Departures is the winner of the 2009 Academy Award in the category of the Best Foreign Language Picture. Loosely based on a memoir by Shinmon Aoki titled Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician, it tells the story of Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), an ex-cellist who comes to his home town and finds a very undesirable employment as a nōkanshi, a traditional ritual mortician in Japan. The profession attracts strong societal criticism and prejudice, and soon Kobayashi has to justify his choice not only to his wife and those around him, but also to himself, while finding the courage to finally face the most hated man in his life – his own father. Departures is a wonderful film full of humour and touching moments. This film about one man’s journey of self-discovery and finding forgiveness is also an admirable attempt to challenge and to help alleviate the nonsensical and unfair discrimination faced by people who work in this very difficult and challenging profession in Japan.
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The Oscars have again surprised the world, and, this time, thankfully, not because they gave an award to the wrong film. Parasite, a South Korean movie, has officially become the first foreign-language film to win the most prestigious award – Best Picture, a fact that is especially remarkable given that it was also nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category and won there too. The Oscars have also been overly “white” this year, did not recognise some (more art-house) films and acting which are also deserving of praise and nominations (that acting in “The Lighthouse“!), and, for the year that is supposed to celebrate women in cinema-making and acting, did not acknowledge great acting and films made by women (for example, no women nominees in the category of Best Director). I will only very briefly comment on the 2020 wins in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actor in the Supporting Role and Best Cinematography. Continue reading “The Academy Awards 2020: Some Commentary”
The Shape of Water (2017)
“Words lie, but looks don’t…When you fall in love, you fall in love, absolutely, all at once, all-in. It’s a miracle” (Guillermo del Toro).
“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere” .
This tale of unlikely love between the Princess without Voice or Elisa and the creature from the Amazon has been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and there are good reasons for this furore. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)) has finally made the movie he wanted to make for a long time. Del Toro merges different cinematic genres (fantasy, drama and romance), while paying tribute to black-and-white Hollywood musicals and B-movie monsters, to produce a movie which is almost faultless in its directional execution, acting and emotional content. The director draws on a number of sources to tell the unlikely love story which, among many other things, portrays and sympathises with the lives of the “underdog” minority, and engagingly sets out the high-pressure conditions of living in the times of the Cold War.
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My favourite to win: The Shape of Water
It is a bit of a surprise that “Phantom Thread” as well as “Get Out” made this list. “Get Out” is a horror (not the Academy Awards’ favourite genre), which was released a bit less than one year ago. Even though it is good to see the Academy nominating such a dark-horse, the amazement is still there. For all its unforgettably tense psychological atmosphere, “Get Out” is still a flawed film (see my review here), and one may wonder whether, as with “Moonlight” the year before, there were not some “race politics” involved in this decision as well. On the other hand, such a great film as “The Florida Project” is nowhere to be seen here, which is astounding. I guess the Academy thought that by nominating “Call Me By Your Name”, they would be done with it when it comes to paying their dues and nominating aesthetically-pleasing, independent-spirited films. The limit is ten nominees per category, and, surely, “The Florida Project” deserves its tenth place on this list. Continue reading “Academy Award Nominations 2018: Some Commentary”
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
An inspiring story about an unconventional hero? A graphic tale of the brutality of a war? A touching and believable love story? Mel Gibson can do it all, and, believe it or not – do it brilliantly – all in the same movie. His latest film “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a kind, deeply-religious young man who also happens to be a conscientious objector, enlisting to serve in an army, while having a deep conviction against the commission of violence/murder and would not even touch a gun. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director, “Hacksaw Ridge” is the kind of a film which one can easily define as “great”: a moving, heart-felt story is matched by a dedicated director and a committed actor who do their work exceptionally well.
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Yesterday, on 12 February 2017, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) presented its 70th British Academy Film Awards. Hosted in the Royal Albert Hall in London, the ceremony was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and presented by a comedian and actor Stephen Fry (“V for Vendetta” (2005)). The ceremony was particularly impressive this year, with the great British humour all around, and a fierce high film competition, which, although could have been even more diverse, was, nevertheless, inclusive of so many great foreign productions. Here, I will comment on the Best Picture, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Foreign-Language Film, Documentary and Animation Award winners.
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“…I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end” (Daphne Du Maurier “Rebecca” (1938)).
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, “Rebecca” is adapted from the best-selling novel by Dalphne Du Maurier, and tells of a mysterious widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), the owner of a grand estate Manderley, who stumbles across a shy and awkward young girl (Joan Fontaine) while on a trip in Monte Carlo. De Winter hurriedly marries our heroine, but upon the arrival to his estate, the new Mrs de Winter feels like a trespasser. She realises that every corner of the house is permeated by the spirit of Maxim’s beautiful, charming and intelligent previous wife, Rebecca, and senses that her husband still re-lives the happy moments that he had with his former wife.
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Today, the Academy announced its 2017 Awards’ nominations. Many nominations were predictable, e.g., “La La Land”, while some omissions/inclusions were surprising. Here, I will briefly comment on 7 categories: (1) Best Picture; (2) Best Actress; (3) Best Actor; (4) Best Animation; (5) Best Foreign Language Film; (6) Best Documentary; and (7) Best Original Song.
- Best Picture
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Hell or High Water
- Hidden Figures
- La La Land
- Manchester by the Sea
In my review of “La La Land”, I said how the movie was a perfect Academy Awards material, celebrating what is, in fact, Hollywood, well…even the Academy Awards itself. So, it is no surprise to see so many (14!) nominations for the movie. That is, of course, on top of the fact that “La La Land” is an excellent movie in its own right. “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” are predictable nominations, but, I think, that “Lion” was nominated on the strength of its story, rather than on the quality of the film per se. Going through the list I did not expect to see there “Nocturnal Animals”, and it was not included, but I think the movie was unjustly bypassed in some other categories, such as the Best Actor/Director/Score categories.
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La La Land (2016)
Universally acclaimed, “La La Land” is the kind of a film which could melt the most cynical and toughest of critics. As romantic as it is visually stunning, the main charm of the film lies in its simplicity: a guy, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and a girl, Mia (Emma Stone) both dream of professional success in Hollywood, and first find true happiness in each others’ arms before the practical realities of their chosen star professions separate them. With an uncomplicated plot and an absolutely stunning soundtrack, “La La Land” has all the appeal of an old musical, while keeping things interesting and original with notes of modern music, the showcasing of modern technologies and with the demonstrations of a competitive side of today’s Hollywood business. In “La La Land”, Damien Chazelle (director) shows that, in the 21st century, it is still possible not only to make a financially successful old-school musical-comedy, but also to produce a real gem of a movie capable of leaving the audience breathless with its heart strings’ pulling and sheer inventiveness.
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The Lost Weekend (1945)
“One drink’s too many, and a hundred’s not enough.”
“The Lost Weekend” is a 1945 film directed by Billy Wilder, and telling a story of a failed writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) who struggles to combat his chronic alcohol addiction in the course of a weekend. The winner of an Academy Award in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, “The Lost Weekend” is now deemed so significant both culturally and historically, it has been recently added in that category to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Indeed, more than 70 years after its initial release, the movie still mesmerises the audience with its performances, and paints probably the most heartfelt and realistic picture of someone combating their alcohol addiction. Continue reading ““The Lost Weekend” Review”