Thursday, February 06, 2014

More Reviews

The awesomeness continues. :)

Saving Mr. Banks was deemed an Oscar front-runner, but for some reason ( like Inside Llewyn Davis ) was snubbed in the nomination process.

Still, it is a lovely and immensely moving film, and once again, where 12 Years A Slave failed ( i.e. in affecting my lacrimal ducts ), SMB succeeded effortlessly.

Tracing Walt Disney's 20-year-long attempt to secure film adaptation rights to P.J. Travers' Mary Poppins novel, the story may seem rather simple at first glance, but is anything but. What transpires during the 2-hour run time spans 5-6 decades, tracing Travers' troubled childhood through flashbacks, interspersed with present day scenes, mostly at the Disney studios where she oversees script, songs and other tasks.

In the wrong hands, this movie could have gone completely south. Instead, thanks to the best leading cast anyone could've possibly hoped for, a fabulous script from Kelly Marcel ( who also adapted Fifty Shades Of Grey ), and great directing from John Lee Hancock, the result is a roller coaster ride of surprises, mixed with tidal waves of emotion.

Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as the charming and affable Disney, while Emma Thompson's portrayal of Travers - reticent, cynical, bitter - truly deserves an Oscar nod. Together, they light up the screen, initially sparring before gradually settling into a comfortable partnership and friendship.

Special mention goes to Colin Farrell, who plays Travers' father with subtle sensitivity.

There're a couple of tissue moments, but I won't spoil it by revealing them. I think it's much better to sit through the film and experience them for yourself.

However, I will point out my favourite scene - involving a conversation between Disney and Travers, during which the former describes his own imperfect childhood to the latter, explaining how he became the man he is, and why he made certain choices when others seemed much more obvious.

Definitely makes me see the Disney franchise ( and all the Disney theme parks I've visited ) in a completely new light. :)

Next is The Wolf Of Wall Street, which has garnered Oscar nominations in major categories, including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture.

My feelings about this are mixed - there's no doubt WOWS is immensely enjoyable and superbly acted and directed, but nominating a film that gives the impression it's celebrating debauchery of the highest level for Best Picture is rather dubious.

However, I have no argument with the acting nod for Leonardo DiCaprio, whose time has finally come after years of outstanding performances. I recall reading about him being blacklisted by the Academy many years ago when he boycotted an Oscar ceremony after being snubbed for Titanic. Not sure if this is entirely true, but it did appear as if he never quite got back in their good books, despite laudable turns in The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and Django Unchained.

In WOWS, we see Leo as we've never seen him before - unhinged and totally psychotic. The closest to this was in Django, where he played a sadistic plantation owner whose slaves fought to the death for his pleasure.

As Jordan Belfort, he's a hundred times worse - not cruel, but equally insane in a different way. Consumed by greed, incapable of reining in his multitude of hard-core addictions, culminating in a humiliating display of motor and cognitive impairment after gulping down a massive dose of Qualuudes. That scene alone is worth the Oscar win for sure! :)

And let's not forget the sublime Matthew McConaughey, whose brief 10-minute cameo is so memorable, a restaurant scene featuring humming and chest-thumping has inspired countless YouTube videos.

Clocking in at a whopping 3 hours(!), WOWS certainly perpetuates the overriding theme of excess, and you'll find your eyebrows leaving your forehead as each new sin is presented. Prepare yourself for lots of nudity, sex orgies, pill-popping, cocaine-snorting and vulgarity-spewing, until at some point, you'll actually stop noticing any of it. I personally feel it could've been 30 minutes shorter, but hey, who wants to argue with the brilliant Scorsese?

A standout scene takes place in Belfort's firm, after he announces his departure following an incriminating FBI investigation. As his fervently loyal employees protest, he starts thumping his chest and humming the tune his mentor taught him, and the entire office joins in. Faces contort, grown men climb onto their desks and dance, as everyone enters a trance-like state, a cult worshipping their revered leader with no regard for all the wrong he's committed.

I may object to the Best Picture nomination, but if it ends up winning, THAT is the moment that clinched the trophy.

More next time!