and that one is well known for it.
Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen makes a movie every year of varying quality and this would be about average for him: a film about people coping with something. It was a perfectly competent film with Cate Blanchett doing an amazing job in the lead role. I think my biggest issue with it was the ending. Did she go completely crazy? Was that what happened there? It just felt kind of incomplete or as if he wasn't sure how to end it.
Much Ado About Nothing+: Read it all here.
Warm Bodies+: Did anyone see this movie? Because it was awesome. Yes, okay, we are over-saturated with zombie movies. It's true. But how about a romantic comedy between a zombie and a human as told from the zombie's perspective in a post outbreak society? It's a little cheesy, I'll admit, but overall I just found it hilarious and adorable.
Catching Fire+: In a lot of ways I thought this was better than the first "Hunger Games". They switched directors and managed to make it still have the same look but now without all the nausea-inducing camera work. The biggest complaints I had were with the script. They really didn't mention District 13 enough to have the ending make sense (this could have been fixed easily with an abbreviated Bonnie and Twill scene) and the director kind of killed the impact of the final scene (it lingered on Katniss' face too long without meaning). Everything else was solid.
Movies I Liked:
Captain Philips: So I watched this movie and walked away from it thinking it was a perfectly good action film based on a true story. Then I went online and read all this stuff about how it's this profound meditation on globalization. Sure. That may be a bit of an underlying theme but that is not what you take away from this film. It is an action-suspense film. A well made and acted one (albeit I found a lot of the direction kind of dizzying) but still, above all it is an action film.
August: Osage County: A family drama that hinges pretty much entirely on the actors who were all excellent. There's nothing really to say in the way of directing (unobtrusive) or the script (it's based on a play) so I'll just leave it at: it's a very good film. If family dramas aren't your thing, you might not agree.
Pacific Rim+: My feelings about this movie are so conflicted. It's so dumb but it's so good! I mean, it's a big dumb robot fighting movie where they say, "Don't get cocky" in the first ten minutes! And yet, it takes so many conventions and turns them on their head! And yet, the main character is an obnoxious stereotype! And yet, all the other characters are kind of awesome (particularly Mako, who is a great example of a strong female character, and Newt, who may have been pulled directly out of my brain)! ARGGGGG!
The Great Gatsby: This was essentially "Moulin Rouge" in the 20s and I was mostly fine with that but I could see how someone wouldn't be. Baz Luhrman is a director I always feel mixed about and I was particularly conflicted by the music choices, many of which were good as music, but so incongruous that it took me right out of the feel. Alienation from the time period is not really something you want from a movie based on a book that was the defining book of the underbelly of the jazz age. Just saying.
Saving Mr. Banks: Heart-warming little biopic. Possible Disney money-making scheme but a very nice one.
The Conjuring+: A classic horror film which is actually genuinely creepy and has that added element that many horror films lack: character development.
Rush+: This movie was fine but I feel like I have seen this movie at least three times before. It's a sports rivalry movie, competently made and acted. *shrugs*
Movies I Think Were Over-rated:
American Hustle: Oh God, this movie. So this was a very powerfully acted film that I actually kind of hated. The plot made very little sense and the editing only served to make it even more confusing and the problem when you have a movie that is well acted but nonsensical is that a lot of people are very passionate about something that makes no sense to the viewer. David O. Russell has yet to actually do anything as a director that I would find notable. "The Fighter" was decent but not memorable and "Silver Linings Playbook" I really liked until the last twenty minutes which I thought were kind of stupid. This is Russell's biggest film in scale but I just couldn't abide by the sporadic editing and the convoluted plot.
Book Thief: This movie wasn't overrated y the critics so much as it was overrated by the movie goers. Every person I talked to who saw this movie absolutely loved it and I was underwhelmed. It has ELAIC ("Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close") syndrome. That is when you take a book that is really theme heavy and thought provoking and make a movie that touches lightly on those things without actually doing anything significant. It's almost a rough draft of a good movie. I could tell when I watched "Extremely Loud" that the book was really good even if the movie wasn't and later on I went to read the book and discovered that to be the case. In this situation, I read the book first and could tell from watching the movie that this was another example of the same. It's a movie that makes you want to read the book but not rewatch the movie.
Spring Breakers+: This one's popularity I can only determine via time spent on Tumblr where it seems to be rather well-liked. Personally, I'm still recovering from this movie. It wasn't bad but it wasn't exactly good. It does make you hate humanity though.
Movies I Didn't Like:
Romeo And Juliet+: . . . well, the costumes and sets were really nice! Unfortunately, the acting was weak overall and as much as I love "Downton Abbey", Julian Fellowes' adaption of the script was actually kind of painful for me to watch. I spent a lot of the movie saying, "This dialogue sounds wrong" and "I don't remember this scene."
