Everything I Thought During Skyfall

Photo: FilmoFilia

Is Skyfall the best Bond ever? I’ll let Roger Moore be the judge of that, which is probably a good thing considering the train of thought I had while watching the movie last night. Some spoilers follow so read at your own risk.

Continue reading “Everything I Thought During Skyfall”

Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

It is safe to say that I have seen more adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre than any other novel. Time and time again I am drawn to this story about an orphaned girl who is cast aside by society but eventually finds solace in her life. Whether it is the 1944 classic Hollywood version starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles or the 2006 BBC miniseriesJane Eyre is that one story I am genuinely interested in no matter what graces the screen.

This adaptation, directed by Cary Fukunaga, is perhaps my favorite. It is an effortlessly fresh and moving take on the 19th-century Gothic novel. There is also a suprisingly modern feel to this Jane Eyre that felt everywhere from the sweeping shots to the dark undertones (Thornfield has so many secrets) and to the fiery love story ultimately unfolds.

Jane’s early life is told through flashbacks. Mrs. Reed (Sally Hawkins), her aunt through marriage and guardian, physically and emotionally abuses young Jane (played by Amelia Clarkson). Mrs. Reed sends Jane off to Lowood, a school where religious tyranny dictates the lives of its young pupils. Eventually the adult Jane, seeking her independence, finds employment as a governess at the isolated Thornfield Hall. There she meets Mr. Rochester and her life goes down an unexpected path.

A character as recognizable as Jane Eyre relies so much on the actress portraying her. It is what will determine how a version lingers overtime. In this adaptation the virtuosity of Jane Eyre comes from the performance of Mia Wasikowska as the title character. In the last year, the 20-year-old Australian actress has crafted a unique presence in Hollywood as Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Joni in The Kids Are All Right. She is the young actress of the moment. In Jane Eyre, Wasikowska shows her considerable range and her ability to carry a film.

The tenacity of Wasikowska’s performance, demonstrated  above, dominates Jane Eyre. Rarely absent from a single shot, Wasikowska routinely outshines her costars (even Judi Dench in an enjoyable turn as Thornfield’s housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax).

Edward Rochester is portrayed by Michael Fassbender. His Rochester is rigid, menacing and borders on being completely unlikeable. His life is dictated by the secrets about his past and about Thornfield that he struggles keeps. But like Jane, we end up falling for Rochester too.

Jane Eyre demonstrates that this story about morality, religion, gender and class relations, independence, and passion has a timeless quality. It should hold up until the next adaptation comes along sometime next decade.

The 2007 Best Actress Nominees

Today’s Oscar preview is of Best Actress Nominees. 2006 was an unusually strong year for female performances with the best without a doubt coming from Helen Mirren in The Queen.

Penelope Cruz as Raimunda in Volver

This is Cruz’s first Oscar nomination.

What the critics have said:

“Cruz has never been more radiant and funny: Comparisons to Sophia Loren in her Vittorio DeSica heyday are flying about, and richly warranted.” — Jan Stuart, Newsday

“Penelope Cruz has never looked more beautiful and she gives a sensational, career best performance as Raimunda.” — Matthew Turner, ViewLondon

“Whatever the director asks of Cruz she delivers with poise and sincerity. It’s easily her finest work, and one of the year’s best performances.”– Shawn Levy, Oregonian

Penelope Cruz [imdb] Volver [imdb] [rottentomatoes]

Judi Dench as Barbara Covett in Notes on A Scandal.

This is Dench’s sixth Oscar nomination; she won in 1999 for her work in Shakespeare in Love.

What the critics have said:

“The build-up in this movie is actually too good for its ending, but that’s also no reason to skip out on a wonderful turn from Dench.” — Jeffrey Chen, Window to the Movies

“In England, it seems, actresses have nothing to fear from age. They can simply wait for writers to create fresh work for them.” — David Denby, New Yorker

“Dench is nothing less than great in this role. It’s hard to recall a recent performance of such unrelenting ferocity, such a thoroughgoing devotion to the domination of another life.” —TIME Magazine

Judi Dench [imdb] Notes on a Scandal [imdb] [rottentomatoes]

Helen Mirren, as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.

This is Mirren’s third Oscar nomination; she is the favorite to win.

