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Lo imposible (2012)
A visceral, harrowing portrayal of one family's experience during the 2004 tsunami
I'm not even sure it's fair to count what I'm about to say as a spoiler because it has become a widely known true story, but the warning is there anyway. From this point forward I will discuss all aspects of the film, including the ending.
I think it's important to point out that while the film's conceit--the focus on one Spanish-turned-British family who somehow managed to all survive--may bother some, and it's a worthy point, I also think that complaint is a little unfair. The creators of the film and all involved have been very clear that they became attached to this one woman's story, and that's the film's perspective. Maria Belon, the real-life mother of the family, was on the set much of the time ensuring that everything took place as it was. Who are we to deny her interpretation of that day? From her perspective, ethnicities took a back seat to humanity, and the people of Thailand took time away from their own grief and ailments to help her and her son. That is what she knows, and that is what this story is about.
For as much as I read about the tsunami sequence (and I read a lot about it), I still wasn't prepared for how visceral it was going to be. It's very difficult to watch--overwhelming, even. The 3D sound engineering is incredible...and loud. But you're in it, as much as I believe a viewer possibly could be. You panic for these characters. And when it's over, you feel as scattered as they do. It's a really remarkable, watershed moment in physical film making.
The journey that follows is paced and structured nicely. We follow Maria (Naomi Watts) and her eldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland) through their story until it comes to a distinct point, then we see where Henry (Ewan McGregor) and the other two boys are before their stories inevitably converge. Because I knew the ending of the story--because it was marketed as a story of their survival--this isn't the typical "will they/won't they" trope of disaster movies (and, I suppose, romantic comedies). It's more in the "how"--how will they find each other amidst the chaos, and when? And when they do is the only real critique I have of the film. The film has been building toward this moment and the actors have propelled us there emotionally--the sweeping, melodramatic score at the moment of their reunion is almost distracting, and I imagine it will become even more so upon repeated viewings when I'm less taken in by the story unfolding.
An ultimately minor quibble amongst an extraordinary movie, however. The three leads are sublime, brave, and earnest. Holland is a real find; the film sits squarely, unfairly on his shoulders and he carries it with real gravitas and poise that defy the fact this is his first on-camera film. McGregor's role is more limited, but no less powerful, particularly in one devastating scene when he must make the dreaded phone call home. Finally, Watts continues to prove that when it comes to physical and emotional anguish, no one can hit the same real nerve as she can. She gives way to the weight of the story (and water) as if she were a cartoon, bending her body, face, and voice to the will of the elements and the emotions. Her story on the page must read rather one dimensional, but on the screen it is deeply layered. Her connection with Belon is evident; she very much embodies this mother. Hopefully this will finally mark the turn in how people view her as an actress and she starts getting all the lofty praise she deserves.
The Impossible may have arrived too late and may be too intense for the award season powers that be, and it will always come with the asterisk of controversy with regard to is particular portrayal, but I feel like that complaint comes from those who decided the film was in the wrong before they saw it. As the film comes to its conclusion, it isn't a happy story about a family that found each other against impossible odds. It's a somber, honest conclusion about the pain of surviving and the fragility of life as much as it is about the marketed triumph of the human spirit. Spirit got this family far, but not as far as pure, inconsistent, and unfair luck. And I think this movie knows it.
Angels in America (2003)
Brilliant writing complemented with equally brilliant acting
A previous review outlines a list of reasons that if you agree with, you should NOT see this movie...scroll down and find those because I agree.
If you don't fall into those categories, however, treat yourself to this six hour master-class in film-making. This deserved every award it received, and more. It's a shame only one actor from each category can win. All of them, Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Mary Louise Parker, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright (personal favorite), Patrick Wilson, Ben Shankmen, and Justin Kirk all brought out the depths and layers to their characters. Many played more than one role, and each having their distinctive personality and delivering it flawlessly.
The dialogue is uncanny. Jeffrey Wright's delivery of this, if possible, even stands out among the superb cast. He emotes with his entire body the heart-piercing lines of truth, and if one keeps and opens mind, it can't help itself but manifest in your mind.
There are those that dislike the films for the reasons they have, but I believe that has less to do with the film itself and more on its message; that being said this film isn't for everyone. It's brutal honesty in words and images is far from censored, and that should be taken into account.
But for those with an open mind (and two open evenings to view the film's two three-hour parts), should allow themselves the privilege of viewing this masterpiece.
Garden State (2004)
I didn't really know what this movie was all about before going to it, other than I had heard pretty good things about it.
It was a refreshing break for movies as a whole. It's subtle sarcasm and wit are perfectly placed throughout the film, bringing in many laugh out loud moments.
What it manages to capture though is the true gift: the real life aspects of comedy, disappointment, taking chances, fear, etc., are all so flawlessly blended together that the movie's pace is extremely natural and relaxing. Very rarely can a movie go from making you laugh out loud to feeling the tears come out with the character themselves so smoothly and realistically, but this movie manages to do that. 10/10
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
One of the few people that found it only...meh
And by "meh," I mean I laughed out loud probably about five times during the hour and a half. That usually means it was awful (if it's a comedy), but those parts I did laugh at I found brilliant.
