Tag Archives: Roger Deakins

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Review] – Rise Of The Guardians

30 Nov

Title: Rise of the Guardians
Year: 2012
Director: Peter Ramsey
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the book series by William Joyce
Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo
MPAA Rating: PG, thematic elements and some mild scary action
Runtime: 97 min
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Metacritic: 57

If I’m to be perfectly honest, I’m quite disappointed by Rise of the Guardians. Not because it’s bad (it’s not) but because a part of me was really looking forward to it and thinking that it would be in contention for the title of best animated feature of the year. Granted, that would be a hard title to get considering how amazing Wreck-It Ralph was (I gave that one an A), but this one’s not even in the Top 5 and it just looked so cool to me from the trailers I’d seen.

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Rango

14 Apr

Title: Rango
Year:
2011
Director:
Gore Verbinski
Writer: John Logan, based on a story by himself, Gore Verbinski and James Ward Byrkit
Starring:
Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, Timothy Olyphant
MPAA Rating:
PG, rude humor, language, action and smoking
Runtime:
107 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.7
Rotten Tomatoes:
89%

I saw Rango about a month ago in Rhode Island when I went to visit a friend there. And considering this year’s Pixar release is a sequel to Cars (which is the only Pixar film I haven’t given an A-range grade to) then this one’s definitely in the running to become the best animated film of 2011. Because, much like the Pixar films, Rango is an animated movie that will appeal tremendously to both kids and adults, maybe even moreso to adults actually, and one that has a really smart screenplay, and some incredibly gorgeous animation.

Not only was Rango truly outstanding, but it was also a film I didn’t really think would be this great, and as such it will definitely be amongst my most welcome surprises of the 2011 movie year. And you know what else is fantastic about Rango? It’s not done in effin 3D. Now, if you’ve read my reviews then you know I’m not a 3D detractor, because I like it when it’s done well, but you’ll also know that I usually don’t think it’s done well and thus end up disliking the effect the technology has on films, especially on how it dims the color in them, a fact that becomes painfully more noticeable in animated movies. By not having to deal with the depth issues 3D brings to the table this one pays more attention to the lots of other details and makes full use of the screen, and the result is pretty breathtaking.

I’ll honestly recommend Rango to everyone I can, that’s how much I liked it. It was a pretty special animated film, and it all starts with its stellar voice ensemble. And notice I use the word ensemble and not stars, because as far the voices and how they fit and succeed together in Rango, it was most certainly a team job. I mean, yes, Johnny Depp does indeed play the titular character and his name was the one being used to draw in the crowds on opening day, but the rest of the cast is just as amazing as him. Mr. Depp is so great at playing the chameleon because it doesn’t feel like Mr. Depp, this isn’t a character made to sound like him like so many of the ones he’s playing nowadays, but one in which he had to find a unique voice and create this terrific persona for the character, and the rest of the cast is just as amazing, and it’s how well they mesh with one another that makes this one stand out, from Isla Fisher to Alfred Molina to Abigail Breslin to Harry Dean Stanton, there’s no weak link here.

It’s about this chameleon who falls from the car of his suburban owners into the desert, where he finds a town that’s on the verge of running out of water. He pretends to be a hero (he’s a ‘trained’ actor, after all) and gets himself appointed sheriff, but when the day really needs saving he’ll have to prove just how heroic he can be. There’s a conspiracy plot about who controls the water in the town, and thus has the power over it, that’s straight from Chinatown and that’s really well crafted and developed.

And really the worst thing you can do when approaching Rango is think about it as a kids movie, because it’s really not, it’s very much a grown-up film, one full of references to westerns three decades old, complete with an appearance by a guy called the Spirit of the West which was modeled after Clint Eastwood as is voiced by the awesome Timothy Olyphant who of course plays TV’s most kickass sheriff in Justified.

Not to mention adults will really appreciate the whole look of this film. Not only was Roger Deakins on board as a visual consuslt, and he’s a 9 time Oscar-nominated cinematographer who has worked on both No Country for Old Men and last year’s True Grit so he definitely knows how to make this part of America look all sorts of gorgeous. And that’s for the cinematography part, for the actually effects of it, Rango was awesome enough to get ILM to do the visual effects, and they did the most beautiful job ever, not only is every single character designed to perfection and every single hair on them looks amazing, but literally everything looks breathtaking here, sometimes not even feeling like CGI at all which is truly something to behold, definitely one of the most arresting pieces of animation I’ve seen.

