Category Archives: Academy Award Nominee

Field of Dreams (1989)

If you build it, he will come.

– The Voice

This is the last movie that I saw before my burnout happened over two months, the guy tear-jerker Field of Dreams. There is an unwritten rule that if you are a man and you don’t cry at the end of, you have no soul. That is true. Every boy wants to have one game of catch with their fathers once in their lifetime. Based on the novel, “Shoeless Joe”, it was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score.

A farmer from Iowa named Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is walking through his field when he hears a disembodied saying, “If you built it, he will come.” He hears the same phrase repeatedly, but he is the only one that hears it. He confesses to his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) about the phrase that he keeps on hearing. She thinks that maybe it was God talking to him or maybe he is going off the deep end.

Ray randomly questions the townspeople about the meaning of the phrase until he realizes that he has to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. He thinks that this action would bring a childhood hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, back so he could play one last game. Ray thinks that he is turning into his father (Dwier Brown), a man who played it safe during his life and never took chances.

Ray decided to plow him field, much to the chagrin of the people in the town who think that Ray is bonkers  and would lose his farm. He spends his life savings building the diamond, waiting for something to happen. Months go by with no response until there is a man walking in the diamond. It is Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). They play a mini game of baseball. When they are done playing, Ray and Joe realize that Joe cannot step foot outside of the diamond. Joe disappears into the cornfield.

Ray’s brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield) thinks that Ray is crazy to think that he could afford the farm when he wiped out most of his crop. The bank is threatening to take away the home. The NY Yankees team from the 1919 World Series come to play ball in the field. Ray, Annie and their daughter, Karin (Gaby Hoffmann) can see them, but Mark cannot.

Ray has enough to deal with when the voice tells him to “ease his pain”. He thought he meant the radical novelist turned social recluse, Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones). He tries to kidnap him to take him to a ball game where he didn’t have the opportunity to do when his father.

I might have remembered the movie differently, because I didn’t get the same feeling with movie like I did when I was younger. I bawled at the end of the movie, but I had a heartwarming feeling by this last viewing. Hmm… I guess, the magic of the film is gone.

Judgment: It’s still a fun ride, but its lost its luster.

Rating: 7/10

American Gangster (2007)

 The man I worked for had one of the biggest companies in New York City. He didn’t own his own company. White man owned it, so they owned him. Nobody owns me, though.

– Frank Lucas

I have previously watched American Gangster when an aunt loaned me the DVD of the movie. I watched a third of the movie when I stopped, because it was too long for me to pay any attention to it. I knew that the movie was nominated for two Oscars including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Ruby Dee for her five-minute role and for Best Art Direction. Watching the movie against almost made root for the bad guy… almost.

Harlem 1968. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) mourns the death of Bumpy Johnson (Clarence Williams III) who was a surrogate father to him. Bumpy was Frank’s teacher for dealing with the gangster life, especially for a black man in those times. Frank wants to take over in Bumpy’s place, but do things a little better. He wants to get the best product, which was cocaine to give to the people of Harlem. He wants to show his dominance with the other gangsters of the neighborhood like Tango (Idris Elba) who treats Frank like a servant and Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who is all talk and no bit.

At the same time, an undercover cop, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) tries to be on the straight and narrow in a sea of corruption in the police department. Richie’s partner, Javier Rivera (John Ortiz) discovered a car that had almost a million dollars in it. John wants to keep some of the money, but Richie wants to do the right thing and turn them all in. he Richie is not the most popular cop in the precinct. He is going to night school to get his law degree and having to pay child support to his ex-wife, Laurie (Carla Cugino).

There is a crooked cop, Detective Trupo (Josh Brolin) who confiscated drugs from busts, water them down and sell them back to the bad guys for a profit. He wants to get some hush-hush money from Frank, but Frank doesn’t want to be another police lackey.

Opium and heroin are on the rise during this time and about goes to Bangkok to get the purest heroin that he could find. He finds it and sells it on the street as “Blue Magic” for dirt cheap. With the money from selling the 100 kilos of heroin, he buys a home for his Mama (Ruby Dee) and the rest of his family. Frank decides to expand his business and include his brothers in the process.

Meanwhile, Richie is hand selected to lead a special group of DEA agents to help bring down the drug trafficking ring. their first target is Frank Lucas.

The movie came with the theatrical version and the unrated version. I wanted to see the theatrical version, because it was short. The movie is 2:45 at least. That is a lot of movie about a bad guy selling drugs to his own people. The unrated version would make it three hours. No thanks. I was able to take the movie. there were some good moments in the movie that was bogged down by filler scene that I could do without.

Judgment: It’s interesting to see a movie about a black gangster, but I wish that it was a tighter story.

Rating: 7/10

Memento (2001)

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

– Leonard Shelby

It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and  Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.

