Film Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four (dir by Michael Radford)


Nineteen-Eighty-Four

Yesterday, as I was flipping through the channels, I came across a documentary that was being shown on This TV.  The documentary was called Nineteen Eighty-Four and it told the story of a low-level British bureaucrat named Winston Smith (who bore a strong resemblance to a youngish John Hurt)  who, after having a secret affair with a free-spirited woman, was charged with committing “thought crimes” against the state.  As a result, he was tortured by a man named O’Brien (who looked a lot like Richard Burton) until Winston finally came to love the government above all else…

What’s that?

Okay, you caught me.

This movie was not a documentary.  Instead, it was an adaptation of George Orwell’s famous novel about a dystopian future Britain (quite cleverly renamed Airstrip One in both the book and the film) where the citizens spend their time giving thanks to Big Brother, a leader who may or may not actually be a fictional creation of the ruling party.  It’s a world where everyone knows that “Big Brother is watching you” and every day is scheduled around the “two-minute hates” that are directed towards Big Brother’s enemy, Emmanuel Goldstein (who, much like Big Brother, may or may not actually exist).  It’s a world dominated by three separate superstates that are in a state of perpetual war, though we’re also given reason to suspect that the war is just as fictional as Big Brother and Goldstein might be.  It’s a world where order is kept by the Thought Police and history is regularly changed for the benefit of the ruling party.  It’s a world where people can become unpersons and cease to exist and where all good citizens understand that one plus one equals three if the government says that it does.

So, no, it’s not a documentary.

It just feels like one.

Richard Burton 1984

As I watched Nineteen Eight-Four, it was impossible for me not to compare Orwell’s vision of the future (which is faithfully visualized in the film) with our present world.  Even though the book was written in 1948 and this film was shot and released in 1984, it was hard not to feel as if Nineteen Eighty-Four could have just as easily been made yesterday.  Beyond the obvious NSA-as-Big-Brother comparisons that everyone makes, it was hard not to compare the brainwashed citizens waiting to hear from Big Brother with the people today who slavishly repeat whatever talking points they hear on MSNBC or Fox News.  How different, I wondered, was Big Brother railing against Goldstein from our President continually telling us that we’re at war with the “forces of cynicism” and that anyone who disagrees with him is not just expressing an opinion but instead is being unpatriotic?  When O’Brien explained how the Party stayed in power by keeping the people perpetually angry at unseen enemies, he might as well have been talking about our own elected officials.  And, when the Thought Police finally arrested Winston and Julia, it brought to mind the images of the militarized police force of Ferguson, Missouri.

And that, I think, is why Nineteen Eighty-Four remains so powerful as both a book and a film.  We live in a world where we are told more and more often that, regardless of what it does, the government is in charge and must be obeyed.  We live in a world where we are currently told that good citizens must obey the law simply because it is the law.  We’re told not to question why a police force needs to resemble an invading army.  We’re told not to question why a member of the police force might happen to shoot an unarmed black teenager multiple times.  We’re told not to question the official history.  Instead, we’re just supposed to live in a state of blind obedience and accept, on faith alone, that those in charge are always right.  We’re supposed to “respect authority” and not think about the specifics.

Thought Police or the Ferguson PD?

Thought Police or the Ferguson PD?

In short, we’re living in the world of Nineteen Eight-Four whether we realize it or not.

As for the film itself, it’s a powerful and surprisingly faithful adaptation of Orwell’s novel.  John Hurt is perfectly cast as Winston Smith and Suzanna Hamilton is sympathetic as Julia.  The two of them have a very real chemistry in this film and it makes the inevitable final scenes all the more disturbing and tragic.  This was also Richard Burton’s final film.  After years of alcoholism, Burton died shortly after filming ended and he looks ill throughout Nineteen Eighty-Four.  But his obvious ill-health actually works to the role’s advantage.  As played by Burton, O’Brien becomes the perfect embodiment of the morally corrupt ruling Party.  The scenes where O’Brien tortures Hurt as difficult to watch, as they should be.  But both Hurt and Burton give such committed performances that you can’t look away even when you want to.  Finally, Nineteen Eighty-Four was an early job for the great cinematographer Roger Deakins and the film has a memorably bleak look to it.  The drabness of Air Strip One perfectly mirrors the empty life of its citizens and it serves as a perfect contrast to the lushness of Winston’s fantasies.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is not an easy film to watch but it’s one that everyone should track down and see.  Watch it and ask yourself how different 1984 is from 2014.

