Monday, January 29, 2007



might be the worst film of the year (I've seen Pulse, so that's saying a lot), on the levels of acting, visual effects , direction, writing, and editing. One word to describe all these aspects: MESSY. Putting aside the glaring, senseless omissions from the book (it is never mentioned, for example, that Arya is princess of the Elves), the film is a technical disaster, with one scene fleeting to the next with no subtlety or grace. What should have been the most exciting part of the film (the war between the King's forces and the rebels) becomes an orgy of weird shots, disastrous pacing, and forced drama. The whole film has the feel of a terribly long, extended trailer for a fantasy miniseries (of which there have been many that are much better executed than this one). Small surprise: Jeremy Irons, who contributed significantly to making the Dungeons & Dragons film unbearable, is this film's lone saving grace, acting with gravitas yet not overdoing it as he did in that other stinkfest. Grade: F


Let me begin by saying that the snub for this film in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and to a lesser extent in the Best Screenplay and Best Director races, is a travesty. Volver may not be Pedro Almodovar's best film, but it proves beyond doubt how masterful he is directing an ensemble of great actresses in a film without excesses. Vibrant, bittersweet, heartwarming, Volver is proof that small films can pack a large punch. Penelope Cruz's performance is one of the best for female actors this year , subtly strong and affecting, and costars Carmen Maura and Lola Duenas are formidable performers in supporting roles. In fact, it wouldn't be so easy or fair to label theirs as merely supporting performances. Volver is truly an ensemble piece to be treasured for generations to come. Grade: B+

The Pursu
it of Happyness

Consider yourselves warned: if you don't like films that make you cry as early as the first few sequences, then you probably won't like The Pursuit of Happyness. Then again, it is a significant strength of the film that doesn't too consciously or overbearingly try to squeeze tears out of its audience like a sponge. With a performance as rooted and as honest as Will Smith's, the film doesn't have to try too hard. It is a simple film with no flair, making it all the easier for the audience to connect with Smith's character as he traverses a life that is all too familiar to us, whether or not we have lived something like it. It's a very human, organic story, and if it makes you cry along the way, then it would have achieved part of its purpose. Grade: B+

The Good

I find it hard to comprehend why The Good Shepherd hasn't taken off among critics and Academy voters, as it is common Oscar fodder, with a big cast (headed by Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie) and having been directed by the great Robert De Niro. As far as I am concerned, its only flaw is that it is too long (at nearly three hours), and yet it isn't the type of three-hour movie where you would be tempted to quit viewing it halfway. It is an engrossing story of how the CIA became the leading intelligence agency in the world, smoothly and elegantly directed by De Niro, and adequately acted by its ensemble cast. The frames are shot beautifully, and the set pieces are admirable (it deserves its lone nomination of Best Art Direction). What went wrong? This is a film that should be cherished, if you have three hours to spare. Grade: B+

Stranger Than Fiction

What a delicious concoction of, yes, fiction, this film is. Stranger Than Fiction has a novel story (Will Ferrell's character hears in his head his life being narrated), strongly affecting performances (primarily by Ferrell and Emma Thompson, but Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman also offer strong support), and adequately magical direction by Marc Forster. It is ultimately a story about controlling one's destiny and living life to the fullest until it ends, but, as a friend of mine had said, the film achieves getting this message across without being preachy about it. With all the good things going for it on all levels, Stranger Than Fiction doesn't have to try too hard to make us feel for its characters and the story. This is truly a gem of a film (one that should have easily gotten a Best Original Screenplay nod). Grade: A

Images from IMDb

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