THE VERDICT – Best Motion Picture: 2001

I was glad I did this year. Four of these films are seen to be classics. Sadly though, the actual winner is the most hated. But I can actually see why it won – it was the Academy’s cup of tea. The other four were either too fantastic (LOTR), minimalistic (In the Bedroom), energetic (Moulin Rouge!), or simply… foreign (Gosford Park).

Choosing between the #5 and #4 was so hard, that I changed my mind at least thrice. # 3 was easy. I had a little issue with # 2 and # 1, but my choice finally won me over.

You can just click on the titles for their profiles.

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5. Gosford Park

It’s a very smart film filmed with such precision and expertise. Every line, every move, every scene is crafted with such intelligence. The actors are also doing some great acting. So why this spot? Emotional connection became my rule here. And this movie simply made me feel cold, distant, and indifferent. It’s too bad when you have such greatness.

Best Performance: Helen Mirren as Mrs. Wilson
Best Scene: The slow build-up of tension before the murder

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4. A Beautiful Mind

A potentially greater story is reduced to lesser degree of accomplishment, but that does not mean that this is bad. There are a lot of misgivings – the weak screenplay, the uninteresting first hour, the damaged performances – but you easily lose that with the second half with such breathtaking emotional power. It could have been better, but emotional connection ruled me over this one.

Best Performance: Russell Crowe as John Nash
Best Scene: Alicia seeing Nash’s madness returning, then runs to the house

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3. In the Bedroom

It’s a very quiet story by only looking at the surface, but what’s deep inside is the horrifying and disturbing reality of normal American life. Filmed with such powerful subtlety and sharp naturalism, it captures the devastating effects of death with an enormous amount of care. Not to mention the intensely passive performances around.

Best Performance: Sissy Spacek as Ruth Fowler
Best Scene: The shocking and troubling surprise visit of the ex-husband

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2. Moulin Rouge!

An explosive and bizarre musical extravaganza with a colossal amount of imagination and surprising harmony. Every scene mattered. The technical achievements are undoubtedly one of the best. I felt for the characters. The actors shined. It power that it leaves with the audience after the very last scene is completely stunning.

Best Performance: Nicole Kidman as Satine
Best Scene: The El Tango del Roxanne musical sequence

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1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The biggest surprise of the line-up. I have avoided this movie (and this film series) for years, thinking that it is only a commercial fare immortalized by over-praising critics and audiences. I was wrong. It is one of the best fantasy films ever made. It is one of the best epics ever made. It is the best fantasy epic movie ever made. Enough said.

Best Performance: Ian McKellen as  Gandalf the Grey
Best Scene: I can’t think of one specific scene that stands out from the rest.

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So this is the year. ūüôā All of them are deserving to win, even some of them in a lesser degree. All of these film should be remembered for their greatness.

About the speculated ranking? Seriously, who could compare a very small independent movie to a big-budgeted fantasy epic? But let me guess.

A Beautiful Mind (#1) and LOTR (#2) were close, only defined by the people who actually prefer biopics and the people who thinks fantasy movies are not to be taken seriously in the Oscars as the actual Best Picture winner.

Gosford Park was # 3 for the Robert Altman fans’ club and from the people in the movie industry who respects this film made by a lot of moviemakers.

# 4 is Moulin Rouge! for having crazy ass supporters and for being a commercial success. Added to the reasons is the ‘important feeling’ of the movie for reviving the almost-dead musical genre.

In the Bedroom was # 5 because it is a restrained, quiet, small-budgeted, independent movie whose noise primarily comes from the actors.

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So, what’s the next year? Clue:

“It’s my turn!”

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What’s you pick? Do you agree with the Academy, or with me, or you have a different choice?

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Best Picture Profile: A Beautiful Mind

Directed by: Ron Howard

Written by: Akiva Goldsman

Company: Universal Pictures, Dreamworks SKG, Imagine Entertainment

Runtime: 135 minutes

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A Beautiful Mind is the 74th winner in this category. It was the first film that brought Ron Howard his first and only win, to date, in the Best Director category. This film proves how the Academy are fond of giving awards, especially the top prize, to biopics. I’m almost sure this film had an easy victory, although The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was a major threat. In the end, the more Oscar-friendly movie won.

The film starts with the promising start of the class in Princeton University. One of those young hopefuls who will become future mathematicians is John Nash, a naive if peculiar student who is looked upon for his intelligence but looked down for his undeniable awkwardness. He has a roommate, Charles Herman, who befriends him.

Some years later, Pentagon hires him to crack encrypted codes mentally. The people in the job are amazed with his mental skill, but John himself find the job to be uninteresting. With this, defense personnel William Parcher approaches him with a new job, and that is to crack codes found in newspapers and magazines. In the meantime, one of his students, Alicia, takes interest on him. They fall in love and they got married. At the same time, John also met Charles’ niece Marcee, a young girl.

John wants to leave his job, fearing for his life, but William forces him to stay in the job by blackmailing him. One time, John begins to think that there is conspiracy in the Harvard facility, believing that the people there are Soviets and they will just extract information from him. It is now revealed to Alicia – John has schizophrenia, and Charles, Marcee, and William, are all products of his imagination.

I actually liked it more this time.  And I saw the reasons why it won the top prize. But is that enough?

The direction served the story quite well. There are pros and cons with the direction, so let’s take things one by one.

First, the bad. The first half of the film were quite uninteresting. I know it’s mostly the screenplay’s fault (which I’d be tackling moments after this), but I know the direction could have done more. There are moments especially in Nash’s first scenes in the club when I felt that the direction isn’t trying that much to do something. Those are the parts where I felt that the screenplay was lacking, and the direction could have helped, but it actually was just giving a firm support in the process.