1984-john-hurt

Quick Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean Dublois)


how-to-train-your-dragon-2-poster1-690x1024Ah, Berk. That fictional far away land where Dragons once plagued humans, until a young boy made friends with a Night Fury and changed everything.

How I’ve missed this place.

Fox & Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 brings us back to its dragon riding fun, taking place 5 years after the events of the first film. While the story doesn’t have the same level of depth as say, Kung Fu Panda 2, it still manages to be an enjoyable thrill ride when the dragons are taking flight.

Since this is an animated feature, let’s do visuals first. The animation is roughly the same as the original, with a bit of aging here and there for the main characters, but both the colors and the depth of field are a major standout. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall) was brought back on board as  a consultant for the lighting, focus and color tones and it definitely shows. If at all possible, this film should be seen in its 3D format. The flight sequences are a joy to behold and when they’re not flying, you shouldn’t find yourself squinting and pinching your nose too much. Chris Sanders wasn’t on hand this time for the writing and directing, although you can still see his designs all over the film.

Additionally, there were a number of technical changes that improved the process. Just as Pixar did with Renderman, Dreamworks ended up creating their own software, Apollo. Apollo uses two tools – Premo, which allowed the animators better control of characters through the use of Wacom tablets. Even more magical is Torch, a lighting system developed with Deakins’ assistance that allowed for more natural setups in animation. One of the best uses of this is when Hiccup is surrounded in a dark room and needs to use his sword to illuminate the area. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s used in other Dreamworks projects.

All of the familiar characters are back – Jay Baruchel’s Hiccup is a little older, and much wiser than in the original, with he and Toothless mapping the lands around Berk during their flights. Hiccup’s flair for gadgetry hasn’t left him, as in this film, the character is introduced almost as a medieval Batman. Between he, his father Stoic (Gerald Butler) and his girlfriend / Dragon Racing Champion Astrid (America Ferrera), they get the bulk of the screen time. His friends, played by Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse,  and Kristen Wiig, felt more like cameos than anything else here. Then again, they really didn’t have that great a part in the first film. Toothless, the Unholy Offspring of fire and darkness itself, is still as cuddly and emotive as ever, despite not being able to actually speak. Through the film, both Toothless and Hiccup find themselves growing up in different ways and their relationship is at the heart of everything here. Hiccup and Stoic still have family issues, this time centering around Hiccup preparation for becoming Chief of the town after Stoic steps down.

When Astrid and Hiccup discover dragon hunters (Lead by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington, whose character here still knows nothing), they find a new evil on the horizon in the form of Drago (Guardians of the Galaxy and Blood Diamond’s Djimon Hounsou), who is building a dragon army to do some harm.

Where the movie may stumble is in its last act. It felt abbreviated to me, but as this is meant for children, I suppose it’s not meant to be that long of a film. Clocking in at 102 minutes, it moves fast. For a kid’s film, Dragon 2 rises to some interesting heights that even adults would appreciate. The film doesn’t assume you need to be retold everything you may have missed in the first film, though it does reference some elements of it. The themes of the story are coexistence (between humans & dragons), leadership, friendship and family, and they’re done well.

The LAFCA Rejects Zero Dark Thirty And Embraces Amour


Oscar season continued today as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named their picks for the best in 2012.  The winners are listed below:

BEST PICTURE
“Amour”
Runner-up: “The Master”

BEST DIRECTOR
Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”)
Runner-up: Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”)

BEST ACTOR
Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”)
Runner-up: Denis Lavant (“Holy Motors”)

BEST ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Dwight Henry (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
Runner-up: Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams (“The Master”)
Runner-up: Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”; “Les Miserables”)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Chris Terrio (“Argo”)
Runner-up: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

BEST EDITING
Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg (“Zero Dark Thirty”)
William Goldenberg (“Argo”)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Roger Deakins (“Skyfall”)
Runner-up: Mihai Malaimare Jr. (“The Master”)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“The Master”
Runner-up: “Moonrise Kingdom”

