Archived entries for

Academy Awards nominees, 2009

Here are my thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominees, as per tradition

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

My guess is that Slumdog Millionaire will get the Big Prize this year. There’s always a change of a big upset in that category (remember 2006) but Danny Boyle’s film got really high praise from critics and guilds, and it has been sweeping all the big awards (4 Golden Globes out of 4 nominations, Screen Actors’ Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast, Producers Guild Award) so far. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has plenty of nominations but it hasn’t won a major award yet, except perhaps for the National Board of Review Award for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The remaining three films, Milk, The Reader and Frost/Nixon, although praised by the critics as well, do not seem to have much of a chance of actually winning.

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Slumdog Millionaire

Image curtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures via Yahoo Movies; hosted by Photobucket

a) he cheated, b) he is a genius, c) he is lucky, d) it is written

Almost two years ago, I wrote that the sky’s the limit, but not for Danny Boyle. The film he had released then had deeply impressed me (and still does); however, the film I am now writing about is nothing less than yet another triumph for Mr. Boyle.
The plot is as follows -an impoverished kid from the poorest slums of Mumbai, called Jamal, becomes an overnight sensation when he reaches the final question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, the infamous TV quiz show. Is there a secret behind his answers?
It sounds pretty straightforward, but then it really isn’t.
Slumdog Millionaire has been praised by critics since its limited release in December in America and it is poised to be met with equally positive reactions from its more mainstream audience: the film is a grand celebration of life, love and hardships. It’s inspiring entertainment, a heightened reality depicted with no qualms; genuine storytelling with a heart as big as the city it is set in. The latter is the true ‘star’ of the movie, bursting with colours and movement, which seems to fit Danny Boyle’s restless directing. The easiness with which he seemed to have filmed this feature is deceptive, of course; which makes Slumdog Millionaire an even greater achievement.
There’s so much emotion in this film that I felt like it was pouring out from every direction -oddly enough, it reminded me a lot of Millions, a film Danny Boyle made in 2004. Both films are incredibly sweet and touching (for different reasons) but they share the same sort of innocence and honesty. Oh and the kids are amazing as well.
There’s definitely something very human in trying to depict poverty in such a vivid environment. Boyle never forgets that in pain, happiness is also to be found; but that fact is never passed as a moralising statement or a ‘message’. Even though the film sometimes deal with hefty subjects, it’s actually as light and funny as your average comedy. A surprising mix of genre, for sure; but Boyle is such a master that the film never feels unbalanced, or the humour irrelevant.
On a more technical note, the editing is downright impressive, as the main storyline is intertwined with Jamal’s memories, giving the film that extra edge which makes it even more thrilling. Photography is outstanding -lights and colours seem natural and untouched and the film’s overall aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. The music, composed by A.R. Rahman, is a mix of outrageous Hindi sounds with classical music, which is more than appropriate. Finally, the characters are flawlessly portrayed and that’s quite a feat since there are three different actors portraying the characters (at three different stages in their lives).
Slumdog Millionaire won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama) last Sunday, and is well on its way to win more awards, probably the Oscar for Best Film. And that, I’m happy to say, would be well-deserved, as there’s hardly any film this year I can think of that will move and thrill the audience as much as this one. It’s as simple as that, but sometimes all you need is a little bit of faith and a lot of love, two things which Danny Boyle is apparently more than happy to provide.

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2009 preview

As per custom, here are…

The 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2009
still a completely useless yet informative guide written by me.

Indicated release dates are the French ones only. Informations and summaries are provided by the IMDb and CS.net.

1. Revolutionary Road (January, 21st)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Kathy Bates
View the trailer

Plot summary : Based on the celebrated novel by Richard Yates, director Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road is the story of a young couple (Oscar nominees Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) trying to find fulfillment in an age of conformity. Trapped in a world of encoded convention, they dream without faith, as lies and self-deceptions build to explosive consequences.

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Feburary, 4th)
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, Tilda Swinton
View the trailer

Plot summary : “I was born under unusual circumstances.” And so begins “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. We follow his story, set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918, into the 21st century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man’s life can be. Benjamin Button is a grand tale of a not-so-ordinary man and the people and places he discovers along the way, the loves he finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time.

3. Slumdog Millionaire (Feburary, 4th)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan
View the trailer

Plot summary : Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions.
Intrigued by Jamal’s story, the jaded Police Inspector begins to wonder what a young man with no apparent desire for riches is really doing on this game show?
When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out…

4. Milk (March, 4th)
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Victor Garber
View the trailer

Plot summary : His life changed history. His courage changed lives.
In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans.

5. Up (July, 29th)
Directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Bob Peterson
Starring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo, Jordan Nagai
View the trailer

Plot summary : From Disney & Pixar comes Up, a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 9-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Up invites you on a hilarious journey into a lost world, with the least likely duo on Earth.

6. Watchmen (March, 4th)
Directed by Zach Snyder
Starring Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson
View the trailer

Plot summary : A complex, multi-layered mystery adventure, “Watchmen” is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed-up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion – a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers – Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity…but who is watching the Watchmen?

7. Public Enemies (October, complete date TBA)
Directed by Michael Mann
Starring Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Channing Tatum, Billy Crudup, Leelee Sobieski, Giovanni Ribisi, Emilie de Ravin, Marion Cotillard, David Wenham
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : The incredible and true story of legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Depp), the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public. No one could stop Dillinger. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyonefrom his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression.

8. Shutter Island (October, 7th)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : Shutter Island is the story of two U.S. marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), who are summoned to a remote and barren island off the cost of Massachusetts to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from the island’s fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane.

9. Green Zone (full date TBA)
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Jason Isaacs, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : A thriller about a pair of CIA agents on the trail of certain Weapons of Mass Destruction and a foreign correspondent following their mission. Inspired by Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the best-selling book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

10. Inglorious Basterds (full date TBA)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Bruhl, Eli Roth
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds” are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers.

And just in case you are wondering, Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones is scheduled to be released in January 2010 in France. If there was an eleventh spot, I would certainly include the sixth Harry Potter film… And I know some of these films opened late December 2008 in the US; but since I will see them in 2009, they are 2009 movies to me. I have to say, although I presented this as a top 10, I am equally excited about all of these films -what a great movie year ahead of us.

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