Mortal Instruments+: I feel the need to mention this movie because I actually did read the first three books in the series back in the day. I think the first one came out with I was 17 or something so I was on the very end of the age range for these books and they are highly derivative but I found them relatively enjoyable. This movie, on the other hand, was awful. A huge part of that was the casting. Not a single actor could deliver a joke without it sounding like a parody or a line that sounds weirdly sincere and then Jonathon Reyes Myers played the bad guy and oh boy did he ham it up. The pacing of the movie was dizzying and the effects were pretty silly. The one advantage: AFI songs.
Sharknado+: Just kidding. This movie is awesome.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Saturday, November 9, 2013
It's more than a little shameful that I haven't written anything since June and I'm well aware of this. No movie reviews. No costume analysis. No totally random pop culture critiques. No personal nonsense For a while I thought it was because of a lack of things to write about but now I can see that that is the symptom and not the cause. Every spare second of time that I have had in the last few months has been filled. If I haven't been running off to Washington DC, seeing musicals in New York or Boston, getting my colonial history on in Salem (one of my favorite New England towns) or rocking out to one of my all-time favorite bands in Nowheresville, New Jersey, I have been parking it in front of my computer filling out endless job applications. Of course, sometimes the end result of filling out job applications is the acquisition of a job and while I am super happy with said new job, I am now working two part time jobs resulting in over 50 hours a week which leaves little time for pop culture but a lot of time to brag about my adventures to coworkers.
The only thing I felt provoked to write about in the last few months in terms of pop culture has been about music, the only thing I have had any time for and that's mainly because of how much time I have been spending in my car. I thought about writing about how the rock genre is floundering in the 2010s (and the punk genre is dying) or something about the emotional connection one can develop with music but I haven't had time to research the first and I basically wrote the other one off as something for my personal journal. Other than that I've been managing to SLOWLY work my way through "Downton Abbey" which would be great for a costume analysis if I had any desire at all to get that many screencaps. And I really, really don't.
He's one of my favorite literary characters, he's an element in a lot of people's religious beliefs, and he's very open to interpretation leading to all sorts of Devils in literature, film, television, and music. With Halloween, my favorite holiday as I wrote about last year, only recently past, the Devil has spent a bit of time on the forefront of people's minds and his horns on the top of people's heads (including mine) so I figured it might be interesting to rack my brain for some of my favorite versions of Old Scratch. He has looked like everything from an incomprehensible Nightmare Fuel beast to the mulleted and red-skinned finger-puppet on my bookshelf to Elizabeth Hurley and has an ever-changeable personality to match.
10. Beelzebub from "Beelz" by Stephen Lynch
10. Beelzebub from "Beelz" by Stephen Lynch
The Devil has had a lot of influence in music. Some think he invented the rock genre (which isn't true but try telling the former Pope that). He has however been running with Van Halen, been given sympathy by the Rolling Stones, and apparently, fathered musical comedian Stephen Lynch. In the song "Beelz" off Lynch's second album The Craig Machine, Lynch starts by describing a fairly typical menacing interpretation of Lucifer before quickly flipping into a high pitched and feminine, "My name is Satan!" Beelzebub, but you can called him Beelz, describes himself physically in terms that seem conducive to a lot of the conventional ideas: goatee, horns, hooves. The album art even has a picture of him as a red-faced and horned stereotype and aside from Beelz's girly voice, he does seem to like typical evil things for the Devil. Of course, he also has some more unique hobbies including romantic walks, watching Fox News, and being a Red Sox fan. While I may not be a fan of baseball, as a part-time Bostonian it's nice to know that someone down there likes us.
9. The Devil from Tim Timebomb's Rock N Roll Theater
Sometimes the Devil doesn't come in the form of some kind of beast. One time the Devil came in the adorable form of a pink-suited Davey Havok with a John Waters-esque pedostache. Kind of a ham, as many devils are, he doesn't want to torture sinners so much as he wants to party with them and stage elaborate song and dance numbers. In the first episode of what will hopefully be more of Tim Timebomb's Rock N' Roll Theater, the devil is perfectly happy to be BFF's with our sinner main character, Dante Wison, and get him laid all in admiration for the debauchery he lived in prior to his sudden demise. But don't ever try to usurp him and fire his elevator girl. He may seem pretty harmless but he knows how to give you exactly what you deserve.
8. Satan from Dante's Inferno
One of the oldest interpretations of the Devil happens to also be one of the more unique and has been rarely built upon by all the literature, media, and music that has come after it. The Devil in Dante's Inferno can be found in the very bottom of the ninth and last level of hell, the level reserved for the traitorous, a level covered in ice that freezes the tears of its inhabitants. Physically, the Devil is a three-headed monstrous beast bearing the heads of who Dante considered to be three of the biggest traitors in history at the time: Brutus, Cassius, and right in the center place of honor, red-faced Judas. Satan is huge and ugly with bat-like wings that seem like they are trying to escape and spends his time crying tears of blood while chewing up sinners in his three mouths. Instead of being a scary figure or a manipulative one, this devil is portrayed as being intimidating but kind of ashamed and depressed, and, compared to his other representations, kind of pathetic. He's just another repenting sinner which makes this interpretation particularly contrary to most of the other ideas about Satan.