BEST MUSIC/SCORE
Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
Runner-up: Johnny Greenwood (“The Master”)

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
“Holy Motors”
Runner-up: “Footnote”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Frankenweenie”
Runner-up: “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”

BEST DOCUMENTARY/NONFICTION FILM
“The Gatekeepers”
Runner-up: “Searching for Sugar Man

Over on Goldderby.com and AwardsDaily.com, all the usual suspects seem to be shocked that Zero Dark Thirty didn’t win best picture and happy that Beasts of the Southern Wild got some love.  A lot of the people leaving comments are also upset that The Master got as many votes as it did.  Over at Goldderby, one visitor found the time to comment, “Those votes for The Master should have been tossed in the trash, along with the film itself!” before going back to his usual routine of waiting to see if any celebs had responded to his twitter follow request.

As far as Amour winning best picture is concerned, I’m happy to see another film win a major critics’ award because seriously, Oscar season can get pretty boring when only one film is winning everything in sight.

As for Beasts of the Southern Wild, this is one of those times when I find myself respectfully disagreeing with just about every other reviewer out there (including our very own Leonth3Duke, whose excellent review can be read here).  The film had its moments (and I do think that Dwight Henry was the best thing in the film) but, for the most part, it left me cold.  Then again, I’ve never had much patience for the myth of the noble savage.

As for The Master, it’s one of the best of the year.  Deal with it.

By the way, here are the Satellite Award Nominations…


In even more Oscar season news, the International Press Association announced their nominations for the Satellite Awards yesterday.  Les Miserables led with 10 nominations.

If you’re like most people who don’t obsess over film awards then chances are that you’ve never heard of the International Press Association.  And that’s okay.  The main thing to know is that it’s Oscar season and that means that everyone’s giving out an award.  The Satellites are a lot like the Golden Globes, just with less credibility.  As far as serving as a precursor is concerned, a Satellite win can help a film maintain momentum but a loss doesn’t really hurt.

That said, for the past few years, I’ve always ended up agreeing more with the Satellite Nominations than with either the Oscars or the Golden Globes.  For instance, back in 2010, the Satellites nominated Noomi Rapace for her performance in the original (and the best) version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

BEST PICTURE
“Argo”
“Beasts Of The Southern Wild”
“Life Of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Les Misérables”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“The Sessions”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Skyfall”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST DIRECTOR
Ben Affleck, “Argo”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Kim Ki-duk, “Pieta“
Ben Lewin, “The Sessions”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ACTRESS
Laura Birn, “Purge”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Emilie Dequenne, “Our Children”
Keira Knightley, “Anna Karenina”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Laura Linney, “Hyde Park On Hudson”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”

BEST ACTOR
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Omar Sy, “The Intouchables”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Samantha Barks, “Les Miserables“
Judi Dench, “Skyfall”
Helene Florent, “Café De Flore”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Javier Bardem, “Skyfall”
Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
John Goodman, “Flight”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Eddie Redmayne, “Les Misérables”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
John Gatins, “Flight”
Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, “The Intouchables”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “The Master”
Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”
Kim Ki-duk, “Pieta”
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Tom Stoppard, “Anna Karenina”
Chris Terrio, “Argo”
David Magee, “Life Of Pi”
Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
Ben Lewin, “The Sessions”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Amour” (Austria)
“Beyond The Hills” (Romania)
“Caesar Must Die” (Italy)
“The Intouchables” (France)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)
“Our Children” (Belgium)
“Pieta” (South Korea)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“War Witch” (Canada)