I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.

As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.

Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.

He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.

Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.

The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.

But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.

Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.

Rating: 9/10

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Today and tomorrow I cast out demons and work cures. On the third day, I will be perfected.

– Jesus

 

After the rapture did not happen last week, I wanted to see the controversial Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The only thing that I have heard is the controversy of having Jesus portrayed as a flawed mortal and not the savior most people know. I didn’t realize that it received the Criterion treatment, but I knew that it was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Director. I think that I would have had a strong reaction back then instead of now.

Based on the 1960 Nikos Kazantzakis novel, the movie is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (Willem Dafoe). Jesus is a mortal living his life as a carpenter living with his mother, Mary (Verna Bloom). He is haunted by bouts of fainting spells, widespread pain all over his body and the voices he hears. He doesn’t know if it’s God or the Devil talking to him.

His best friend, Judas (Harvey Keitel) visits him to ask him why is he building crosses for Roman so they could crucify his fellow Jews. Jesus takes pity on the people that he has sent on the cross. The villagers think that he is a traitor and should be killed for his actions. Whenever he walks across the town with the cross, people throw rocks at him. He is spat upon by Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), the local prostitute.

Jesus continues to hear the voices speaking to him. He is conflicted because he doesn’t want to be the messiah. Jesus tries to make God hate him so he could make another person the messiah. He is afraid of every aspect of his life.

He wants to seek forgiveness from Mary Magdalene before Jesus sets off on his journey for absolution. She doesn’t understand why he couldn’t love her and she does for him. While he was purified on his sins, he tries to preach the word of God, but he is not the best speaker to deliver God’s message.

Meanwhile, Judas is sent to kill Jesus, but he doesn’t. He decides to join him on his ultimate mission with the apostles to preach God’s message to the people of Jerusalem. Jesus makes some selfish decisions that could ultimately effected the course of his purpose on Earth.

My first thoughts of this movie are that , why is Harvey Keitel in this movie? He has his regular accent in B.C. Israel. Say what? Ever heard of a dialect coach? I felt like the story was not intriguing enough for me to invest my time with it. Let me tell you, it was a lot of time. The movie is 2 1/2 hours long. I did not feeling anything with the movie. If you have been a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I am not a religious person. Organized religion bothers me that I have to be this person and not myself.

I wish that the movie would have provoked a response, but I think that people are not as easily offended today then they were twenty years ago.

Judgment: This movie should have been dumped into the Dead Sea where it belongs.

Rating: 3/10

The Birds (1963)

Don’t they ever stop migrating?

– Annie Hayworth

You know how much I love Alfred Hitchcock movies. He is the only director that I have reviewed at least five on his movie at the time of the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair series. The Birds is another movie that I crossed off that list. It was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Visual Effects. This movie that did not make me feel the same way about birds as Jaws did with sharks.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) goes into a pet shop in downtown San Francisco to pick up a bird that she had ordered. Her bird had not come in the time it was supposed. She had to wait until a dashing young man comes into the store, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) mistaking her for the a worker there. Mitch asks Melanie about what type of bird is best for his sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). He wanted lovebirds. They begin to chat each other up until he leaves.

Melanie decides to surprise Mitch by buying the lovebirds and leave them out on his apartment. She learns that he is out-of-town for the weekend. He is visiting his family in Bodega Bay. She drives to Bodega Bay to find out where the Brenner house is located. She visits the local schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) to ask her about the family home which across the bay. She charters a small boat to sneak birds into the house.

When she crosses back across the bay, she is attacked by seagull. She and Mitch thinks that it is a fluke until the birds of the town start going crazy and start attacking all the residents of the town. The town becomes under siege with seagulls, crows and blackbirds for neighboring towns.

The movie for the most part is unsettling to watch, but I didn’t completely buy into it. I have to say who the hell get killed by a bunch of birds. What, do they peck you to death? It sounds ludicrous to me.

Did anybody get the feels that there is something more about Melanie and Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy)? Did you get the sense of a man being a attracted to a version of his mother? I got that feeling big time.

Judgment: The movie is unsettling to with, but it won’t make you afraid of birds.

Rating: 7.5/10

Rashômon (1950)

No one tells a lie after he’s said he’s going to tell one.

– Commoner

I do not know that many Kurosawa’s movies. I have only seen Seven Samurai and have reviewed as part of the LAMB in the Director’s Chair spotlight a while ago. I wanted to see more of Kurosawa’s film because I enjoyed Seven Samurai very much. I wanted the #8o Film of All Time on IMDb, Rashomon. It was nominated for Best Art Direction, but it won an Honorary Award for Foreign Language Film, not the competitive Oscar. It was expected to be blown away, but I felt cheated.

