Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Begins Oscar Campaign

Well, not officially. I’m pretty sure that’s going on behind the scenes. But fans over at Potterish have come up with this awesome poster in preparation for the Oscar season, which the final movie of the Harry Potter series is part of, featuring the Oscar statuette holding the Elder wand.

You know, the year is almost up and I know most award-worthy movies are still waiting to be released but nothing has come close to how great Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has been. You can read my review here.

In the meantime, check the fanmade poster in support for Harry Potter’s best picture quest:

Well, accio oscar!

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The Oscars Debrief

This year’s award season to celebrate the high quality 2010 movies is over. The Academy has spoken and The King’s Speech is the big winner.

The ceremony opened up with a very funny bit of montage with this year’s hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, doing acting bits in the Best Picture nominated movies. We were able to watch them be part of Inception, The Social Network, True Grit, The King’s Speech, etc… and it was quite awesome. Anne Hathaway had some awesome lines, notably when, during her “role” in The King’s Speech she says: “we come from the future with good news… we have smaller microphones” or when she freaks out Natalie Portman in Black Swan as the green duck.

And then they started their opening segment which was very dull apart from a couple Hathaway lines about how it’s been a great year for lesbians and how getting naked isn’t enough anymore to warrant a best actress nomination, taking a stab at herself for her mostly nude movie Love and Other Drugs.

Soon after that, Tom Hanks came on to present the first two awards of the night, Art Direction (Alice in Wonderland won) and Cinematography (Inception).

Then, Kirk Douglas came up to present Supporting Actress and I honestly thought it was torture. He kept pushing on the nominees’ buttons and it was pretty interesting to see them getting prepared for the results only to see him divert the subject elsewhere. Melissa Leo won this, as expected, although many had predicted an upset (myself included). Melissa Leo then a very horrible acceptance speech where she dropped the F-word, only to become the night’s go-to joke about acceptance speeches. Literally, everyone who won something referenced her in his acceptance speech.

Melissa Leo

However, soon enough, it began to look like The King’s Speech was not going to own the night as many had predicted. The race was as close as it can be. Soon enough, even Alice in Wonderland had two Oscars.

Supporting Actor went to Christian Bale, as was pretty much expected. So if anyone believes the combination of a Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe doesn’t make you a lock for an Oscar win, this night proved you wrong. The “weakest” frontrunners in the acting categories came out unscathed and victorious.

In the meantime, Anne Hathaway continued a pretty overzealous and energetic hosting job by dressing up as man and taking a stab as Hugh Jackman (Or Huge Jackass as she named him) by singing and dancing about it. And just when you thought she dwarfed Franco beyond measure, he comes up on stage in pink drag. That was probably his most memorable moment. He just looked like he didn’t want to be there.

Anne Hathaway Singing At The Oscars

Continuing with the awards, Inception received both Sound-related awards, to raise its total to three, leading the night. The Social Network scored two quick wins for Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay, as expected.

Then there was a bunch of awards for short films most of us hadn’t watched. Oprah then presented the award for Best Documentary. Inside Job won. I thought Oprah looked dead tired.

Documentary was soon followed by the nerve-wracking Film Editing. It has become known that the movie that wins Film Editing is the favorite to win Best Picture. And in a night where the combination of the awards handed out so far didn’t single out a clear frontrunner, this award looked like it might seal the deal. The Social Network won this and adding to its Adapted Screenplay and Original Score, it looked like we might have a Social Network sweep – again.

Russell Brand and Helen Mirren presented Best Foreign Language Film and Helen Mirren came across yet again as a superb class act by addressing the audience in fluent French. All hail to the queen!

For you animation lovers, this year’s animation phenomenon Toy Story 3 went home with the gold, winning two Oscars, one for Best Animated Feature and the second one for Best Original Song.

Speaking of Best Original Song, there were four performances, the highlight of which was A.R. Rahman and Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine singing “If I Rise”. It was a chills-inducing performance and the song deserved to win. Gwyneth Paltrow sang nominated song “Coming Home” from her latest movie “Country Strong” and I thought she did well. Randy Newman, the writer of Toy Story’s theme song “We Belong Together” mentioned how weird it was not to have a fifth song nominated. And I agree with this. “There’s A Place For Us” by Carrie Underwood for the movie Chronicles of Narnia deserved a nomination.