BEST ANIMATED OR MIXED-MEDIA FILM
“Brave”
“Frankenweenie”
“Ice Age 4: Continental Drift”
“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”
“Paranorman”
“Rise Of The Guardians”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”
“The Central Park Five”
“Chasing Ice”
“The Gatekeepers”
“Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”
“The Pruitt-Igoe Myth”
“Searching For Sugar Man”
“West Of Memphis”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Seamus McGarvey, “Anna Karenina”
Ben Richardson, “Beasts Of The Southern Wild”
Claudio Miranda, “Life Of Pi”
Janusz Kaminski, “Lincoln”
Mihai Malaimare, Jr., “The Master”
Roger Deakins, “Skyfall”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Sarah Greenwood, Niall Moroney, Thomas Brown, Nick Gottschalk and Tom Still, “Anna Karenina”
Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh, James Hambidge and Naaman Marshall, “The Dark Knight Rises”
Rick Carter, Curt Beech, David Crank and Leslie McDonald, “Lincoln”
David Crank and Jack Fisk, “The Master”
Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson, “Les Misérables”
Niels Sejer, “A Royal Affair”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Jacqueline Durran, “Anna Karenina”
Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud, “Cloud Atlas”
Christian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux, “Farewell, My Queen”
Paco Delgado, “Les Misérables”
Manon Rasmussen, “A Royal Affair”
Colleen Atwood, “Snow White And The Huntsman”

BEST FILM EDITING
Alexander Berner, “Cloud Atlas”
Jeremiah O’Driscoll, “Flight”
Chris Dickens, “Les Misérables”
Lisa Bromwell, “The Sessions”
Jay Cassidy, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Dylan Tichenor, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dario Marianelli, “Anna Karenina”
Alexandre Desplat, “Argo”
Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts Of The Southern Wild”
John Williams, “Lincoln”
Jonny Greenwood, “The Master”
Thomas Newman, “Skyfall”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Learn Me Right,” “Brave”
“Fire In The Blood/Snake Song” “Lawless”
“Love Always Comes As A Surprise,” “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”
“Suddenly,” “Les Misérables”
“Still Alive,” “Paul Williams: Still Alive”
“Skyfall,” “Skyfall”

BEST SOUND (EDITING AND MIXING)
“Flight”
“Les Misérables”
“Snow White And The Huntsman”
“Kon-Tiki”
“Life Of Pi”
“Prometheus”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Cloud Atlas”
“The Dark Knight Rises”
“Flight”
“Life Of Pi”
“Prometheus”
“Skyfall”

James Bond Review: Skyfall (dir. by Sam Mendes)


For almost a month, starting in mid-October and almost two weeks into November, we here at Through the Shattered Lens have watched and shared our reviews and thoughts on the 25 James Bond films (22 official EON productions with 3 non-official ones) which preceded this week’s release of the latest James Bond entry with Skyfall. We’ve shared which were our personal favorites of the series. Some preferred the Connery-era of the Bond franchise while some were in the Moore-era. What we here have all come to realize is just how timeless this franchise has become despite it having celebrated it’s 50th anniversary just last month.

The James Bond film franchise has gone beyond what Ian Fleming had imagined when he first came up with a literary character that would become a global pop icon and remain one of cinemas most successful franchises in history. There have been low points in the franchise (usually when the actor whohas been performing the role has outlived their stay) but then there have been some great highs. In the end, there’s always been one constant and that’s the character of James Bond — British secret agent 007 with a license to kill.

A franchise which began with on Sean Connery in the title role has now seen a return to prominence with the role now in the care of British actor Daniel Craig. The Craig-era began with the critically-acclaimed Casino Royalewhich also became popular with the mass audience. The sequel to this reboot would set the franchise back a step or two, but still became the second highest grossing Bond film in the franchise. We now come to the third Bond film in the Craig-era with 2012′s Skyfall and the question of whether the James Bond franchise can still remain relevant in this age of hyper-kinetic and ultra-violent action films remain to be answered.

Skyfall begins with Bond already in the middle of a mission to recover a computer hard-drive which stores the names of hundreds of NATO agents deep undercover within the many terrorist organizations around the world. Things are not going well for Bond and his fellow MI6 agents. He finds many of them already dead or dying and it’s up to him and another agent named Eve (played by Naomie Harris) to chase after the mercenary who has taken off with the hard-drive.

One thing we’ve come to expect with the more recent James Bond films (especially the Daniel Craig ones) are the action sequences which make up the opening section of the film. Even before we get to the recognizable Bond opening credit sequence this opening of the film using a very thrilling and elaborate action sequence tend to set the tone for the rest of the film. Skyfall was no different as Bond chases the mercenary Patrice through the rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar right up to a one-on-one fight on top of a moving train. Through an unfortunate stroke of luck and a command decision by “M” back in MI6 headquarters in London we segue ito the always popular opening credits sequence with Bond having been shot by accident and left for dead.

