The New Academy Darlings

I posted like crazy in the past 5 days, so I’ll be keeping it short today. Obviously, the Oscars were last night and most of the results did not come as a surprise to many of us. I’m thrilled to say that my top 4 picks won (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture) [It’s true: check out my Oscar posts for acting, directing, and picture]. I’m beyond happy that Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin won Best Actress and Best Actor. They were both wonderful in their respective films.

Perhaps Entertainment Weekly spoke too soon.*

*I loved Clooney and Davis in their films, but I loved Streep and Dujardin even more. 

Oscar Chatter with Kristin and Matt: Best Picture

Kristin: Out of the nine films nominated, I’ve seen all but War HorseHugo, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The good news is that I don’t believe out of those three films, that any stand a chance of winning. The most likely of them is Hugo, but even then, I see Hugo vying more for Best Director than Best Picture.

It really comes down to the main two contenders that have won most other awards this season: The Artist and The Descendants. Both are good films, yet very different from each other. The Artist seems to be the frontrunner, and having seen both films as well Tree of LifeThe HelpMidnight in Paris, and Moneyball, I will gladly confess that The Artist is my favorite of them all, and in my mind, the most deserving to win Best Picture this year.

While The Descendants was a good film that I would even watch another time or two, I don’t think it quite bears all the necessary material to win Best Picture. It stars Academy darling George Clooney, and was written and directed by Alexander Payne, an experienced writer-director who is no stranger to the Oscars, having had his writing for both Election and Sideways nominated (he won the award for Sideways). Payne’s work is story-centered, and a lot of reliance on his work being brought to life rests on the actors’ shoulders. The Descendants‘s cast gives justice to Payne’s script, and it is no surprise to see the film receiving such high accolade.

That being said, The Artist really separated itself from the mass when director Michel Hazanavicius chose to make a black and white silent film. A lot of great things have been said of The Artist in the past couple posts. But aside from its originality in this time period, The Artist also stars strangers to American film, namely Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, who won over the hearts of viewers. Their acting was flawless and moving, and they paid homage to the silent film era with their performances. Ludovic Bource’s score is unforgettable, and reveals the power of how a good score can complement a film that doesn’t rely on dialogue to tell the story. Hazanavicius was able to write a story with practically no words, and yet the story was easily told and understood by those who watched it. Of the six Best Picture nominations I’ve seen, The Artist, I believe, is the overall winner because it’s not strong only in story, but also in performances; not only is it a beauty to watch in the B&W film era, but also is the music stirring, the direction clear, and the film editing, visual effects, and art direction suitable for the film, delivering on all necessary levels. The Artist is the winner in my book. 

Matt: There is little doubt in my mind who will win Best Picture tonight. Like last years winner, The Artist slowly drifted from obscurity into the hearts of the film world. It will win not only because it was a very good film, but because it is exactly the type of movie the Academy loves. I quite enjoyed the film, and found it to be an ambitious, charming homage to a forgotten time in Hollywood’s history. Will people look at this film in twenty years and mark it as a classic? While that appears to be seen, my gut instinct is that they will not. The film works wonderfully for what it is: a salute to the silent era. Does it break new ground for cinema? I cannot argue that it does.

However, do any of this years nominees break new ground? Will any of these films be regarded as classics in the coming years? Now I have not seen War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or Payne’s much praised film, The Descendants. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight In Paris. Sweet and charming, it may be my favorite film of the year; however, it is not the best film of the year. Moneyball may be the first sports movie in years that I have not gagged over. Great writing and acting made it an enjoyable film. Was it this year’s best picture? Not remotely. The Help makes you laugh and cry; it also reminds us of a very dark time in our nation’s history. And Martin Scorcese created a dream to educate us all about the origins of celluloid dreams.

All of these were good; some of them great. Among the nominees, however, there was only one film that came close to breaking new ground for cinema. With each new film, Malick continues to explore the possibilities of pure cinema. Of this year’s nominees, The Tree of Life was the only film I couldn’t get out of my head. The film’s many themes stuck with me for days after I watched it: The birth of the universe, the existence of God, the smallness of man. The joy and hardships of childhood, the death of loved ones, what happens after this life passes. It asked all the right questions without giving too many definitive answers. That is what art is supposed to do, isn’t it?

Matt brings up an interesting point–should a film win Best Picture because it breaks new ground? Or is a film that’s considered popular or “the best”  more deserving? Does it matter if a film has more influence, but isn’t considered “Best Picture” by the Academy?  Share your thoughts below.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best of Writing, Cinematography, and Art

Kristin: I’m still fighting off this unnerved frustration of seeing 50/50‘s Will Reiser being denied a nomination, but here’s what I think considering the nominees: It’s a tough call in this category, because most of the contenders are strong. I have not seen A Separation, so I cannot comment on Asghar Farhadi’s script, but I was very fond of the little Sundance film Margin Call that quietly slipped itself into the running. J. C. Chandor’s script is smart, well-thought out, and brought down to the level of those who don’t speak financial jargon. On the other hand, there’s Woody Allen’s writing for Midnight in Paris, which is witty and light-hearted, much like the film. I would sign off Kristen Wiig and Mumolo for Bridesmaids, although it’s neat to see the a comedy among the dramas in the writing department. Comedy rarely receives credit for how difficult it is to act, much less to write for actors. That leaves Michel Hazanvicius’s original screenplay for The Artist, which could also do something here. My guess is that Allen or Hazanvicius will win the trophy, although Allen certainly won’t be appearing at the ceremony as usual.

MattHow I wish I would have had the pleasure of seeing A Separation; it only recently arrived to a theater near Madison. My favorite for this category is Midnight in Paris; I love the way Allen took larger than life characters and brought them to life. As Gil met these famous artists of the past, I felt I was meeting them too. And who among us hasn’t met an annoying pseudo-intellectual like Paul? Allen writes great characters. I understand he had a lot of historical material to draw upon, but he wrote them in a way in which I understood some of them for the first time.

As far as The Artist is concerned, I felt this was a bit of an interesting nomination for a film that included such a small amount of dialogue. The screenplay is only forty-two pages long and contains mostly directorial notes. They say the screenplay should serve as the blueprint for a film; Hazanavicius’ script takes that approach quite literally. To me, the magic of The Artist lies in the visuals, the acting, the staging, and, quite ironically, the sound. The screenplay seems inconsequential.

