Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mini Series Review: Hatfields & McCoys

"Hatfields & McCoys"
Released May 2012
History Channel Mini-Series

It's been a good 6 months since I posted (and I've seen a lot of movies and read a few books in that time). I've neglected this side project because I've been utterly distracted by being pregnant. But I had to revive the project for a recent viewing that blew me away.

The Hatfields and the McCoys. A mini-series. That odd forum found somewhere between movie and tv show. TV mini-series are often mediocre, but they have the potential to be extraordinary. Mostly this is because the director has the opportunity to do more because of the time allotted. It's not constrained to a  2 hour movie timeframe so you have more time to develop characters. Yet, it's not a tv show so you don't have to stretch out a story longer than necessary for the sake of renewal and ratings.

I really enjoyed this mini-series. It aired on the history channel so I felt it had more credibility even though obviously they took some artistic liberties. I've never been a big Kevin Costner fan but I really liked him in this role and overall I thought the acting was great. As a Southerner, I am often annoyed by fake Southern accents. Yet, the dialect and accents found in this movie were quite accurate to me. The Civil War references, the late 1800s class struggle and life...all seemed pretty well researched as well. I was completely sucked into the feud and the lives of the characters and not distracted by blaring inaccuracies.

The series explored questions of justice, loyalty, family, class, faith, and general right and wrong. Neither family was really enduring. It was hard to root for a side. Both families had characters to love and characters to despise. It was truly a tumultuous battle.

I related a lot to the issue of family loyalty. In the South, family loyalty is still a big deal even today. Blood is thicker than any other tie and there's a tendency to side with family above all other relationships, including marriage. I don't know if this is healthy but I get the culture and the torn-ness that comes with choosing whats right versus what's expected.

All in all, very enjoyable.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

"The Hunger Games"
Released March 2012
Directed by: Gary Ross

Alright, it's been months since I did a real review and I've been anticipating this movie for quite some time---so lets do this. I'm almost a little disappointed by all the hype it's gotten (3rd best opening weekend ever) because with that comes a lot of opinions and most people have a hard time being neutral. But lets get on with it... 

First, the books. I read them months ago (actually before I knew they were making movies). I do not think that Suzanne Collins is the best writer ever, but I think the concept was good and I enjoyed reading them. They were definitely addicting. I am a really big fan of anything post apocalyptic or dystopian. That's not everyone's cup of tea, so I'm actually a little surprised at how popular the movie has been (and not surprised at the people appalled at the concept). 

I like books and film equally and recognize that they are different art forms. A book cannot be translated to screen without losing some details. Otherwise it would be 6 hours long at least. A good movie will capture the spirit of the book, cut the things that can be cut and keep the things that are important all while keeping the integrity of the story intact. It's difficult, but it can be done. I've never been one to whine about the movie changing too much from the book if the movie is done well. Although there are still some who are upset about the cuts made for this film, I think they did an excellent job translating it to screen. And actually, the movie may be better than the book (gasp!) in a lot of ways. I say that because Suzanne Collins is straight out of Hollywood, not academia. This is her forte, and it shows. It's one of the best adaptions I've seen and I'm suspicious that she had a movie in mind the entire time she was penning the book.

The choices for the actors I think overall were good. The only one I was truly skeptical about going in was Cinna. I don't think they really developed his character enough for me to have strong feelings about the choice one way or another (which is too bad because he's one of my favorite characters in the book), but I didn't find the choice distracting. The only character I didn't like the choice of actor was Cato...and that's really only because he was a terrible actor. The rest of the acting was decent I thought.

I'm not really sure what I'd have thought about it had I not read the books. I've heard some people say that there wasn't enough character development or that it was predictable. I didn't feel that way, but then again I already knew what was going to happen and I knew what was going on in the heads of the characters. 

The production of the film was so much better than expected. Really great camera angles and style choices. It didn't feel cheesy to me (and it was definitely at risk), I thought they did a great job keeping the violence from being too gorey while still having the impact needed to convey the emotion and disgust of it all.

