Category Archives: Academy Award Winner

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

 People say that if you don’t love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.

— Ron Kovic

Memorial Day was a while ago and I wanted to see the picture that nabbed Tom Cruise his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Born on the Fourth of July. I saw this a while ago, but I haven’t had the chance to write the review until now. The movie did win Oliver Stone the Best Director Oscar.

Based on the true story of Ron Kovic (Cruise), a man who comes from an extremely religious background, was a wrestler in high school and wanted to be part of something greater than himself. When a Marine Corps recruiter shows up at the school, Ron almost jumps at the chance of signing up and going to fight in Vietnam.

The action cut to Ron’s second tour when his platoon shot up a Vietcong village, but they accidentally killed women and children. They realize that it was ruse for the Vietcong to have the opening salvo on the Americans. During the confusion of sand and bullets, Ron ends up shooting one of his fellow soldiers, PFC Wilson (Michael Compotaro). Ron tries to confess what happened, but his superiors brush the incident under the rug.

In another altercation, Ron is shot in the foot and then in the upper chest, paralyzing him from the mid-chest down. He resides in a VA hospital in the Bronx that looks like a slum then a place for veterans. When he returns to his childhood home, he becomes angry that people are indifferent about the war and what it represents to the country.

The main reason for this review is for the next LAMB Acting School 101, Willem Dafoe. Willem has a small part as a confidant of Ron, Charlie, when Ron lives in Villa Dulce, Mexico. A place where disabled veterans stays, get drunk and have sex with hookers. Charlie questions Ron about what really happened to him in the war and questions everything that Ron believed in.

I was expected to be blown away with Tom Cruise’s performance. I saw glimpses of it, but not that much to keep me interested in it. I have seen a lot of Vietnam movies. It’s like all of them are blurring into one. This particular story is not that intriguing to me and I found myself bored with it. It seems shallow and it doesn’t explore what happens to a person when they come back from the war.

Judgment: I wish I had some glowing words to say about this movie, but I don’t.

Rating: 6.5/10

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The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion’s The Piano is one of my favorite movies of all time. I regretted not having reviewed this for the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair with her and Kathryn Bigelow a couple of months ago. The movie won Oscars for Best Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay. Watching the film again made me marvel at the subtle poetry displayed onscreen.

Ada McGrath (Hunter) is a mute that has not spoken since she was six years old. She is set to be married to Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill) who she had never seen. She has to move across the sea to New Zealand with her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) in tow. The boat she is traveling in is packed with crates of clothes, household items and her cherished piano.

When the ladies arrive on the beach, they have to wait for Mr. Stewart to come and take them to their new home. They had to camp out on the beach overnight until Stewart came with a party of Māori tribe members with his guide, George Baines (Harvey Keitel). Stewart learns right then and there that Ada is mute and only her daughter could interpret the words that she says in sign language.

Stewart wants to take everything on the beach, except for the piano because it would have been too much of a burden to carry. Ada insists on taking the piano with them. It is her only prized possession. It is her way of communicating what she is feeling to the world. Eventually, she realizes that she has to leave the piano behind for the time being.

The marriage is not joyous. There is not love there at all. Ada does not show any affection to Stewart. It really bothers him. When Stewart leaves for a quick trip, Ada and Flora come knocking on the door of Baines to ask to go get the piano. In exchange for getting her piano back into her possession, Baines asks her to teach him how to play. The catch is that he doesn’t want to play, he wants to see Ada plays. Their lessons become increasingly awkward as Baines slowly seduces her.

This movie is beautiful to watch. It’s very moody with the blue wash, the torrential rain and the wonderful score by Michael Nyman. The acting in this movie make it what it is. You think that you are not going to like the love story that is happening, but you are strangely drawn to it. The piano plays a major part of why I love this movie. I have this theory that when a person plays a piano, they win an Oscar. Think about it. Adrien Brody is The Pianist, Jaime Foxx in Ray, Ellen Bustryn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, the list goes on.

The one thing that bothers me about this movie is the Sam Neill character. I know that he is supposed to be the other guy, but I wish I could have how did he fall in love with Ada to make him do some of the things he did in the movie.

Judgment: A beautiful movie to watch and marvel.

