Thursday, March 24, 2011

Best Picture Project, Gladiator and Chicago

A few weekends ago the Wife and I decided we were going to start watching films that have won best picture; the goal being to see all of them. Now please don’t think we in any way give into the notion that a movie that wins best picture is in some way better than movies that don’t. I myself have been known to turn up my nose at some movies just because they win all the awards or are very popular. But the time in my life for judgment without facts is over. I’m tired of hating things just because. It is time to watch the movies and then decide if said film is worthy or not. Sometimes I have trashed a movie because of its genre (Romantic, Musical, Teen Vampire Romance) and other times I have avoided a film simply because of the actors involved. My Wife and I are finished with these preconceived notions. The time is now. We have agreed to skip any film both of us have seen and remember pretty well. We will still be watching the movies one of us has seen but the other has not.

After we watch the movies we will do a short write up with our thoughts for the blog. If it’s a movie neither of us have seen we will probably both make comments, but in the other case, the person new to the film will compose the post. We are also going to look at the other films nominated that year, hoping to find something else we’ve seen to compare with. At some point I figure we will get to writing about the ones we have already seen as well; in hopes of someday having thoughts about every film on the list. The idea right now is to push these Best Picture Project posts out on Mondays. Occasionally if I've had a dry week I may post them on Thursday, but only if absolutely necessary.

I’ll be labeling the posts for this project in Movies and BPP (Best Picture Project)

So without further delay, our first two Best Picture comments...

Gladiator, 2000

While I find Russell Crow to be a good actor, I am not exactly his greatest fan. That opinion along with the few random, mainly fight scenes of Gladiator that I had seen on tv in the past had me completely turned off from this movie. However, with our best picture project, it must be watched! The movie ended up surprising me... since I had only seen the fight scenes I never realized there was so much depth to the film. I do think it was worthy of it's Oscar win. Russell Crow was good, but honestly for me Joaquin Phoenix stole the show in his portrayal of the villain, Commodus. Phoenix, who I LOVED as Johnny Cash in one of my all time favorite movies, Walk the Line, was excellent and overshadowed Crow in my opinion. Phoenix was able to convey the psycho nature of the character, but was still able to evoke sympathy. Creeper sister-lovin' aside, I felt for Commodus... I mean his dad seemed like a real douche... never loving him and basically rejecting him as a son... never even giving him a chance from the start. He even openly admitted to wanting another man to be his son and successor! His daddy issues made him become what he was...and I felt sympathy for him, despite his villainous nature. I don't think many actors could make you feel the sympathy that Phoenix did. The virtue speech said it best for me: Commodus:

"You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, courage, perhaps not on the battlefield, but... there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn't want me for your son."

Phoenix's delivery in this speech was jam-packed with emotion and if it wasn't for the aforementioned incestuous tendencies, I might have been more on his side. So to sum it up, Gladiator was better than I expected. Complaint? Continuity... it is hinted that Maximus and Commodus' sister (whose name escapes me at the moment) had a past. However, Maximus said that he had never been to Rome and wouldn't she have spent the majority of her life in Rome? I would appreciate any clarity someone could give me for this.

The Wife-

Chicago, 2002

Do not adjust contrast on your monitor; leave the brightness alone too. You are reading this correctly, I liked Chicago . I know right? It’s like all that bitching I do about musicals is just hypocritical negligence. This must be what it’s like to try new things. How about one step further, I really liked Chicago ; but that’s as far as I’m stepping out. I’ll even admit I did not give it a fair chance, because that’s what I do. “Oh, a musical? Yeah, I’m not gonna like this.” Well color me an asshole.

First and foremost Chicago was entertaining. There wasn’t one moment I found myself checking the time to figure how much longer I had to refrain from suicide. I think that may be the true test of a film’s quality. People can talk about acting and cinematography and graphics and wardrobe and style until they get pushed down a flight of stairs because they are annoying. But when push comes to shove, did the movie entertain you? Yes, Chicago did. Who knew Richard Gere could sing and dance and play a sleazy lawyer but still remain somewhat likable? Hell I didn’t even know he could act. This was far more than just a musical. You see in all the musicals I’ve ever seen, they string together the songs with mostly meaningless conversations meant to get you to the next song. The musical and regular parts of Chicago went together so nicely there was no need to fill gaps with chatter. The musical portions also satirized the acting, drawing out two worlds; one of song and the real one. These two worlds were blended together masterfully. This film deserved every award it got and John C. Reilly should have won for best supporting actor. But maybe it’s fitting he didn’t win after being a cellophane man.

Hobo Dan-

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