The plot of Skyfall was somewhat similar to Goldeneye which saw Pierce Brosnan introduced as the new James Bond. James Bond finds himself racing against time and a former MI6 agent who feels betrayed not just by the country and organization he loyally served but by “M” herself. Raoul Silva (played with a sociopathic flair and panache by Javier Bardem) knows the in’s and out’s of MI6 and this allows him to penetrate both their physical and cyber defenses which puts the entire national security of Great Britain and the Commonwealth in extreme peril. It also puts “M” on the proverbial political hot seat as civilian oversight committees look to find a scapegoat for dead MI6 agents and Silva’s continuing assault on Britain’s intelligence apparatus.

To say anymore about the plot of Skyfall would ruin the biggest joy about this film. Mendes would’ve been one of the last people I saw being picked to direct a James Bond film, but he proves himself more than just capable, but also brings his own character-driven narrative sensibilities to raise the bar for future James Bond film. His handling of the quieter moments during the film shows that particular skill of his that has made him an Academy Award-winning filmmaker. It was on the action scenes that Mendes’ skill as a filmmaker would remain in doubt, but with the help of second unit director Alexander Witt, Skyfall manages to create action scenes that weren’t created for the sake of putting action on the screen but to move the story forward.

In the past, James Bond films rarely moved into introspection on it’s main character’s personal and professional motivations. This began to change when Daniel Craig was picked to help reboot the franchise. The first two films with Craig as Bond showed a much grittier and emotionally complex 007 than in years past. We also got a Bond who was still new to the role of being a 00-agent so we saw the character grow into the role. With Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace we got a Bond who moved from newly minted secret agent then to an agent going off the reservation and following his emotions to finish a mission (both official and personal). The one thing those two films didn’t do was give us a Bond that was fully capable and confident in his abilities to get the job done through the biggest odds. But before we finally get that Bond in Skyfall we see him go through personal doubts about whether he still has the skill to be 007 in a world that sees him and his kind of espionage a relic of the Cold War. By the time the film finishes to a close we find ourselves seeing this new modern, complex Bond finally meeting the old-school traditional Bond who delighted our parents and grandparents in the past.

There’s so much more to be said about this film which brings to the table the best of 50 years this franchise has been on the silver screen. The film pays homage to it’s cinematic history, but not so much that the film becomes a “Can you spot a past Bond reference” exercise. Each and every reference seemed to flow naturally into every scene it showed up in and some even got a nice ovation and reaction (classic Aston Martin DB for example). We even got to see the film poke a bit of cheeky fun at some of the franchises more over-the-top plot devices and all of it in good fun.

Then even with a strong story, great performances from the film’s principal cast members there’s still the question that always get asked whenever a new Bond film hits the screen. That question being how were the latest new Bond Girls.

While Naomie Harris’ Eve was a nice partner to Craig’s Bond their chemistry just didn’t flare up like most of the classic pairings in the franchise. That honor goes to Bond’s short, brief time with the character Severine (played by the ridiculously beautiful Bérénice Lim Marlohe). The scenes the two share in the Macau gambling house was one of the highlights of the film with Marlohe conveying both the femme fatale and damsel in distress in the same scene with the most subtle of acting touches. There’s a good chance that whenever “best of…” lists about Bond girls get made each and every year Marlohe as Severine would be on the top of most lists.

It took two films and six years of exploring, deconstructing and analyzing the character of James Bond through the performance of Daniel Craig. Through that time we’ve gotten to see a new side to James Bond without dismissing and forgetting about the character’s suave and deadly efficiency of past Bond films. While I still lean towards Sean Connery as the gold standard of all James Bond performances after seeing Craig as Bond for the third time in Skyfall the gap has shrunk considerably and I wouldn’t argue if some have Craig matching and/or surpassing Connery in the role. It’s a title that would be well-earned and with how the film ends a chance to see how Craig moves forward as Bond not just in the updated modern sense but the traditional that has made the character one of the most iconic figures in cinema history.