Rating: 8.5/10

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

You lay life on a table and cut out all the tumors of injustice. Marvelous.

— Zhivago

The winner of five Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay, Doctor Zhivago is another movie that I have never seen before. Besides, the lead male character in Must Love Dogs watched this movie every time that he is depressed. I wanted to see what the fuss with about. Let me tell you, it’s not that good.

Based on the book by Boris Pasternak, the setting is the Bolshevik Revolution when a poet Yuri (Omar Sharif) is studying to be a doctor practicing general medicine. There is a young idealistic man, Pascha (Tom Courtenay) is handing out leaflets about the upcoming revelation when he is almost arrested, but his 17-year-old fiancé, Lara (Julie Christie) intervenes. She wants to stop with his radical ways before they get married. There is a complication with the relationship. Lara has an affair with the manipulative Komarovsky (Rod Steiger).

One night, a peaceful demonstration erupts into a massacre outside of high society party that Lara and Yuri attends.Yuri watches from the balcony. He quickly rushes to the injured people to aid them, but he is urged to stay out of the conflict. Pascha is injured in the fight and has to leave the city to survive. He wants to take a job teaching.

When Lara’s mother takes ill, Lara and Yuri finally meet, but Yuri’s learns of Lara’s relationship with Komarovsky. After Victor Komarovsky wrongs Lara, she seeks revenge on him. World War I separate all the characters until Yuri and Lara meet up when he is doctor on the front line and her a volunteer nurse. They have a bond with each other even thought they are both married Lara to Pascha and Yuri to Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin).

From the first frame of this movie, I knew that I was going to hate this movie. These characters are awful. Why should I feel sympathy for any of them? Then, I was confused by Russians speaking with British accents sometimes speaking in French. What? The characters keep referring to each other by at least three different names. Besides, the movie is over three hours long. Mind you, there are three hour movies that I loved like Seven Samurai or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but come on. It was like torture watching. I hated this movie with a passion. I didn’t care about what happened to them whether they died or lived. Who cares?

Judgment: It was complete waste of time. Drivel.

Rating: 1.5/10

Inside Job (2010)

Inside Job won the Best Documentary award at last year’s Oscars over such notables as Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop. I was surprised when it won, because I have never heard of the movie until it won. Like most documentaries, it was not played in regular theaters during 2010. Watching this movie made me angry that people are profiting over other’s suffering.

Writer/director Charles Ferguson takes a pointed look at the genesis of the economic meltdown in 2008 that lead to the recession that the world is now under. Matt Damon narrates all the keys components of how greed would drive people to do dangerous things that affect peoples’ jobs, homes and life savings.

It all stems from the deregulation of banks which have destroyed the way that they are being run. If there are no regulations on loans, then the head honchos wouldn’t gobble up private banks like a midnight snacks to grow bigger and bigger. Banks have borrowed money from the people who they serve to spend it on themselves, fellow business partners and their friends.

During that faithful days of September 15, 2008, Lehman Bros and AIG filed for bankruptcy. They knew that their clock was ticking down months before everything turned to shit. Nothing was being done about it. There were insiders that predicted the way that Wall Street conducted their business practices would result in an economic collapse of global proportions three years before it happened.

When the banks collapsed, trillions of dollars were lost, unemployment tripled, people lost their houses, and the top CEOs are ranking in millions of dollars to live off of it. Some of the people that were responsible for the collapse are currently serving under the current administration to help with the crisis.

It pisses me off that people could be so greedy and heartless that they would break the law or sense of mortality to stay rich. It boggles the mind that they are people struggling to sustain themselves that there are people who were responsible for it and have not been brought up on charges.

Judgment: If you have affected by the recession in any way, you must see this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Apocolypse Now (1979)

What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? A lie. A lie and we have to be merciful.

— Colonel Kurtz

I have no idea what is my problem. There are so many classic movies that I have never seen. Francis Ford Coppola’s epic movie, the #36 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Apocolypse Now is one of many. I knew very little about this movie when I saw it. It was a good thing, because would not have enjoyed it more than I did. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two for Best Sound and Cinematography.