Kristin: I’ve seen all of the nominated except for John Logan’s screenplay for Hugo. Although coming up with something wholly original means writers have to start from scratch, I consider the Best Adapted Screenplay category more difficult for two reasons: first, there is a far heavier competition in this category, because more films are based off books, comics, historical events, etc., today; second, there are grievances to deal with considering the author, family involved, and staying true to the original story while still making it workable for film format.

Having read most of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, I hold a special appreciation for writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin as well as Stan Chervin for transforming a baseball statistics book into a an interesting sports story for sports fans and nonfans alike. I felt like parts of Ides of March were cliche, and its script not quite as smart as some of the other competition, such as The Descendants. I believe that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a triumph in converting from book to film at large, possibly could have been brought to an even higher level by making it more understandable for the masses.

MattFirst of all, The Ides of March seems to be a very strange choice for this category. While enjoyable, I didn’t find it anything out of the ordinary. Characters say their lines which move the plot along; in short, there is a lot of plot, but little story. As far as Hugo is concerned, I have not read the book, but I found the film to be a fabulous, mythic retelling of reality.

I have to agree with Kristin about Moneyball; it does take something special to make a movie about sport’s statistics exciting, especially when that sport is one as dull as baseball. (I probably just lost everyone [don’t judge]; I LOVE football.) Moneyball‘s script is a great example of the hard work it takes to bring a film to the screen. The writing of a film is no less a collaborative effort than the actually production of that film. With great characters and fantastic dialogue, Moneyball is my choice for this category.

Kristin: There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the most deserving of the nominated is Emmanuel Lubezki for his gorgeous and harrowing work in The Tree of Life.

Matt: It took cinematographer Wally Pfister four Oscar nominations before finally snatching the award for Inception. Emmanuel Lubezki is on his fifth nomination. Those previous nominations include such films as The New World and my personal favorite of his work, Children of Men. Lubezki’s floating camera in The Tree of Life gives a real immediacy and intimacy to the events we witness. The real and surreal are equally delivered with breathtaking beauty. Lubezki needs to win the award for this category.  

The Artist‘s cinematography does what it must do in order for the film to work, in that it emulates what a film of the late 1920s would look like. I appreciated the fact that it does not rely on editing to portray the information necessary to the scene. Guillaume Schiffman packs a lot into the frame, something film critic Jim Emerson explains in greater detail here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is, without a doubt, beautifully shot. Jeff Cronenweth, like his father, is a good cinematographer. It is difficult, however, to judge how much of his work rests on his own talent and how much is due to frequent collaborator David Fincher. You know a Fincher picture by its visuals from the first shot onward, even though he has used several different DPs throughout his career. For a Fincher picture, the DP doesn’t seem to matter as long as he is good. As for Cronenweth, he shouldn’t despair; Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times without a single win.

Kristin: Each of the nominated films in this category had incredible sets. To pick just one and say that it’s been than the rest is proving difficult for me to do, but I will say that Midnight in Paris served as a favorite of mine in this category because the locations of where it was filmed made me feel like I got to take a trip to Paris with Owen Wilson. Every scene held some kind of beauty and intrigue, taking Wilson to places he read about in books or learned about in a class. My vote is for Midnight in Paris.

Matt: Midnight in Paris really immerses you in the world of 1920s Paris. Nothing about any of the sets felt contrived. The art direction sucked me into that world, and like Gil, I was pretty depressed when I had to leave that world and come back to the 21st century. In Hugo, I especially enjoyed the recreation of Melies’ sets for the film. The automoton was pretty fabulous as well. The Artist had an interesting challenge in that they had to recreate several 1920s film sets. I would be okay with Harry Potter getting some recognition in this category; however, I’d have to go with Kristin on this one.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best in the Acting Categories

Kristin: I’ve seen all the nominees except for Demian Bichir in A Better Life. I was surprised Michael Fassbender from Shame didn’t get nominated, and I was disappointed to see JGL miss a nod for his great work in 50/50. I’m rooting for Jean Dujardin from The Artist to pick up this award, especially since he’s already picked up the Golden Globe and the SAG among others. I prefer Dujardin to Clooney, who may be his only serious competition, although I still see Dujardin winning. I’m also happy for Gary Oldman to get a nomination, even though I think he has better work that was previously ignored.

Matt: In the first twenty minutes of The Artist, Jean Dujardin painted a grin on my face that would last nearly the rest of the film–he was charming in every way. It is a unique performance, if not just because Dujardin must convey his character’s thoughts and emotions without the luxury of ever speaking. In short, I would be very surprised if the Academy does not pick Dujardin. Unfortunately, I have yet to see The Descendants, but as Kristin has said, it seems that Clooney would be the only other close competitor to Dujardin. That being said, I found Brad Pitt completely deserving of his nomination for Moneyball. Of the nominations I’ve seen, Pitt was the only one whose role truly carried the entire movie. In my opinion, without Pitt playing Billy Beane, Moneyball simply doesn’t work. I actually forgot I was watching a Brad Pitt movie.

Kristin: I completely agree that Dujardin was utterly charming in The Artist, and you couldn’t help but smile throughout that film. The thing with Clooney is that he’s an Academy darling, even more so than Pitt. I know Clooney didn’t win much of anything for Up in the Air a couple years back (which I actually enjoyed more than The Descendants), but sometimes I think he’s receiving nominations just because he’s Clooney. He was good in The Descendants, but maybe I missed the “greatness” aspect. Glad you enjoyed Moneyball so much. I appreciated the film because I read most of the book it was based off, and I would agree Pitt embodied the Billy Beane. I’ve heard some complaints that Pitt should have been nominated for Tree of Life instead of Moneyball, but I agree with the nomination.

Matt: For me, what made Pitt’s performance golden were subtle things; for example, him constantly grabbing candy from the candy dish in the scene where he first notices Peter Brand. I think Pitt could have been nominated for either role, though a nomination for The Tree of Life would have had to be for Best Supporting Actor. Has an actor ever been nominated for Best Actor/Actress and Supporting Actor/Actress? A quick Wikipedia search yielded this answer: “Thanks to a voting quirk, in 1944 Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way became the only actor nominated in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for the same performance, winning the latter.” Today’s Academy bylaws disallow this, of course. I was unable to find an actor or actress that has been nominated twice the same year for two different roles. That probably won’t ever happen either.