Later on, Inception reclaimed its title for top movie of the night by earning its fourth Oscar for Visual Effects, a much deserved win – although my heart also wanted Harry Potter to snag its first Academy Award. Which reminds me, The Wolfman won for best makeup. And I thought it was an abomination how this movie gets to flaunt an Academy Award and the whole Harry Potter series has none. Having said that, Deathly Hallows Part 2 better bring it at next year’s Oscars!

Speaking of Harry Potter, there was a funny segment as well about how “musicals” have been an important part of the business this part year. The segment comprised of dialogue parts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, The Social Network and Twilight, among other movies, transformed into song. I thought it was pretty cool, actually.

And since it’s not the Oscars without a proper “In Memoriam” segment, Celine Dion sang a beautiful rendition of “Smile” to a montage of the pictures of industry people that have left us, commemorating their memory.

Continuing with James Franco still looking like he’d rather be anywhere but the Oscars, we get to the final and most important stretch of the night. The last four awards: Director, actor, actress and picture.

Director comes up. Drumroll, please… and what do you know, it’s our first major upset of the night. Presented by last year’s undeserving winner Kathryn Bigelow (yes, I think The Hurt Locker is such an overrated movie!) Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech overtakes David Fincher for The Social Network, who looked like a frontrunner for this category. Tom Hooper delivered a remarkable speech, telling the story of how if it weren’t for his mother, The King’s Speech wouldn’t have been made. I have to say, British people make the best acceptance speeches. This win, however, brings us back to square zero in our movie frontrunner race. Best Picture is back up for grabs.

The Best Actress category was announced by last year’s Best Actor winner, Jeff Bridges. And honestly, I much preferred last year’s nominees introduction. It just seemed so bland and rushed this year around, like they simply wanted to get it over with. These are five women who gave it their all to be where they were, at least give them the decency of properly introducing them. I still get goosebumps when remembering how Stanley Tucci introduced the great Meryl Streep and how Oprah introduced newcomer Gabourey Sidibe last year… No surprise here, however, Natalie Portman won this. She acted surprised and I thought it wasn’t that credible. Sure, you’re happy and all but come on, you’ve seen this one coming since December. It’s not like Jennifer Lawrence or Michelle Williams or even Annette Bening had a late moment surge in votes. She looked very pregnant and gave a pretty boring speech. I was thankful she did not mention her “sexual activities” with her fiance but she enumerated too many names than I care to remember. Last year’s speech by sweetheart Sandra Bullock beats this by a country mile!

Contrast it with this:

Then it was time for yet another expected category with Best Actor. We all knew Colin Firth was going to win this, but what made the category extra-special was Sandra Bullock’s introduction of the nominees. She walked the line between seriousness and humor so meticulously. She radiated with confidence. I think she should host next year’s Oscars. She is just all kinds of awesome! So yeah, Colin Firth won. He opened up his speech about how he might have hit “the apex of [his] career” and then his speech became another snooze-fest. You’d think after all the rehearsals in the movie he won for and the fact that he is British and it’s in their genes to deliver awesome acceptance speeches, he’d do a better job.

And then it was time for the moment of truth. Which movie would turn out a winner out of the two that are seriously left battling it out?

The King’s Speech came out triumphant, bringing its total to four Oscars, tying it with Inception for first place. The whole cast and producers came on stage, a speech I did not care about ensued.

Following The King’s Speech “expected” win, the P.S. 22 Chorus closed the night with their rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, the winners joined them on stage. And we’re out people!

All in all, I felt last year’s Oscars had more prestige. I thought they didn’t give the movies nominated for Best Picture their due. Each movie had a segment introducing it last year. This time around, the movies were parodied and barely mentioned when their category came up. Maybe the Academy personnel should care about delivering a better ceremony show suitable for the Oscars than a show to attract young viewers?

 

True Grit – Movie Review

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of westerns. Telling the story of a one-eyed Marshall helping a young girl to find her dad’s murderer, the movie transcends the Western stereotype I have come to associate with similar movies and found it to be a really enjoyable movie at that.

The Coen brothers’ remake of the 1969 original movie is remarkable, currently nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards with its lead actor and actress nominated for their roles as well.

I will not go into the plot of the movie apart from painting out a general picture. Marshall Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) is hired by 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to kill her father’s murderer. On their path, they meet up with a Texas ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon) and together, the continue on their path to find the murderer, overcoming many hurdles.

