One-day film festival with Oscar nominees

Last weekend I went to another one-day film festival at one of the large Pathé cinemas here in the Netherlands. The PAC (Pathé Alternative Cinema) festival is held twice a year and I try to get to at least one of these each year. My friend and I went last Sunday. The line-up was as follows (and as of yesterday, 4 of the 5 movies here have garnered Oscar nominations!):

pac20_70x100 poster-maart

I’m not going to go into detailed descriptions and criticisms of each movie, just giving quick impressions of what these movies did for me. I can tell you straight off that I liked all of them (yes, even Green Book!) but that I think my fave of all these 5 movies was the first one called Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the true story of an author who has fallen on hard times and by chance discovers that faking letters from famous authors can earn her a lot of money.

canyoueverforgiveme-catI loved the story and I loved the character of Lee Israel; Melissa McCarthy portrayed her beautifully. I loved seeing a character in a lead role who isn’t all skinny and pretty (although I do find, and have always found, Melissa McCarthy to be pretty and cute), someone who seems dowdy, caustic and even unlikable. She is someone who is pretty much invisible to the world around her and yet, she is so rich on the inside and yes, despite her flaws and sarcasm, she is lovable, maybe because of the very real struggles she is facing. Also, anyone who loves their cat as Lee Israel does has something good in them, regardless. 😉 Richard E. Grant plays Jack Hock, someone who is down on his luck as well and becomes her best friend and he too plays this role beautifully. What I liked most of all was that these characters are layered, they aren’t all good or all bad, they are all only human. What seems drab and maybe even evil on the outside isn’t necessarily all that on the inside.

canyoueverforgivemeI was tickled pink to discover that both Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant have been nominated for Oscars for their roles. They so deserve it!

Next up was the movie If Beale Street Could Talk. It’s about a young African-American couple who are in love. After Tish’s (Kiki Layne) fiancé Fonny (Stephen James) is unjustly arrested, she looks back on their relationship and does everything in her power to get him released. The two young lead actors beautifully portrayed their characters. They were so gentle and sweet, very poetic in a way. I loved Tish, such a sweet, open and innocent face, starting out grown up life in such difficult circumstances…

beale street… and I loved Regina King who plays Tish’s mom. She almost stole the movie for me. She too has been deservedly nominated for an Oscar.

The film was almost other-worldly, dreamlike, and felt very poetic. That also made it quite a slow movie, almost too slow. My friend even nodded off for a bit there. I loved the feeling of goodness trying to overcome evil and prejudice in this film and I liked that the ending wasn’t glossed over happy, but the movie was too slow in parts and so for that, I can’t give it the highest marks. It did feel very topical and gives food for thought, though, which is always excellent.

The next movie we saw was Vice. It’s a comedy-drama film, dripping with sarcasm, about Dick Cheney who was the former vice-president under George W. Bush. Cheney is played by Christian Bale whom you hardly recognize as Bale. He is excellent in the role…

vice02

… as is Amy Adams in her role as his wife Lynne.

vice01While I was very aware of George W. Bush as president (and truly hated his presidency), I only recalled Dick Cheney by name. I knew virtually nothing about the man, other than that he had been vice-president and that he had been Secretary of Defense under papa Bush, where he pushed for a war on Iraq on what I recall as flimsy or even false evidence. The film is very polarizing, I can imagine Democrats in the US loving this and Republicans hating this and after seeing this I still don’t know what’s really true or not. I tend to believe he must have been a sleaze, as I also truly hated the George W. Bush presidency and from the beginning felt the war on Iraq was more about oil than about Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein, but I don’t know if this movie does justice to Cheney or not. The movie clearly does state that they are not sure everything played out as they show it, and even have someone during the end credits claim the movie is liberal bullshit, which I thought was a very nice touch. Regardless of how polarized it is, the sarcasm made me laugh at times and I especially loved the scene between Dick and Lynne in their bedroom, doing a Shakespearean dialogue. That alone is Oscar-worthy. And yes, these two actors have also been nominated for Oscars! So, yes, I did like the movie, even though I was very aware of it being a one-sided, liberal stand-up show which also had some surprising twists and turns. My friend isn’t so much into politics, especially not US politics, and didn’t like it so much. Some of it went over her head, I think, as I think it did to a lot of the Dutch audience. I was laughing in places where I noticed no one else around me laughing… So, I’m thinking this movie works best in the US and for people who are interested in politics.