Just like with anything popular, there are going to be people obsessed with this series, and people who hate it just because people are obsessed with it. There will also be the camps who feel the whole premise is degrading and violent...and people who feel it wasn't violent enough. I've seen mostly positive reviews, and of course some "what are you people thinking, it sucked!" but that's the nature of our culture and unsurprising. 

For me, it was a success. I liked the movie. I thought they did a great job. I'm not sure the next two will be as good since I think the books/stories get weaker as they go, but for this film alone---well done. Here's hoping the hype doesn't keep people from enjoying it or draw the wrong people in to see it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Sunday 2012

Wow, it's been months since I've posted and I've seen quite a few films in that time. Time to resurrect this blog for a recap of this years Academy Awards. Personally I love the Oscars. I adore film as an art and I enjoy awards shows. There are obviously some negative aspects about what we're celebrating and all of the excess, but I do enjoy the night each year.

First off, Billy Crystal hosting was a success. Personally I've never cared who hosted. I am watching it because I care about the films and who wins and the commentary in between is neither here nor there for me. But the average viewer doesn't not share my interest. The Oscars are notoriously one of the worst rated television nights of the year and the hosts in the last at least 5 years have been getting a lot of flack for poor ratings. Personally, I don't think they've been all that bad. I just think the average movie goer isn't interested in the films represented. But that being said, Billy Crystal reminded me that it can be done right. Entertaining, funny, and not too forced overall. He really is the best at Oscar hosting.

Overall, as usual, I'm pleased. There are always movies and actors I feel get overlooked but for the most part some of the greatest movies are recognized.

I was not at all surprised to see Octavia Spencer win Support Actress..she was the clear favorite.

I think Bryce Dallas Howard's role in The Help was phenominal. I've never been more impressed with her and I think she deserved a nomination just as much if not more than her four co-stars.

I think there were some overlooked movies this year (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Super 8, etc) that were great and I'm surprised Bridemaids got so much hype overall.

No Pixar movies nominated this year...the clear favorite in animation. The ones nominated were all mediocre to me.

I know that the Kodak Theater is not big enough to hold every star every year and that the ones there are usually connected to the films nominated in some way, but it still feels incomplete when I notice faces aren't there (Kate, Leo, Nicole, Johnny, etc) that I come to expect to see when big stars get together.

Some people were upset about Meryl Streep's win. I admit I was a little surprised (not shocked) because there were a lot of really good actresses nominated. But I really had no idea who'd take home the Oscar. That being said, though the movie overall wasn't very successful, Meryl completely nailed the part of Margaret Thatcher. When people get upset that mediocre movies win in categories like supporting actor or sound editing---it annoys me. It's not Best Picture. It's not about the film overall. It's about the individual performances and work and that is exactly how it should be judged. Both Meryl and Michelle did great jobs at capturing the person they were playing even though the films themselves were not that great. The same can be said for movies like Harry Potter and Transformers that overall might not be Oscar material, but aspects like sound editing and visual effects absolutely are.

Hugo deserved to win the visual categories. I liked the movie in general and liked the twist from Scorsese, one of my all time favorite Directors. I thought the film dragged a bit, but visually it was stunning. Those are definitely the categories it should have won in.

I generally don't understand when Makeup wins in a period film over fantasy because it just doesn't seem as hard to do makeup for Queen Elizabeth as it does to make prosthetics and fantasy characters come to life. But I think in this case it was one of those...honoring one of the oldest members of the field. Often at the Oscars I feel artists get "gipped" the year they deserved to win because it just happened to fall in the same year as an Oscar favorite (for instance, Leonardo Dicaprio has never won and I think his Howard Hughs would have taken it any year except the year he was nominated when everything went to Ray) so later on they'll throw that artist a bone and give them an award for film that wasn't their best (see Martin Scorsese winning for The Departed. A good film, but not his best. He was just long overdue for an Oscar).

John Williams never seems to win lately, but he's bound to get a lifetime achievement award at some point. He's the most famous composer for film and he's getting old. He's not going to around too much longer friends.

I love Bret McKenzie.

In closing, I haven't seen The Artist yet so I can't say whether or not I think it deserved to be the Oscar favorite and Best Picture winner this year. I do think what I've seen of Jean Dujardin's performance was great, but overall...hard to say with so many other great movies nominated.