Movies: The Best of 2007

It’s been a tumultous day for Hollywood, what with the Oscar noms announced, the ongoing writer’s strike and the sudden passing of talented actor, Heath Ledger. Still, 2008 so far hasn’t been that promising (was Cloverfield really that good? Same time last year, we already had Zodiac and Breach.) 2007 was actually a strong year for movies, and despite the recent ups and downs in Tinseltown, at least they have 2007 to look back to as quite a strong year. So here are my choices. You can always read my reviews on moviepatron.com

The 10 Best Movies of 2007

Michael ClaytonDefinitely a Best Picture dark horse, Clayton’s my favorite movie of 2007. It’s All the President’s Men for our generation harkening back to the good ol’ 70’s American cinema resurgence. Tony Gilroy is quickly becoming my new hero and Clooney is the definitive leading man of our time. Read my MoviePatron.com review.

Paris J’TaimeA gorgeous mosaic of short films that focuses on love in the City of Lights. Some of the short films aren’t that impressive but thankfully there are more hits than misses. My favorite is Alexander Payne’s entry. And the Coen Brothers.

Sweeney ToddIt’s perfect synergy. Take Sondheim’s masterpiece and give it to the right director with the right leading man. What you get is a movie musical that you’ll never forget. Read my MoviePatron.com review.

Charlie Wilson’s WarIt’s Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams headlining the cast. It’s Mike Nichols at the helm, directing Aaron Sorkin’s gorgeous prose. What’s not to like? Okay, so the subject matter is a bit disturbing, but never has it been dealt with with such panache.

Knocked UpJuno may have gotten all the praise but I’m still affectionate towards this movie’s low-key sensibilities. Judd Apatow makes smart movies about regular people. Ten times better than Superbad.

OnceSupposedly Steven Spielberg’s favorite movie of 2007 and rightfully so. The movie takes the musical genre and spins it on its head. Great songs. Even greater performances. And it’s shot on digital video! Hopefully this will inspire Spielberg to adapt Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods.”

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford It was this or 3:10 to Yuma but I was won over by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck’s performance. Roger Deakin’s cinematography is gorgeous and the whole Western, though somber, strikes a surprisingly resonant chord. A great year for Westerns—the best since Unforgiven.

No Country for Old MenThe Coen Brother’s need love, really. It’s about time. The movie is reminiscent of Miller’s Crossing and Fargo, which admittedly are better fares from the siblings. No Country gets props for bringing them back to that realm again.

The Bourne UltimatumUpping the ante for spy movies to come, (hear that, Mr. Bond?) the Bourne series ends on a high note. The best of this year’s threequels, Matt Damon proves that he’s a bona fide action star. And what a supporting cast, led by Oscar nominees David Strathairn and Joan Allen.

Ocean’s ThirteenA sentimental favorite but thankfully the film did deliver the goods. I love movies with old-fashioned sensibilities and the whole “shaking Sinatra’s hand” thing is something younger generations should take heed to. The movie is a great reminder of bringing back the lost art of being a gentleman. Props to Clooney and Co. (review)

Honorable Mentions
3:10 to Yuma, 300, Across the Universe, American Gangster, Atonement, Away From Her, Breach, Enchanted (review), Gone Baby Gone, Hairspray (review), I’m Not There, Live Free or Die Hard (review), Lust, Caution, The Lives of Others, Ratatouille, The Savages, Stardust, Surf’s Up, There Will Be Blood, Waitress, Zodiac

The 5 Worst Movies of 2007

Rush Hour 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Smokin’ Aces
Norbit
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Best DVD Releases of 2007

Overall – Blade Runner: 5-Disc Definitive Edition (Blu-Ray)

Best Standard DVD Release – Transformers: 2-Disc Special Edition

 Best Blu-Ray Release (tie) – Hairspray: 2-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition | Disney/Pixar’s Cars: Special Edition

Best Box Set (tie) – Stanley Kubrick Collection (Standard DVD) | Harry Potter 1-5 Collection (Blu-Ray)

 Best Catalog Re-Release – Taxi Driver: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition (Standard DVD)

Best TV on DVD Release – Planet Earth (Blu-Ray)

Best Specialty DVD Release (tie) – Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 (Blu-Ray) | Battleship Potemkin: Kino 2-DVD Set (Standard DVD)

Advertisements

The Trouble With Harry

(My MoviePatron.com Review)

Playtime is definitely over in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. In the first few minutes of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, our boy, er, man Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) performs necessary magic to save himself and his muggle relatives. Right then and there it’s clear; childhood has become a dream of the past. Gone are the days of Quidditch and chocolate-covered frogs. For any kid Harry’s age, the scariest reality is the notion of growing up.