After this came Green Book, which I was very curious about after having read Servetus’s criticism of it. I really like both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali and the story interested me too. Mahershala Ali plays classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley, who is doing a tour in the Deep South of the US in the early 1960s and hires Italian Tony “Lip” Vallelonga to be his driver.

green-book

I get the criticism of the film, and especially the fried chicken running joke felt off, and for a while there the idea of Tony ‘educating’ Don on what black people should like felt off as well. But I also saw this movie as a story mostly about Tony who has to face his prejudice against African-Americans and through actually becoming friends with an African-American, learns the error of his ways. This movie is mostly aimed at a white audience, I think, but is it really so bad to address this from a white point of view? To me African-American Don felt in no way inferior to Italian-American Tony and it was nice seeing the African-American character as the eclectic, more-cultured and learned man. He was the main educator to me, rather than the white man. Yeah, Tony tried to ‘teach’ Don about African-American music and about letting other people in, but in the end the lessons Tony learned from Don where more profound than the other way around. Not only the lesson of racism but also the lesson of learning to express yourself more eloquently, the importance of dignity and learning that not all African-Americans love the same things. Don didn’t need to change so much, except for maybe letting people in a little bit more, Tony did need to change and this was mostly Tony’s story. I’m sure there was stereotyping of African-Americans in this, but I have a feeling there was Italian-American stereotyping as well. Maybe I’m missing nuances here but from an outsider’s point of view on racism in the US, this to me didn’t feel so very biased against African-Americans. It was not a very surprising movie, however, and did feel a bit like a story that has been told before. It also never really dug deep into the psyche of these two men, it remained a little shallow overall. So, in that sense, this wasn’t the best movie of the day for me. It was pretty enough but lacked depth. Viggo and Mahershala have both also been Oscar nominated for this and while I thought Viggo did really well (and I would be happy for him to win, though maybe not for this role), I liked Mahershala even more. He’s up in the same category as Richard E. Grant for the Oscars, it’ll be a tough call. Although, in hindsight, maybe it isn’t so tough, as I think the depth of Richard’s character was more developed than the depth of Mahershala’s.

The final film of the evening was Arctic starring Mads Mikkelsen, he of Hannibal fame to Richard Armitage fans.

It’s a movie about a man surviving on his own after his plane crashes in the Arctic. You don’t see the crash, you just have this story of this one man trying to survive. At first he stays put but when he rescues an unconscious woman from a helicopter crash (a team of pilots who tried to save him had crash landed) he decides he needs to move and find safetly with her in tow, pretty much unconscious for the whole movie. Not much dialogue and a lot of hardships are endured and yet it still was a good watch. Again, like Green Book, it wasn’t the most surprising movie, especially not after having seen The Mountain Between Us a year or so ago with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba also trying to survive such a freezer climate together (although Kate is not unconscious for too long). Still, it was never dull, the story moved along nicely and my friend, although it was the last movie of the day, never once dropped off to sleep. 🙂

All in all, I enjoyed all the films and some more than others. If I had to put it in order from fave to least fave of the day, the list would be:

  1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?  – Everything was right in this movie – story, characters, depth and the way it all looked and felt.
  2. Vice – The storytelling in this movie surprised me several times, different from any other movie I know, I really liked that. Also, I can really appreciate sarcasm.
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk – The most sympathetic characters in this one, with a dreamlike quality and food for thought. However, also a little slow.
  4. Green Book – Mainly liked it for the two main actors in this and it looked good. The movie overall didn’t have that much depth, though, and didn’t feel very new.
  5. Arctic – well-acted by Mads but I felt like I’d seen it all before.
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Oh what an Oscars night!

Yep, stayed up for the yearly Oscar night marathon again! My friend came over, my son also stayed up and we had a great time watching it. The food wasn’t bad either…

Oscars food.jpg

Frankly, my brain is a little too fuzzy today to go into a long analysis of the night. Suffice it to say that I went in hoping the 14 La La Land nominations wouldn’t all be won… I mean, I liked La La Land well enough but I really really don’t get what the fuss is all about for that movie. Heck, I even felt Amy Adams should have been nominated over Emma Stone. Emma Stone was fine but Amy Adams in Arrival was just top-notch for me!

amy-adams-arrival

Jimmy Kimmel was a great host. Loved the Trump and Meryl Streep jibes, especially loved the ‘feud’ with Matt Damon, loved the tourists he brought on…

… and him lifting up kid actor Sunny Pawar from Lion in a The Lion King imitation…

jimmy-kimmel-sunny-pawar-lion-king-oscars

… and he was even gracious over the Best Picture snafu at the end, taking responsibility, joking that this would end his Oscar hosting career.