It was consistent in the first part of the film, but I would have actually appreciated if it worked more. Some of the hallucination scenes involving the light are not really bad, but not really good, either. It’s as if I felt noting for it. It was not annoying, distracting, or ridiculous, but I also don’t think it fully worked. Of course, I understand the reason of putting those hallucinatory images – to convey the schizophrenia of the central character in an easier way. However, I was still thinking that there could have been better ways to show that. It’s as if it¬† supposed the weaknesses of the mediocre screenplay.

But those words don’t mean that the direction was bad, or mediocre. It was the reason why the second half of the film turned into an exciting and compelling emotional ride. Once it knew that the screenplay will go into clich√©, it immediately catches it with bringing the execution of scenes with such energy and humanity. Actually, the whole story is clich√©d, but for most part, the direction was able to solve the problem by focusing on how will the scenes come. Some scenes are just overwhelming (Nash’s shock therapy sessions and this one scene with the baby in the tub), even close to magical in effect. There are really these scenes that are intensely breathtaking that you forget what are the faults of the direction because we know that the direction is the real reason why these scenes worked.

In the more dramatic scenes, it was able to inject the freshness those scenes needed in order to go away from the tiring melodrama we see in an ordinary biopic. In the scene when Alicia is trying to make John feel her what’s real and what’s not. It’s such a tender scene. It’s not even my favorite scene in the movie, but there is just some subtlety in it amidst all of these flashy hallucinations that surrounds that scene.

What became the movie’s biggest weakness is the screenplay. As I have said, the first hour ranged from uninteresting to simply bland. It did not know how to build the main character efficiently. It always lets the director do most of the job even in the scenes when the screenplay was undoubtedly the most important. I can’t get past the fact that the screenplay always neglects the given events in the life of John Nash, even just the events, real or not, to actually make something out of it. Also damaged by the screenplay’s laziness are the performance in the film. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are the two biggest victims of the stupidity of this screenplay. They were supposed to have characters that we will root for. Sadly, the screenwriter have compromised this fact that they have two skilled actors to work with his script that it gave these two actors lame scenes to work with in the first part that it is just so frustrating.

When the film got better, this didn’t and it was still stuck in clich√©. Yes, it’s a clich√©d screenplay only saved by some occasional segues from the formula, giving us at least a glimpse of what could it have been. It seemed that the screenplay was not so interested with the movie. Is it possible? I don’t know, but this movie made me feel it is. What could have been a much, much greater film is eternally damaged by a by-the-numbers and lame screenplay. And I’m not going to complain about the accuracy.

The cinematography helped a lot in creating the vision of John Nash. The precision of the movement in the camera is very noticeable but not distracting in any way. You know that there is a big amount of effort given in each scene by having the cameras move gracefully when they have to, roughly when the direction asks for it, and steadily when there is rest given to us viewers. There are no fancy shots that we can see in this. There are the cameras slowly gliding when there is something revealed, the cameras are just steady when they are talking, but you can feel the grace in it; as if everything was going out so well for the cinematography.

When the screenplay cannot bring out the crisp of the story, the editing immediately took over it. The editing was able to bring even the smallest interest in the scenes when the direction could be a bit lacking while the screenplay is consistent in being weak. It gave even the most boring, uninteresting, and alienating scenes in the movie the lie that it needed to make it far from being bad. Those were my words to the editing as a life-saver. In the following scenes including the shock therapy sessions, the hallucinations of Nash attacking Alicia, the revelation of Nash’s madness right before Alicia’s eyes, the editing was used to turn those scenes into pulse-pounding experiences that makes you at least forget for a short moment of time the movie committed mistakes in. All in all, the editing was very effective.

The music is breathtaking. Right from the very start, that very beginning, that three logos of the company who made this film, with that amazing music from whoever the singer was – it was absorbing right from the start. When the narrative isn’t quite working well, the music is still anchoring the humane but somewhat fantastical nature of Nash’s thinking. Nash is a mathematician, and he is a genius, and the music captures just that with such amazing clarity. It brings the escalation of tension in the action-packed scenes in the film. With this, the right choice of music in the right time with the right composer for a right story brought the movie to a higher level of movie experience.

The costumes served well to the purpose of the actors, bringing the defining qualities of each character with the use of even the tiniest details with their clothes. Alicia’s clothes are the most interesting pieces in he movie. Her attire when she was still Nash’s student is strongly in contrast with her clothes when she is already a housewife, though when you first look at it as it is, there is no big difference. One way or the other, the costume worked so well in creating the aura of the characters.

The art direction is also accomplished in doing its best to paint the panoramic scenery of Nash’s mind. The scenes in the house are especially remarkable – it looks like a normal house in the suburb, but when you notice the very small details like the color of the wall, of the tiles, of the floor, even the way the kitchen looks like all creates the feeling of being there. And I would take note of it again – the kitchen. It felt so warm, as if I want to live there, as if it was actually real.

The make-up is very good in carefully showing the aging process of the characters. The make-u, in itself, served as the transition of the timetable in the movie. It’s such a subtle work, and that is a very good sing in this kind of movie. The make-up should not be noticed. What should be¬† noticed is the development of the characters physically. Russell Crowe’s face when he is experiencing intense attack of his illness is terrifying to watch.

The actors, though damaged by the screenplay, still did well.