A disillusioned Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is tired of waiting around to find action in and around Saigon. he is finally recruited by Con-Sec Intelligence for a top-secret mission in Nha Trang. Willard meets with Colonel Lucas (Harrison Ford) and General Corman (G.D. Spradlin) to talk about the mission.

There is a decorated Green Beret named Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) that has played renegade with his own missions with the consent of the US government. At first, Kurtz was praised for his efforts, but soon his leadership skills are questioned when he goes rogue. The men listen to secret tapes of Kurtz talking about the possibility that he is insane and that his actions are monstrous.

They let Willard know that Kurtz has crossed into Cambodia with his Montaguard army to take over a tribe there. There is a warrant out for Kurtz’s arrest for the murder of four Vietnamese Intelligence agents that he thinks were working as double agents. His ultimate mission to follow the Kurtz’s path to Cambodia, infiltrate his team and eliminate him.

To accomplish his mission, Willard is take on a Navy patrol boat down the river.  There is the surfer, Lance B. Johnson (Sam Bottoms), Jay “Chef” Hicks (Frederic Forrest) and 17-year-old, Tyrone “Clean” Miller (Laurence Fishburne) make this ragtag group that Willard has to deal with. There is the captain of the boat, Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) that knows that Willard is not being escorted down the river just for R&R. He knows something big is about to happen.

The movie was an example of how war cam fuck you up mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sometimes when you are in a life and death situation for so long that your moral core erodes away and you don’t know the difference between right and wrong. The actions of some of the characters are awful and despicable, but their conscience is not there.

The movie is dirty and beautiful at the same time. Who knew that Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” could fit perfectly with bombing of a Vietcong village?

Judgment: This movie shook me to the core.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

You’re too good for me, George. You’re a hundred times too good. And I’d make you most unhappy, most. That is, I’d do my best to.

— Tracy Lord

It’s a known fact that Katharine Hepburn was considered box office poison during the early part of her career. It wasn’t until she went to Broadway with the #244 Film of All-Time on IMDB, The Philadelphia Story that her career got back on track. It was a smash hit and ran for year until MGM purchased the rights to the play by Philip Barry and created the motion picture. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Oscars for Best Actor Jimmy Stewart and Best Adapted Screenplay. The farcical nature of the film seemed unnerving to me.

A Philadelphian socialite named Tracy Elizabeth Lord (Hepburn) is getting married to her nouveau riche fiancé, George Kittridge (John Howard) at her parents’ house. The whole action of the movies takes place in the span of three days. Tracy is prepping for her wedding with her mother, Margret (Mary Nash) and her younger sister, Dinah (Virginia Weidler). Their no-good father, Seth (John Halliday) is not invited to the wedding.

A tabloid magazine, Spy headed by Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) wants to infiltrate the wedding to get the scoop on the nuptials when Tracy refuses access to the event. He wants to have his reporter, Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and his photographer girlfriend, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to be a part of the wedding party. How would they do it, you may ask? They enlist the help of former Spy employee and Tracy’s ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to pretend that they are friends of Tracy’s younger brother, Julius.

The trio have their plan of action. Macaulay and Liz are looking around the rooms to find any dirt as Dexter schmoozes with his former in-laws. When Tracy sees Dexter, the tension between them is palpable. She wants him out of her house and out of the wedding. She knows that the people pretending to be friends of her brother are working for Dexter. The family pretends to be an eccentric family when the real scoop of the story unfolds with Tracy, George, Macaulay and Dexter.

The movie is a pleasant romp. A comedy of errors, but there were very few genuine laughs in the movie for me. The acting was a little hammy for me.

There were some moments of heart between Stewart and Hepburn. I’m gonna go on a feminist rant here, but I hate it when a strong woman that doesn’t want to get married would settle with an asshole that treated them like shit. their only motivation is not to end up alone. This was the same problem that I had with His Girl Friday, also starring Cary Grant– I will get to him in a moment. A guy could be a complete bastard to the get the girl and she falls for it. It pisses me off. I know that these movies were before the sexual revelation, but come on. It makes me question the intelligence of these women in the end.

I have a major issue with Cary Grant. I have seen couple of his movies that I have notice that he shows no range. He is delivering lines that would cut through Hepburn’s character, but feels like he is saying the lines. He reminds me of Bill Paxton in his delivery. He has this stoic look on his face. It bothers the hell out of me.

