Best Picture Winners: Movie #114: Schindler’s List (1993)

From now until Oscar Sunday I will be reviewing Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle

Academy Awards (1994):

Best Picture: Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, Branko Lustig

Best Director: Steven Spielberg

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Steven Zaillian

Best Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski

Best Film Editing: Michael Kahn

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Allan Starski, Ewa Braun

Best Music, Original Score: John Williams

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Liam Neeson

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Ralph Fiennes

Best Costume Design: Anna Sheppard

Best Makeup: Matthew W. Mungle, Christina Smith, Judith A. Cory

Best Sound: Andy Nelson, Ron Judkins, Scott Millan, Steve Pederson

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As World War II begins, the Nazis move Polish Jews into the Kraków Ghetto.  Businessman Oskar Schindler (Neeson), a member of the Nazi Party, arrives in Krakow to make a fortune.  Bribing local German officials and making connections with the local Jewish black marketeers through Itzhak Stern (Kingsley), Schindler opens a factory producing enamel ware.  He hires numerous Jewish workers, who cost less than Polish workers, and saves those workers from being sent to concentration and extermination camps.

SS officer Amon Goeth (Fiennes) arrives in Kraków to oversee the construction of the Płaszów concentration camp.  Once the camp is completed, he orders the ghetto be liquidated, killing many of the Jews in the process.  Schindler witnesses this from a distance, and shifts his priorities from making money to saving as many lives as possible.

This is Spielberg’s masterpiece.

There are very few films I’ve watched where I just have to sit and really let it soak in once the end credits roll.  Movies like this really put into perspective how pathetic and petty my “struggles” really are.  That’s been the case both times I’ve watched Schindler’s List.

Someone who makes a film about something as significant as the Holocaust has to be all in: directing, motivating performers, production, set design, etc.  Though the full scope of the Holocaust can’t be completely explored in one movie, Steven Spielberg has probably come the closest to accomplishing this.  Filming most of the movie in Poland instead of at a studio, using actors who work best in performing the complex emotions and actions of their characters are a couple of the things Spielberg nails spot on with Schindler’s List.

Stanley Kubrick was in production of his own Holocaust film, Aryan Papers, about the same time that Schindler’s List was released.  He abandoned it, though, in part because of the broad scope of the subject matter.  His critique centered on the fact that Schindler’s focuses on those who survived, a much smaller group compared to the more than 6 million who didn’t.

The black-and-white enhances the gravity of the subject matter.  The way Schindler’s List is filmed conveys the human element that a documentary can’t quite capture while still having that documentary-type feel.

schindlerslist1Liam Neeson gives one of the best performances of his career.  He handles the various emotional stages Schindler goes through authentically.  It’s interesting to see his transformation from a boozing, gambling, womanizing man living the highlife to a man hellbent on saving as many lives as he can.  Witnessing the ghetto liquidation and Goeth’s heartless treatment of the Jews forces Schindler to stop keeping everyone at arm’s length and really take stock in his main purpose.  Though he had done quite a few movies prior to Schindler’s List, he hadn’t had that one great breakout role.  As a result, his star power doesn’t overshadow his performance as could have happened had a more accomplished actor been chosen for this role.

Having already won an Oscar for his role in Gandhi, Ben Kingsley is a grounded, purposeful character with wisdom, insight, and perspective.  His nonverbal expressions provide a continuous reflection of Schindler’s character and his gradual transformation.  Stern acts as Schindler’s conscience to a certain extent.  He also offers perspective that Schindler has saved many lives when Schindler felt guilty for not sacrificing more to save more.

schindlerslistfiennesRalph Fiennes gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the heartless and cruel Amon Goeth.  His intimidation tactics with the Jewish prisoners works well in keeping them in line out of absolute fear.  He seems like the kind of person who keeps pushing to see just how much he can get away with.  It’s good, though, that he can be bribed and Schindler can help set some boundaries with his random and senseless killings.

"Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."

“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

The final scene where the real life Schindler Jews placing stones on Schindler’s grave was especially moving.  I can appreciate someone like Spielberg wanting to tell their story and show the lasting impact that Oskar Schindler had on those that he saved.  The epilogue serves as a time capsule that reaffirms that tangible human connection to those who lived and survived something as horrific as the Holocaust.

Having seen Schindler’s List twice now, I highly doubt I could sit through it again aside from watching it with someone else.  It’s one of those films that is so powerful and moving that it only needs to be watched once.  It is most definitely deserving of the 7 Academy Awards it earned in 1994, and remains timeless as it explored one of history’s darkest events.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. 

Best Picture Winners. Chariots of Fire (1981)

Director: Hugh Hudson

Starring: Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers, Ian Charleson, Ben Cross, Daniel Gerroll, Ian Holm

Academy Awards (1982):

Best Picture: David Puttnam

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Colin Welland

Best Music, Original Score: Vangelis

Best Costume Design: Milena, Canonero

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Ian Holm

Best Director: Hugh Hudson

Best Film Editing: Terry Rawlings

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Based on a true story, Chariots of Fire is the internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning drama of two very different men who compete as runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Eric Liddell (Charleson), a serious Christian Scotsman, believes that he has to succeed as a testament to his undying religious faith. Harold Abrahams (Cross), is a Jewish Englishman who wants desperately to be accepted and prove to the world that Jews are not inferior. The film crosscuts between each man’s life as he trains for the competition, fueled by these very different desires. (From RottenTomatoes.com)

I’ve owned Chariots of Fire for many years, and it’s a bit surprising that I’m only now getting around to watching it. It was enjoyable to watch, and unique enough to keep me engaged.  It’s one of the few family-friendly movies I’ve watched for this project.

This film stays much closer to the source material than most films based on real events.  From what little research I’ve done, a lot of the characters portrayed, the various runners from each country and so on, are historically accurate.  A few people did not give consent for their names to be used, and a few of the background details, where they attended school, etc., were changed.

Perhaps because it was made in the early 1980s or the fact that it’s a 1920s period piece, Chariots of Fire has a more basic visual approach.  It also focuses on developing conflicted yet strong main characters and less on visual effects and a complex set of characters.

I have a feeling that if Chariots of Fire was released today, it wouldn’t get a second look from the Academy.  The film’s pace is slow and the acting is serviceable though not necessarily spectacular.

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Chariots of Fire‘s charm comes from the inner struggle that Abrahams and Liddell deal with throughout the film.  Abrahams is out to prove himself despite the fact that he is seen as inferior because he is a Jew.  He seems more passionate, though not as focused in direction and purpose as Liddell, even saying “I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what I am chasing.”

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Liddell, on the other hand, has a very clear reason and purpose.  “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  His refusal to race on Sunday made headlines in its day.  The issue was resolved months before the trip to Paris in reality, however pushing back the discovery and changes added for the film’s dramatic effect.  Liddell is a good example of maintaining one’s beliefs in spite of the consequences.  I find that admirable regardless of what one’s convictions are.

chariotsianholmIan Holm earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Sam Mussabini in this movie.  He does well as the straight-forward no nonsense trainer.  I like straight-forward no nonsense characters.  They’re blunt and inadvertently add a little comic relief.  Mussabini is almost an 1920s version of Mickey Goldmill from Rocky.

I have mixed feelings about Chariots of Fire.  On the one hand, it did win best picture in a year that also had Raiders of the Lost Ark and On Golden Pond up for the nomination.  It’s a charming film with two protagonists, each with something to prove, however, there’s not much of a re-watchable factor for me.  The film’s score can be set to anything in slow motion and immediately make it awesome.  The score, which earned an Oscar for the film, is probably the biggest and most long-lasting cultural contribution.

This is a film to see once.

My Rating: 3/5 stars.