Russell Crowe is near-perfect as the schizophrenic mathematician John Nash. This is a very technical performance, not really because of the way of talking, but because of the mannerisms he employs in his depiction of the character. I can see him taking risks in his performance even if his screenplay is not demanding that much. His earlier scenes of conversation with the people while he still thinks he is doing well brings an amount of naturalism enough for me to actual;y believe that this could have been the way how Nash acted before. And I love how he handled the scenes after he was diagnosed with the mental illness. What I more like in this performance is that it never let the character suffer from the doomed screenplay.

Jennifer Connelly is the biggest victim of the screenplay. Connelly is a talented actress, and I can see some shades of her acting expertise here, but the first part of the performance, like the film, was damaged by the screenplay. This time, she was not able to  use her acting prowess to save her character from utter lameness. The first half of the performance, the student who takes interest with Nash, is a disappointingly lifeless creation when the screenplay has no strength, when the director is not doing enough direction, and when the actresses is limiting herself from the bounds reached by both.

But the second half of her performance, now as the long-suffering wife of Nash achieved such level of greatness that you just forget her misgivings in the first parts of the movie even for just a moment. Right from the scene when she pounds the door where Nash locks himself in, the immense flow of acting skills became unstoppable. My favorite scene of hers is when she goes out to the woods where she finds out that her husband hasn’t stopped with his hallucinations yet, then the rain came,then she rescues their infant and cries “There is no one here!”. This is the moment when I felt to her character with such connection that I felt the terror that she feels for her self, for her husband, and for their child. It’s a mindblowing second half that it disappointed me a lot because what preceded greatness was dullness, and it was all in one performance.

The other actors served the story well with such enthusiasm and depth but none of them really got my attention, except for those obviously grabbing the attention.

In one end, I was disappointed because of that screenplay, oh, that screenplay! wasted a lot of the story’s greatness. In the same end, i saw an uninteresting first part that it may demand more attention to you.¬† In the other end, I saw the accomplishments that are enough for a nomination in this category. In the same end, I felt an emotional impact in the second half. In the middle, I saw a movie that is made well enough to justify the nomination.

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?

Best Picture Profile: Moulin Rouge!

Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

Written by: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce

Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Runtime: 127 minutes

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Moulin Rouge! is the first live-action musical nominated for Best Picture since Cabaret in 1972, taking for consideration that 1991’s Beauty and the Beast is also a musical, albeit animated.

Most reviews were positive. This became a box-office hit and immediately gained a following. The Academy recognized almost everything in this film except the Best Director nod for Baz Luhrmann, making his snub one of the most mysterious in recent history given the number of nominations of the film signaling that the Academy indeed loved the film.

In the end, I think the film was either 3rd or 4th in the ranking of most votes, depending on how they loved Gosford Park.

The film is about Christian, an estranged and aspiring playwright seeking for his place in life, who travels and stays in Paris, near the Moulin Rouge, an infamous cabaret known for its wild girls who party with men to the extreme heights of energy. Trapped in loneliness, he encounters Toulouse-Lautrec and his company. They work on a new play. They are also the one who brought Christina to the Moulin Rouge, where Christian met the breathtakingly attractive but terminally ill courtesan Satine.

Harold Zidler, the big daddy of the cabaret, arranges a meeting with Satine and the Duke of Monroth. In the twist of misunderstandings, Satine mistakes Christian for a rich duke. Little does she know that the real duke, the Duke, is a selfish and hot-tempered person that would do anything just to get what he wants, which, in this case, is Satine.

Even if the Duke already made a deal with Harold Zidler for the ownership of Satine, Christian and Satine ensue into an illicit rendezvous. As they practice for a play close to their love story, the passion continued. As the Duke came to know the affair, he did everything he can just to keep Satine in his hands.

Wow! That’s the only word I could say after watching this film. Seriously.

The direction is over-the-top. I say this directly – it is. Normally, I hate over-the-top direction because they are distracting (Precious, for example), but not in this case. The kind of direction it had fits the material so well. I could not have imagined this movie to be told in any other way. The concept about people in extreme energy and ecstasy made the direction fit for the movie to use. Also, the direction know where to punch the emotions right at us. It is a very knowing direction, and I can feel the effort and the intelligence in it. One scene pops into my mind when I say this line – the El Tango de Roxanne sequence. It’s an earth-shattering sequence, to say the least. The amount of power in the scenes as they build up to the climax of the song creates a breathtaking and surreal moment only cinema could make.

It was also consistent with its tone. It never becomes shaky, but even if it was indeed consistent with its exaggerated and energetic nature of the direction, it never became tiring to watch. Most importantly, it made this film unique. That’s the biggest achievement of this film. There are a lot of good films, but you forget them simply because there is nothing that makes it stand out from the rest. Moulin Rouge! makes a mark on its own not only as a great film, but also as an important and memorable film.

The screenplay is good, if a bit shallow. To tell you the truth, the story is not the most original story you will ever hear, there is nothing extraordinary in the dialogue, but it serves the story quite well. In fact, this could be the weakest facet of the film. This film is more of a visual experience than something to think and understand deeply. Not that it is bad; actually, I am not complaining about it. There are also great film which has its screenplay as a lesser part of the movie simply because it becomes a second importance when you actually watch it already. Actually, I may cite its stereotypical characters, particularly the Duke, who is undoubtedly a one-dimensional villain, but when you watch it, you do not care about it anymore. You just let the movie absorb you and you just go with the ride. Again, this is not a complaint, just an observation.

The cinematography and editing are as mad as hell. And I say this in a positive light. Those two understood the nature of the story and the style the director employs for the film, and all I could say, the film was amazing, and it’s largely due to these. The cinematography saturated the colors to emphasize the artistic tragedy the film portrays, the editing blasts an overwhelming and mind-blowing force to strike the audience with the fantastical world it shows, and the masterful blending of the two to show the expertise of the people behind this one hell of a movie.