7. Satan from South Park
It's far more common for Satan to take on minions than it is for him to date but I guess if he's going to settle down, it would make sense for him to do so with an evil dictator. Saddam Hussein's ex-boyfriend is another one of those traditional red-skinned, horned monsters but don't let his appearance fool you. He can be pretty cuddly (although you probably wouldn't want to actually cuddle him unless you're one of his boyfriends). Sometimes he grants wishes to people who help him or decorates Hell for Christmastime to cheer up the sinners and he's actually pretty sensitive and nice. He puts on his scary face once in a while but it's pretty much an act. He always seemed to be less vengeful and more like just another one of the condemned, making him one of the Satans who is most similar to Dante's Satan. But Dante's Satan never put on a sexy schoolgirl costume. So there's that.
6. Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica
I'm gonna have to walk you through this one, especially if you have never watched an anime. Kyubey is not technically the Devil (although I could actually be wrong) but his role in the story is that of the Devil in the classic Faustian tale. He requests servitude from foolish victims in exchange for a wish and, of course, makes it seem like the payment will not be too bad and may actually be kind of a good time. No one knows the error of their desires until it is too late and he comes to get what he wanted. Hiding behind an innocent cat-like exterior with an unchanging expression and an equally cute voice, he almost seems more like a cousin of Hello Kitty than a creature who is out to feed off vulnerable girl's emotions and ultimately bring about the end of mankind to further his own goals. But he is. So don't make deals with talking creatures that look like Pokemon.
5. Professor Woland from The Master And Margarita
For another Devil from the category of the "chilling with the humans" type, let us go to the Soviet Union. Woland is angered by the literary elite and their fervently atheist views and part of the reason why he seems to go there is to mess with both the people in power who don't believe in him the most and the greedy bourgeoisie. Strangely enough he also wants to throw a formal ball for all his famous sinners and, if she can endure the party, give an opportunity to a woman named Margarita to be with the man she loves. This Satan is still kind of arrogant and likes to punish sinners but he is not unfair when it comes to punishments and rewards. Physically, he takes on the form of a dark-suited man with a limp and metal capped-teeth and a funky eye although a lot of people can't agree on just how he appears. Unfortunately, Woland is frequently overshadowed by his team of crazy assistants and his motives are unclear a lot of the time so he only takes spot number 5.
4. Hades from Disney's Hercules
As often happens with Disney, the villain is the coolest character in the movie. Hades' goal is simple: overthrow Zeus, take over Mt. Olympus, and maybe pick up some souls along the way. He's a fast-talking deal maker, has frequently had enough of everyone's shit, and is kind of the sassy gay best friend to Megara, a woman whose soul he got in a deal. He also has some of the best deadpan lines in the film. For instance, when asked how things are in the Underworld he says casually, "We'll, they're just fine. You know, a little dark, a little gloomy, and, as always, full of dead people. What are you gonna do?" In an interesting contrast to most interpretations, Hades is blue-skinned and has hair made of a blue flame but turns orange and red when angered. He also rocks a grey toga with a little skull pin on it and has smoke instead of feet. He's a little uptight a lot of the time but maybe sometime he can steal a girl in a field and feed her some pomegranate. I hear that works out well for him.
3. Lucifer from The Devil's Carnival
"I'm not in the business of murdering innocent children. That's God's jurisdiction. I deal only with the guilty" may be one of the best Devil quotes ever. Unlike a lot of modern Devils, Lucifer has the appearance of a more ancient humanoid beast which correlates so well with his personality. He has the very calm demeanor of one who has seen and done it all and spends most of his time seated in his throne, letting his circus performer minions deal out punishments he has set. He may not be very friendly but he is logical to the point where you can't help but agree with him on the points he brings up. By the end he seems to have found renewed interest in his job with the goal of overtaking Heaven but I guess we'll have to wait for The Devil's Carnival 2 (whenever the hell that's coming, no pun intended) to find out how that goes. Oh, and he also has a wonderful bass-baritone singing voice.
2. The First Evil from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The Buffy universe has a slightly different construction of its afterlife and theistic ideas than the conventional Judo-Christian set-up and as such, its Devil figure is also unique. The First is an incorporeal entity that can assume the form of dead people (including vampires and resurrected people), a power that allows for the ultimate in psychological manipulation. It has existed before people, before even the Old demons, before time perhaps. The First has one main goal: to throw the balance of good and evil in favor of the evil. As with all Devil figures, it cannot be killed, only suppressed, so the next time you start having a conversation with dead people, you shouldn't ask questions, just pick up and move. You probably live on a Hellmouth (I hear there's one in Cleveland).
