Happiness

I’ve just watched Happiness recently. Mainly because I’m a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman (he’s my absolute favourite actor) and I’ve been trying to catch up on his movies. Alas, I was unable to finish all of his works before his untimely death. I remember I was watching The Master just the night before the news of his death came in.

Regarding Happiness, it featured several detailed character studies and paints an interesting portrait of suburban non-conformity. Everyone is seeking for happiness in the film but eventually, perhaps only the boy got it at the film’s end. Ironic but that’s the most important lesson you will learn in life; you don’t always get what you want.

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Despicable Me 2

I watched Despicable Me 2 yesterday. I’ll start by writing what I thought of the first movie; it was nice but not super nice as some people felt. For me, it was just ok. DM1 didn’t have a tight storyline to keep me engaged throughout the whole movie. Watching the second movie, I feel that overall, it is an improvement on the first one. However, it still does not rank high enough for me.

Annie Hall

“I heard commentary and dissent had merged to form dysentery” lol one of the many smart and funny lines from Annie Hall. Just finished watching the film, I can see why it’s Woody Allen’s most acclaimed film and how it beat out Star Wars at the 1978 academy awards to win best picture, best director and best original screenplay. Besides being a comedy, there are also lots of serious tone and discussions on a wide range of topics like how love fades, how one wants sex more than the partner, religions, existential questions and even political conspiracies.

Get Out + Academy Award Nominations

A friend asked me whether I’ve seen any of this year’s academy award nominations, I almost had to say none at all but just a few days ago, I took time to watch the horror film ‘Get Out’ which was directed, produced and written by Jordan Peele.

If you don’t know who Jordan Peele is, he’s actually the comedian from the cast of Mad TV and also part of the very funny comedy series Key & Peele. That was his first directing effort and it managed to get 4 nominations in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay (all nominated for himself) and Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya who portrayed the main character in the movie (which Jordan didn’t act in). The movie was a surprise box office and critical success because its budget was small. I myself was surprised when I saw how good the movie was because I always associated Jordan Peele with comedy, I didn’t know he could be such a good director, and it wasn’t even for a comedy film but instead for a horror film. I would write my own review if only I had time to actually write a proper one lol. I really enjoyed the film.

With his nomination for Get Out, Jordan Peele became the fifth black filmmaker to be nominated for Best Director, as well as the first black filmmaker to receive nominations for producing, directing and writing in the same year. With his win for Best Original Screenplay, he became the first black screenwriter to win in that category.

Oh yes, I just remembered that there is another academy-nominated movie I watched which was The Greatest Showman. It was nominated for Best Original Song for its song ‘This Is Me’ which it lost to Pixar’s Coco’s ‘Remember Me’ which was written by the same songwriters who wrote Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ which had won the award before, making this their second win. On the other hand, ‘This Is Me’ is written by the same songwriters who wrote La La Land’s ‘City of Stars’ which also won that award last year. So if ‘This Is Me’ had won instead, it would have been them who would be winning the best original song award for a second time instead of the songwriters from ‘Let It Go’ winning it a second time lol.

I don’t really read much movie reviews anymore since Roger Ebert passed away (I used to read his reviews before deciding whether to watch a movie or not).

‘The Shape of Water’ directed by Guillermo del Toro is the biggest winner with 4 awards, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Production Design. I haven’t watched ‘The Shape of Water’ yet, but I always thought that he should have won for his earlier film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ which wasn’t even nominated for that year’s Best Picture or Best Director. That was such a great film and it was first place on a lot of critic’s best films of 2006 lists (including first place on Roger Ebert’s list). It really should have at least earned nominations for best picture and best director. Instead the win for that year 2006 for Best picture and Best director went to Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Martin Scorsese is a great director but The Departed definitely wasn’t his greatest work, it actually was rather weak in comparison to his other works in my honest opinion. The Departed wasn’t even an original in the first place, it was just a re-make from the Hong Kong movies, I watched The Departed and I didn’t really feel it ranks anywhere near Martin Scorsese’s best works. Hugo was a much better film of his that should have been awarded Best Director instead of The Departed, especially since Hugo’s central theme was about the magic of cinema.

Ok enough about that rant, so yea I am glad Guillermo del Toro finally got a best picture and best director award. Not sure if you know this, but the three most prominent Mexican directors: Alejandro G. Iñárritu , Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón are collectively known as “The Three Amigos of Cinema”. In terms of academy award wins, they currently stand as follows:

1. Alejandro G. Iñárritu – 2 Best Director wins (Birdman and The Revenant), 1 Best Picture win (Birdman), 1 Best Original Screenplay win (Birdman) = Total 4 awards

2. Guillermo del Toro – 1 Best Director win (The Shape of water), 1 Best Picture win (The Shape of Water) = Total 2 awards

3. Alfonso Cuarón – 1 Best Director win (Gravity), 1 Best Film Editing (Gravity) = Total 2 awards

I ranked Guillermo del Toro higher than Alfonso Cuarón because I would think Best Picture is much more prestigious than Best Film Editing so that would win the tie-breaker.

I distinctly remember watching Gravity on the giant screen in Cathay cinemas’ platinum suites and it was breathtaking. The opening (lingering) shot of the Earth with the astronaut slowly coming towards the foreground from a tiny barely-seen figure in the background was truly spectacular. I was really in awe of that opening scene for a long time. Such is the magic of cinema (which by the way was what Martin Scorsese was trying to convey to the audience in ‘Hugo’). Just that one scene alone makes for great cinematography which eventually Gravity did deservedly win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

La La Land

I think La La Land is the best movie ever, not even exaggerating. It’s like a hybrid of Woody Allen’s Manhattan + Michel Gondry’s visual style. So freaking good :O The movie’s like unadulterated pure hopeless romance on high, with zero inhibitions as to what critics would say. The songs are still stuck in my head esp “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars”. Omg they’re so good :O

Chef

Caught the new film from Jon Favreau, Chef! This has to be the year’s best film thus far. The only other close challenger for that title is X-Men: Days of Future Past. The film not only features great food (as expected from the name of the film), a great cast, it has excellent pacing too. There was never a dull moment and the music used in the film is spot on for the scenes and intended mood. This is also one of the rare films that correctly showcases the power and reach of social media platforms and how quickly things can spread virally via new media.

This goes to show that Jon Favreau is a bona fide director and the successes of Iron Man 1 and 2 were not just flukes. The film also gave an interesting critique of the delicate relationship between a critic and the person whose work is being reviewed. Upon closer observation, this relationship is symbiotic; really, one can’t survive without the other. Oliver Platt and Robert Downey Jr. delivered memorable performances, making full use of the little screen time they were given.

The estranged father-son relationship underlies the whole film and explores it to a satisfying emotional conclusion with the 1s-a-day video scene which in my opinion was brilliant, highlighting the film’s emotional tone.

Of course there are some flaws with the film, including the impossibility of some of the story elements such as how quick and easy it was for the sous chef to come and help them and how easy it was for the ex-wife to fall back in love with the main character.

But overall, it was a movie full of satisfaction, like eating a really good meal. I’ll certainly be looking forward to be back for another round of Jon Favreau’s future offerings!

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Hard Eight

Only after reading Philip Baker Hall’s interview with Rolling Stone (http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/philip-baker-hall-remembers-genius-philip-seymour-hoffman-20140202), did I realise that most of the scene above was improvised. Philip Seymour Hoffman never ceases to amaze me with his brilliance. To be able to improvise this well and catch the timing right goes to show his genius. The world will surely suffer from this loss of a massive acting talent for a long time.