The first half of the film demonstrated the skills used in this. Because of that, the film was successfully able to create the milieu of clinging despair and hopeful love. The scenes at the Moulin Rouge, especially the first musical number in the club, represents the bombastic energy and effort these people have. Every short cut it shows push the musical number forward until it reaches the climax of the song which is Satine’s first appearance in Christian’s eyes. And her entrance! Do notice her very pale complexion with some blue tone. It already signified a person slowly absorbed by death, but the statement of it is not blatant – it is all said in the shots, in the shades, in the colors.

The music is amazing. The songs used are definitely in sync with the story – there’s no song in the soundtrack that felt out-of-place or unnecessary. The song could be an entertaining haven (The Can-Can) or devastating flush of emotions (El Tango del Roxanne), but all of the songs added life to the story, making this film a very effective musical. The anachronistic usage of contemporary songs prove how brilliant and creative theses people are. Okay, so you may notice I did not say a lot about this music. I’ll let you hear the music for yourself.

The costumes and art direction are some of the best you would see.

The whole creation of Paris, most especially the Moulin Rouge itself, demonstrate an unequaled amount of artistry that must be seen to be believed. Set pieces have never been this epic in feel. And we don’t even have an epic story here, yet. Every part of the Moulin Rouge suggests a very deep understanding about the nature of the people in that place – filled with worldly excitement, intoxication, influence of drugs, and lust. But it also holds back. They know this is not a strip club or a brothel. This is different, and so they did – they defined the difference between a dance club and a brothel with a very thin line between the two by adding the enchanting bedazzlement that Moulin Rouge has in the first place.

The costumes… well. The clothes of the girls, those naughty girls! Although what they show most of the time is the lining under their skirt, the dresses themselves are beautifully designed. I’m not a costume designer, and I am not very good in designing, even in drawing, but I can appreciate beautiful costumes, and they are. The red dress worn by Satine in her night after her consumption caused her to faint is stunning, and the rest are, too.

The acting is fantastic.

Ewan McGregor is heartbreaking as the writer Christian. The naive nature of the character is not annoying, though it is consistent throughout the film. What made me love this performance is on how he was able to bare the soul of this character with minimal work. We only discover a little from him, and we all know that he is estranged in this world, but he makes us understand his character. He is mostly reserved, but he was able to bare his soul – how could that be possible? I don’t know. There is this one very powerful scene of his (again, the El Tango del Roxanne sequence) where he starts to sing calmly, but as he slowly accepts the fact that his love for Satine is a love to kill, he bursts into tears while singing. To those who have seen the film, you know that this sequence is full of brief but intensely powerful shots played along with an explosive music. Still, I remember that one very brief shot where he shouts and cries out loud to the window. That exhilarating moment itself made my day. Apart from that, the was able to ground his character on a reality that’s as natural as you can get. I feel like I can talk to this person because he is so real. And most of all, I cared about him. Not to mention that his voice is terrific.

Nicole Kidman is fragile, untouchable, and at the same time, insanely sexy as Satine. Right from the start, we all know she would die, as told by Christian, and her first appearance is a very slow superimposition of her image over the dark and grim images of the opening. She is almost an apparition, like a ghost. But once she enters, she immediately fills the screen with unabashed and thunderous presence that you can never take your eyes off her. Her voice could be a bit thin, but this does not stop her from creating this image of desperation using her sexuality to survive. The illness of the character looked believable, and it made me worry a lot too. The comedy, she can handle it. The music, she can sing it. But it is the dramatic scenes of being lost and being hopeless that made me love this performance. Her plea for advice from Harold Zidler as she also struggles to keep her thinking clear from the disease that’s affecting her in that very moment is, to say the least, depressing to watch since you see Satine, this glowing persona, fall unto the earth, trying to bring herself up is emotionally draining. And, again the El Tango del Roxanne sequence gave us some of the most unforgettable images of the film – Satine crying, with all the tears from her eyes flushing, as the Duke puts her into an inevitable shame, is a chilling demise for the character. We love this character, and that’s because of Kidman’s capability to channel the character to us, and to see her in an unimaginable horror situation just tears our heart.

Jim Broadbent is colorfully dynamic as Harold Zidler. He is almost cartoonish in his depuction in the first half of the film where his role is to become the big daddy of the party. He releases a ravishing power that’s both funny and affecting. As the second half of the film enters, and things for Christian and Satine complicate, he himself makes his own move to separate the two, not because he do not want them to be happy, but because he is afraid that Satine would end up in doom. He cares for Satine, not only because she is his talent, but because he cares for her, too. It is visible in his eyes the worry that he feels for her. It’s a performance that deserves an iconic status, to say the least.

The rest played stereotypical roles, but all of them played the roles with such enthusiasm and diversity that you don’t care anymore.

There are flaws in this film, I admit. But when you have such greatness mounted in this kind of film, you don’t care anymore. The impact that it leaves to you is indelible, whether you love it or not. After watching this film, I felt emotionally drained.¬† I was speechless. It was a pulse-pounding ride.

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?

Best Picture Profile: In the Bedroom

Directed by: Todd Field

Written by: Todd Field, Robert Festinger

Company: Good Machine / Eastern Standard Film Company / GreeneStreet Films

Runtime: 130 minutes

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The film is about the Fowlers, a family peacefully living in Mid-Coast Maine.

The father, Matt, is a town doctor who has a pretty good job as a doctor who also works in the fishing industry. He is near retirement, but he does not show any signs of retirement as he has a really good job in his hands as a doctor, and at the same time, he also earns extra money as a fisher.