What is really interesting in the movie is the community they are living in. I’m not sure how accurate a representation the movie is of a 19th century American Western community but the way law was enforced back then is quite fascinating. It it what moves the characters: their will to see justice enforced, regardless of how we currently view justice to be. Do you believe Mattie’s pursuit to kill her dad’s murderer is justified? or is she a hate-blinded fourteen year old? Do you believe Marshall Cogburn is a ruthless man who only seeks money or is he a compassionate person who really wants to see the killer brought to justice?

Jeff Bridges delivers a very strong performance. I cannot draw comparisons to his role in “Crazy Heart” which garnered him an Academy Award. But I have to say, I thought this was a more engaging performance. He delivers his sharp dialogue with a brilliant efficiency, helping the movie in its slow moments. Moreover, his embodiment of the “father-figure” for Mattie is filled with subtle nuances which make him assuming this role quite enjoyable to watch.

The breakthrough here, however, is the amazing Hailee Steinfeld. To say this teenager shines as Mattie Ross is the understatement of the year. Nominated for a supporting actress at the Academy Awards, I believe she belongs in the leading actress category. She is the movie. She is the main acting-driving force. Young as she might be, the other two men rarely do something without her approval – and it isn’t because she’s paying them. She portrays a very strong character and does so marvelously. In my opinion, her acting is the highlight of the movie.

All in all, True Grit might not be my favorite movie this year – especially with all the high-caliber movies that have been released. But True Grit excels at what it’s meant to be: provide an enjoyable Western movie that helps break out the misconceptions some people might have about the genre, while serving as a vehicle for its acting personnel to shine. Look out for a possible Hailee Steinfeld upset at the Oscars this year.

The Fighter – Movie Review

The Fighter is a 2010 biographical boxing movie about the life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky (Christian Bale).

It is a ferocious movie, sometimes violent, other times funny. And ultimately, it is a movie about the values of family more than anything else. In their tightly-knit community of Lowell, Massachusetts, the people who are cheering this fighter are ultimately the same people holding him back. And regardless of the many boxing games that you will get to see and the many adrenaline-pumping moments you will sit through, this is a movie that is sentimental. It is the story of a man, whose occupation happens to be bloody, and his quest to find himself: failed marriage, career going bad and a messed up family… this is his quest to make something out of his life. The family conflicts in this movie are even bloodier than the battles of the ring and ultimately much more interesting to watch.

The mother, played by the brilliant Melissa Leo, is running a matriarchy. Their father figure is weak to say the least. Melissa Leo, the current frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress race at this year’s Oscars, immerses herself in her character immensely that at times you think they got this woman from some grocery store, taught her the lines and threw her in the movie. She embodies Ward’s mother in a real way that is also raw and haunting.

Christian Bale, the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor race, as Micky’s older half-brother Dicky, is the bad brotherly influence that you cannot escape – and ultimately always seek to impress. He used to be a hotshot boxer as well but lost it all in a spiral descent filled with drugs and whatnot. He wants to resurrect his career through his brother and in doing so, Christian Bale really shines. The sunken-eyed, pale and thin character he portrays is done so well at times that his performance is scary.

Amy Adams, as Micky’s girlfriend Charlene, is also nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. I believe Amy Adams is one of the best new talents to come to Hollywood and this movie is yet another vehicle for her to further cement this belief. She is gorgeous, as usual, and plays the supporting girlfriend who wants to protect Micky from his own family in a raw, gut-wrenching manner. You can’t help but like her in the movie. And she is my favorite in the Best Supporting Actress race, albeit not the favorite to win.

Mark Wahlberg’s performance is low-key compared to his costars. And it’s precisely that which makes it really good. His subdued performance is the equivalent of his character. And as his voice gets stronger throughout the movie, so does his character’s. This low-key performance also symbolizes his internal struggle between staying faithful to his family and his responsibility towards himself.

All in all, The Fighter is another must see. And if you think all my reviews are ultimately about must see movies, it’s because 2010 has delivered movies of such a high caliber that not watching them would be, ultimately, a disgrace to the art of movie-making.

The Social Network – Movie Review

Who hasn’t heard of this movie? Or at least what the movie’s about?

Facebook.

A movie about Facebook could easily have been boring. After all, many of Facebook’s users are boring: useless status updates, posey-pictures, pointless comments…

But get an interesting topic, a director who has already given a cult-hit (Fight Club) and a very, very strong screenplay and the result is riveting.