Best Picture Winners: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany, Josh Lucas, and Judd Hirsch

Academy Awards (2002):

Best Picture: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Jennifer Connelly

Best Director: Ron Howard

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Akiva Goldsman

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Russell Crowe

Best Film Editing: Mike Hill, Daniel P. Hanley

Best Makeup: Greg Cannom, Colleen Callaghan

Best Original Score: James Horner

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“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

A Beautiful Mind explores the life of John Nash (Crowe), Nobel Prize winning mathematician.  Beginning with his graduate studies at Princeton, Nash discovers a new concept of governing dynamics, the Nash Equilibrium.  Following Princeton, Nash works at a research lab at MIT doing work for the Pentagon and teaching on the side.  He meets Alicia (Connelly), one of his students, and the two fall in love.  He is also approached by William Parcher (Harris) to do classified work in decoding a Soviet attack on America.

However, not everything is as it appears.

Based on the book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind is a film that balances a number of movie genres.  It’s got drama,mystery, romance, a little bit of comedy.  The various elements of the film make it insightful, suspenseful, and entertaining on a number of levels.

From a visual perspective, a lot goes on in A Beautiful Mind.  Some of the film’s early scenes, specifically at Princeton, have an older look to them.  I like when a director can add little elements like that.  It helps in contrasting the different time periods throughout the film.  They also do good with showing Nash’s perspective as he sees the various connections and patterns in the math.

abeautifulmind2Though some of the character’s mannerisms were annoying to me, Russell Crowe does a great job of bringing John Nash to life.  I’m probably nitpicking more than anything else.  He does well with portraying the paranoid genius who was given “two helping of brain but only a half a helping of heart.”  The real life John Nash visited the set, and Crowe notices some of his tendencies, hand movements, and things of the sort, and incorporated them into his performance.

A Beautiful Mind was filmed almost entirely chronologically, and I think that helped Crowe’s performance as he became Nash and progressed naturally through the various stages of life portrayed in the film.

Jennifer Connelly, wow, what a performance is all I can say.  Even though she doesn’t command every scene she’s in, she gives a strong performance and more than holds her own.  From the beginning of their love story through the pain and anguish later on, her portrayal of Alicia Nash is believable and genuine.  As I’ve looked at some of the other people considered for her role and Crowe’s, I know Ron Howard made the right call with those two.

abeautifulmind3Paul Bettany is an interesting character to say the least.  Having portrayed Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale, an entertaining role, Bettany demonstrated his ability to be a sort of classical funnyman in A Beautiful Mind.  Though a lot of his performance has the comedic undertone, he has nuggets of truth and deep insight throughout the film.  Ed Harris also gives a decent performance.  He excels in the serious no-nonsense roles like Parcher.  I don’t know if I would call him a typecast character, but his most memorable performances are ones like this one.

This is a film I’d recommend seeing twice before forming an opinion about it.  I saw this one twice in the theaters: the first time I hated it, the second time I loved it.  Knowing the major plot twist gives perspective and a different understanding to the first half of the film.   Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer created the world through Nash’s perspective, so the audience experiences the major twist at the same time Nash does.  I remember being very confused the first time I saw it, hence not liking it.

"I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible."

“I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible.”

It’s been probably about a decade since I’ve watched A Beautiful Mind.  Having a chance to re-visit it for me was enjoyable and a reminder of how great A Beautiful Mind is.  Russell Crowe brings John Nash’s story to life, has great on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, and most importantly Jennifer Connelly.  Ron Howard has created a great film, one certainly deserving of the Best Picture Oscar.  See this one twice if you haven’t seen it yet.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Best Picture Winners. Movie #113: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

From now until Oscar Sunday I will be reviewing Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, Rubina Ali, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor

Academy Awards (2009):

Best Motion Picture of the Year: Christian Colson

Best Achievement in Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle

Best Achievement in Directing: Danny Boyle

Best Achievement in Editing: Chris Dickens

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: A.R. Rahman

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: A.R. Rahman (music), Gulzar (lyrics) for the song ‘Jai Ho’