The mother, Ruth, is a choir director very busy in practicing the choir for a town event. She lives peacefully as everyone does. She smiles almost all the time, but worries a lot whenever her son gets into some trouble.

The son, Frank, is an applicant for graduate school involved in a love affair with a slightly older woman, Natalie, whose ex-husband frequently troubles their rendezvous. Even then, he maintains a harmonious relationship with her children, giving them relief even though there is always a danger of her ex-husband attacking the.

Tragedy strikes the family when Franks was killed by Natalie’s ex-husband. His parents are rocked by this unexpected happening. Now, because of some loophole found in Natalie’s testimonials, her ex-husband was set free by bail. Given that the one who killed their son is freely walking around the town, the couple struggles to cope up with the situation. More affected is Ruth because of the tension she always feel given that the murdered is still free.

This thing in their lives change their relationship. Passion for living was lost and hunger for revenge ensues.

Like Gosford Park, the film took its time in developing the characters to the fullest and for the  plot to settle a foundation of the plot. But unlike the former, this film was much better in handling the pace of the story.

The direction is subtle. You don’t even notice it that much if you’re not an alert watcher because it lets the story flow right in front of your eyes. It never tried to get the spotlight that the actors had. Instead, it only served as the guiding light as the scenes progressed. Even then, the expertise in the direction is not to be discounted. It is not filled with vigor, I can assure you that. Instead, it fills up the spaces by bombarding every moment of the screen with attention. It grabs you immediately right from the start and never lets you go until right after the end music played. It is the grip that makes the direction so important in this film. It moves at a very slow pace with small chats and images to give the forward motion the plot needs, but it carefully weaves in all of the elements of the story right into what we see so that we¬† see a movie continuously moving movie that feels authentic.

Another fact is that the film makes a point of bringing is in the film in the situation. We see these scenes featuring the normal country life of the people. Some may ask, “why are they showing us these things when they can use the time in giving more acting chops?” Well, it established the strong sense of place throughout the film. And in the whole span of the film, it is very important because it is what affects the main characters the most – the danger in the place where they live because the murdered of their child could be just around the corner, waiting for them to be killed next. It may not have been the killer’s real intentions, but it is what the main characters feel, especially Ruth, and that is what is most important to a main character – to feel empathy to them.

The screenplay vividly captures the ideal family story and destroys it with such delicate hand that it felt shocking but not in-your-face as some other grief movies may have done. But even if it dealt with grief with more than half of the time, the screenplay never engages itself in pretentious melodrama. Instead, it makes a very cold space between us and the characters. The sadness is repressed all throughout the length of the film and never shatters us with big breakdowns. Instead, it perfectly illustrates how great the damage is for the family by slowly peeling of the multifaceted dimensions of the relationship of the couple Ruth and Matt. It is definitely hypnotizing in its way of internalizing the emotions to the characters that we almost never see the real them, except for some brief yet justified outbursts when you know the characters cannot take it anymore. You feel that there is this ongoing struggle, this emotional turmoil right inside these characters, but somehow, the screenplay pulls back for us not to see the real them.

But in that way, the characters become more realistic. These are the people that we may meet in our environment. It feels very authentic and at the same time, very raw. The story brings out the unflinching reality of the situation and spices up the scenario with some shock value. Again, the shock is not what makes the screenplay effective, but on the way it constructs the whole plot courageously. Even with the final act when it took a detour from the suppressed grief drama to a breathtaking climax that led to one of cinema’s most shocking endings without any shocking images at all., the film brilliantly implants all of the necessary elements of the story to make it plausible and adds a lot of truthful detail in it. It is very courageous in handling the theme of murder and death, but never felt like a show-off.

The cinematography sends the chilling nature of the story. It does not have those eye-popping shots, but it utilizes every simple angle it has to heighten the rush of emotions in the story. Whether it is a wide shot in the bedroom as the murderer packed his things or the slow side shot of Ruth slapping Natalie, it was able to bring out the real emotions of the scene.

The editing was able to crunch the story into the whole time with agonizing sharpness and blinding mystery. The dialogue scenes are given such energy by the editing that you do not get bored by the lengthy chats. Instead, cuts right in the middle of the story with  power so rarely seen in these kinds of quiet movies.

The acting reaches the zenith of professionalism an actor could possibly reach.

Tom Wilkinson is excellent as Matt. As the man of the house, there is always a sense of authority and dependability in every scene where he is in. Every move that he makes is a result of Tom Wilkinson’s acting expertise and you know that he is sure of everything but it does not even go near being calculated. You see him at ease, but inside is an internal battle between his need to care for his living wife and his desperation to avenge his son’s death. Whenever he tries to communicate with someone – whether it is his secretary, his wife, his friends – you always feel he is not really up to it, but he really tries to because he knows that there is still a life ahead of them.

On the other end is Sissy in a quietly disturbing performance as Ruth. The effect that the death caused her is very sad, having known to her in the first scenes as a very cheerful, even inspiring, choir director. Immediately after her son’s death, all he wants is justice and peace of mind, but he cannot even have both. This startles her character in the choices that she makes in her daily routine and the power of her subtle movements is already as natural as you can get. There is nothing loud in this performance, and at the same time, you feel that what she brings on the table is a real force of nature. You know this woman, she’s almost tangible. But just after the death, she’s already an emotional wreck whose emotions and problems are already kept in her. She cannot open up because her husband goes on in life. Nobody would even be there to actually stay for her. There is a friend, a priest, but she needs someone much closer to her, and by the tragedy that shook their family, she lost that ability to have a communication. Or did she lose it or she just did not want to have anything to do with the world? Would she just rather prefer to sit in front of the television, endlessly smoking cigarette, or she is just too afraid to face the truth? Her performance leaves us more questions than answers. Even in the end, she hangs us into a degree of uncertainty which an actor can rarely achieve. It is full of nuance and while it is taut, she never lets go of the screen once she appeared on-screen. Very natural, but very otherworldly too.