To sum up, while I enjoyed Pitt and Dujardin’s roles immensely, I think it has been a rather weak year for Best Actor. None of the roles nominated hold a candle to other recent years, say Colin Firth’s role in The King’s Speech or Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Such performances are ones that I will remember for quite a long time.

Kristin: I saw Glenn Close only in an extended preview for Albert Nobbs, and it certainly looks interesting enough, despite many believing that last spot belongs to Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin or Elizabeth Olson in Martha Marcy May Marlene (or others I’m sure!). Previously, I had complaints over Emma Stone’s performance in The Help being completely overlooked, despite my loyalty to Viola Davis. This category is said to be the only real competition this year–between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. I saw both films and much preferred The Help over TIL, but I think both performances are on equal ground. Honestly, it’s been YEARS since Streep actually won an Oscar, and she keeps getting told “you’ll get one next year.” So I’m rooting for Streep, although I’d be happy if Davis walked away with it too.

Matt: While I did think Emma Stone’s performance in The Help was good, I felt it was one of the easier roles in the film, and hardly on par with Viola Davis’ role. Her performance in the final scene of the film is one of the best (and most heartrending) I have seen this year. As for Streep, while I look forward to seeing her performance on DVD, poor reviews for The Iron Lady stopped me from dropping $8.25 to see the film in theaters. But what are the Oscars without a Streep nomination? After all, with The Iron Lady, Streep receives her 17th Oscar nomination. It would be interesting to see Glenn Close win the award; however, I would be surprised if it is given to anyone other than Davis.

Kristin: I have to agree that Davis had the most moving performance in that film. The Help really had a fantastic ensemble to carry it. I still would have liked to see Stone get some love for her work, even at just the Golden Globes, but I know her role wasn’t quite as dramatic or polarizing as the others. I wouldn’t even recommend seeing The Iron Lady with the exception of Meryl Streep. She gave an excellent performance. The direction of the film was off– it lacked an opinion, had too much focus on Thatcher’s dementia, and just felt too disjointed. That said, Streep’s performance somehow proved that you can have a crappy film and an incredible performance come out of it. I would love either Streep or Davis win, and I’m sure one will. Close and Mara definitely won’t win, and Williams’s nomination reminds me a little of Jennifer Lawrence’s last year, in that the real honor is the nomination.

Matt: I love Streep, but I really hope Davis gets the win. She would be only the second African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. I can’t think of a more appropriate role by which to win it.

Kristin: Nick Nolte in Warrior was the surprise addition to this category, and I was very glad to see it. I’m assuming Plummer will walk away with the trophy for his work in Beginners. He gave an exceptional performance, so that would make me happy. I thought Ewan McGregor was brilliant in Beginners and forgotten for his great work. It’s also cool to see a name like “Jonah Hill” join the ranks among the Oscar nominated, although it’s a sure thing that he won’t be winning. I’ve heard great things about Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn, but I have yet to see that film. I did finally see Drive and think Albert Brooks should have received some kind of credit, although I don’t know if I would have put him in place of Plummer, Hill, or Nolte. The interesting turn in this category is seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘s Max von Sydow pick up a nom. I’m curious to see him in that film now.

Matt: I quite liked Jonah Hill’s work in Moneyball. It was nice to see him actually play a role other than the funny, fat kid. While I hadn’t given him much thought before Moneyball, he now is someone I will watch. I enjoyed seeing Nolte in Warrior; in fact, his role may have been the only thing about that movie I truly did enjoy. However, I didn’t think his performance was anything out of the ordinary; it was enjoyable, but not groundbreaking. I will readily admit my lack of knowledge for the other noms in this category, as sadly, I have not yet had the opportunity to view them. It is nice to see von Sydow get some recognition, albeit only his second nomination. Seems rather sad in such a great career that has spanned over six decades, but many great performances are not realized until decades after their release. So, yes, he should have been nominated Best Actor for his role in The Seventh Seal, not that anyone outside of Sweden would have even recognized his name at that time.

Missing from this section is Brad Pitt for his outstanding role as Mr. O’Brien in The Tree of Life. And the little Jack Russel Terrier from The Artist. 🙂

Kristin: I hope Jonah Hill gets offered some better roles in the future with his success from Moneyball. I know he’s in some upcoming silly movie with Channing Tatum, which probably won’t do him much good, but perhaps he’ll make it a point to be in the occasional drama. I’m happy to agree to disagree with you on Nolte. He probably had the best performance in the film, but I would consider his performance groundbreaking in Warrior.

I think it’s interesting that like many years, a lot of the actors nominated in the supporting category tend to be in films that are not widely released until later, or they never get a wide release altogether with the exception of a few big cities. I really enjoyed Beginners, and it doesn’t surprise me that its only nomination is for Christopher Plummer, given who he is and the role he played. My Week with Marilyn, Drive, Beginners–none of these movies scream Oscars at all, despite earning one or two nominations each. It’s movies like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that work to be an Oscar film, and turn out successful enough (nomination for Best Picture/Best Supporting Actor), and go along a point of view that you hold, Matt–actors like von Sydow missing out in the past for great work and getting nominated currently for more mediocre or just good work. I finally saw The Tree of Life and wasn’t blown away by it in any sense other than cinematography, although I would agree Pitt was the obvious stand-out performance in the film. And I would be perfectly fine with the JR terrier from The Artist making an appearance 🙂

Matt: In regards to Nolte, he’s pretty much always great; I just thought his role fairly insignificant in comparison to his previous performances, in particular Colonel Gordon Tall in The Thin Red Line. In that film Nolte plays, with conviction, a selfish, power-hungry commander willing to sacrifice whatever number of human lives necessary to move his career forward. In regards to “make-up Oscars,” it’s annoying when the Academy chooses to acknowledge an actor they missed out on the first time (or first ten times, as it may be) around. No number of “make-ups” changes that they failed to realize talent in the first place. In reality, a “make-up” nomination is nothing less than degrading.

Kristin: I think the obvious choice is The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, since she’s graciously won the award at about every award ceremony so far. I thought she was brilliant in the film and is well-deserving. Although I wouldn’t mind Berenice Bejo receiving some credit. But I think we all know that Spencer has it in the bag. Oh, and I think it’s kind of ridiculous that Melissa McCarthy got a nomination for Bridesmaids. She’s a hilarious actress, and I’m all for comedy making its mark at the Oscars, but how on earth was that role Oscar-worthy?