A last note, we get a return to old-school James Bond songs with Adele performing the film’s song which actually has the film’s title in it. The song also harkens back to the days of Shirley Bassey and If I had a choice in the matter I would just let Adele sing all future Bond songs for as long as she wants to.

Thus end Through the Shattered Lens’ retrospective on the James Bond franchise both past and present. It’s been a great ride and all thanks to the drive and organization of co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman who styles herself as the site’s resident Bond Girl.

Review: The Shawshank Redemption (dir. by Frank Darabont)


“Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” — Andy Dufresne

1994 was the year that men finally got their version of Fried Green Tomatoes and Beaches. We men we’re always perplexed why so many women liked those two films. Even when it was explained to us that the film was about the bond of sisterhood between female friends and how the march of time could never break it we were still scratching out heads. In comes Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

Using a script written by Darabont himself, the film just takes the latter half of the novella’s title and focuses most of the film’s story on the relationship between the lead character of Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) who gets sent to Shawshank Penitentiary for the crime of killing his wife and her lover and that of another inmate played by Morgan Freeman. The film doesn’t try to prove that Andy is innocent even though we hear him tell it to the convicts he ends up hanging around that he is. The relationship between Andy and Red becomes a great example of the very same bond of sisterhood, but this time a brotherhood who are stuck in a situation where their freedom has been taken away and hope itself becomes a rare and dangerous commodity.

Darabont has always been a filmmaker known for his love of Stephen King stories and has adapted several more since The Shawshank Redemption, but it would be this film which has become his signature work. It’s a film that’s almost elegiac in its pacing yet with hints of hope threaded in-between scenes of men clinging to sanity and normalcy in a place that looks to break them down and make them less human. It’s nothing new to see prison guards abusive towards inmates in films set in prisons, but in this film these scenes of abuse have a banality to them that shows how even the hardened criminal lives and breathes upon the mercy and generosity provided by the very people who were suppose to rehabilitate them.

While the film’s pacing could be called slow by some it does allow for the characters in the film, from the leads played by Robbins and Freeman to the large supporting cast to become fully formed characters. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Clancy Brown playing the sadistic Capt. Byron Hadley to James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen the inmate who has spent most of his life in Shawshank and whose sudden parole begins one of the most heartbreaking sequences in the film. The whole cast did a great job in whatever role they had been chosen to play. Freeman and Robbins as Red and Andy have a chemistry together on-screen that makes their fraternal love for each other very believable that the final scenes in the film doesn’t feel too melodramatic or overly sentimental.

The Shawshank Redemption was a film that lost out to Forrest Gump for Best Picture, but was a film that would’ve been very deserving if it had won the top prize at the Academy Awards. It was a film that spoke of hope even at the most degrading setting and how it’s the very concept of hope and brotherhood that allows for those not free to have a sense of freedom and camaraderie. Darabont’s first feature-length film remains his best work to date and one of the best Stephen King adaptations which is a rarity considering how many of his stories have been adapted. So, while the fairer sex may have their Fried Green Tomatoes, Beaches and the like, we men will have ours in the fine film we call The Shawshank Redemption.

Lisa And The Academy Agree To Disagree


The Oscar nominations were announced today and, for the most part, it’s pretty much what you would expect.  Below is the list of nominees.  If a nominee listed in bold print, that means they also appeared on my own personal list of nominations.

Best motion picture of the year

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

(The Academy and I agree on five of the ten nominees.  That’s actually more than I was expecting.)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)

(The only real surprise here is Bardem.  I haven’t seen Biutiful but I’ve heard amazing things about it.)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

(Yay for John Hawkes!  Some people are surprised that Andrew Garfield wasn’t nominated for The Social Network.  I’m disappointed he wasn’t nominated for Never Let Me Go.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

(I’m happy to see Lawrence and Portman recognized but I still so wish that the Academy had recongized Noomi Rapace and Katie Jarvis as well.  I knew it wouldn’t happen but still…)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

(Weaver — Yay!) 

Achievement in directing

Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

(The snubbing of Christopher Nolan for Inception is probably the closest thing to an outrage that the Oscars will produce this year.)