The story takes place in the ruined temple of Rashômon where is a torrential rainstorm. A Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) seeks refuse from the rain. He sees the Priest (Minoru Chiaki) and the Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) look visibly distraught. The Commoner asks the men what is disturbing them. The Woodcutter tells him about a terrible that happened in the middle of woods on top of the mountain.

He recounts finding a woman’s hat in a tree branch, then a samurai’s cap, a piece of rope and finally the samurai’s body. He goes to the police. The Woodcutter tells his account to the trial of the bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune).

Tajômaru tells his tale when the Policeman (Daisuke Katô) arrested in the woods after the murder. Tajômaru tells why he did what he did, because he wanted to capture the wife, Masako (Machiko Kyô) of her husband, Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mori), but not kill him. Tajômaru ties up husband to a nearby tree. Masako tries to stab Tajômaru with her pearl inlay. He forces himself upon her. Afterwards, Masako says that he dies or her husband.

The Woodcutter thinks that the story is a lie. The movie gives three other versions of the story. One of them is true, but which one.

The movie’s plot was not what I was expecting. Granted, I went into this completely blind. The premise seemed silly to me. I have to watch an hour and half of people counted stories from different perspectives. That’s it. I felt cheated. I thought it was going to be an epic movie, but it was very quiet and subdued. I didn’t care for it. I started and stopped it at least three times, because I was not invested in the story.

Judgment: The theme is interesting, but the rest is not.

Rating: 5/10

Half Nelson (2006)

Man… I’m sweating like George Bush on Judgment Day.

– Dan Dunne

I haven’t seen Half Nelson in a couple of years. Ryan Gosling received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance. I thought I might revisit the movie to see if the movie is still effective. The answer to that question is no.

A young upstart, Dan Dunne (Gosling) is teaching at an inner city junior high school in New York City. He tries to get his students to think about history and how they should learn from the past to become people in the future. He also coaches the school’s girl basketball team. His life is thrown for a loop with his ex, Rachel (Tina Holmes) comes back to town. She comes to the game, but it was a losing game.

After the game, one of Dan’s students, Drey (Shareeka Epps) comes into the locker rom to find him smoking a crack pipe in one of the stalls. He wants her to kept what she saw a secret. He gives her a ride home when her deadbeat father doesn’t even bother trying to pick her up.

Drey begins to cut Mr. Dunne’s class. Drey’s mother Karen, (Karen Chilton) is concerned for her daughter. So she won’t end up being the wrong crowd that got Drey’s brother in jail. She especially doesn’t want her hanging out with the local drug dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie) and making her hustle for him.

During time at the teacher’s lounge, Jimbo (Denis O’Hare) express his disgust that a crack pipe was recently found in the locker room. Dan and Drey develop a close relationship that for some people would be perceived as inappropriate.

I think that the movie lost its luster for me. I guess, I couldn’t believe that nobody would have pegged this guy as a crackhead. If he was using regularly, he would look like death. I wouldn’t believe that he and Drey would be close friends. I’m surprised that other teachers or administrators wouldn’t have found out.

I know that the movie won a couple of Spirit Awards for both Ryan and Shareeka. I think the movie felt disingenuous to me. It’s a shame, because I loved this movie a couple of years ago. I don’t know what happened.

Judgment: Ryan Gosling comes into his own in this movie.

Rating: 7/10

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Sebastian said, “Truth is the bottom of a bottomless well.”

– Mrs. Venable

After the untimely passing of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m glad that her filmography will be center stage on the upcoming LAMB Acting School 101. I was surprised at myself that I have never reviewed one of Ms. Taylor’s before now. That changed with the big screen adaptation of Tennessee William’s play, Suddenly, Last Summer. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Actress nominations for Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie at times was make making it hard to sit still.

The story takes place in 1937 where a young neurosurgeon, Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montogemry Clift) is performing brain surgery on a deranged woman at the Lions Views State Asylum. He is performing an experimental procedure called a lobotomy. He is disappointed with the lack of proper equipment at the place that he threatens to quit.

Dr. Lawrence Hockstader (Albert Dekker) gives John a letter from a would-be patron, Mrs. Violet Venable (Hepburn) who wants him to perform the experimental surgery on her niece, Catherine Holly (Taylor) who is locked away at another asylum, St. Mary’s. They agree to meet at the Venable house to discuss matters. John is caught off guard with the overgrown jungle in the backyard of the estate.

Mrs. Venable talks endlessly about her son, Sebastian that died a year earlier. Apparently, Catherine was there that faithful day when Sebastian died. The incident has driven her to madness. It was described as dementia praecox to her. Catherine is having strange hallucinations about the incident, and she is taking out her frustrations on the staff there. They want Catherine to leave soon. Mrs. Venable thinks that the procedure would cure her of her ramblings.