Underneath the darker tones, nifty visual effects and the high production values, Order of the Phoenix works best once you realize that it’s simply a strong coming-of-age story making the fifth installment of this well-crafted franchise a worthy entry; if not necessarily its best or most eloquent. It’s not as rich as Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban and perhaps much more disjointed than Goblet of Fire. Here, director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg make it clear that this latest saga is a transitional piece—a placeholder during a phase of growth teasing us with uneven jolts of something far more thrilling, more sinister and perhaps even more enjoyable in things to come. A clever parallel to or our trio of heroes, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson), who also seem to be stuck in a similar phase of growth: puberty.

This time around, Harry faces a prickly new teacher, Miss Umbridge, played with delight by Imelda Staunton. She’s the epitome of that cheery, suburban socialite—like one of those church ladies you know who’s got an evil side underneath that plastered smile. But her veneer is convincing. No one believes Harry except for a trusty handful. Bureaucracy, in the form of the Ministry of Magic, has become such a negative commodity in the wizarding world that you wonder if it’s a social commentary on the part of the filmmakers or the author. Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) haunts Harry in his nightmares, and the increasing denial of evil reignites an order to stand against it, not just in the wizarding world, because sadly this evil sorcery has trickled into ours. All this lies on the fate of Harry, and his weariness is all the more apparent. Finally, Harry comes to his own and Radcliffe nails the character down in perhaps his best performance as the kid wizard.

There is magic and mayhem all around, and loads of exposition but make no mistake, this is Harry’s darkest tale yet. When Harry recalls his encounter with the Dementors, those ghost-like creatures in black tattered threads, you can’t help but agree with him. “It was as though all the happiness had gone from the world,” An accurate description of the film’s tone. Perhaps younger viewers will find it scarier and dragging at parts, but fans of the series will eat this up. It’s nice to see the characters progress no matter their direction, and of course there’s That Kiss, which in my opinion, falls a bit flat and forced.


The key to the Harry Potter films is that all-star British cast. With such names as Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, George Harris and Julie Walters, you’d think a cast like this would be doing rep for a Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘Mother Courage.’ Instead, they’ve all come together to be part of a Hollywood blockbuster targeted for a much younger demographic then they are all probably used to.

Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of the entire Harry Potter universe is synergy.

Credit can go to J.K. Rowling, the author/creator of the franchise, or perhaps to Warner Bros, for cleverly marketing their now profitable acquisition, turning what started out as a small English children’s novel into a blockbuster tentpole. Yet, the real credit goes to the fans.

Take for example my little sister, a die-hard fan that has grown up reading the books, watching the movies, and gorging herself in the merchandise. She’s roughly Harry’s age, so she’s practically grown up along side Harry, reading his memoirs of Hogwarts and finding relatable experiences with Hermoine Granger. Now when the last book is finally published in a few days, all those summer evenings of reading the books together with friends, going on trips to see the latest Potter movie in the local Cineplex, and most importantly, helping them pass through that awkward ‘tween’ phase of crushes and growing pains—all that will become part of their childhood memories because they grew up with Harry Potter, and Harry Potter on the other hand helped them grow up.

RATING: B-

No Silver Lining

CGI, also known as computer generated visual effects, has become a celluloid plague.

Even though Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer clocks in under 90 minutes, the movie lags and meanders in and out of clichés, vacuous characterization, and pseudoscientific gibberish. What can be more unsatisfying than watching visual effects for the sake of visual effects? I was hoping that the addition of the Silver Surfer this time around could bring the Fantastic Four out of B-list superhero mediocrity. Instead, he really doesn’t do or add much.