1. Satan from Paradise Lost
Okay, so it's kind of an obvious first choice but I would argue that it's still less obvious than if I had given Satan of The Bible the number one spot (and he really doesn't deserve it; however if I made a list of my favorite versions of God, Old Testament God would definitely make that list). The fact is, when I first read some of this poem when I was in high school, I was immediately struck by how John Milton portrayed Lucifer. He's written more like an anti-hero than anything else in his desire to be equal with God and his subsequent jealousy over Adam and Eve is more relatable than deplorable. He may be kind of arrogant but he is not unlikable. You love him and hate him simultaneously and I really think it was this interpretation of the Devil that made a lot of the other ideas on this list possible. Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven, indeed.
Some other notable examples:* Peaches from Rocko's Modern Life
* The Devil who went down to Georgia
* Damien from The Omen
Now get behind me.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Ignore that (but seriously, there's so much drinking in this movie; I really marvel at all the character's livers and mine is not unimpressive itself).
Anyway, I find that I feel most provoked to write about movies that I really highly anticipate and that I feel some sort of strong personal affection for conceptually before I have even seen it. I felt this way about Les Miserables since I love the book and the musical and Victor Hugo is one of my favorite authors and the cast was intriguing and allow the reasons to continue on into obscurity. This was why I had so many thoughts about it when it finally saw it and why I could write about it with at least some level of (precieved) authority.
Much Ado About Nothing was another movie like this for me. It's directed by Joss Whedon, it's Shakespeare, in particular Shakespeare where the main relationship is a couple who snarks at each other, it's practically an experiment having been shot in a week and at Whedon's house, and it has a cast of actors that made my jaw drop containing many actors whose presence alone in a movie would be an influencing factor in my seeing it. So yes, I've been counting the days and reblogging the GIFs.
I saw it this afternoon after a half hour journey to the city (well, the nearest approximation of a city that my state can manage) because although I live in a large suburb, our 12 screen movie theater only manages to play the three biggest blockbusters in both 2D and 3D and the token family movie of the week. For the reference, the theater I drove to had 15 screens so it wasn't much bigger. The theater itself was curiously full of old people with only one couple in their 30s near my age range. I was probably the youngest person in the theater in retrospect until some younger people trickled in five minutes into the film proper.
So what was my general impression of the film? I liked it a lot. It was not perfect by any means but it was certainly something I was happy to have seen and would see again many times. When it comes to breaking the film down, with the black and white film, the simple costumes that very well may have been from the actors closets, and the single but beautiful location (all elements influenced by the minimal budget and time restraints) I found myself mostly focusing on three elements: the direction, the acting, and how the Shakespeare was adapted to make this particularly production unique.
The direction was mostly good. Mostly. There were a lot of Whedon trademarks like shots through windows, things happening in mirrors, a good use of background and foreground space and these are all things I have no problem with. My favorite scene from a directorial standpoint was the funeral procession scene which I thought was shot beautifully, staged well, and even had the original music to finish off creating the perfect mood.
Not every shot was gold however. When Benedick is giving his soliloquy about how he will never find a perfect woman and marriage is useless, he is running up and down the stairs as part of an exercise routine. I don't necessarily have a problem with this concept but the way it was shot was terrible. It felt very much like a home movie with the camera either directly in front of or behind him and far too close. I have never once wondered what it would be like to get a piggy-back ride from Alexis Denisof but now I have a good idea of how it feels.
Another problem that occurred a few times was that there were a few scenes that focused for a long time on a particular stationary character and the camera was moving very slowly as if the shot was supposed to be steady but wasn't by fault of human error. Basically, a tripod would have been nice because this also added to the sort of home-spun feel that I felt took away from the movie far more often than it contributed. I was also not a fan of the Dutch angles during the shots of the acrobats at the masquerade party. It felt unnecessary and didn't quite mesh with the rest of the action in the scene.
The editing at times was also jarring. Twice during the film there are fades to white which never really looks natural unless someone in passing out or it's a science fiction movie. Yes, they occurred at the end of fairly crucial scenes but they didn't feel any more significant than the rest of the main action. The white screen almost blanks one's mind of what has happened and the next scene comes on so fresh that you are lost. There were a few other awkward editing bits, mostly scenes that should have been edited down a bit after lingering on the same image for too long (see: the movie poster shot), but those were the worst for me.
Now as for the acting, no one did poorly but there was definitely a gradient of performances. When performing Shakespeare the goal should be to make it sound like regular talking, not reading poetry off a card (even if sometimes you are reading sonnets in the work). For me the two actors who stuck out the most to me in terms of mastery of the language were Clark Gregg as Leonato and Reed Diamond as Don Pedro. They weren't actually in super lead roles but every time either of them was in a scene, they were the ones I was focusing on.