Judgment: A nice fluffy movie with not that much substance.

Rating: 6.5/10

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.

— Sir Bernard Pellegrin

2005 was my snobbiest year to date, because I didn’t see that many of the Oscar nominated films of that year. When Brokeback Mountain came out, it was the end-all-be-all for me. The adaptation of John Le Carré’s book, The Constant Gardener was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz Best Supporting Actress. The movie is a solid effort that swept under the rug.

after coming from his Oscar nominated direction of the seminal movie, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles followed up with this movie. A diplomat from the British High Commission, Justin Quayle (RalphFPiennes) leanrs of the death of his wife, Tessa (Weisz) from his colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston). They go to a morgue in Loki, Kenya to identify her body. People think that it was an accident, but others think that it was an assassination.

Quayle is reminded to the times that he has had with Tess. He was filling in a lecture for his friend, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) when the idealistic Tess challenged him about the actions of the US to go to war with Iraq. They have a mutual attraction with each other and quickly marry. Tess wants to go to Africa with Justin so she could do something about the AIDS crisis on the continent.

After Tess’ death, reports surface that Tess was supposedly having an affair with her African escort, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé). Quayle wanted to know why Tess was killed. It could have been from her probing into the pharmaceutical  companies of KDH and Three Bees who are using the African people as lab rats. She wanted to expose the companies for suppressing clinical trails, especially the adverse side effects, for a drug called Dypraxa that would suppose to treat tuberculosis. Justin wants to continue Tess’ crusade and investigate her death when everybody in his life is telling him to leave well enough alone.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie when I was watching the first half of the movie. I have seen movies that are heavy-handed with political messages like Syriana, Rendition or In the Valley of Elah. They will jump a subject down your throat, and you want to turn off the movie. Don’t talk at me. Let me understand what you are saying. When the conspiracy begin to unravel, the movie really started become intriguing where Justin’s life could be in the same peril as Tess’.

It did make me think about how the African people are portrayed as a continent of expendable people. With the rampant AIDS infections, famines, rebel child soldiers, and the ethnic cleansing; it shocks me that almost nothing is being done to help the African people. It makes me sad and angry that they have to fend for themselves.

Judgment: A taut thriller through and through.

Rating: 8/10

Chinatown (1974)

Let me explain something to you, Walsh. This business requires a certain amount of finesse.

— JJ Gittes

Roman Polanki’s Chinatown is currently #68 Film of All-Time on IMDb. It is one of the those films that everyone in the entire world has seen except for yours truly. It was nominated for eleven Oscars and only won for Original Screenplay. I knew very little about the movie when I started watching it. I don’t know if it was a good thing or bad that I went in blind, because I felt little cheated with the movie.

A cocky private detective, JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) looks into the lives of unfaithful spouses when the wife (Diane Ladd) of the Chief Engineer of the LA Water Company, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) wants to hire him to see if her husband is cheating on her.

Gittes takes the case and follows Mulwray throughout his day which included a city council meeting to approve a proposed dam  to help with the drought the city is currently in. Following Mulwray, Gittes sees a man going to different waterways to see if he makes the right direction opposing the measure.

Gittes is about the give up on the case when one of his associates, Duffy (Bruce Glover) tells him that Mulwray is in Echo Park with a young blonde, Katherine (Brenda Palmer). News of the affair is front page news across the city. The trouble is the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) comes to Gittes office to serve him papers.

Gittes believes that he was setup to expose Mulwray indiscretion to make him look like a fool. Mulrray suddenly disappeared and winds washed up in a riverbed. While looking over the body in the morgue, Gittes picks up a pattern of high-powered people at the water company are being drowned. He wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery before he could be the next victim.

If I knew that this movie was be about water conservation, I would have laughed in your face. That is the mystery. who would kill the chief engineer of a water company. I thought that I was going to hate this movie, but there was something with chemistry between Nicholson and Dunaway that made hold on.

Judgment: I thought the mystery itself was ridiculous and too much soap opera plots for me. 

Rating: 7/10

The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man is one the those classic movies that is on people’s top ten lists. This movie comes in as the #65 Film of All-Time on IMDb.  I wanted to see this movie, because it was taunted as one of the greatest mysteries ever. The movie won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was well deserved. I cannot get the feeling that I was disappointed with this movie.