Matt: Spencer’s performance in The Help was thouroughly entertaining. I doubt I will ever think about chocolate pie the same ever again, nor will I think of it without seeing Spencer’s face. It is interesting that both Spencer and Chastain were chosen for their roles, as much of their time on screen is spent together. Their chemistry was great, and I loved Chastain’s performance, but I couldn’t help but think two things: 1) As long as we’re doling out nominations for The Help, what about Bryce Howard’s role as Hilly? She embodied pure evil pretty convincingly for me. 2) Hasn’t Chastain been nominated for the wrong role? What about her embodiment of grace and motherhood in The Tree of Life?

Snubbed? Marion Cotillard for her role in Midnight in Paris. Can you think of a sweeter or more charming performance that you’ve seen in recent years? I can’t.

Kristin: I really enjoyed this category because there were so many great performances nominated. Spencer and Chastain both played character roles in The Help, so it doesn’t surprise me that both were nominated. It was nice to see Chastain show yet another side of her acting ability. Bryce Dallas Howard actually received a lot of slack for her role. I’m not entirely sure why, but the common consensus is that she keeps playing the villain (both The Help and 50/50). She completely embodied the evilness needed for the role.

I’m glad that Chastain got nominated for The Help and not The Tree of Life, primarily because I enjoyed her role more in the former. I’m just not Terrance Malick’s biggest supporter in his heavy amount of editing in his films. Perhaps performances could have been stronger if he would have dropped the scissors and let actors just breathe. But that’s a whole other story. As for your snub mention–I never even considered Cotillard as an option, but I think you bring up a great point–she was graceful and lighthearted in Midnight in Paris, and it almost is surprising to see her not nominated.

Matt: Chastain’s roles in The Help and The Tree of Life show just how dynamic of an actress she is. She has had quite a year, and I look forward to catching up on some of her films that I missed. As far as Howard is concerned, I’m not sure how much the Academy likes to nominate villains. Nominations tend to fall on “hero” roles only. Even three dimensional villains rarely get a Oscar nod. I suppose everybody wants the “good guys” to win, even at the Oscars.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best Director

Hi all! I’ve been MIA since last Friday, so apologies for being gone so long. The Oscars are right around the corner, and now I’m back with some Oscar discussion between me and my movie friend, Matt. Today we’ll be talking about Best Director. Stay tuned for more Oscar discussion in the next couple days.

Matt: The Director is the author of the film. At least, that is how things should be. When we watch a film, we should be learning something about the director, about the things they love, the things they hate, perhaps even something as deep as their belief in the existence of God. Just as we do not study works of literature (and isn’t good film just literature in moving format?) without studying the author, so we should not study a film without investing our time to learn about the director. Having said that, I find it appropriate that each of this year’s nominees also served as writer of their respective pictures.

Kristin: I think Matt has a nice, all around take on the Best Director category. It’s an interesting point that he brought up that each of the directors served also as writers of their films this year. I’ve always thought admirably of those who take on the task to both write and direct their own films. It’s almost as if the director gets a one-up on his project, because he’s already very aware of which direction he wants the film to go.

Matt: One of the nominees is a newcomer, one a seasoned veteran, and three are masters/legends of the cinema.

Michael Hazanavicius and The Artist

Matt: Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist is no doubt one of the most ambitious films of recent years. No one in his right mind would attempt to sell a silent, black and white film to the masses when most theater dollars come from the “was that a shiny object” Facebook generation.  They say you shouldn’t say the word “fire” in a theater; the truth is, a greater panic typically ensues when the words “silent film” are uttered in said establishment. And yet, Hazanavicius created an extremely engaging film without, for the most part, any sound, a movie that went on to be loved by filmgoers of all ages.

Kristin: Michel Hazanavicius seems to be the favorite going in this year, having already won the Best Director award at the BAFTAs, DGAs, and various film critic groups and associations. Like Matt said, he’s definitely the newcomer in the category with few American films below his belt, even though The Artist is really considered a French film. You can read my review of The Artist here, or see where it ranks on my top 10 favorites films list. Clearly, I love this film. But why should Hazanavicius win the award? Because he took the idea of silent film and brought it to an unlikely generation, and the results couldn’t have been better for him. Even if someone didn’t love The Artist, one can hardly admit that the direction of the film isn’t obvious–well-constructed, moving, intelligent and talented actors chosen in order to teach that a lost art isn’t forgotten, even if the rest of the world seems to have moved on without you.

Alexander Payne and The Descendants

Matt: I’m sad to say that I have not yet seen Alexander Payne’s film The Descendants. I actually have not seen any of his films (gasps!), but I look forward to catching up on the things I have missed.

Kristin: It’s OK, Matt. There’s only so many films you can see in a year! Luckily, I was able to see Alexander Payne’s The Descendants right around its wide release over here, so I can say a little at least. The Descendants is a different story altogether. But as for Payne? Well, the film has seen success in practically every category across the board except for Best Director. Although Payne’s been nominated in multiple awards ceremonies, he hasn’t won. His writing seems to be the stand-out for the film more so than his direction of it, and I personally believe the writing to be the reason for the film’s success. After all, he’s won the award for Best Screenplay (Adapted most times) six times at various critics awards and societies. I don’t see Payne being the front-runner, the upset, or the dark horse in this category.

Woody Allen and Midnight in Paris

Matt: From the aspect of pure enjoyment, Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris was probably my favorite film of the year. That’s not to say that I believe it was the best or most important film of the year. I have come up with no better term for movies like this than the “Cinema of Joy.” I was charmed from the clock’s first chiming of midnight. I don’t think I am alone in admitting that this was the first Woody Allen movie that I have seen (so many great movies, so little time). But do not worry, I will not stay film illiterate, in regards to Allen, for long. Manhattan and Annie Hall will be ordered through inter-library loan just as soon as I can. I will expand more upon Allen’s work when we discuss Best Original Screenplay. For now, that is all.

Kristin: Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was also one of my favorite films of the year too. It’s completely enjoyable and lighthearted. Although Oscar nominations have proven Allen to be a winner in the Screenwriting category, Allen has also seen great success in the Best Director category, having been nominated seven times. Altogether, he’s been nominated 23 times at the Academy Awards, won three times, and made only a single appearance at the Oscars. Apparently, he’s not all into showing up for the recognition, despite being a largely nominated writer and director (and also actor before!). I’m with you, Matt, in that there are great films of his such as Annie Hall that I have yet to see, but like most movie geeks, I work hard to not be film illiterate and give as much time as I can to catching up. Overall, I see Allen garnering more success in the Best Original Screenplay category.