Both Amy Acker as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof as Benedick did well although Acker definitely out-shined Denisof. Overall, she just sounded more comfortable with the dialogue. Her "If I were a man" speech was definitely the highlight of her performance for me. They definitely have good chemistry and they are both still great at physical comedy. The theater I was in was fairly limited in their laughter at dialogue scenes but when Denisof was rolling around in the grass, the theater was in hysterics. They also actually gasped when Beatrice fell down the stairs and I'll admit that I did too; that was a really realistic fall.
Fran Kranz as Claudio was fine and definitely at his best when he had to be very emotional. I don't think it's just residual Dollhouse feelings when I say that when Fran Kranz is mad or sad or overjoyed, you really empathize with him. I mean, I knew Hero wasn't being unfaithful to Claudio and yet, when he was yelling at her about how she cheated on him, I found myself wondering how she could do such a thing too. Jillian Morgese as Hero I honestly have nothing to say about and it's not because she was terrible or anything. I'm struggling to remember if Hero had more than a few lines at all.
Nathan Fillion as Dogberry was great. It bothers me a lot when the fool character in a Shakespeare play is done too over the top and silly and Fillion's performance was the opposite. He played it really deadpan and serious which is even funnier to me than the flamboyant comedy thing. He and Tom Lenk as Verges would make a great buddy cop series.
Sean Maher as Don John was better than I expected, not because I necessarily had a preconceived notion about how Maher would be at Shakespeare but because I never would have really pictured him as a villain. Like how Nathan Fillion kept to a low-key performance, Maher wasn't all maniacal laughter and evil light. He was far more the chessmaster who can play sincere when he's lying to your face and I liked that.
As for the other actors, some of them could have used work but most just weren't particularly memorable.
And onto the last element, the adaption choices. To speak briefly on the things I mentioned before as being dependent on budget and time: the black and white film was inconsequential to me and thankfully didn't come off as some sort of silly artistic statement, there was nothing particularly weird or wrong with the costumes (aside from the fact that Hero chose to get married in something she had just lying around; that was a bit strange), and the location worked almost the whole time. The only complaint I have about the location was the fact that the police station really did look like a thrown together space in one of Joss's less-used rooms. It looks almost like they just put some wanted posters on the wall and called it a night. The positive thing I can say is that they really utilized the space and got a lot of great shots out of it.
The biggest addition to this adaption is the back-story between Benedick and Beatrice that I really go back and forth on. The movie has created this idea that Benedick and Beatrice have actually had a one night stand prior to the events of the story and that they also had sex during the masquerade ball. The very first scene of the movie is of Benedick putting his pants on and quietly leaving Beatrice in bed while she pretends to be asleep. The implication seems to be that by day they hate each other but they can ignore that once enough alcohol is applied. One of the things that bothers me about this is that based on Beatrice's character, I can't quite decide if this is in character for her. It's definitely in character of Benedick to try to get her in bed but I don't know if it is for her to agree. Maybe if she's really drunk? The other thing about this scene that bothers me is that I can't decide if this adds more plausibility to their underlying feelings or less. Are they drunken hookups for each other because deep down there is a genuine attraction and respect for each other that blossoms into love or is it really just a shallow thing that turns into a shallow thing in the daylight? I can't decide but I know the movie is trying to tell me it's the former. I think I just need to stop deconstructing it and just take it the way it was intended.
One hilarious addition to the story is that when Don John's two henchman are chatting about the trick they just played on Claudio, making him believe Hero was cheating on him, they insult the prince and are arrested for it while they were smoking a joint. The entire time they are getting convicted of slander, it's actually hilarious that the joint is just ignored entirely. I don't even see this as a directorial oversight. I see this as another joke on the police force's ineptness. They see two people breaking drug laws and book them for a few minor slanderous remarks instead. There's also the addition of Dogberry and Verges locking themselves out of there car when they try to leave the estate which is just delightful.
Other than that, there weren't too many drastic changes to the original idea or text and in one case this was really awkward. After the scene where Claudio calls out Hero for cheating on him, a scene that is slut-shaming in itself but not wrong if you think of it as him shaming her specifically for cheating on him (and right before their wedding) and not for any sex she may have had before they got together, Hero is heartbroken and Leonato's response to this is to tell her that she'd be better off dead for being such a disgrace. I would like to believe that this would be an awful thing to say to your daughter in Shakespeare's time as well but in this modern context it is literally unbelievable. I guess there's nothing to be done about the original script but, man, is it difficult to watch. Also, the your-douchebaggery-killed-my-daughter-so-now-you-have-to-marry-her-cousin thing: really odd in a modern context but a lot less awkward that the scene I just mentioned.
The only other thing I can think to mention is the music which was simple but effective in composition and used Shakespeare's songs from the play anyway so I can't say much there. Oh, and I loved that Maurissa Tancharoen actually appeared at the party singing after a minute of me thinking the music was just being played on an iPod. Surprise lounge singer!
I think that sums everything up. In conclusion, it's definitely worth your time.