The setting takes place in post war Vienna where the city is divided into four sections; French, British, Russian and American. An American comes into the city, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) with the promise of a writing job from his friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). It turns out that Harry recently died from a car accident and he was being buried the day that he arrives.

Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) questions Martins about his relationship with the departed Lime. He clues him in over a couple of drinks that Lime was being investigated for racketeering. He allegedly dabbled in selling black market penicillin to hospitals and having the recipients of the medicine die as a result.

Martins hears that Lime was killed in an accident. An acquaintance of Lime’s, Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White) tells a completely different story that what has been told. He said that Lime was murdered instead. Martins’ Porter (Paul Hörbiger) said that Lime was alive when three men carried his body away from the scene. It was Dr. Winkel (Erich Pronto) and a Romanian, Popescu (Siegfried Breuer) with a mysterious third man.

Martins meets up with the girl that he saw at the funeral, Lime’s main squeeze, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). She is an actress with a play in a local theater. During their time together, Anna warns Martins not to get in too deep with the investigation that he wants to launch into the mysterious circumstances of his friend’s death. He feels that the investigators are not handling the case the way that they should.

Major Calloway and Sargent Paine (Bernard Lee) are thinking that Anna may have something to do with Harry’s death. When one of the people who Martins talked to ends up dead, he becomes public enemy number one.

I heard a couple of a things about the movies. I guess I might have misinterpreted them. The movie started out like a comedy of errors with Holly Martins being a sloppy drunk mess, then it’s supposed to be intriguing with the swirling mystery. I was a bit bored with the movie. I was thinking, “Okay. When is the part that something is supposed to blow me away?” And then it came with Orson Welles as Lime. He was very charismatic as the arrogant bastard of the story. He saved the movie for me.

Judgment: The mystery thriller was bogged down with too much for my taste.

Rating: 6.5/10

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Can you hear me? I don’t want this any more! I want to call it off!

— Joel

Everybody had been talking about how great the #61 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is. I have only seen bits and pieces of the movie through the years of its release back in 2004. My greatest fear was that the movie was not gonna live up to the hype. The movie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and it should have won a couple of more. I wish I could own this movie and watch it repeatedly.

A social awkward man, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is reeling over the break up with his tangerine-tinted girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). When he is venting his frustration over Clementine seemingly ignoring him to Rob and Carrie (David Cross, Jane Adams) when Rob hands Joel a card from a company called Lacuna. The card says that Clementine has had a procedure to erase Joel from her mind.

Joel is heartbroken and intrigued to see what this procedure is all about. He finds the office of Lacuna where Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wikinson) is performing the procedure of the heartbroken patients. He wants to have the procedure done as a way of getting back at Clementine for being so heartless to erase him from her mind.

The process of mind erasure is to gather all the items that remind you of the person that you are trying to have wiped from your memory so it could build a road map to which sections of the brain to target the memories. Mierzwiak’s associates from the clinic, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Partrick (Elijah Wood) arrive at Joel’s apartment while he sleeps to begin the erasure process.

As the erasure happens, Joel is fine having the end of their relationship cleaned off. When the erasure starts going into the happiest moments of their relationship, Joel want to be able to keep the memories, because she still holds a torch for Clementine. He tries to find clever ways to hide the good Clementine inside the inner workings of his brain.

This movie is visceral and devastating to watch. Everyone knows the feeling of heartbreak and wish that there was a procedure to help erasure the bad memories out. Those bad memories are a life lessons to find out what you don’t want in the next relationship so you won’t repeat the same dating pattern. Those bad times shape you into who you are as a person and what you can give to a relationship.

People call this one of the greatest love stories of all-time. I wouldn’t go that far, but identity to the plight these characters are in. My life was on-screen. The movie was off-kilter, surreal and mind fuck. This is Charlie Kaufman we are talking about. This is his M.O.

There is one thing about this movie that I didn’t get or maybe I am reading too much into it. What happened with the relationship with Patrick? If you know what I mean, then you’ll understand. Was that a dropped plot line?

Judgment: This is a raw, beautiful, self-destructive story about love.

Rating: 9.5/10

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