Marisa Tomei breaks the silence with inspired reservedness. While she has to be overshadowed by the two lead actors, she never submerges herself into the vanishing hole of being a supporting actress. Instead, she paints a character full of life destructed by circumstances. In such a brief time, she successfully created a character that we do not actually depend on, but root for. She is not the strongest person in the story. In fact, she is always threatened every time her ex-husband returns. It repeats a ,lot of times in the film, but her actions and reactions never become monotonous. She is ready to defend her children, but she herself is unsure of what will happen to her and her relationship with Frank. After quite some time, she disappears for a very long time, but she never lets go of you because of the helplessness she illustrated in her early scenes. Her last scene, the famous slapping scene between her and Sissy Spacek, is masterfully acted. She approaches Ruth to extend her hand for help. She’s like a little child – you know¬† she cannot do anything anymore to solve the real problem, but she tries to do anything for Ruth to feel better. And in a slap, she stops. She is in¬† shock and immediately leaves. It’s mind-blowing how she received that rejection of help from Ruth because she definitely does not expect that. Aside from that, she finely crafts the character’s chain of reactions and her reception to he death.

Rounding up the talented cast is Nick Stahl as Frank Fowler. He is the least showiest out of the four main characters, but that does not make his work less important. In his case, what is most important in his character is for him to make a human being that we will actually care for whatever may happen to him. He could have been killed, but the whole thing would not have such power if we did not care for him. True, we were only with him for a very short time, but in his grounding of the character in reality, we did care for him. When he was hit by the man, his parents worry and we worry because he is such a good man with such a bright future and then, he would have this? He did not deserve to be hit, because he did not do anything with the man. So when we already lost him, we know we lost someone. His final scene did not have any acting at all from him – it is just him, lying on the floor, his face hit by the bullet, dead. In that instant, her girlfriend burst to tears, and we also cry not only because she had lost someone, not only because his parents lost someone, but because we lost someone. That’s how important Stahl’s character is, and his vivid interpretation of this character is the soul of this film.

Some may think that this film is too boring, too cold, too quiet, too laborious to watch, too contrived, too everything – do not listen to them. In a year when one of the biggest movies ever made existed, this film should be seen by more people because of the power that it has. It has an overwhelming force that drives you together with the film, and the result is an unabashed masterpiece in American cinema.

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?

Best Picture Profile: Gosford Park

Directed by: Robert Altman

Written by: Julian Fellowes

Company: Capitol Films / USA Films

Runtime: 137 minutes

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The film is about the two social classes constantly intertwining as the party in a mansion proceeds. Each and every one of the characters in those classes have a secret of their own, and some of them even share their secrets with each other.

They talk, they make love, they fight, they eat, they meet, they greet, they drink, but these two classes, the Upstairs and the Downstairs continuously give themselves distance from each other.

All of these interwoven subplots come to a climax when the owner of the mansion was murdered, a mystery shaking the people of both classes. With this, they must continue to go on with their lives as the country party goes on.

You see, the plot is so hard to write because if you put it into detail, then it would take half of this profile. Anyway, let’s continue.

The direction is solid and definitely in control. It has this certain amount of care that is really needed especially if you do these kinds of stories where there is a lot of subplots involved. It breaks down what the screenplay has to offer for us to absorb each story that is being executed in front of our eyes. It is very delicate in every movement of the plot that it delivers but you know we are heading into something. It takes its time, it maybe long, to long for some, but it was not time wasted. When you see it until the end, you feel a sense of reward because you were able to make it through this intentionally slow film.

And though that intentionally slow remark that I wrote is not necessarily negative, it is the only thing that makes me keep away from loving this movie. I like that a film with a lot of small stories like this was able to juice out the screenplay’s best potential to make the characters three-dimensional. I can sense the realism in this film because of the time allotted for us to discover for ourselves with these people, but because of the nature of the story and the nature of the direction, the full amount of cinematic thrill that it could have achieved was slightly sacrificed. It was a chore to watch, I admit, but I’d never say it was bad. I’m sure I would revisit this film in the future, but for now, I’m not going¬† to lie in saying that I’m not a hardcore fan of this. And this is because of the deliberate pace of this film. It’s not a bad film, it’s very far from that, but it will definitely test your patience. Trust me.

The screenplay is the star. Not the actors, of the director, or the costumes – it is the screenplay. In its length of almost two hours and thirty minutes, it was able to maximize the material that it has, and talk about originality. This is not the kind of film I would expect to be an original screenplay, by the way. I expected this to be adapted from a stage play or whatever, not just written directly for film. I do not know how would I make it sound that it was a compliment, but I believe it did something extraordinary, movie-writing-wise. You would not expect this kind of writing from a film. Its recurring use of overlapping dialogues fills the screen with intense vigor and energy but never letting go the nuance that it establishes right from the start.

This is the element of the film that drives the movie with a full speed at the start then slowly relaxes for us to be an observer of the events that slowly unravel as the film progresses. The one thing that constantly echoes at the back of my mind is the overwhelming expertise exemplified in this. Everything that happens in this movie give the plot a move forward and makes the characters have a development. The handling of the characters is tense and there is a lingering sensation of uncertainty among the characters. They all have an unpredictable persona that the screenplay shades on the characters, making them interesting and something to really watch.