And look I didn't mention the Fred/Wesley ship in Angel once during this review! Or how using their actors to play the leads in the movie sometimes made me think that Fred and Wesley actually got a happy ending instead of both dying horribly on the show!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
So what about the costumes? Well, they're pretty, of course, and as far as I can tell they're pretty well aligned with history and Victoria herself. There's a lot of puffed sleeves and half sleeves, wide collars, sashes, and what I'm going to call "mini-shawls." The movie essentially covers the 1820s to the 1840s so this is post Pride and Prejudice Regency-era wear but before the hoops and crinolines and other torture underwear. Also, the movie ends before Prince Albert's death so thankfully I was not subjected to having to write, "And Victoria is still in black because Albert is still dead" over and over again.
I'm not really sure how much of a story Victoria's clothes tell before I really start studying these shots intensely so this might just be a post of pretty things. Nothing wrong with that, right?
As always, click the pictures to make them bigger so you can actually see the detail.
Maybe I'm just an idiot but little girl's dresses from the Georgian era to about the 1910s all look the same to me. The only thing about this image that says post-Regency to me in the corkscrew curl hairstyle.
Luckily, Victoria grows up quickly and I don't need to spend a lot of time with bland childwear.
So throughout the movie Victoria seems to wear purple and bright blue when the scene is correlated with her royalty and this is the first scene that directly confronts her status (when she is able to actually discuss and isn't confined to a bed). Of course, this isn't the vibrant blue that she ends up wearing later when she's queen. This is a light blue, queen-lite. She's a princess and still a child, made even more obvious by the little clips in her hair retaining the same style she had as a child. The silhouette of the dress is only a slightly more mature version of the dress in the earlier picture when she actually is a small child. The gathering on the front and the sash is about the same but it is more of a woman's dress with the more open neckline and shorter, puffed sleeves.
Nightgowns of the 1830s. This is only interesting in comparison to other scenes so I will move on for now.
Victoria meets Albert and he tries to interest her by saying he likes the same things as her. When she calls him on his bull, he admits to liking Shubert which she doesn't care for and this endears her to him a bit.
Victoria wears this dress on two occasions and in both of them it is when she is seeking out companionship and connections outside of her mother's and Sir John's influence. Green shades have a tendency to appear in her clothes whenever she is acting on a personal, rather than political, motive. She hasn't actually gotten into any of the politics of her position yet so what she is looking for at this point is just people who she feels she can trust.
Although I didn't get a shot of it, this is the same dress Victoria wears to the opera in the scene that is intercut with Albert learning about her tastes. In this scene, Victoria confides in Albert about the pressures of her position and he tells her that she should be trying to find a husband who can play the game cleverly with her and not for her. He also tells her about some of the tough things in his own life. Romance buds as they agree to write.
This seems to be her one really fancy evening dress in her pre-queen days and, like most of her things at this point in time, it's a light blue. However, notice her purple headpiece. Purple, being the color of royalty, is often worn by Victoria whenever she is acting on her own political whims over anyone else's and this is the first scene where the idea of acting for yourself is introduced to her by Albert. She's still a puppet but her head is living in a land where she is fully in control herself as she pretty much states in the continuation of this scene below:
The obligatory shot of period underwear. It's pretty much the same as the Regency era: boned corset, petticoats, and a chemise. As I said in the intro, this was before they started wearing hoops and cage crinolines and awful stuff like that but this was also post-panniers. This level of undergarment comfort will not be reached again until the Edwardian era introduces a more comfortable corset and does away with the bustle (which is better than a cage crinoline of the mid-1800s but still).
Symbolically, she takes off her dress to admit her true feelings: she will do whatever pleases her and not everyone who is trying to control her.
In the two large ballroom party scenes in the movie Victoria is in yellow. These are the only times she ever wears yellow as she mostly sticks to greens, blues, purples, pinks, reds, and black so clearly the two scenes are just supposed to be tied to each other. She is warmly received and compared to her other yellow dress, she is still very juvenile looking.
Victoria is threatened and thrown around by Sir John, standing up to him and telling her mother that she will never forget how she did nothing to assist her.
Pink and red are the colors of conflict. Pink specifically has to do with Victoria's relationship with her mother and it all kind of stems from this scene. Clearly she doesn't have the best relationship with her mother but having her sit and watch while her adviser physically harasses her daughter was pretty much the last straw for Victoria.
Victoria confines in Melbourne about how Sir John treated her and asks him for assistance in keeping him and her mother away from her affairs when she becomes queen. Melbourne offers to be her private secretary and requests that she appoint some ladies-in-waiting who are friends of his.
This is the same dress from the scene where she first meets Albert which makes sense since Albert and Melbourne become her two most important connections both politically and personally. This meeting is very different from the other however since the meeting with Albert was mostly personal and this one is mostly political but both aspects are definitely present.
This is the same nightgown as before but damn does it look different. When she's talking to her mother in their room about her meeting the Coburg brothers and John Conroy's control over their lives, the scene is dark, her hair is tied back, and she is mostly shot from the back. Here when she finds out she's queen now, her nightgown is framed in light, her hair is free, and she is shown standing proudly from the front. She now has the power and one of the first things she does? Request that her bed be moved from her mother's room connecting the two scenes.