Best Achievement in Sound: Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Simon Beaufoy

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: A.R. Rahman, Maya Arulpragasam for the song ‘O Saya’

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: Tom Sayers, Glenn Freemantle

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Jamal Malik (Patel), an 18-year-old orphan from the streets of Mumbai, finds himself competing on the TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  His unexpected success leads police to become suspicious and he is arrested for cheating.  During his police interview Malik recounts the story of his life, explaining how he came to know the answer to each question in the quiz. (from 501 Must-See Movies, Revised and Updated Edition)

Slumdog Millionaire has a lot that works.  For having virtual unknowns, at least to American audiences, the acting is decent.  The story, cliché at times, is complex enough and the Indian setting make it unique and enjoyable.

The visuals in this movie are great.  The integration of color throughout the film works well.  From what little knowledge I have of the Indian film industry, it seems like bright colors are intricately used.  The balance  of colors created a number of aesthetically pleasing sets.

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Even though it still grosses me out thinking about it, the toilet scene was well done.  Sometimes I feel like the dream-esque parts were a little drawn out, like how Jamal has the same flashback of Latika (Pinto) at the train station the first time they tried to be together.

The pacing is slow at times, however, I feel like the payoff in the end makes the build up worth it.  In the end, you kind of have to figure he’d get the girl.   However, there’s that underlying tension throughout as Jamal and Latika cross paths and could be together except for this or that circumstance.

There were quite a few times where I thought, “Hmm, that’s convenient” as far as Jamal knowing the answer to a question.  To have that random assortment of life experiences, apparently happening in the order the questions were given, just seems a little too far-fetched.  The cops were right to be suspicious, though some of the torture they put Jamal through was probably unnecessary.

The biggest issue I have with this film has to do with the hype.  Personally, I think it’s an interesting, drawn out love story set in the slums of Mumbai.  I don’t think it’s as great as people made it out to be when it was released.  The first time I watched this, I was just kind of like “eh” at the end.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I feel like this film is one of those that gets a Best Picture Oscar because the Academy basically says, “Awww, let’s feel sorry for/about (fill in the blank).”  That year it won against The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonFrost/NixonThe Reader, and Milk, all films I think would be deserving of the Oscar, but that’s just my own opinion.

This is the only Danny Boyle film I’ve seen, so I can’t compare this to any of his other work.

Is the film good? Yes.

Is it amazing beyond your wildest dreams and there will never be another like it? No.

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Slumdog Millionaire came out of nowhere in 2008 to win 8 Oscars and gained almost instant international acclaim.  I think it’s a decent film, though personally I don’t understand the hype that came with it.  I think it should be seen once, though time will tell whether this film has long-lasting staying power.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

 

Best Picture Winners: Amadeus (1984)

From now until Oscar Sunday I will be reviewing Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

Director: Milos Forman

Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Roy Dotrice, Simon Callow, and Jeffrey Jones

Academy Awards (1985):

Best Picture: Saul Zaentz

Best Actor in a Leading Role: F. Murray Abraham

Best Director: Milos Forman

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Peter Shaffer

Best Art Direction, Set Direction: Patrizia von Brandenstein, Karel Cerny

Best Costume Design: Theodor Pistek

Best Sound: Mark Berger, Thomas Scott, Todd Boekelheide, Christopher Newman

Best Makeup: Paul LeBlanc, Dick Smith

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Tom Hulce

Best Cinematography: Miroslav Ondricek

Best Film Editing: Nena Danevic, Michael Chandler

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After attempting suicide and being placed in an insane asylum, an elderly Antonio Salieri (Abraham) gives his confession to Father Vogler (Richard Frank), a young priest.  In it he tells of his relationship with God, starting as a young boy devoting himself to music that glorifies God in exchange for his own fame and immortality as a composer.  As time goes on, he gains notoriety and respect within the music world, rising to the role of court composer for Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (Jones) in Vienna.  His life drastically changes when a young, arrogant, vile Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Hulce) performs in Vienna and is subsequently fired by his patron Count Hieronymus von Colloredo (Nicholas Kepros) and stays in Vienna.