And while the direction moves at an almost glacial pace that it may want some viewers to turn this movie off, it is the screenplay that sustains the interest. The actors certainly had amazing delivery, but we constantly watch out for what are the characters going to say. We are holding on in every scene because you almost doubt every character we see because, as I have said a while ago, all of the characters have secrets. The taut screenplay crafts all of these – plot, subplots, characters, events – with such ease and dimension that it easily becomes the biggest asset of this film.

The cinematography is excellent. Every scene lensed with those almost glowing feel of the camera succeed in reenacting the lost time when this movie was set. It authentically recreates the whole feeling of nostalgia without immersing us into dizzying amounts of it. It feels very classy but at the same time, there is this freshness in every shot. Take note that the camera never becomes steady in this film. It always moves, or in some cases, shakes. There is no steady shot here. Just a bit of trivia.

The editing demonstrates the labor of love the filmmakers had for this film. We have this stories somewhat distant from one another, but even then, it movies perfectly and gracefully. It knows when to go back from another character, every insert shot feels knowledgeable, the dialogue scenes capture the essence of socializing with other people, the murder is perfectly built with joy and impending danger, it underlines the character’s self-suspicion properly, it graces every scene with mastery without even showing off – the editing made the movie “the movie” that it was.

The music is as subtle as you can get. There is no big musical piece, but it suitably accommodates the need for emotional resonance in scenes when the dialogue hands over the responsibility of shaping the film  to the camera. Of course, the music was no big deal in here, but it was able to furnish the dynamics of the film all throughout the length.

The acting, or let us say, the actors, breathe in the life the film has. the direction is the heart, the screenplay is the brain, but the acting is the oxygen of this film.¬† This is one of those “real” ensemble movies where nobody stands out individually because all of the actors collectively rise up above the challenge without ever leaving one out.

All of the actors are all-around good, but I do not know all of them by name, so I’ll cite those I know, but rest assured, all of them did their part in making this film excellently acted.

Kelly Macdonald brings out the supposed innocence of her character naturally without pushing the boundaries of it towards ignorance. Her handling of the character is definitely subtle, but not to be ignored.

Ryan Philippe, on the other hand, was successful in blending the masculine reservedness and the fiery lust hidden in his facade. When he heals with a woman on downstairs and one on upstairs in terms of sex is vastly different, but not out of character.

Kristin Scott-Thomas playfully mixes innate superiority and relaxed sensuality, bringing a very dynamic three-dimensional character to life. When he first recognizes Ryan Philippe’s character in his supposed efficiency, she hints a minute amount of desire in the delivery of that word – “efficiency” – and it is expertly done.

Clive Owen wears a haunting exterior of alertness that is lingering in every scene he is in. He definitely has this powerful control above all of those in the downstairs but at the same time, he seemed to be very approachable.

Emily Watson holds complete reserve of her character. You always feel she is not saying all that she has got to say, but she makes you feel that she has a lot to say more than she is allowed to.

Helen Mirren is fantastic. He embodies all of the facets of the character she plays – the perfect servant. She is almost a ghost absorbed by the walls, by the glamor around her, but she is the one to actually watch out. She knows everything, but never feels calculated. She is always in the mood of working. Except for her last scene, she does what a servant should do – hold back her own personal emotions. But even then, she is the character to root for. She sturdily establishes the foundation of her character’s presence right from the start of the film, and what’s next leaves an indelible mark throughout.

Maggie Smith, though not as impressive as her fans make her sound to be, shakes the ground with an entertaining creation of a character whose domination in the group is almost spectacular to see. You may think that they are all equal, but her slightest move even suggest that she stands out from the rest of those who stand out already. It is her divine screen presence that makes her character a fascination to see.

All in all, the film succeed in all of the levels of the filmmaking a great movie should achieve. And I think it is a great film – something to watch again in the future for a revisit, but right now, I’m not going with the flow of the passionate lovers and say it right now – I do not love the film 100%. I know, rewatching changes a lot of things, but right now, I’m not convinced that I’m fully passionate about it.

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?

Best Picture Profile: The Lord of The Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson

Company: New Line Cinema

Runtime: 178 minutes

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The film is about a ring made to invade the Middle-earth. In time of battles and chances, the Ring was passed and passed until it went to a man named Bilbo Baggins who has a nephew, Frodo. When Bilbo left their place, Frodo had the Ring. Wizard Gandalf, seeing what had happened, tried to connect the pieces about the mystery of the Ring, only to find out that the Ring Frodo has is actually the Ring made by the evil Sauron.

When Saruman the White finds out that Frodo has the Ring, he tasks all to get the Ring and kill the one who has it. Upon hearing the news, Gandalf and he, along with Sam, escape. On their way, they met Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir. All of them comprise the Fellowship of the Ring.

So, what does it mean if you have a short summary for a very long story?

It only means that it’s so hard to tell the story in words.

The direction is…… amazing.

I was definitely hesitant of watching this movie because I thought, in its length, I would be bored and uninterested. It was definitely the opposite of it. The movie gave an immense and wowing story of journey and adventure without even getting self-indulgent. Instead, it packs such an emotional way of telling the story that it does not get tiring in any way. It was presented in such an absorbing way because it was able to blend in the epic scope the story has and the personal core that it builds up with the characters.

It’s not easy to handle such a lengthy story in a three-hour length because it definitely has the tendencies to be unfocused in telling the main story and be busy showing random things. The direction was focused and clear and there is a sense of expertise in it that is very comforting because this kind of story needs someone who can actually tell this and make this his own. Peter Jackson, being a creative and wildly imaginative guy he is, was able to make this epic fantasy with such originality and identity that it definitely stands out from the rest. Admittedly, this is only the first time I have seen a film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I could say that I have never been impressed by a fantasy film with this kind of level. Ever. All I could say is that this is one of the most amazing fantasy films ever, if not really the most.