Those comedic parts had nothing to do with the character Napoleon. I found him exhausting and irritating to watch. There was a long stretch in the movie where all I could think was "Nothing's happening...nothing's happening...nothing's happening..." And in fact, nothing was.
Some of the outside characters would say or do something that I found absolutely hysterical, but for the most part, it just wasn't that funny to me. Those few parts did stand out and were even funnier the next day, reciting them with the friends I had seen it with (two of whom loved every second of it, one who felt like I did).
For me, it's a rental at best.
How could anyone even pose a threat to Charlize Theron?
I really need to see the other movies that had a Best Actress nominated to see why Charlize Theron wasn't a slam dunk for the Oscar. She was NOTHING short of brilliant.
Her acting job in this movie was indescribably impeccable. The range and depth isn't even worth commenting on, because words could not do it justice.
I've heard that people were amazed by her performance but disappointed with the movie, and I don't know how they can think that. She is in nearly (except for a few short scenes with just Christina Ricci) every scene in the movie (which is an incredible feat to pull off so well).
The movie was depressing, gruesome, heartbreaking, and phenomenal. I had to sit for a little bit through the credits to gather myself after being hit so hard with such a "downer," yet amazing, movie.
Anyone who just loves to keep up with the Academy Award nominations, or appreciates incredible acting should definitely treat themselves to this.
Cold Mountain (2003)
This movie was leading the Oscar race before it even came out--with it's budget and pedigree, it was touted as the next big epic. No pressure...
It succeeded. It's a great movie, gritty, powerful, engaging, and wonderfully directed and acted. It's not quite amazing, but it's worthy of the attention it has received (namely by the Golden Globes).
As much as I love Nicole Kidman and how well she did, Renee Zellweger is the best part of the movie. Her often humorous, yet diverse, roll was perfectly done on her part. Jude Law was great in the roll that where all the "gritty" parts take place, as he is a soldier in the Civil War who escapes to travel home (treason). Nicole Kidman tries to have a southern accent, and it slips every now and then. I'm not sure if she was supposed to have a big one, as I think her character doesn't originally come from the south...at any rate, she's great, as usual. While it's not as "rangey" of a character as past performances (namely Moulin Rouge), she takes her role and owns it, sans a perfect accent.
I didn't care for all the historical, not harsh, gore, but that's just me. The two and half hours don't fly by, but I was never pondering when the movie was finally going to end. It was very well done, just short of incredible. 9/10
Can we say fab?
Yes, we can! I mean honestly, what more can we say about an ultramod finale to the LOTR trilogy. Everything from Billy Boyd's singing, to Orlando's every move...perfection. Shore's music combined with every camera shot makes for an incredible, oscar-winning film. The cast is comprised of talented individuals that bring Tolkien's book to life. It does what it can, and as for the long ending that some audience members feel is too long...how could the film possibly end any sooner? The story itself is huge, so with all respect to finding closure in each aspect of the storyline, every moment of the ending is necessary. (And to the LOTR diehards...who wants to end the movie?) This is an absolutely fabulous movie, period.
From Justin to Kelly (2003)
Exactly what I expected...
I went to see this movie with friends to have a good laugh, and because we're fans of Kelly, yet un-fans of Justin.
I was expecting a paper thin plot, bad acting, bad choreography, decent songs.
Which is what I got. Although, I must say that Kelly's acting was a notch better than I expected. I mean, it would be really challenging not to just barf having to read those cheesy lines, and she read them moderately well.
Her singing is, as usual, fantastic. Also, her black friend is quite good--both at singing and acting.
I gave this movie a 4/10 not because it was good, but because you couldn't have expected and Academy Award contender and it was a palatable way to pass the summer time.
Down with Love (2003)
Unbelievable. This movie actually made my day.
It's really hard to describe, yet it does something that is almost NEVER done, if ever: every second of the movie was great, captivating, and FUN.
The movie sets can be described as an extremely well-done, tasteful, fun, amazing version of Austin Powers, but in a really good, cute way.
However, the thin story-line of Austin Powers is no where to be found in the movie--it's brilliant, from start to finish. The acting is great and the best part was the end! I love that they sang together! McGregor is one of my favorite voices and it was a great song.
So many mistakes! Whoopi was OK, no Steve Martin, but not David Letterman. Anyway, my opinion on the awards given:
Best Picture: MOULIN ROUGE SHOULD HAVE WON! This is the most incredible movie I've ever seen, and it should have swept. But, if the academy wasn't ready for that, Gosford Park is the runner up. Witty, amazingly acted, and wonderfully original. Next is In The Bedroom, another underrated movie--it was great. LOTR is overrated, but it was better than A Beautiful Mind, which is severely overrated.
Best Actor: What can I say? It should be Ewan McGregor--he was the best part of that movie in every respect. However, with the options available, Tom W. should have won for In The Bedroom...anyone but Russel Crowe, really. He shouldn't have won either years.
Best Actress: Yep, Nicole Kidman. Unbelievable in every way. The next would be Sissy Spacek, with a flawlessly acted role. Again, anyone but Halle Berry.
Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren for Gosford Park. Next would easily be Marissa Tomei for In The Bedroom. Again, I found nothing special in Jennifer Connely's performance...she and that whole movie were totally and completely bland.