Mozart stays in Vienna, marries Constanze (Berridge) and establishes himself as a brilliant composer.  Salieri, upon reading some of Mozart’s music, realizes that Mozart’s music, and not his, is the voice of God.  He prays, “From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able.”  Despite his envy of Mozart and hatred of God, Salieri can’t help but recognize Mozart’s genius.

Though ignoring historical accuracy, Amadeus tells the entertaining story of Mozart’s later life through the perspective of a fellow composer who was seriously threatened by him.  It is highly unlikely that Antonio Salieri poisoned Mozart or caused his death.  In what little research I’ve done on the relationship between Salieri and Mozart, it seems that their dislike for one another was more on the level of two people competing for the same job.  It was written that Salieri was one of the few people to attend Mozart’s interment.

It’s interesting to me how a period film about one of the most famous classical composers had such critical success in the MTV-driven culture of the 1980s.  It speaks volumes to the attention to detail in every facet of movie making that the cast and crew gave in Amadeus.  I’m no expert on classical music, however, I do appreciate the amount of work and talent needed to make the music.  This film does a great job in celebrating Mozart while telling an entertaining story.  The music, costuming, acting, and cinematography all come together nicely.

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F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce are perfect in each of their roles.  They embody the characteristics of their characters in a way that works to perfection.

Hulce’s Mozart is more or less an 18th century rock star, knowing he’s a genius and flaunting it for all to see.  The audience can’t help but be annoyed and awed at the same time by this bratty child-like adult who writes flawless music.  As Salieri puts it, “Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.”  His struggle for acceptance and constantly butting heads with Viennese laws and ultimately pushing through because he knows his work is perfect speak to the transformational person Mozart was with music.

But then there’s that laugh.  That annoying, irritation, gouge-your-ears-out laugh.  It’s actually not that bad after the first few times, but still.

It was interesting to see how different Mozart was following his father’s death.  The build up with it was somewhat predictable: Mozart’s father didn’t approve of his sons actions, and despite his immaturity Mozart still wanted his father’s approval.  He sought for that approval after his father died, and ultimately it contributed to his deteriorating health and well-being, with a little help from Salieri of course.

Having primarily worked in theater and television, F. Murray Abraham was not very familiar with movie audiences.  His most significant role prior to Amadeus was Omar Suarez in Scarface the year before.  It’s difficult going from a relatively unknown to winning an Academy Award.  Where does one go professionally after a performance like Murray’s Salieri?  He’s had a number of noteworthy roles over the years, but the success Murray had with Amadeus limited him thereafter.

Salieri has to deal with fate, and that though he had the desire to make great music, he was not given the ability to create that music, and Mozart was given that talent instead.  Murray is simply brilliant in portraying this inward struggle.  His facial expressions as he read Mozart’s sheet music or secretly attending Mozart’s performances out of awe of his work build that struggle he deals with and the growing envy he has of Mozart and God.

It’s an interesting dynamic for Salieri as he describes to the priest how Mozart’s music remained popular, yet his own work has slowly deteriorated from common knowledge.  It seems a fitting punishment for his crime to watch his work fade into obscurity.

Though told through the perspective of one of Mozart’s rivals, Amadeus does a great job in celebrating Mozart’s music and life.    It’s a movie I can re-visit every 5 to 7 years and still thoroughly enjoy.  I’d recommend Amadeus for those who enjoy classical music, though I imagine most who do have seen it.

My Rating: 5/5 stars.