Victoria ends up wearing this dress for quite a while because her uncle has died. There's no real significance to that but I really dig her bonnet and it's funny how much fussier her sleeves have gotten on this dress over the previous ones. It's not a particularly more high end dress than her previous ones but it's moving slightly in that direction.
When Victoria is in her home, she doesn't wear black. Here she is writing to Albert about how wonderful Melbourne has been to her and symbolically knocking over chess pieces. This dress is only seen for a second and I don't imagine it means much. In fact, it's probably the dumpiest thing she wears in the whole movie which is probably why it is so sparingly used.
In her first outing as queen since she was able to shed the proper mourning attire, she goes for purple. While in Westminster Abbey she talks about her desire to assist the poor, an idea wholly her own.
This outfit is the start of a big trend. Purple being the color of royalty, Victoria adopts it a lot but pretty much always in situations when her job is front and center in a scene. Here they are inspecting the grounds of her coronation site and she talks about her own personal political motives, something that we don't really see until this point since she has mostly had other people's political ideas floating around her.
Note the blue jewels in her crown. It's not hard to since there's not much else in this scene in the way of getting to see the costumes.
This scene really serves one purpose: to remind as that Victoria is still just a girl. After all the serious political discussion, it's easy to forget that fact. Therefore, she's dressed it something kind of frilly and reminiscent of the first child dress she's in in this movie and is sort of giggling and gleeful about her coronation ball like a little kid would be.
Yellow is Vicky's ball color and this is much more mature than her other one that also have flowers on it but sad frilly ones and was a pale, child-like yellow to this shiny, vibrant one. Although I said that there wasn't much to note in the coronation scene aside from the blue gems, this dress is actually almost exactly the same color as the robe she's wearing in that scene. Coronation robe = coronation dress.
Victoria says goodbye to Albert before he goes back to Germany. He tells her he would like to be useful to her and she says, "Not yet." Implied marriage proposal I think. This scene immediately proceeds the most blatant statement of, "We're trying to get Albert to bone the queen."
While there isn't much direct conflict in this scene, her denial of his proposal causes a huge uproar for her Uncle and the people surrounding Albert. Red means she has an enemy (other than her mom) and here it's those who try to control her through her marriage and feelings. Of course, you could also make the argument about red being the color of passion and this is where romantic feelings between Victoria and Albert are made explicitly clear.
Victoria attends a dinner where she discovers that Melbourne is about to lose the vote.
The most interesting thing about this outfit is obviously the sash which matches the jewels in her coronation crown but actually is representative of the Order of the Garter. Throughout the movie Victoria spends a rather surprising amount of time not in formal settings or even out in public at all. This movie is very much focused on her private life so when she is shown at an event such as this one, the full official regalia is out and making callbacks to other official regalia.
Victoria cries over Melbourne's fall from power, feeling like she has lost a powerful ally and even saying to her lady, "You won't desert me, will you?"
Although this isn't quite as light as the blues she wore in her youth, this blue calls back to her childhood far more than the current bright blue of her queenhood and she reacts to this political situation like a child: crying and feeling abandoned. Aside from the collar, the lace detail and the gathering, virtually absent in her regular clothes now, also recall some of her earliest clothes.
Sir Robert Peel, the new PM, tells Victoria that her house is full of people who politically lie with Melbourne and that she should appoint some people who agree with his side. She has none of it.
This dress says it all: the reds of conflict mixed with purple just to remind him of her status. Essentially it says, "I don't like you but I'm in charge so deal." Also, Victoria really doesn't wear full sleeves indoors very often but here she's all covered up and serious. Something about the structure of this dress is so stiff and authoritative. It actually reminds me a lot of dress she wore when she had that confrontation with Sir John that changed her attitude towards her mother.
Victoria attends an opera where someone calls her "Mrs. Melbourne" mockingly.
Out in public, she's full on queen mode. This dress and sash are exactly the same as the ones she wore when she found out Melbourne was about the lose the vote. This is her Melbourne outfit for now but her attitude towards him will change soon and you won't see this again.
Victoria's adviser tells her that she is being stubborn in her opposition of Peel's wishes and on the way they pass a man blaming her bad judgement on her mother.
Purple and pink. It makes sense that she would be wearing dark pink again when her mother is brought up.
During a recital, the palace is attacked.
It's a social event and she was wearing cream during her last social event at the opera but this one is less official so there's no crown or sash.
Victoria talks to her lady about how the people think she is causing trouble.
Back to childhood robe. Whenever Victoria confides in Letzen, she pretty much reverts back to a child because she was one of her only allies throughout her childhood.
Victoria writes to Albert about the conflicts and he tells her to think for herself. Then she gets a letter from her mother that is completely apolitical and tells her just that she loves her and feels sorry for her current pain.