Martin Scorcese and Hugo

Matt: One of my first acts upon returning home from the theater after seeing Hugo was probably exactly what Martin Scorcese intended–I looked up the full version of George Melies’s A Trip to the Moon, and enjoyed it immensely. My second act was to order a collection of Melies’s shorts. Hugo is as dreamlike as the movies of the filmmaker to which it does homage. Scorcese’s choice to shoot in 3D is only the second justifiable use of the medium I believe I have ever seen, Avatar being the first. But it is the way that Scorcese uses 3D that is so fantastic; unlike Cameron, whose shots tended to roar out, “Hello, I’m in 3D!,” Scorcese’s use is much more subtle. It complements the cinematography rather than distracting from it. Often it is extremely difficult to squeeze barely passable acting out of children. Scorcese shows his prowess in directing his actors; Asa Butterfield delivers probably the best child performance I’ve seen since Haley Joel Osmond in The Sixth Sense.

Kristin: I’ve seen quite a few of Martin Scorcese’s films, but Hugo is one I have yet to see. I guess between the two us, we’re able to see all of these films and offer an opinion on this category. I was surprised to learn that Scorcese was directing more of a children’s film, and Hugo is actually considered his first children’s film to direct. However, based off of feedback I’ve heard from multiple people, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hugo serves more as an adult film with a youthful lead. Best Director is a category Scorcese has become a favorite in, and if anyone in this category could beat Hazanavicius, I think it could be Scorcese.

Terrance Malick and The Tree of Life

Matt: There are few movies I can think of where the audience’s response has been more polarized than Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life. You either loved the film, or you hated the film. We’ve had it engraved in our minds that a movie has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. These three parts must follow chronologically, or the viewer is lost. Mess with convention, and you better be ready to hear the public roar.

Malick is a painter and a poet. He will film the same scene multiple ways, once with dialogue, once without, once at midday, once at magic hour. For Malick, filming is gathering the different elements necessary to create the hues to paint his picture. Once his palette is full of colors, he makes his brush strokes in the editing room. Add voiceover, Malick’s window to his characters’ souls, and the poetry and painting is complete. The creation is somewhat abstract, but now the viewer may peel back layer after layer of meaning. The Tree of Life is hypnotic, dreamlike. The film whispers about the joys and sorrows of childhood, man’s place in the universe, and the mystery of the ways of God. Those were but a few of my thoughts as I left the theater. I do not doubt that others’ experience of the film, whether good or bad, differed greatly from mine. I think that great cinema resounds with individuals differently. I don’t think I have to tell you who I would pick for Best Director.

Kristin: Unfortunately, Matt, I’m nearer the side of those who “hated” Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life, although I think “hate” would be too strong of a word to describe my feelings toward the film. The odd thing is that I believe Malick is a fine director, but that he’s too glued to the cutting board. Anomalous Material offers a great article including a video of some Oscar nominees (and others) discussing multiple things, including Malick’s attachment to a pair of scissors. While I’m all for the gorgeous cinematography and the idea of expressing your feelings in a more artsy type of way, I couldn’t imagine Malick winning the award, much less getting close behind any of the other nominees. What I will say about Malick is that he has successfully garnered a lot of discussion over The Tree of Life, which makes for great round table talks and thought behind the film.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Love Week: My Theory about the Mother in HIMYM

This week, I have strayed from my usual format–I’ve been late in posting, and I’m only on my measly third post for the week *shakes head in shame*. Regardless, I feel like there’s a post I need to write about, so in the spirit of love (with it being Love Week here), I am writing about my favorite TV show How I Met Your Mother.

A lot of people blog about this show. As often as they post, I make it habit to check out TVLine or EW’s reaction to the latest episode, and I always have the blogsite “Have You Met Ted” on my online reading list.

Now I just read this post, featured today on Freshly Pressed. And while I can definitely see where the writer is coming from, it still saddens me to read about the unfortunate backlash HIMYM is receiving with its recycled ideas popping up in recent episodes. There’s been this massive amount of disappointment looming over this season, and for some reason, I can’t seem to jump on this disappointment bus. I enjoy the show too much, and perhaps I don’t find myself involved enough to be as frustrated as the last HIMYM fan.

Which leads me to theorize on who the mother is. One of the most popular theories is that Ted meets Barney’s half-sister at Barney’s wedding, marries her, and hence Uncle Barney . . . and wait for it . . . Aunt Robin, because of course, fans want Robin and Barney to get together. And I would love to see Barney and Robin together too. But here’s the thing . . . why? I remember watching season 5, and everyone claimed it was the worst season of the show yet. Everyone hated watching Barney throw away his womanizing ways to get serious with a character. There was less to laugh about in the show, and the show lacked that extra “thing” that made it so funny when Barney was in a committed relationship. Now with seasons 5, 6, and parts of 7 behind us, everyone is rooting for the two to get back together.

And then last episode, Ted proclaims his love for Robin . . .

Talk about serious backlash. People are ticked at this, and I am not one of those people. I’ve been rooting for Ted and Robin for a long time, and for me, this is a good thing. The main reason Barney and Robin didn’t work is because they canceled one another out. They both are so similar, that they almost seem to not complement one another as well.

Here is my theory on the mother–why does she have to be the same person as Ted’s wife? I can easily see myself analyzing the situation a little much, but I can’t help but think that there’s even a slight possibility that Ted’s wife and the mother of his children are not the same person. HIMYM set Barney and Robin up to fail (at least in season 5, and partly in season 7 as well)–with so much shared in common, they’re almost too much for each other. For all of the great things future Ted has foreshadowed about “the mother,” I sometimes wonder if HIMYM writers believe in the same formula for Ted and the mother that they did in season 5 for Robin and Barney–so much the same, that they drive each other nuts.

Could it be possible that Ted and Robin end up together, yet Ted and “the mother” still have two children? I will definitely admit the idea seems to stray from the usual character of Ted, but Ted is a different guy since the early seasons. And would it not be the craziest way to surprise viewers? I certainly have to wonder.

All that to say that I’m beginning to believe that the question of How I Met Your Mother has shifted from “Who will Ted marry?” to “Who will Robin marry?”