The Oscars for acting… I was very pleased with Mahershala Ali winning Supporting Actor for Moonlight! He was also the most dashing looking man on the red carpet, I felt.

mahershala-ali-oscar-red-carpet

For me it was a tie between him winning and Dev Patel for Lion (he came to the Oscars with his mum).

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Oh, how I loved the movie Lion! I still plan to blog about that. Not only was the movie and the acting great, adoption is a theme close to my heart as well, as I have adopted brothers and sisters myself. I also loved Moonlight, however, and Mahershala Ali winning was a definite highlight!

I was also very pleased for Viola Davis winning Supporting Actress (she looked stunning in her red dress, by the way). I haven’t seen Fences yet but I think she is a phenomenal actor and deserves any win!

Mahershala Ali, Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Casey Affleck

Emma Stone winning the Best Actress award was… OK. With no Amy Adams in the running I was rooting for Meryl Streep or Ruth Negga, but in my heart I knew Emma Stone would win and I am able to reluctantly accept that. Casey Affleck I know is a good actor but I haven’t seen Manchester by the Sea and so far he doesn’t really do it for me. I was really rooting for Viggo Mortensen, who I know was an outsider choice, but still… Viggo was at the Oscars with his son.

viggo-mortensen-son-oscars

One day I really want to see him win one!

And then there was the whole already infamous Best Picture thing! When Best Director went to La La Land I thought I knew what Best Picture would be and my heart was sinking. There was some hesitation by Warren Beatty before Faye Dunaway then announced La La Land as winner…

89th Annual Academy Awards - Show

… and I was ready to throw leftover popcorn at my TV screen. I just really don’t get the La La Land fuss (and I really do enjoy a Hollywood musical, it’s not that). The La La people were doing their thank you speeches when soon it started getting chaotic on stage and before we knew it the producer was saying that Moonlight had won! We were looking at the TV screen, wondering  what the f-word was going on! Then the proof was held up, Moonlight had won!

The Moonlight people came on stage and the La La Land people graciously handed over their Oscars to the rightful winners…

Barry Jenkins

It was chaos, some sort of speech thing happened and before we knew it, it was all over! My friend, my son and I were left a little stunned, although at 6.15 am my son was admittedly more exhausted than stunned and he high-tailed it to bed instantly while my friend and I still looked at each other in amazement at this turn of events. It’s sad the win happened this way but I have got to say I was elated over the outcome in the end! I was rooting for Lion, Survival or Moonlight to win Best Picture and in the end Moonlight triumphed. Yay!

Yes, this was a memorable Oscars night.

An Oscar for Viggo please!

The Oscar nominations have been announced today and there is good news! Well, there is for me anyway….

Some years I have no single actor or movie that I root for but this year is different. This year there is Viggo Mortensen!! He was nominated for best actor for his role in Captain Fantastic (a movie I am very curious about but which I have yet to see).

He is being nominated for all the big awards for this role (he didn’t get the Golden Globe, maybe he will get a Bafta in a few weeks?). He was nominated once before, about a decade ago, for Eastern Promises, a cruel but very good movie. He should have been nominated for his breakthrough role as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings too. I adored him as Aragorn. I even have a little Aragorn figurine (next to my Thorin Oakenshield one)…

aragorn-and-thorin

And I have an Aragorn magnet a friend once sent me many years ago (a little weathered but still there)…

aragorn

Here’s a clip of him at the end of The Lord of the Rings, and yes, that really is him singing at around 1:37 minutes into the video…

Even though I don’t follow Viggo as closely as I did for a while there, I still check in with him once in a while and I am thrilled now that he is nominated for this Oscar! He is up against 4 other good actors (Casey Afleck, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington) but I am really rooting for him! He deserves one!

viggo-mortensen

He is not only a good actor but he also comes across as a softspoken, lovely, intelligent and warm person. He is an artist through and through (actor, photographer, painter, poet). I really hope he wins this. Go Viggo!

30 Day Movie Challenge – Day 5

Day 5 – A movie that reminds you of someone

This one is easy for me, but in my case it’s a few people and a set of movies and it’s all about  The Lord of the Rings trilogy! This trilogy always makes me think of some people who are very dear to me…

I was first introduced to The Lord of the Rings by my husband. He loved the books and although I thought I wouldn’t much like this whole fantasy adventure thing, once I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema with him I was hooked! My husband wouldn’t give me any spoilers as to what would happen next, so I went on to read the book almost instantly; I just had to know how the story would unfold. My husband and I love these movies and the subsequent The Hobbit movies as well. The Hobbit also combined my love for Richard Armitage with my husband’s affection for Tolkien, which is of course an extra bonus! This is what one of our bedroom walls looks like:

LOTR&Hobbit

If I hadn’t loved my husband so much already, I could have easily fallen in love with him then and there in December 2001 for introducing me to these stories J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson have so masterfully crafted.