The direction does not sugarcoat what is happening in the story nor does it glorify the violence that it has. It attacks the material with such honesty that it did not bother me with every directorial choices that it made to present the story. The whole story was very well-handled that it stands out as one of the most compelling films in the history.¬† That’s all I got to say.

The screenplay is fantastic. It must have been a really hard to adapt the source material. Anyway, what impresses me is on how it was able to make a story filled with fantasy and at the same time, it never forgets the human soul the characters have. The characters could have been from an other world, but they have humanity in them. The relationship between Gandalf and Frodo is a beautiful illustration of a very humane existence of these characters. I was seeing a fatherly image in Gandalf to Frodo. But it was not stuck to that – it was not stagnant. Throughout the course of the film, there is a continuous development of characters.

Not only the development of characters will I praise but on how it simply tells the story. The narrative flow is smooth without any obvious flaws or plot holes, if it even have one. There is such reason to everything that happens. There are parts in the movie when there are a lot of attacks that are taking place. And in¬† for some reasons, it didn’t feel like randomly placed. The screenplay had logic so that in every event that is happening in the movie has a reason in this journey. This is not some questionable story because there is logic in it. That’s what most fantasy films need – logic.

Another thing that I like about the screenplay is on how it was adapted. I haven’t read the book, but reading about the process the screenplay had undergone, it must have been a pretty hard time writing this, so there was some condensing and compressing done. And the result was the prologue – one of the best ever. It was written with such an admirable mystery and delivered with such agelessness and ethereal quality that it’s breathtaking to hear.

The cinematography is….. what can I say? There is always two kinds of shot in this – the vast shots suggesting the epic scope of the film, and the confined shots, almost too close or simply moving – and both of these shots build up the feel of actually being there in the place. The wide shots, I expected them. But they are still done in a very beautiful way that it really was something new, at least for me. The close shots, especially the handheld ones, were the surprise because I would not think that they would use those kinds of shots in this kind of film. It adds up to the distinctive quality of the film. The colors used in the shots appropriately displays the mood in every scene.

The editing is so smart with its different choices that adds up to the think that make this film stand out from other fantasy epic films. There are the battle scenes which are definitely the highlights of the film’s sharp editing, but as my personal preference rules, the part where the editing mostly works best was the first thirty minutes. It starts with images placed together to create a startling effect. After that is the scenes at the town, scenes that are filled with the feeling of being at home, thanks to the editing that actually juiced out the best of the story to create an opening that automatically evokes attention. As a whole, the film had plus points for me because of the editing.

The music manages to surround the whole film with a certain atmosphere of magic and ethnicity. The notes could suggest traces of Titanic and Braveheart, but it does not matter. It suits the story the film has and what the film is all about – it is about a naive Hobbit initially in peace on an enchanting journey. It perfectly settles the atmosphere with its musicality. Special mention to the flute that echoes almost of the most remarkable emotions in the film. Of course, aside from the gentle music, there is the majestic music used for the traveling shots and the scenes where something bad is happening. All in all, the music adds a l0t to the film. Its mix of colossal music and subtle scoring fills the movie with life and soul.

The song at the end caps the film in a high pitch, raising interest and anticipation for the sequel that it has. It’s with a sense of nature and enchantment in it.

The production and technical facets of the film are almost pitch-perfect. The make-up is very believable in producing larger than life characters that populate the film. The costume design aren’t the glamorous that you will normally see being awarded for the best, but it adds a lot to the characters and their qualities. The art direction is effective in simulating a world we do not have an idea to start with. There could be words from the book illustrating the places, but it is actually the imagery and imagination of the designers that made this world something different. And it’s nowhere near distracting.

The visual effects are one of the best ever. There is no way you can see any shot in the film that doe not look at least believable. Ten years have passed since it was first released and the effects haven’t aged a bit. It has intelligence and complexity in it, and there is undeniable display of effort in it. The film may have undergone such lengthy process, but the product is more than rewarding and satisfying – it’s spellbinding.

The acting works more as an ensemble, but at least, I just want to say things about some of them.

Ian McKellen successfully embodies what could have been an annoying one-dimensional character.¬† But instead of doing that, he gets the best out of his character. His character is already enveloped in mystery once we see him for the first time. In the process, he gently peels his covering to show us who he actually is. It could have been an ignored work, but I’m glad it was recognized for its humanity.

Elijah Wood brings a lot of joy in his character. There is a bite of childishness in his performance, but the whole transition that he undergoes throughout the film as he slowly matures is really good. He perfectly suits the character, and he does not show any shallowness in this.

The other actors do also well, even if only in small doses. All of them create vibrant characters, full of life. No one is left out, no one gets to commit any flaws, and at the same time, none of them were completely remarkable. Still, such an impressive collaborative effort.

The film completely took me by surprise. I expected it to be an exhausting film to watch, but I was thrilled. I can’t wait to see the sequel. I have no more words to say – I’ll let my rating speak.

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts?

INTRODUCTION – Best Motion Picture: 2001

After the poll, this turned out to be the next year. So, the nominees are:

A Beautiful Mind

Gosford Park

In the Bedroom

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Moulin Rouge!

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Who would be my pick?

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Would it be the drama biopic? Or the British murder mystery? Or the startling drama? Or the fantasy epic? Or the tragicomic musical?

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The arrangement will be by lottery, and the last profile is the Best Picture winner, A Beautiful Mind.

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So, dear reader, would I go with the Academy? Or would I go with an another nominee?