Perhaps in the next few episodes, things will shift enough that this theory will be completely improbable for the show, similar to how the show functions–one day in, the next day out. But for now, I’m putting the thought out there that maybe there’s another possibility most people haven’t considered. We all know Robin isn’t the mother. But could she be Ted’s wife?

Now that I’ve offended all of the diehard RoBarn fans, removed myself from the popular point of view that HIMYM is not what it used to be (OK, I agree, it’s not, but I still don’t think it’s as bad as everyone’s making it out to be . . . ), and even blogged about a TV show instead of something pertaining to film, I have to ask those of you out there who watch the show . . .

What’s your theory? Do you think it’s possible that Ted and Robin could end up together? Do you think the mother and Ted’s wife could be different people? Weigh in and share your thoughts.

Love Week: Singing Bits I Love in Film

With only a few hours left in the day, I’m struggling to get a second post out during my “Love Week” here at All Eyes on Screen. Multiple things have kept me MIA from AEOS lately, so I’m going with the thought, better late than never, right?

So yesterday, I posted about my 10 favorite romantic movies. Tonight I’ll be including a few singing bits I love in various films, which happen to be all over the place. The list isn’t conclusive, but a few favorites I really enjoy.

“Johnny B. Goode” in Back to the Future (1985), sung by Michael J. Fox

When I was thinking about writing this post, Fox’s performance of “Johnny B. Goode” was the first one to pop in my head. Back to the Future is one of my favorite movie trilogies, and this is one of the most memorable scenes. He starts off by announcing that “this song is an oldie . . . um, from where I come from,” suddenly realizing that it’s not considered old in 1955. He kills it on the guitar, and it’s completely entertaining in both the first film and when it’s revisited in the second film.

“I Put a Spell on You” in Hocus Pocus (1993), sung by Bette Midler

Every year around Halloween, I make it a priority to get a viewing of Hocus Pocus in, because it’s a holiday classic. It might be the only film I can handle Sarah Jessica Parker in too (exception: Sex in the City [only the first one!]). This part is exceptionally hilarious, because while the kids are trying to convince their parents that these three witches are, in fact, real witches, Bette Midler decides to work with the line “Put a spell on you,” and turns it into a performance at a Halloween party.

“Grow Old with You” in The Wedding Singer (1998), sung by Adam Sandler

I did include this scene in my last post. However, I had the most difficult time selecting a song I love most from The Wedding Singer. Adam Sandler sings several times throughout the film, but I think “Grow Old with You” is his most heartfelt performance. Other hilarious songs include his rendition of “Love Stinks” after he’s been left at the altar, and “You Spin Me Round” at the opening credits of the film. The ’80s Adam Sandler knows how to sing, and what better way to woo a girl than to start singing to her.

“Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” in 10 Things I Hate about You (1999), sung by Heath Ledger

Speaking of singing for women’s affections, Heath Ledger is fantastic in the little stunt he pulls to win back Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate about You. He pays off the marching band to accompany him while he half dances, half runs away from the cops trying to hustle him down. This is a favorite of my favorite singing bits in a movie, partly because Ledger is so charming singing “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.”

“Only Hope” in A Walk to Remember (2002), sung by Mandy Moore

I used to wonder if Mandy Moore was recruited for A Walk to Remember just to deliver her song “Only Hope” in the film. This is her shining moment in the film, when she surprises everyone, especially Shane West, by stepping out and singing beautifully. She lends her voice to the film’s soundtrack as well.

“The Edge of Night” in The Return of the King (2003), sung by Billy Boyd

I’ve been reading The Fellowship of the Ring, and I noticed something familiar as I was reading a poem in the third chapter titled “A Walking Song”–the lyrics from the song “The Edge of Night” that Billy Boyd sings in The Return of the King matched parts of the last stanza in the poem. Another cool thing I learned from reading about it on its Wikipedia page is that Billy Boyd actually composed the beautiful melody for the song.

“Teacher’s Pet” in School of Rock (2003), sung by Jack Black

After reading this post, I learned that my film friend, Castor of Anomalous Material highly dislikes Jack Black, even in School of Rock. I, however, can’t get enough of Mr. Black, especially in School of Rock. It’s one of my favorite comedies, and I love this end scene where the students rally with Jack Black and perform “Teacher’s Pet” at the Battle of the Bands. The lyrics are well-written and pretty funny, and who better to lead a band of elementary school kids than Jack Black?

“Run and Tell That” in Hairspray (2007), sung by Elijah Kelley

There are multiple songs I would pull from this remake of Hairspray to claim as favorites, but I decided to go with “Run and Tell That” because the choreography is great and the lead singer, Elijah Kelley, is relatively unknown, especially in a film that included so many big names. Kelley’s voice is exposed multiple times on the soundtrack and throughout the film, but his solo “Run and Tell That” really reveals what an incredible voice the singer-actor has. I much prefer to listen to Kelley over Michelle Pfeiffer or Christopher Walken.

“Pop Goes My Heart” in Music and Lyrics (2007), sung by Hugh Grant

Although Music and Lyrics was certainly no hit, it did include some entertaining songs from a fictional 80s band with lead vocalist Hugh Grant. Although Grant certainly doesn’t possess booming pipes, he really pulls off the facade and sound of an 80s leading man fairly well. I had to include “Pop Goes My Heart” over “Way Back into Love” because the music video is hysterical, but well-made.

“Stu’s Song” in The Hangover (2009), sung by Ed Helms

And of course, I couldn’t forget “Stu’s Song” from The Hangover. The great part about the song is that it fit in so well with the rest of the film. The random uncertainty and spontaneity of the movie was its ticket to success, and Ed Helms delivers on all funny levels necessary, especially for a light break from the “drama” of the movie. The neat thing about this song is that the musically-talented actor actually just sat down and starting singing and playing the song, coming up with it on the spur of the moment. The director liked it so much that he put it into the movie.

What songs do you guys love in movies? Do you like any of the same as me? 

Valentine’s Day Special: Ten Favorite Romantic Movies

Welcome to Love Week at All Eyes on Screen! Each day I’ll have a post about something that I love. Valentine’s Day is here, so I’ll be listing off my top ten favorite romantic movies that I love.

But first, I must ask, Why are they called “romantic comedies”?  Many of them are not funny, and there’s certainly plenty of comedies that are low on the romance.

Wikipedia defines a romantic comedy as the following:

a film that includes “light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles.”