This has been me praising Rango non-stop, and it really deserves it, because it’s an animated film that in no point goes out of its way to have a huge sequence just to please the kids. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no way the kids won’t get a huge kick out of this, because there are a lot of funny and action-y bits to love in here, but they’re all there as part of the story, not as some cheap gratuitous plot point. So if you take kids to see Rango they’ll have a lot to be loving while they watch the film, the good thing is that you’ll probably have even more.

Please please please go see Rango, I cannot insist more on that. This is a film that in its photo-realistic approach looks like the best live-action film you could hope for, a film smart enough to desist on the 3D technology that would have taken so much of its magic away, one that will bombard you with all these awesome movie references and really rad pieces of dialogue. Just a tremendous experience I can’t recommend enough.

Grade: A-

Oscar Predictions: Cinematography and Editing

24 Feb

In my fifth Oscar Predictions post I will tackle two of my favorite categories, those honoring achievement in Cinematography and Editing. The candidates for both of these awards this year are pretty damn strong, and the race will be pretty interesting to watch unravel.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees

  • Black Swan (Matthew Libatique)
  • Inception (Wally Pfister)
  • The King’s Speech (Danny Cohen)
  • The Social Network (Jeff Cronenweth)
  • True Grit (Roger Deakins)

This will most likely go to the master that is Roger Deakins, who has had eight other nominations previously (4 of those for some of his other collaborations with the Coen brothers), and yet has never won. The look he achieved in True Grit is rather breathtaking and really sets the tone for the amazing film that was True Grit, it’ll be a well deserved win.

My personal vote, however, would no doubt go to Matthew Libatique, the first-time nominee who worked on Black Swan, 2010’s best film. The stuff he did in this film is really stunning, creating scenes of ballet and making them feel not only technically outstanding, but also conveying some really deep feelings with how he showed those dances, truly spectacular work.

Should Win: Black Swan
Will Win: True Grit

BEST EDITING

Nominees

  • Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum)
  • The Fighter (Pamela Martin)
  • The King’s Speech (Tariq Anwar)
  • 127 Hours (Jon Harris)
  • The Social Network (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter)

This should be one of The Social Network‘s big wins on Sunday, the editing of this film is truly amazing, and is definitely a big part of why this film ended up being so perfect, the way the scenes of just computer programming were cut, making them seem more entertaining than a car chase, or just the scenes of the characters delivering their very fast and witty Aaron Sorkin-penned lines was just incredible. So yes, unless there’s no justice in this world this should be a very deserved win for Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, who were both previously nominated two years ago for their work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, another David Fincher film.

Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

True Grit

6 Jan

Title: True Grit
Year:
2010
Directors:
Joel & Ethan Coen
Writers:
Joel & Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis
Starring:
Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
Runtime:
110 min
Major Awards:
1 BAFTA
IMDb Rating:
8.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
95%

True Grit is the sort of film I had seriously huge expectations for. It was the remake of a classic western that got John Wayne his Oscar. And it was being spear-headed by the Coen brothers, who have one of the best track records of any working directors today. And it had a cast that included Jeff Bridges, just off his Oscar-winning turn in Crazy Heart in the iconic role Mr. Wayne created, plus Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, and Hailee Steinfeld, a young actress who was only thirteen when she shot this, and who is being mentioned in the thick of the Best Supporting Actress race. Not to mention that the posters and the trailers looked all kinds of awesome. And now that I’ve actually seen True Grit, I can honestly tell you that it didn’t disappoint one bit, no matter how huge the expectations were.

Seriously, True Grit is just one seriously good film, one that has in Mr. Bridges a season professional tackling an iconic role and making it fully his own, giving a performance that may just get him another Oscar nomination. And in Ms. Steinfeld one of the best newcomers to come out all year, in a role that has her battling against Mr. Bridges to see who can steal the movie the most, and that could also grant her an Oscar nod. Not to mention that the Coen’s are as good as always, doing their best at crafting a beautiful script, and showing a very sure hand as they deliver a knockout film.