Purple is all about Victoria taking control and that's what Albert advises here. Since the situation mentioned with her mother is wholly positive, there's no need for pink in her clothes.
Victoria talks to Melbourne about her own concerns for the poor and tells him that she has invited Albert for a visit. Melbourne can do nothing but agree to her ideas.
This is the most conflicted bow ever. Make of that what you will. I like to think that this bow shows the end of her smooth relationship with Melbourne. She has worn blue in relation to him before and red means an enemy. Here both are true.
Also, Victoria's travelling outfits all seem to be dark colors, usually muted blues or teals. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's to capitalize on the fact that when most people think of Victoria they think of her in dark colors because she spent so much of her life wearing black in mourning of Albert. Of course, she's not mourning so this is the closest they could get.
"I should have worn the red"
Victoria greets Albert when he arrives at Buckingham Palace.
So if red is a color of conflict, why does she think she should have worn it? Albert first brought up marriage while she was wearing a red dress. Instead she's greeting him as her powerful queen self in purple. Much better choice.
Victoria and Albert finally get engaged.
Same dress she wore to that dinner and to the opera. Perhaps it's a favorite because it certainly isn't lucky based on the other two times she wore it.
Wedding dress porn. How close do you think?
I don't actually have any clothing commentary. I just screenshoted these because they're cute.
Victoria and Albert: Newlyweds.
Dark travelling clothes. Unusually dark really. Possible awful foreshadowing?
Victoria does her job while Albert talks about the dirty windows, not sure what to do with himself and being called a guest by Victoria's ladies.
Doing her job in purple. She's definitely taking Albert's letter to heart; unfortunately he isn't needed when she is relying only on herself like he told her.
Victoria talks about how Albert thinks Melbourne and Letzen control her but doesn't believe that he does. Her friend tells her that Albert has it hard and to let him change some things around if he wishes.
Victoria usually has green on when there's a personal conflict and this most definitely qualifies. Also, she's got on some dark travelling clothes. It's interesting when shawls appear. They aren't a thing she wears all the time when she's walking around but they are often related to a personal moment with someone: first Albert, then this girl, and later Melbourne.
Victoria and Albert talk to her mother for the first time in a while as Albert tries to smooth over their relationship. Albert then tells Melbourne that he has no use for his advice.
Conflict pink with her mother. When don't even get to see the front of this dress, this scene is so short but this is all you need to know. Also, note how the pinks are getting progressively darker from the original like pink.
Victoria encounters Sir John in an empty room and ignores him, making sure to expel him from the castle later.
Green is often what she's wearing when something personal is being discussed. Here nothing is being discussed but she is acting purely on personal response. Sir John hasn't done anything to her in years and isn't doing anything to her here but his presence just leaves such a bad taste in her mouth that she just wants him gone. As a side benefit, her mother is not happy by it.
During an event Victoria learns that Albert has been making deals with Robert Peel to get some of Victoria's ladies out of the palace so some people who agree with him can take their place. Later, she and Albert argue about who is really in power and she essentially says, "Fuck off, Albert. I make my own damn mistakes because I am the one with the power."
Usually rocking cream at social gatherings, Victoria breaks out the purple pretty much for that fight with Albert. It's like, "Who's wearing the royal color?! Me! Also, who told me in the first place to trust in my own power and opinions? You!" This is also the first social event since her coronation ball that she has spend with Albert. Maybe that's why she's breaking out the excessive flower details again.
After Albert leaves against her wishes, this makes for a very tense morning drive together. On the drive, an assassination attempt is made and Albert gets hurt in the process.
Green means personal issues! Also, this outfits really calls back to what she was wearing when she first starting talking back to Melbourne (when she had the crazy bow). Victoria's life is just full of tense carriage rides with people she used to trust.
Funny how risking your life for someone can make all other problems seem kind of petty.
Premature mourning clothes. Period.
Victoria tells Melbourne about the attempt. Melbourne tells Victoria as a friend that even though he and Albert don't get along, he really feels like she made the right choice in marrying him.
Green again because although she's talking with Melbourne, it's about personal things and not politics. This is the dress she expelled Sir John from the castle in but I don't think there's any real importance there.
Side note, I dig those lace gloves. Even though the amount of lace she wears decreases over time, there are still minor touches of it in so many of her dresses.
When Victoria finally decides to put in a lot of effort to make Albert feel like he is a part of her job as well as her personal life, she is wearing purple. She has trusted her own instincts as queen and that lead her to essentially promoting him in her work life instead of just her personal life.
Victoria establishes a possibly begrudging sort of peace with her mother in the darkest pink yet. Perhaps the darkening of the pinks is not a sign of things getting worse so much as it's a sign of her maturing on the situation.
And we have our happy ending (sort of)!
This isn't a personal color or a political color. It's the color of the jewels in her crown. This is when she has finally become worthy of wearing her own crown.