Adapted screenplay

127 Hours - Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story)
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone - Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay

Another Year – Mike Leigh
The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (story)
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech - David Seidler

Best animated feature film of the year

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

 (I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet but I’m looking forward to it because the previews look great, it’s based on a script by Jacques Tati, and I love all things French.  Still, I kinda wish that Despicable Me had been nominated just so Arleigh could see the minions at the Academy Awards.)

Best foreign language film of the year

Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
In a Better World (Denmark)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

Art direction

Alice in Wonderland – Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O’Hara (set decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - Stuart Craig (production design), Stephenie McMillan (set decoration)
Inception - Guy Hendrix Dyas (production design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (set decoration)
The King’s Speech - Eve Stewart (production design), Judy Farr (set decoration)
True Grit – Jess Gonchor (production design), Nancy Haigh (set decoration) 

Achievement in cinematography

Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Wally Pfister (Inception)
Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech)
Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)
Roger Deakins (True Grit) 

Achievement in costume design

Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Antonella Cannarozzi (I Am Love)
Jenny Beavan (The King’s Speech)
Sandy Powell (The Tempest)
Mary Zophres (True Grit)

(That’s right, I ended up going 0 for 5 as far as Costume Design is concerned.  Which I guess goes to prove that I have better taste than the Academy.)

Best documentary feature

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz)
Gasland (Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic)
Inside Job (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)

 (If Banksy wins, I’ll be happy.  I have a feeling the award will go to Inside Job, however.  As a documentary, Inside Job reminded me a lot of Capt. Hindsight from the South Park Coon Vs. Coon And Friends trilogy.  Also, I’m a little bit surprised that Waiting for Superman wasn’t nominated.  I’m even more surprised that I actually saw enough feature documentaries last year to even have an opinion.  Also, interesting to note that Restrepo — a very nonpolitical look at military in the mid-east — was nominated while The Tillman Story, a much more heavy-handed and stridently political documentary was not.)

Best documentary short subject

Killing in the Name (Nominees to be determined)
Poster Girl (Nominees to be determined)
Strangers No More (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)
Sun Come Up (Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger)
The Warriors of Qiugang (Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)

(It’s always interesting that nobody knows what these movies are about yet their producers always end up giving the longest speeches at the Oscars.  I’m hoping that Poster Girl wins because the actual producers have yet to be determined.  I imagine that means there might be some sort of legal action going on which means that, if it wins on Oscar night, there might be a big fight at the podium.  Plus, I like the title.  It makes me want to walk up to people I barely know, lean forward, and go, “Can I be your poster girl?”)

Achievement in film editing

Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan)
Pamela Martin (The Fighter)
Tariq Anwar (The King’s Speech)
Jon Harris (127 Hours)
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (The Social Network) 

Achievement in makeup

Adrien Morot (Barney’s Version)
Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)

John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech)
AR Rahman (127 Hours)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original song)

Coming Home (from Country Strong, music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light (from Tangled, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise (from 127 Hours, music by AR Rahman, lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)
We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Randy Newman)

(I’ll just say it now — 4 nominations and I didn’t agree with a single one of them.  Seriously, they could have nominated up to 5 songs but instead of giving at least one nomination to Burlesque, they just nominated 4 songs.  What a load of crap.)

Best animated short film

Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
The Gruffalo (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) (Bastien Dubois)

(I’ve actually seen Day & Night since it was shown before Toy Story 3.  I thought it went on a little bit too long, to be honest.)

Best live action short film

The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Crush (Michael Creagh)
God of Love (Luke Matheny)
Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
Wish 143 (Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite) 

Achievement in sound editing

Inception (Richard King)
Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers and Michael Silvers)
Tron: Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey)
Unstoppable (Mark P Stoeckinger)

Achievement in sound mixing

Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo and Ed Novick)
The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley)
Salt (Jeffrey J Haboush, Greg P Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin)
The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F Kurland)

 (I would have probably had more matches in the sound category if I actually knew the difference between sound editing and sound mixing.)

Achievement in visual effects

Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell)
Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

So there you go.  I went 50/50 on the Best Picture nominations and — well, it all pretty much went downhill from there, didn’t it?  Oh well.