What’s so good about True Grit, I think, is that even though it still honors the original film, and is really loyal to the novel upon which they’re both based on, it still really does feel like a Coen Bros. film. Because in all the western aspects of it, there’s still quite a bit of that very particular darkish humor the two handle so damn well. I thought that was terrific about this one, that it still feels so much like their other work. Because if you look at this and compare it with their other films, you’ll easily see how unalike it is to their past projects as far as themes go, but then you go see it, and you realize how alike it is, quality-wise.

I read the novel about two years ago, after I first saw the original film, and I thought it was a beautiful read, and this is a just-as-amazing adaptation of the work. One in which we see Ms. Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, a fourteen year-old girl who hires a man to help her track down her father’s killer. The man she hires would be Rooster Cogburn, the role Mr. Bridges takes on, and a role that he’s just seriously amazing in. I won’t go ahead and ruin some of the stories Rooster tells as he first appears, or some of the lines he utters, because that’s for you to enjoy first-hand and, moreover, no matter how accurate and lively my descriptions could be, nothing would match how Mr. Bridges embodies the role.

And it really is astounding to watch Ms. Steinfeld play off Mr. Bridges, because here, in her film debut, she really does go toe-to-toe with a guy who has been doing this for the past four decades. And really, Mattie is a role that was probably the only weak part of the first film, in which she was played by a then-twenty-one-year-old Kim Darby, who was made to look younger. Not because Ms. Darby didn’t play her well, because she did, but because the role just wasn’t that great. And yet here is a role that is very rich in the book, and that was dulled up considerably in that first film, but that the Coen’s have made incredible once again, and that’s portrayed by Ms. Steinfeld in a fearless performance that makes it so obvious that this is a young actress meant for greatness.

Mattie we first see in the film having to travel to identify her own father’s body, who has been shot by a man named Tom Chaney, who’s played by Mr. Brolin. After she identifies the body she settles his father’s accounts, and soon after is getting Rooster’s help, because, so she has heard, he was the right man for the job she needed doing, which is taking vengeance into her own hands. And so they embark on their journey to hunt this man, a journey in which they encounter a few memorable characters, not the least of which is LaBoeuf, the character Mr. Damon plays, a Texas ranger who also wants to catch Chaney and bag the reward.

Every little line, detail and shot here is finely tuned by the Coen brothers, who never stray away too much from the novel, because the historical context and rich idiom of it really does serve their trademark dialogue well. And the result is something tremendous to behold, because even though Rooster Cogburn is the main character, this is still the story of Mattie Ross, and, unlike the first film, they never once forget about that. I seriously cannot recommend this one enough, every little thing on display here is pretty much perfect.

The thing I feared the most about True Grit was how Mr. Bridges was going to play such an amazing role. Because when John Wayne played Rooster Cogburn he was really playing John Wayne, that’s why he had such a presence and built and and heroic image. For his portrayal, Mr. Bridges instead goes back to the drawing board, which in this case would be the original novel, and churns out a performance that’s just as memorable as that original one.

In the end, True Grit to me was more than just another example for why Mr. Bridges is such an amazing actor, more than my introduction to a girl who we’ll definitely see a lot more of in the coming years. It was another demonstration of just how masterful Joel and Ethan Coen can be. Not only is True Grit their first foray into the western genre, but you could say it’s also their first foray into any straight genre as well. They always combine genres to fit into their mesmerizing idiosyncrasies, but now here they are, playing a film as a straight out genre exercise, and the result is a thing of beauty. From the way it’s shot by their regular collaborator Roger Deakins (who I can’t believe has never won an Oscar), to how it’s acted by these amazing actors, to they way it’s directed by the two brothers, you’d think they would have been doing this for ages.

I’ll stop now, because I think I’ve talked enough about just how amazing True Grit is. There are performances here that you’ll remember years from now, and you’ll be enjoying the work of two very capable men, showing us how they can seriously tackle any single thing that may be thrown at them. This is just one extraordinary film everyone should watch.

Grade: A+