Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review of Kumar's Amazing Race 25 February 2011, Esplanade Theatre

can be viewed at Just Watch Lah.

It was soooo goooood. :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Entry #4

Yet another Kevin Spacey photo I'm seeing for the first time. :)
And since it's possible I won't get to post anything till after the Feb 28 Oscars, here's wishing him and the rest of The Social Network team best of luck!

Today's discussion centres on the latest Best Picture Oscar contender I sat through.
I've read a few reviews and received mixed opinions from friends ( they didn't like it ), but for me, it was a very enjoyable, satisfying experience.


Predisposing factors: I'm a fan of dark psychological thrillers ( good example: my obsession with the Dexter TV series and novels ); Tchaikovsky is one of my favourite composers, and Swan Lake is of course my favourite masterpiece; and while I'm not the sort to pay to sit through a ballet performance, I do enjoy watching it on the small / big screen.

And with a stellar cast to boot, the combination is pretty much perfect.

Natalie Portman should, IMHO, win the Best Actress Oscar. Her portrayal of tormented, emotionally fragile Nina Sayers is heart-breaking. While the performance is subdued ( Portman's voice barely rises above a whisper in most scenes ), the tension is palpable from beginning to end, as various stressors threaten to derail the poor girl's shaky psyche.

There're many to choose from: a domineering mother who removes the doorknob so her daughter can't leave her bedroom; the slutty new ballerina who pretends to be Nina's best pal then betrays her; the overbearing ballet director who should be sued for sexual harassment and molestation.

Nina's pain is, to some degree, incomprehensible. I found myself wondering how a young woman this beautiful and talented could allow herself to become a victim. How, even after being named the lead in Swan Lake, her insecurity failed to abate. And the extent of her paranoid delusions and hallucinations is truly terrifying, when one considers her meek, submissive personality. One can only guess at the amount of pent-up frustration brewing within, unleashed in the form of imagined sexual aggression and physical violence.

Barbara Hershey deserves special mention for her role as the super-creepy mum. I've watched my fair share of really scary horror movies, but some of her facial expressions are giving me nightmares!

Mila Kunis is a massive revelation as Nina's rival, Lily. After pottering around in That '70s Show and a number of so-so films ( Max Payne, Forgetting Sarah Marshall ), she finally flexes her acting chops as one of the meanest female characters I've ever come across. Lily's venom is toxic to the core, yet that much more dangerous because she knows how to ensnare her prey. That is one vicious b****!

I'm also very impressed with Vincent Cassel, who plays ballet director, Thomas Leroy. I have a vague recollection of seeing him in a Hollywood production previously, but his role in Black Swan will remain a vivid memory for life.
He may be in his mid-40s, but oozes sexuality in every scene. Pay attention to one segment where Thomas rehearses with Nina alone in a studio then practically attacks her.
If you want visuals, go to this link, and fast forward to 46:15.

Yow. :)

Next on the list - True Grit, and maybe The Fighter.
Yes, I'm passing on 127 Hours. I have my limits!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Entry #3

... is dedicated to this year's Oscar-nominated films.

And if you're wondering what's on Kevin Spacey's T-shirt, go to this page. :)

This past week, I managed to see The King's Speech, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter's Bone.
And having already watched Inception, Toy Story 3 and The Social Network, I have to say that the lineup is pretty impressive. Though I expect Black Swan to blow me away when I get the chance to view it.

Considering the diverse selection, my current favourite at the moment is The King's Speech. Granted, it may not appeal to that many people, but I grew up with significant exposure to British fare ( books, movies, TV shows, music ), and really enjoyed this.

Director Tom Hooper has done a marvelous job juggling all the different elements without losing his bearings. The opening scene itself invokes a wide spectrum of emotions, as you watch the protagonist's futile struggle in front of thousands, his every choke horrifyingly audible.

What follows is a fascinating account of life in the British monarchy, albeit a rather dysfunctional version since throne abdication doesn't happen that often ( if ever ). The two princes couldn't be more disparate despite being the offspring of the same overbearing father. And Bertie's gradual transformation as his reluctant sense of duty gives way to triumphant jubilation is nothing short of exhilarating.

IMHO, Colin Firth is fully deserving of his Oscar nomination, and is well-positioned to win. I've seen him in quite a few roles, but he has outdone himself as George VI. His performance is finely tuned yet appears totally effortless. Watch for a segment just before his big WWII speech, when he rehearses with his therapist and uses every trick up his sleeve, resulting in a side-splitting explosion of vulgarities and assorted noises.

Geoffrey Rush, as always, remains a distinguished and unforgettable presence, scoring an Oscar nod as well. But this is definitely Firth's tour de force, and I am rooting for him all the way. :)

The Kids Are All Right will probably never make it to DVD here ( was it even shown in the cinemas? Oh well, who cares. ), so try to watch it overseas or online if you can.

Though nominated in multiple categories, I don't predict any major wins. Is it enjoyable? Yes. Is it jaw-droppingly good? Not really.

While the premise is interesting and the A-list cast helps it stand out from the rest of the pack, it didn't linger the way other nominated films did.
Inception almost drove me crazy for 2 weeks. Buzz Lightyear's Spanish phrases got stuck in my head. And The Social Network's cool one-liners dominated my tweets.

I do, however, appreciate Mark Ruffalo's turn as a homewrecker. Oops, apology about the spoiler. :)

Winter's Bone is a surprising contender, to say the least. A cast of unknowns, a simple story set in the middle of nowhere. For me, it was not easy to sit through, but I did it so I could see for myself what the deal was with lead actress Jennifer Lawrence, who nabbed her first leading role nomination at the tender age of 20.

She does possess an ethereal quality. Very pretty despite the minimal makeup and hillbilly attire. Reminds me of a young Renee Zellweger, without the squeaky voice. Unlikely to beat awards favourite Natalie Portman, but she still has a long career ahead of her, so let's hope she plays her cards right.

I'm probably going to avoid 127 Hours, purely because of the stomach-churning arm-amputation scene. I may be a medical professional, but for some strange reason, certain types of movie gore give me the heebie-jeebies. This falls in the same category as dolphin-slaying ( i.e. The Cove, which I also refuse to watch. ).

More next time.