February 8, 2009

Oscar nominees for Best Picture reviewed (except Milk)

The Oscar nominees for Best Picture are: Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I am ready to review most of them as I have yet to see Milk anywhere.

I've already reviewed the Benjamin, so I'll provide a link instead. (Curious Case review)

Starring: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella
Directed by Ron Howard
Universal Pictures

Richard Nixon is the only president in the United States to ever resign from office, and despite the resignation he still didn't confess about Watergate. A year after the resignation, David Frost- a successful talk show host in Australia and London- decides to try to take America by storm by interviewing the man. People say that Frost isn't the right man for the job, and the production is already financed by debt, so everyone is already fretting for its success. Still, a war ensues...

First and foremost, the most noteworthy thing is most likely the cast. Of course. The cast gives extremely strong performances, and if Frank doesn't get an Oscar, I'll throw a rampage. Seriously, the performances are worth the ticket alone. The two make the movie very gripping, intense and sweaty, despite the fact that one would already know the outcome.

Like many others, I will certainly compare this to a boxing match- only with words, brains and charisma- the two have their respective 'coaches', there is a big audience watching in suspense, and everyone is waiting if the challenger can beat the veteran. It's that intense.

There are some parts one may find boring (although it may become impossible since the meaty stuff are constantly shown in alternation with some documentary-esque segments), and the contents aren't always understandable since it is after all American history, but this history lesson is very much welcome for anyone who wants to find out the happenings beyond Nixon's resignation and Watergate.

If anything, all this success should not only be credited to the actors involved, but also to the well-written script. If you want to see a monumental argument, this is one for the ages.

Rating: 9.3/10

The Reader
It's a Holocaust story that's not that amazing.


You can say that it's simply mediocre at best, but the thing is, Kate Winslet also manages to elevate the movie a slight bit- which is perhaps the factor that influenced Oscar voters to nominate this. I mean, Ralph is also a great actor, and the two of them don't really deserve this movie. I think that this movie needs to simply be forgotten, and yet because of Winslet, it just barely passes the mark.

Anyway, it's about a German teen named Michael who gets sick. Kate Winslet's character Hanna takes the stranger in. Suddenly, in a very random fashion, they engage in sexual activities! WHY? Well, I don't know, but Hanna becomes sex guru to Michael and they meet everyday. Suddenly, Hanna factors in a book reading session... JUST BEFORE they engage in their daily activity, thus the title.

Unfortunately, this part of Michael's life is too mundane and takes too long to progress. The
meaty part is that trial that occurs as this is where Winslet radiates. I mean, yes she already saves the production from going down under in the first part, but this part is where she really gets to let everything out. What is she doing? She's defending her dignity as she is ashamed to admit her illiteracy and because of this, she gets convicted for something she didn't even do, well, technically. That's because she was part of the troops of Hitler and she with a several few more women soldiers were accused of letting Jews die, but she wasn't the one who decided upon that.

Yes, her illiteracy could've changed everything.

Expectedly so, Michael gets to know about this fact, but he decides not to turn the case around just so she can have her self-esteem... for herself.

Another really unnecessarily long sequence follows, revealing Michael- now very old- recording tapes of books and sending them to Hanna. Hanna learns to read during her sentence, and they meet.

The ending? Oh God, it somehow makes the whole movie extremely pointless. I don't know why, but I get the feeling that it does that. I mean, she has more reason to be prouder of herself by that time, and she could restore her life, at least for just a bit. Hmm, at least the ending was shocking!


It feels overly long thus making it boring, and boy does it need a better story. Not really amazing, at first captivating, and it tries to emit this facade of being a very deep story. Unfortunately, it emits more snores than captivation. Yup, I don't see the point of this being nominated at all aside from Kate Winslet.

Rating: 4.5/10

Slumdog Millionaire
Probably my favorite of the lot, Slumdog Millionaire is that kind of movie that comes once in a blue moon. It's unique in its execution, its hybrid of film genres works, the aural and visual elements jive together extremely well like a newlywed couple, and the performances are just top-notch.

While I predict that the girl who plays Latika won't win the top plum, I'm betting my balls that the whole damn movie wins Best Picture. I seriously love how charming it is and how it reaches into your emotions without being overly sappy.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me give a synopsis. So we have our protagonist Jamal being tortured by some guys. We find out that one of them's actually the host of the Indian version of the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and then you get pulled into the movie. Why is a host of a rather rusty game show torturing the young man? How did the 'slumdog' become a 'millionaire' when he hasn't even received much formal education? Why did he join in the first place?

Well, the refreshing way of how it introduces you to a series of flashbacks enable you to become even more curious of Jamal's life as a child in the slums and the reason as to his situation in the introduction. After going in, you'll never ever get out. This is one movie you'll never want to skip a frame of, because not only is it stylish, the visual flair also blends with a harmony for the ears- a great soundtrack. There are only a few vocalized songs, yes, but both elements blend to give a real feast for the senses- somehow reminiscent personally of movies like The Dark Knight or Benjamin Button.

The performances are very good as well. I mean, the kids- they're awesome performers. Extremely convincing and natural, the kids. The grown-ups are also very strong performers, and since the lead is unknown, the man is a pretty fresh face to see in a movie.

You will root for Jamal, your stomach will churn as the climax arrives, and you will receive a mixture of emotions in the ending. I mean, the ending... that's the only con I have with the movie. I'm fine with the outcome itself, but the way it's presented? It's a mix of emotions over there. I mean, you see a certain event, and then you see another event that is its entire opposite, so you'll be like "No, wait! I'm not finished feeling this emotion yet! What the hell is happening? No! Stop! Pause... OK, now play.". Maybe I'm exaggerating, but for me, it's just one of those moments.

That dance number, you'd probably already heard of it if you're craving for it to reach theaters or reading the reviews, and that adds to the mix of emotions. It's like implying that ignorance is bliss or something.

Still, the movie as a whole is extremely entertaining, and hard not to love. Despite the seemingly basic romance story, it still feels extremely fresh and unique. It truly is worth a watch and you won't forget it any time soon.

Rating: 9.6/10

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