Looking like a shiny hood ornament, the Silver Surfer (Doug Jones, voiced by Laurence “Morpheus” Fishburne) glides in and out of the screen but he’s as weightless and dull as Jessica Alba’s acting chops. You can’t help but realize that the bulk of this movie is CGI, and the glossy surfer dude loses much of his shine when you come to that realization and it’s hard to shake off. There’s also not much to latch unto in terms of characterization and plot. At least the first film dealt with weighty issues of identity and family, and it was slightly fun to see Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch (the hammy Chris Evans) in action. In the sequel, Johnny’s fireball CGI is supposedly upstaged by the Silver Surfer, only because we are told so. As Johnny watches the Silver Surfer exit a skyscraper unharmed through an energy field in slo-mo, Johnny reacts “that is so cool.” Hey, if he said so, so shall we believe.

This constant spoon-feeding from recent visual effects-driven blockbusters is what stalls them. We’re not a dumb audience. We know what we like and we know what works.

Yet I’ll admit that the movie garnered a few light chuckles now and then, and it isn’t as convoluted as some recent blockbusters of late. Also, truth be told, the Fanastic Four are generally likeable characters. Non-offensive even if a bit bland. Ioan Gruffudd does what he can as Reed Richard’s a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic and Michael Chiklis is reliably gruff as Ben Grimm a.k.a. The Thing. Although Julian McMahon deserves props as he plays up the villainy and smarminess of the evil Dr. Doom. He’s got a believable handle on the character and its loads of B-movie fun to see our favorite TV plastic surgeon play a well-loved comic book villain.

Slapped with a guaranteed box-office PG rating, the Fantastic Four franchise needs to find its footing. In my opinion, it could use more bite come Fantastic Four 3 (yes, expect it). I brought my little sister along and even she found it a bit juvenile. About halfway through the film, she leaned over to me and whispered “You look bored.”

Maybe I was. A gluttony of CGI does not a movie make. If that’s the case, then I can just go home and stare at my screensaver for 90 minutes.

RATING: D

Shake Sinatra’s Hand

After a dismal start to a summer that seems to be marketed towards geeky fanboys drooling over confused pirates and superheroes, Ocean’s Thirteen whizzes along as a smart and cheeky film–one that delights filmgoers who aren’t all that interested in CGI and marketable toy products but snappy dialogue, witty repartee and heady filmmaking techniques. Oddly enough, O13 feels a bit misplaced in a summer filled with fraternity-minded comedies and nerdy threequels. Director Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and company have fashioned a tart, pure but hardly simple movie among bloated blockbusters. You can’t help but notice. O13 is like that one fashionable yet appropriately dressed gal in a picnic filled with girls in jogging outfits and sweats–she’s classy and simply stands out among the rest.

At the film’s core, this “class act” act is the point of it all, and a rather fine one at that. Soderbergh and the gang remind us how being a class act goes a long way. It’s a throwback to the lost art of being a gentlemen, and who would have thought that a bunch of fictional merry thieves would bring that into light?

This time around, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) enlist the gang to take revenge on casino owner Willy Bank (an understated Al Pacino) who ousted the ailing Reuben Tishkoff (an excellent Elliott Gould) from a partnership deal in owning their latest venture; an Asian-inspired casino on the strip shaped like ribbons. This sends Reuben to grave illness, almost to the point of death. Of course, no one does that to one of Ocean’s Eleven. Reuben reminds Willy that he can’t do that. “We shook Sinatra’s hand,” Reuben pleads. “Screw Sinatra’s hand!” Willy rebuttles. At that point, the driving force of the movie becomes clear. Even rich guys have no class.

The boys have no choice but to take revenge and bring down Willy’s casino on its grand opening, meaning they’ve got to rig the house to lose. As expected, there are lots of witty back-and-forth banter from the boys–dialogue that would make Howard Hawks proud, and of course obstacles along the way that seem impossible to the downright farfetched (a man-made earthquake). But still, you can’t help but root for the gang. Their motives are clearly backed up by a sincere sense of friendship and honor. Also, who else would you trust to take down the house in Vegas? Danny Ocean of course, and what fun–if for at least two hours–is it to see a house in Vegas lose? Those of you who’ve placed bets there would certainly agree with me.

Of course with Reuben, who often funds for all of Ocean’s expensive capers, being bed-ridden, who else are the boys to turn to for financial support? It’s the old adage of “the enemy of your enemy is your friend.” There’s no surprise that the 13th member of the group is no other than their former nemesis Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).  Benedict wants to see Willy go down in flames because Willy’s new hotel casts a shadow over his Bellagio fountain pool. But then again, perhaps there’s more to Benedict than we think.