What the critics have said:

“That’s Mirren’s magic: She makes us care, no matter how shallow our curtsies.” — Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Mirren’s ability to disappear into the stoic modern monarch in the week following Princess Diana’s death may warrant her an Oscar for The Queen — and it would not be undeserved.” –Gina Carbone, Seacoast Newspapers (NH/Maine)

“Brilliant as Morgan’s script is, it is Helen Mirren’s diamond-hard performance that is the jewel of The Queen’s crown.” — Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

Helen Mirren [imdb] The Queen [imdb] [rottentomatoes] [my review]

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada.

This is Streep’s fourteenth Oscar nomination; she has won two previous times, for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.

What the critics have said:

“Streep makes it work. Streep makes it fun. Best known for her dramatic brilliance, Streep has done strong comedic turns in the past, and this performance is a reminder of that, and then some.” — Jennifer Frey, Washington Post

“Streep’s practically the whole show — and steals it accordingly.” — Carol Cling, Las Vegas Review-Journal

“Meryl Streep inspires both terror and a measure of awe as the imperious editor of a glossy fashion magazine in the screen version of Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel.” — A.O. Scott, New York Times

Meryl Streep [imdb] The Devil Wears Prada [imdb] [rottentomatoes] [my review]

Kate Winslet as Sarah Pierce in Little Children.

This is Winslet’s fifth Oscar nomination; she has never won.

What the critics have said:

“The main reason to watch is Winslet, who brings flesh-and blood dimension to Perrotta’s central character.” — Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News

“An honest look at infidelity and its ramifications. Clearly one of the best of the year with multiple Oscar-caliber performances, especially by the brilliant Kate Winslet.” — Tony Medley, tonymedley.com

“Kate Winslet is damn hot. That, and just about the best actress in film today.” — Kevin N. Laforest, Montreal Film Journal

Kate Winslet [imdb] Little Children [imdb] [rottentomatoes]

Reviews: Six Movies I’ve Seen Recently

Gia (1998)

Starring Angelina Jolie (before she was the prettier half of Brangelina), Gia tells the story of Gia Marie Carangi, America’s first supermodel. Jolie is riveting as Carangi, the fashion it-girl of the 1970’s who would fall into a world of drugs, sex, depression, and eventually die of AIDs at the age of 26. With this role, Jolie proved she was an actress, receiving a Golden Glove and a SAG for her performance.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Set in Brooklyn during the 1980’s, writer/director Noah Baumbach touching story is of two brothers (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline) dealing with their parents’ divorce. The somewhat childish (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney), blame eachother for the collapse of the marriage. The ultimate moral… divorce is tough. A poignant film that can make laugh just as easily as it will make you cry. Overlooked during the award show season and that’s a shame.

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Laura Henderson (Dame Judi Dench) already has a reputation as an eccentric member of London’s upper class when she decides to renovate an abandoned theater. Clueless, she enlists the help of Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to manage her productions. In desperate need of a hit, Mrs. Henderson comes up with a plan to place nude girls on the stage. What emerges is not only a controversy, but a delightful tale of the only London theater to remain open during the Blitz. It is a lovely picture and Dench gives a touching performance.

Ball of Fire (1941)

This hilarious picture written by Billy Wilder and directed by Howard Hawks is a unique take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Prof. Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) and his 7 colleagues are writing a slang dictionary. Katherine O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck) is a night club singer engaged to a gangster. When she needs to hide from the police, she takes a place a the Professors’ home and tricks Potts into marrying her. Only trouble can result from this madcap adventure. Stanwyck receieved an Oscar nomination for her role in a perfect romantic-comedy.

Shopgirl (2005)

Based on Steve Martin’s best-selling novella. Claire Danes delivers with a highly underrated performance as Mirabelle Buttersfield, a lonely salesgirl, who embarks on a relationship with an older man (Steve Martin) that will change her life. He leads her into a world of wealth and lavish gifts, only to increase her vulnerability. Jason Schwartzman is also on board as the aimless young man vying for Mirabelle’s attention. Claire Danes is better than this so-so movie.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s latest feature is another masterpiece. Like any other Miyazaki film, Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of magic, wizards, and love. Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), an unconfident young woman is turned into an old woman by the spiteful Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall). To break the spell she must depend on Howl (Christian Bale), an talented but equally insecure wizard,and the characters who live in his giant wooden legged castle. A visual masterpiece and it is sure to be a classic.