John goes to St. Mary’s to see if Catherine’s condition in genuine or not. As he hides in a dark corner of the room, he watches Catherine burn a nun’s hand with her lit cigarette. when John tries to questions Catherine about the death of Sebastian, she cannot remember anything. He decides to transfer her to Lion’s View where he could keep a close eye on her and try to chip away at the mind block that she had about the incident.

As John is getting closer to the truth of Sebastian’s death, the more skeletons flying out of the closet.

The movie overall was entertaining to watch, but the grandoise speeches were a bit much for me to take. Mrs. Venable going on infinitum about Sebastian was tiring to watch. I thought Hepburn and Taylor deserved their nominations. I thought that Hepburn was probably placed in the wrong category. It seemed like a supporting role to me.

The final revelation at the end saved this movie for me.

Judgment: This lesser known Williams’ movie should be seen.

Rating: 7/10

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The Kids Are All Right is one the of movies that I regretted not seeing last year. I was kicking myself because I wanted to see the movie from my Julianne Moore blog-a-thon for LAMB Acting School 101. The movie was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay. After hearing the tremendous buzz around this film, I was a little disappointed with it.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been in a committed relationship for over twenty years. Like with every relationship, they have hit a plateau. Nic is the sole breadwinner of the family working as a doctor, while Jules is starting up a landscape architect business.

Recently celebrating their daughter, Joni’s (Mia Wasikowska) 18th birthday, their family dynamic changes when Joni and her half-brother, Laser (Josh) snoop around their moms personal belonging to find the identity of their birth father. The sperm bank calls sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo) to ask him if her would like to see his kids. He agrees.

Paul initial meeting with the kids comes off awkward as Joni is more receptive to getting to know Paul and Laser is more guarded. Laser lets the secret meeting with his birth dad slip when his moms question his relationship with best friend, Clay (Eddie Hassell). Nic and Jules think that the kids should not meet Paul again until they have a chance to meet him.

When the family meets Paul, Nic is weary about him whiles Jules is open to getting to know him. When the conversation turns to Jules business, Paul wants to hire Jules as his landscape architect for his overgrown backyard. The relationships between everyone changes when an indiscretion threatens to tear the family apart.

I think that screenwriters Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg have created a fully realized family that you are not bothered that the family has two moms.  I did feel that some plot points were not explored enough with Laser’s friendship with Clay, Paul’s flirt-flirt with Tanya (Yaya DaCosta) or Joni with her friends, Jai (Kunal Sharma) and Sasha (Zosia Mamet).

A couple of things really bothered me with the movie was the grainy-ness of the film. I don’t know if that was Cholodenko’s intention for that to happen or it was the transfer to DVD. Also, the indiscretion felt familiar, because it was a plot point in Queer As Folk. It was like okay.

Judgment: It feels like an accessible movie that everyone could enjoy.

Rating: 7.5/10

Yesterday (2004)

Powerless to change the past . . . She lived to change the future.

To close out the SIL Festival, I wanted to watched the only movie in history to nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Made for TV Movie, Yesterday. I didn’t know that much about the movie. I heard a summary for the movie and I was intrigued to see it.

During blistering South African summer, a young Zulu woman named Yesterday (Leleti Khumalo) is walking two hours from her village of Roohiek to Kromdraai with her daughter, Beauty (Lihle Mvelase) by her side.

She has had a serious cough for a while and she wanted it check out by the Doctor (Camilla Walker). Being the only doctor in miles, there is a long line to see the Doctor and she is eventually turned away. she had to wait a week to come back to the Doctor.

Yesterday waits toiling through farmland near her house until she nearly collapses. She goes back to the clinic a little earlier, but she is turned away again for being in the long line. Frustrated, she tries to satay strong for her daughter by fetching water from the communal water pump and wait for the day that her husband, John (Kenneth Khambula) to come back from a mining assignment in Johannesburg.

One day, Yesterday passes out in the doorway of her house and is take to a Sagoma to check out. A Sagoma is a kind of witch doctor. She tells Yesterday that she is holding on to some residual anger that is causing her systems. Yesterday doesn’t feel that she is angry at all.

A local Teacher (Harriet Lenabe) Yesterday has befriended gives her the money to take a taxi to the clinic so she would be the one of first in line. When she is finally examined by the Doctor, the Doctor wants to take her blood. On a follow-up visit, Yesterday receives the devastating news that she is HIV+. She has been faithful to her husband. How could she get the virus? It is now her mission to find her husband.

Being that this is the first Zulu full-length feature is  a pleasant surprise for me. I never thought that this woman who cannot read or write could be stricken with the virus that would eventually kill her. During the course of the movie, the movie becomes like The Scarlet Letter, but Yesterday wants to fight to survive. I applaud her for her courage.

Judgment: This is a great story that you wish that this disease would be gone from our lives.

Rating: 8.5/10

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