The film’s charm is undeniable and it has the cool slickness of the first, and the sheer audacity of the second. If the first film was an exercise in style and coolness, and the second being a frivolous (if not always successful) commentary on success, the third one is all about honor and friendship. It’s a fitting ending to our boys. But it’s not all sappy. The film is loaded with fun gags. The opening shot is amazing and the pay-off is hilarious. There’s duping the NightFox (Vincent Cassel) all over again (yep, he’s back) and well-placed Oprah jokes. There’s jokes about “soft openings” and Vegas traditions that pay off so cleverly and so well. The third time around, there is evident homages to the heydays of the Rat Pack and that lost Vegas myth of glamour and style. There’s much more throwback here than there was in the previous two installments, and for fans of that lounge-era, this is a welcoming touch.

Throwback has been the film’s engine from the get-go. Roman Nagel, the euro-tech guy from Ocean’s Twelve played with such delight by Eddie Izzard reminds Danny and Rusty that they have become “analog players in a digital world.” Rusty and Danny are perplexed, and rightfully so. Perhaps it’s a response to how fluffy popcorn flicks of this nature have become callous CGI videogame-like drones. Yet I think it’s a strong response to how gentlemen like Danny and Rusty aren’t the ones who are no longer in touch with the world we live in, but the other way around. It goes back to the whole notion of being a class act. Even though they’re genial thieves, they’re still thieves nevertheless, but at least they understand the meaning, the properties and social norms of being gentlemen.

photo_35

Perhaps it’s too much to ask. After all, this is the summer of pirates, ogres and toy robots. Clooney’s Ocean remind’s Pacino’s Willy that “he shook Sinatra’s hand once. You should know better.” Definitely a jab at Willy for not having any class.

Too bad. Half the summer moviegoers don’t even know who Sinatra is.

RATING: A-

Sweeney/Ocean/Bourne in movie news, all in the same day!

I’m not one to overblog or even blog about future movie tidbits that much but today gave news to some films I’m interested in seeing this year. So I have to share. Forgive my lameness. I’m going back to Maltese Falcon after this short E!-like blog.

normal_oceans13_00

Old Hollywood Feel
I just saw the official trailer for Ocean’s 13 and it looks so stylish and classy. Love Pacino as the addition to the cast. It feels like those classic glossy golden-age Hollywood all-star movies. I think I’m the only guy in the world who appreciates this trilogy beyond it being an exercise in style. It truly is a throwback to cool. Frank & Dino cool.

bu001

The names’ Bourne. Jason Bourne.
The Bourne Ultimatum
international trailer just blew me away. I am officially stoked. The trailer just makes recent spy movies (ahem, particularly a beloved yet now revamped one) look like a cheap imitation.

sweeneydepp

Raise your razor, Sweeney!
And finally, I am extremely excited about the pairing of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim and filmmaker Tim Burton reinventing Sondheim’s classic Sweeney Todd onto the screen. The casting is spot on and Depp (looking like Edward Scissorhand‘s long lost daddy) is going to be amazing as Sweeney. Helena Bonham Carter as Ms. Lovett? Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin? Sasha Baron Cohen as Pirelli? Christopher Lee as the Ghost? This is the cast of the year bar-none. Perfect fits.

Cinematic Storytelling: Dreamgirls

It’s that time of year again when we give our filmmakers workshop. This year I’m using recent films because I’ve been told I rely heavily on the classics to drive my points across. So for these particular directing points I’m referencing Dreamgirls. I will be referencing Babel and The Departed also for the workshop and, yes, I will still be referencing the classics!

dd003 When I’m deep in production, I always make sure that I’m telling the story as seamlessly as possible. Hopefully, if I’ve trained my cinematic eye as I should have, I want to find the possible transitions within scenes because as the director, I want to keep the film moving forward as visually interesting as I can. This example above clearly shows how so much information can be given in one fluid transition.

dd001
I like to find moments in the script that I can visually play with on set. It’s great to collaborate with my colleagues on how to tell the story and the background of our characters way beyond the words they say and the choices they make. If a script is really good, you’ve got a lot of themes and metaphors to play with. The example above is a great “visual” metaphor. The characters’ lives are played out on such a large stage that at a pivotal scene in the film, the lights dim much like a theatrical stage with a spotlight on the lone character. It just helps bring back the themes and the origins of the film.

dd002
This example is pretty darn cool. In a heavily choreographed dance number in the film, the filmmakers decide to “choreograph” a little of the visuals with the sequence. It’s fascinating how the filmmakers use a lot of match-cuts and rhythmic editing to create a fascinating montage. This example above is a great match cut. As the dancers rehearse the dance number, the song climbs the top of the pop charts and the whole montage intercuts with scenes of urban landscape and the dancers.