The Lord of the Rings also reminds me of two of my very dearest friends. We met online not long before Fellowship came out and when they too fell in love with the films (and my one friend fell in love with Viggo Mortensen even more than I did), we suddenly had extra shared interests to talk (and gush) about. These movies also lead to us finally meeting in person in Boston in 2004 when my one friend said she wanted to see an exhibition there on how The Lord of the Rings was made.

LOTR exhibition

So we all travelled to Boston – me from the Netherlands, they came from their corners of the world in the US, and we met as part of a larger group. However, only the three of us went to that exhibition, which was an adventure in itself as two of us were, well, a little hungover and the third was such an excellent sport about it. Meeting each other in person and going to that exhibtion together cemented a friendship that is still going strong today!

Not bad, having such an excellent movie trilogy remind me of my husband and two of my best friends, right? 🙂

(30 Day Movie Challenge – the full list of questions)

 

The last goodbye

I still have to wait for my The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies extended edition BluRay to come out. I have an empty spot saved for it in my movies cupboard, beside the other two The Hobbit BluRays and the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Many years ago I was not into fantasy or science fiction at all but I had fallen in love with a man, my husband now, who did like those things. Through him I came to love Jean-Luc Picard and Star Trek and through him I was introduced to The Lord of the Rings.

My husband enjoys a good film but is not a real film fan. So, when we go to the cinema together, I am usually the one to pick the films. Over the years the man has come to enjoy a good romantic comedy or two and has even gotten to like Jane Austen of sorts. From the beginning of our relationship, some 23 years now (oh my, I sound old!), he has more than indulged me. So when 14 years ago he said he wanted to see the first The Lord of the Rings film in the cinema, I magnanimously agreed. Sure, I could make the sacrifce for him for once, I thought. I wasn’t really expecting much but he had proven good taste before with Star Trek: The Next Generation, so who knows, maybe this wouldn’t be too bad?

And then I saw The Fellowship of the Ring… and I was blown away! It looked gorgeous, the whole world, the story, the characters were fascinating! Of course, I fell in love with Strider/Aragorn, so that helped too (and I came to really, really like Viggo Mortensen).

Aragorn - Fellowhsip

Wait a whole year to find out what happens next? I don’t think so! When the film ended I badgered my husband to tell me the rest of the story but the good man wouldn’t. So, I immediately read the book which was a page turner and again to my surprise, I was hooked. I feverishly anticpated the next two Rings films and loved every minute of them and especially the extended editions when they came out! Kudos to my husband for not being smug about it and saying “I told you so”!

Quite some years later, imagine my thrill when I hear my favourite actor is going to play Thorin Oakenshield in the new Peter Jackson/Middle Earth fantasy adventure! I hadn’t read The Hobbit yet because, well, it didn’t have Aragorn in it… But I corrected the situation, read it… and was a little underwhelmed by the character of Thorin. But by now I trusted Peter Jackson and the things he did for Middle Earth. I figured he would find a way to make Richard Armitage shine as Thorin Oakenshield and I was not disappointed!

I am awed by Richard as Thorin and I absolutely loved Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and last night I couldn’t resist and downloaded the last Hobbit extended edition and watched it. I don’t have the extra’s (I will wait for those when I buy the BluRay), just the movie… and I was hooked again! I admit to getting a little battle-weary and The Hobbit trilogy isn’t quite as powerful to me as The Lord of the Rings trilogy was, but even so, I loved it! And I loved what Richard did with his role, the subtle emotions battling in his eyes and on his face. He moved me to tears and I know I am not alone in thinking he did a great job. I loved Bilbo in it too, and his love for Thorin made me cry extra at the end… This, more than the other two Hobbit films, was Thorin’s film.

When the titles rolled, I was wiping away tears but Billy Boyd singing “The Last Goodbye” didn’t help (it’s all really over now!). I love love love the artwork for these films and the character drawings at the end, shown during the titles, are absolutely stunning to me, like this one:

Thorin Oakenshield drawing

Afterwards I went to YouTube and watched the video to Billy Boyd’s song and saw all the Lord of the Rings images as well…

… and now I just want to watch all 6 movies back to back again… extended editions only!