Best Picture Winners. Movie #112: Annie Hall (1977)

From now until Oscar Sunday I will be reviewing Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Janet Margolin, Colleen Dewhurst, Christopher Walken

Academy Awards (1978):

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Diane Keaton

Best Director: Woody Allen

Best Picture: Charles H. Joffe

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Woody Allen

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Annie Hall is a comical look at the up and down relationship between a New York City TV writer and his aspiring actress/singer girlfriend who’s originally from the Midwest. (from RottenTomatoes.com)

Considered one of Woody Allen’s best movies, Annie Hall was an intriguing film that I went into without any expectations.  It is still the only Woody Allen movie I’ve watched, so I don’t have anything else to compare it to as far as his directing, writing, and producing style. It is a different kind of film, and after watching it a second time I understand its appeal.  Personally, I wasn’t all that crazy about it.

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The main issue I have with Annie Hall is that Allen’s character Alvy Singer is essentially a bantering narcissist who carries on for an hour and a half.  It was a tough film for me to watch because it just seemed to drag on and on.  Forty-five minutes felt like an hour and a half.  I enjoy movies that are primarily dialogue-driven, but when one person dominates the film the way Allen does, it’s just too much for me.

Though Annie Hall has it’s faults, Allen does a great job directing and pushing the directing envelope. I do like how Allen incorporates breaking the fourth wall throughout the film.  After Alvy and Annie break up, I like how he is both talking to the audience and engaging people who are walking down the street.  To his credit, Allen makes these transitions and fourth wall lines flow seamlessly within the film’s story.  The grade school classroom scene and dinner with Annie’s family were two scenes where this was best incorporated.

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Having not seen any other Woody Allen films, Allen’s pairing with Diane Keaton seems, well, odd to say the least.  Allen wrote Annie’s character with Keaton in mind.  It will be interesting to watch some of their other collaborations.

Annie Hall is a unique film that has received wide acclaim.  Though it wasn’t my favorite to watch, I can appreciate its unique feel and look.  I feel like I could watch this again after watching some of Allen’s other films and have a better understanding.  It’s certainly not a top priority, but it is something I’ll get to eventually.

Decent film, just not my type of film, for now.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars.

Movie #111: Se7en (1995)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Emery, John C. McGinley

Academy Award Nominations (1996):

Best Film Editing: Richard Francis-Bruce

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Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.

Veteran Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Freeman) and newly transferred Detective David Mills (Pitt) investigate a series of homicides by John Doe (Spacey).  The pattern of murders is unique in that they are each based on one of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath.

This movie is a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I’m not really into the gruesomeness that can come with this type of movie.  David Fincher has done a good job of using just enough of the stomach-churning elements within the story.  With each new murder scene, he slowly builds the tension, each scene upping the ante.  Given the subject matter, it’s also good how he keeps the lighting relatively dark and depressing.

se7ensleeping This is also a great example of casting the right, if not perfect, actors for the central characters.  Morgan Freeman is great as that older calming voice of reason.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Freeman as an actor.  I can’t see anyone else being able to pull this off, and yet Freeman seems to be able to nail this type of character every time.

He is balanced out by Mills, the headstrong go-getter.  Pitt does great in this role, balancing the new job with his home life.  It’s not surprising that Pitt and Fincher have collaborated a few times since Se7en.  Mills and Somerset complement each other in a way that brings a balanced approach to finding the killer.

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Though Freeman and Pitt do well with their characters, Kevin Spacey really steals the show for me.  Though he doesn’t appear until much later in the film, he controls every scene in such a way that only he could do.  Spacey has the look and feeling of that creepy, mysterious guy.  He gives you a false sense of security and then he pulls off his ulterior motive.

It’s also interesting to see all of these people and how much different they are now twenty years later.

Though it’s not the type of film I’ll go out of my way to see, Se7en is engaging and entertaining.  It balances out three great actors, each able to place their own creative stamp within their relatively simple, straightforward parts.  It’s been long enough since I watched this one that some parts of it surprised me, however, I don’t think this is one I’ll revisit anytime soon.

My Rating: 4/5 stars