The movie tells the story of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and how he made Facebook, the details of his invention, all the “dirt” that we don’t know about, the enemies he made along the way and his ingenuity.

It’s ironic that the person who made Facebook – the most active and important social network today – is really, not a douchebag as the movie portrayed him in some instances to be, but mostly socially awkward.

The movie’s screenplay, written by Aaron Sorkin, is snappy, smart, fast and really engaging. The first few moments of the movie: a conversation between Mark and his girlfriend is purely based on that: dialogue. It’s such an intense dialogue that those few minutes draw you in and from there forward, there’s no dull moment. The movie is mainly talk-driven. And it doesn’t get unbearable.

The movie jumps around time periods. It does not follow the order of how everything happened chronologically but it’s very easy to understand what’s happening. I mean, this is David Fincher, the guy who brought the world Fight Club we’re talking about.

Even though, as I said earlier, Zuckerberg is not portrayed in the best of fashions, he makes up for a riveting character portrayed very well by Jesse Eisenberg. This is his breakthrough role no doubt.

And for those who thought Justin Timberlake was not capable of serious acting performances, this movie will prove you somewhat wrong. He’s not brilliant but not atrocious either.

Andrew Garfield, portraying Zuckerberg’s best friend Eduardo, does an immense job at that. The contrast between his character and Einsenberg’s is so obvious that it’s difficult to think how the characters are friends in the first place.

The soundtrack is hypnotic. Not my favorite soundtrack of the year but a pretty great one no doubt by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Several songs in the movie are not featured in the soundtrack, the main one being the song played in the California night club scene. So if you’ve been searching for it, it’s Sound of Violence by Dennis De Laat. The soundtrack has already won the Golden Globe.

The Social Network is up for 8 Academy Awards, including best picture. It has already won the Golden Globe for best motion picture – drama. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year – and it’s a must watch for every Facebook user.

Harry Potter To Be Honored at the BAFTAs

Harry Potter fans, rejoice!

The movies based on our favorite books are – finally – beginning to get the recognition they deserve!

The BAFTAs are honoring the Harry Potter movie series with an award for “Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema”.

For those who don’t know, or don’t want to know, the Harry Potter movies are the highest grossing movie series ever, with total revenues upward of $6 billion. The books are one of the best selling books of all time, with the last book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, selling over 11 million copies in the United States on the first day alone. Yes, sorry Twilight!

The latest movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I, has already grossed over $950 million and is nominated for two Academy Awards.

The Harry Potter series has never won an academy award and many people have been wondering why.

Rumor has it that Warner Bros is preparing a full-blown award-season campaign for the last movie of the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II.

Producers are already hyping up the summer 2011 release by saying that the already brilliant part 1 was nothing but a “road-movie”. Part 2 will be a full-blown battle.

Leaked pictures from part 2 show the trio and other characters battered and beaten. And honestly, I cannot wait to watch it!

The DVD for Part 1, available starting April 15th, 2011, will apparently include the opening scene of Part 2.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II will be released on July 15th, 2011.

Blue Valentine – Movie Review

Overall, a good movie. There were points where I thought it was great. It’s all about the acting. This is a movie built on two brilliant performances.

Michelle Williams deserves all the recognition she’s getting. She has too many scenes where she shines, the best one, in my opinion, being when she’s at the clinic. You can’t but feel what she’s feeling when she’s lying on the doctor’s gurney there and if you don’t feel anything, then you need to get checked. She got an Oscar nomination for her role, and deservedly so.

Ryan Gosling is brilliant in this as well. He delivers a raw, gut-wrenching performance of the man trying to keep himself together and to keep his marriage still standing. I felt he was another snub at the Oscars this year. He deserved a nomination for his performance in this. I honestly thought he was a lock for a nomination.

I liked the story itself, the blooming of a love, told in flashbacks, and its disintegration, in the present, going in parallel. But I felt that both plots were underdeveloped. Like why are they falling out of love? How did they fall madly in love in the first place? that’s one of the shortcomings of this movie. But, as I said, the brilliant performances make up for it.
It’s very interesting, however, to see how this mismatched couple (and they are seriously mismatched) actually comes to the realization that they are, in fact, not suitable for each other. Many marriages are like this, I believe. The couple stays together because they have a child that’s gluing their crumbling relationship apart… and the movie is basically this couple getting to the realization that even the child is not enough anymore. And this is the crux of the movie: the reality. You forget you’re watching a movie at certain points as it draws very close to the life you know many people are leading.