Oscar the Grouch

Not too long ago, we used to have Oscar parties. We’d sit around watching the show, placing bets. In all reality the telecast was just audio-visual wallpaper–an excuse to hang out with friends and family. I remember attending a few of those Oscar benefit galas the university would put on.

All in all, the Oscars are rather inconsequential because it’s truly about industry politics.

If I was a card-carryin’ Academy member today, I’d have thrown out the politics and voted completely against the grain. Sure they got a lot of things right. For example, nominating Thomas Newman for Best Original Score for The Good German. Finally. After countless minimalist scores like American Beauty and Finding Nemo, the youngest Newman does his uncles and father proud by harkening back to his family’s rich history of composing music for Hollywood by composing a rhapsodic, atmospheric score that sounds a lot like his father’s and uncle’s work. His score is the best of 2006. Speaking of scores, it’s wonderful that they finally acknowledge Italian composer Ennio Morricone for Lifetime Achievement. Cinema Paradiso is still one of the best film scores ever.

Also, the costume category is spot on. I’m pulling for Marie Antoinette because Milena Canonero rocks my socks, ever since Dick Tracy. I can’t wait to hear from Cherilyn and Ron about this category. Ron’s costume designs lean toward more on the Dreamgirls side while Cherilyn’s costume designs lean toward more The Devil Wears Prada side. Another reason why I liked Marie Antoinette; the costumes just seemed like a combination of my two costume designer friends. Accurate, yet somehow, contemporary.

But then where’s Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck for Supporting Actor? Bill Condon for Director? No Jack? These guys turned in great stuff in 2006. Leo gets nominated not for The Departed but for Blood Diamond? No Best Foreign Film nomination for Volver? Was the Academy too worried it might start looking like the Latin Grammys? How about Emily Blunt and Anika Noni Rose for Supporting Actress? And how about that Best Song category? I love Dreamgirls, but really, three song nominatons? Only “Love You I Do” truly deserves the nomination. “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale and “Real Gone” from Cars rocked the multiplexes. So did “Family of Me” from Over the Hedge and “Hit Me Up” from Happy Feet. How could they have snubbed the entire Curious George soundtrack?

Call me crazy. Was The Queen really that good to garner a Best Picture nod? Hellen Mirren was great, of course. But didn’t the movie felt a bit like a BBC mini-series? As much as I love Little Miss Sunshine, Alan Arkin wasn’t all that. I love that movie for its quirkiness and sure, it grows on me after repeat viewings. But how can those two movies be better than, oh say, United 93? As solid as Babel might be, it is a bit flawed and a tad shallow. I hope The Departed gets it, even though Little Miss Sunshine won the SAG and the Producer’s Guild Award which is a good indication that it might take home the little naked golden man.

I’ve been keeping this all in ever since the nominations were announced. Now that it’s here, I just needed to get that out of my chest. Thankfully, it’s cued on our EyeTV and we can just watch the highlights while we enjoy a night out.

I know it’s all politics. The biggest thing I learn from the Oscars every year is watching how all those industry professionals “play the game.” It’s all smiles and nods, fake thank yous and thousand watt smiles. I hate that part of the industry. But even Scorcese’s got to play the game. Are they really awarding the best of the year, or do they have shallower motives?

After all, last year’s Best Picture winner was . . . Crash.

Cinematic Storytelling: Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Pedro Almodovar was introduced to me early in film school and I instantly fell in love with his aesthetics. It’s just the way he composes and choreographs his films. When I saw Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, I was inspired at the possiblities. I learned mise en scène–an often ridiculed term by the average moviegoer but for filmmakers, it is perhaps what makes a film truly a film. Mise en scène isn’t just visual style, it’s what a shot is composed of that helps tell the story, from the color palette of the scenery and costumes, down to the blocking of the actors and overall direction.

As a director, subconsciously or not, you’re always trying to create the perfect mise en scène. It finally sunk in when I was introduced to Pedro Almodovar’s work.

Definitely a hit-or-miss director by all means (I loved All About My Mother but didn’t really care for Bad Education) Almodovar can tell a story purely through visuals. His screenplays are engaging, odd, quirky and always full of coincidences and chance happenings. To add to his writing talents, Almodovar is a pure exhibitionist–always showing rather then telling. For directors, that’s key.

Here are just some shots that still linger in my head . . .

wotvonb_001

Ivan work as a voice-over actor who dubs foreign films; the same voice he uses to sweet talk all his women are the same ones he uses in his work.  During this fabulous dream sequence, shot in grainy black & white, it visually brings home the idea of Ivan as a ladies’ man, holding the mic and speaking to girls who pass by through the mic. I love the structural patterns in the back.

wotvonb_002

This is an interesting shot of Ivan’s ex-wife, Lucia, who is mentally unstable. As she “descends” down the stairs and growing curious of what’s happening upstairs, she starts to get trapped in the structural steel bars of the staircase. Genius.

wotvonb_003

The Mambo Taxi! Now, the screen capture doesn’t do it much justice but I’ve never seen such a burst of color in a film before. Not since Dick Tracy. That was heavily stylized. Here the style is much more organic, and it works. You remember the mambo taxi and all its coincidental stops it makes throughout the course of the movie.

wotvonb_004

It almost seems like all the props in the frame are meant to be there. I mean, a beach ball on a rooftop? But it works. Love the colors.

wotvonb_005  wotvonb_006

Neat phone conversation. Love the patterns on their dress, and the backgrounds. Also, Pepa’s red phone throughout the course of the film becomes such an iconic prop. Is it because of how it simply pops on screen? How often it’s used by Pepa? It’s been thrown around, out the window, shattering glass, etc. I’ll never forget it how such an ordinary prop has become such a character in a film.

wotvonb_007

The gazpaucho drink. That awfully dated pink dress. Those hideous eyelashes. Lucia is just a basket case.

wotvonb_008

Ah yes, the traveling head. Love how Almodovar creates this shot of just Lucia’s head as she glides on a peoplemover near the end of the film. Creepy and completely mental.

The funny thing is I would have never picked up this movie have I not attended film school. You hear the title, you go, oh great, another foreign movie about strong women. But I love it. It just had such an affect on me early on in film school and to this day I think about what goes into a frame, and how much of what you put in the frame can tell the story without having one actor say a word.

Rock Me Amadeus

I always thought Amadeus was overrated. Last week at the local CostCo, which seems to have all these wonderful classic DVDs for an unbelievably low price lately, I bought the Special Edition Director’s Cut and decided to give it a second chance.

Immediately after the purchase, I just wanted to peruse the DVD. You know, skim through the scenes, check out the special features. I found myself captivated and sat through the whole movie. It was F. Murray Abraham’s Academy Award-winning performance as Italian composer Salieri that just kept me watching. And to think film buffs have turned this guy into a joke because he won the Oscar and disappeared. But his performance truly deserves recognition.

blog004

He just gives such a textured, and layered performance. You hate the guy because he’s a jealous twit and despises Mozart. Yet you can’t help but root for him because his passion for music is so rich. He just wants to be as talented as Mozart. But he’s not. It’s the classic case of sympathizing with the antagonist but here you’ll never know it mainly because F. Murray Abraham’s solid performance never gives in to the cliched trappings of a villain.

Then came the scene where a bed-ridden Mozart (Tom Hulce) dictates musical composition to Salieri, helping him finish his masterpiece, Requiem. Both composers, struggling to create this absolute opus; frustrated and inspired all at once. It’s a tour de force performance by both actors, like an operatic duet of sorts.

I’m in awe. Mostly of my stupidity.

I should probably take a second look at the movies I’ve deemed overrated. First West Side Story, now this. I’m realizing that these two movies have wonderful elements in them that make them such worthy entries into the art form. Yet if there’s one thing that stands out with the movies I’m rediscovering so far, it’s the amazing performances of the actors.