Even as a chick, that definition rubs me the wrong way. There’s something annoying about the idea that everything can go wrong, but “true love” will make it all go away. It’s not that I don’t believe in true love or its power to overcome difficult times. But it seems to painted in such a pretty way that we always see that physical infatuation, that two-month period in the relationship filled with butterflies and roses. Great film rides off drama. Drama’s a natural ingredient that must be placed in film in order get the protagonist from point A to point B. And such is the job of all storytelling, regardless of the format or channel.

Perhaps the genre “romantic comedy” receives the great beating in film today. Maybe it’s the lack of good drama that drags it down. We have all of these unrealistic situations occurring, such as the film Life as We Know It (2010). Really? A romantic plot born from a couple dying and willing the care of their child to two complete strangers who dislike each other? (Sorry – I’m not much of a Katherine Heigl fan, all.)

Yes, some romantic films work well in a more dreamy-like state, such as 13 Going on 30. But perhaps that success lies in that the movie doesn’t attempt to take itself seriously like Life as We Know It. Romantic films like My Best Friend’s Wedding set the bar for more realistic romantic flicks. Or maybe the idea of an ending that didn’t end happily became more accepted because we deem happy endings as unrealistic.

Regardless, there’s not a more popular genre to receive low scores from critics than romantic comedies. Speaking for myself, I don’t care to watch romantic films for their critical acclaim; I’ll admit wholeheartedly that I watch them for that feel-good feeling, even if they have (multiple) fluff moments.

Honorable Mention: A Walk to Remember (2002)

This movie almost made my top 1o list. Mandy Moore and Shane West are probably each credited most for this film. Neither have made as successful films since, although West stepped it up when he joined the main cast of the TV show remake, Nikita. Moore also has upcoming television plans. Regardless, this film is typical Nicholas Sparks crap. And I enjoyed it. It’s almost painful to admit since I abhor Nicholas Sparks’s obsession with pairing characters together and then ripping them apart for unrequited love, death, mean relatives, war, the list goes on and on. I did love Mandy Moore in this film, though. She has a great singing voice and gets to showcase some of her vocal talents on screen as well as on the soundtrack.

10. The Wedding Singer (1998)

The Wedding Singer is one of my favorite Adam Sandler films. He’s absolutely hilarious, especially in some of his older movies like The Longest Yard (2005), Mr. Deeds (2002), and Happy Gilmore (1996), but I think he hits his stride in this film. He helms this obnoxious humor while still earning some sympathy from viewers. He and Drew Barrymore work great against one another, although I much prefer The Wedding Singer over their second attempt 50 First Dates (2004). This scene is one of my favorites; the Billy Idol character really adds to the humor of it all.

9. The Wedding Date (2005)

The majority of critiques on The Wedding Date is negative. I know, I know. I would call The Wedding Date a guilty pleasure, but I guess it doesn’t add up much to the idea of “guilty pleasure” when people are calling Jersey Shore and all shows Kardashian “guilty pleasures.” Why do I like this film? It’s hard to say. I guess I just love Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney together in it. I like that it takes place in London, and I love the score by Blake Neely. Not to mention, Michael Buble and Maroon 5 make up much of the film’s soundtrack. If you’re a fan of this movie, you might want to check out the new TV show Smash, starring both of The Wedding Date‘s Debra Messing and Jack Davenport.

8. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Kate Hudson is hysterical in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are another one of those duos that play great against one another, although their second attempt Fool’s Gold (2008), fades in comparison. Hudson puts McConaughey through hell, and it’s only fitting for us to watch him suffer. The video is one of the funniest scenes in the film.

“You killed our love fern!”

7. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

Many people do not consider (500) Days of Summer to be romantic, but it just happens to be one of my favorite romantic movies. Yes, I know it follows the same pattern as My Best Friend’s Wedding, which I’ll get to soon. But Marc Webb’s creation is wholly original and altogether enjoyable and romantic in many scenes. I love his storytelling method in the film, and one of my favorite scenes is of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt walking through IKEA, as well as the dance sequence to the tune of Hall and Oates I included. The scene I’m most moved by though is one of the scenes near the end, when Gordon-Levitt gives a little speech about love in the middle of a work meeting. He’s clearly lovesick and brings a hint of irony about how as greeting card writers, they tell people’s loved ones that they love them for them. And what is the specialty in that when you can tell a person yourself how you feel?

6.  My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

The first time I saw My Best Friend’s Wedding, I had no idea that Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney would not end up together. In fact, I was stunned to see Cameron Diaz whisk Mulroney away at the end. I love the idea that two people, who happen to be best friends, made plans to someday marry if they never found another person. And then off goes Mulroney and finds the youngest, most naive girl to fill the shows Roberts decided that she should have filled instead. She hatches a plan to steal the soon-to-be groom, and it makes sense. They have this brilliant chemistry, and of course they ought to end up together. But they don’t; such is life. The end leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth, because the fight is finally over, despite her losing it. I love the use of Union Station and the old Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox, yo!)  in this film. It’s nice to see some Chicago scenery be taken advantage of! Check out the video for what I think is one of the best scenes in a romantic movie.

5. It’s Complicated (2009)

On Christmas Day in 2009, a few friends and I planned to see the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes. We were pumped until we found out that it was sold out and that we had to settle for It’s Complicated, the rom com starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. The unfortunate affair turned out to be a fantastic film after all. It’s Complicated is proof that Meryl Streep is capable of playing normal, every day people. There are so many hilarious scenes in this film, that it’s one of the few rightly dubbed “romantic comedy.” From Steve Martin and his divorce tapes, to John Krasinski playing the lovable son-in-law, It’s Complicated has become one of my favorite go-to romantic movies.

4. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You’ve God Mail is a classic romantic movie in most people’s books, and it’s definitely one in mine. It’s one of three films that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in together, and they do so with a perfect connection. It brings me back to the time when AOL was the big thing around the Internet, and we had to listen and wait for the dial connection before we could use AIM or send an email. It’s the recycled story of two people who hate each other, and later learn to like one another as they start to learn and understand more. Meg Ryan has done her share of these films, and Hanks really isn’t a stranger to the genre either. The end scene is pitch perfect. Enjoy it!

3. Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill is another romantic movie with Julia Roberts that I love, and my first one including Hugh Grant that makes the list. I really like both in the genre, although I’m of the belief that both made their best romantic films in the 90s or early 2000s as opposed to more recent times. I love this film. It’s completely a dream gone reality, bringing everyman Hugh Grant into the movie star sphere of Julia Roberts, where an unlikely connection is formed. She experiences time around his humble friends and family, while he starts to wonder if she’s stringing him along or truly into him. She brings her world into his when she says the famous line, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

2. 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jennifer Garner seems to be more accepted acting in rom coms these days, and one of her best ones I think is 13 Going on 30. She bears all the youthful innocence necessary for her character, and the very underrated Mark Ruffalo does a nice job playing opposite her. It’s also pretty hilarious to watch Andy Serkis actually play a human on screen, much less his giddy character in this movie. The film does a nice job of putting life in perspective. Although must of us probably won’t have our futures defined by the friends we had in high school, we will have memories of that time that will stay long with us. It also does a nice job of showing us that who we pick as friends often influences our behavior and changes us in the future. Overall, 13 Going on 30 fits the description of being light-hearted and sweet. Oh well.

1. Never Been Kissed (1999)

Never Been Kissed is my favorite romantic movie. It’s about a dork who returns to high school on an undercover assignment to find out about today’s teenagers. Drew Barrymore blossoms at this geeky character who desperately seeks to fit in. I haven’t seen another movie similar enough that showcases a character quite like the one Barrymore creates in Never Been Kissed. My favorite scene is when she tells her story via voice over. It’s a great way to wrap up the film. I included the final scene of the film because it’s all I could find on YouTube. It’s also one of my favorite film kisses.

OK, your turnWhat is your favorite romantic movie? Or what is one of your favorite scenes from a romantic movie? Don’t be shy . . . 

Trailer Friday – Jean Dujardin’s Villain Auditions

Fridays are the days I like to include trailers, and although I missed out posting a trailer the past couple weeks, I wanted to post one today. I came across this hysterical Jean Dujardin Funny or Die video and knew it would be a perfect high note to end the week for All Eyes on Screen.

Clearly The Artist star has a funny bone, and it’s put to great use in this exclusive Funny or Die video. In the video, the idea is mentioned that most European actors who make it big in a successful film in the States often take on a the role of a villain in a film as a following gig. So the French Dujardin takes a crack at playing villains, assuming a new type of weapon (primarily different guns) for each role, for all the “new sequels” due out in the future.

Watch the video to find out how many of the roles he gets cast in. I will say that my personal favorite was Bridesmaids 2.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to embed Funny or Die videos on WordPress. So below, I have included a link to the video, as well as some screenshots (all courtesy of Funny or Die – I take none of the credit!) to give you a taste of what the video is about.

Jean Dujardin’s Villain Auditions

Just added – Jean Dujardin made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, when Zooey Deschanel hosted. They performed an dance reminiscent of the one in The Artist. Be sure to check it out here.


Which role for Jean Dujardin was your favorite? Do you think he should play a villain in his next film? Do you think he’d make a good villain?

The Woman in Black: Play vs. Film

In a previous post, I mentioned my excitement to see The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, because only months before I had gotten to see the play version. Weirdly enough, when I went to see the play, I had not even realized that a film version was due out in February of this year. So instead of a regular review, I’ll be pitting the two formats of the story of “The Woman in Black” against one another. Be aware that there are SPOILERS, so if you do not want something spoiled for you, I recommend either seeing the film first, or reading about the play only.

Number of Characters

In the play, there is a total of 4 characters. Each actor plays a character, who then, in turn, act out a play within the play as two other separate characters. This sounds confusing, but watching it wasn’t difficult. I couldn’t imagine how harrowing it must have been for the two actors on stage to have to memorize so many lines!

In the film, there are multiple characters. While Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) leads the film, often playing scenes against sound and special effects in the house, a supporting cast plays a bigger role in the film version.

The Element of Time

The play serves time in two parts: in the beginning, there’s an older fellow seeking public speaking assistance from a young actor. The old man is Arthur, and the story he wishes to tell is the story we see in the film. Essentially, we get a play within a play. The actor plays young Arthur back in time, and the older, current Arthur plays the rest of the supporting characters.

The film is told in real time. From the get-go, a crisis emerges, forcing Arthur to travel and locate all the necessary documents of a passed client named Alice Drablow in the town Crythin Gifford, where the people aren’t exactly welcoming.

The Rocking Chair

The rocking chair plays a large role in both the play and the film. Less information regarding the chair is given in the play, however. We see it in the play, we hear the terrible creaking noise throughout the play, and we know it’s located in the locked room that Arthur finds himself wanting to get into while he stays in the house.

The film builds on the story of the rocking chair. In film format, more allowances are given – we receive more background information by watching and listening. While the play offers viewers the same opportunities, the format is more limited in what it can show us, given that there’s fewer special effects. We learn in the film that the rocking chair served a big purpose in helping the woman in black commit suicide, by her standing on it in order to hang herself. Perhaps the chair creaks because her dead body fell on the chair when she hung herself. The film also includes far more items in the room, such as moving toys and a cymbal-playing monkey that reminded me of the one in the Phantom of the Opera.

Arthur

My comparison of the Arthur in the play from the one in the film moves into more subjective territory. The Arthur character painted in the play was far more fearful and reluctant than the one in the film. He was constantly on edge. Even as the actor who played young Arthur from the past, there was this great portrayal of fear that worked effectively to insert fear into viewers’ minds.

The Arthur in the film appeared less phased by the events happening. He seemed to have a greater confidence and desire to end the madness caused by the woman in black. He was more determined to meet the woman in black head on, rather than reluctantly face the cause of the noises in the house.

The Ending

If you haven’t realized already, this post is filled with SPOILERS. So if you haven’t seen the film, I’d recommend reading only what happens in the play and not the film, because the ending is incredibly different in the two formats. Since the play is really a play within a play, the woman in black seems to make appearances in both times. As viewers, we learn of her from the play within the play, but we notice that the actor (who is playing young Arthur) is recognizing her in real time – and making this idea evident to the older Arthur, who seems to wave him off (ironic?). In the end, we learn the woman in black is still around, because the final line of the play has the actor asking Arthur who the lady is that keeps lurking in the shadows.

The film offers an entirely different ending. Arthur has witnessed several children killed at the hand of the woman in black. The story goes that she kills children because according to the paperwork left behind, her own child died out in the marshes and his body was never recovered. She seems to seek to be reunited with her son, but she rather kill everyone else’s children to avenge his death. Arthur believes he has ended the woman in black’s curse by uncovering her dead son’s body and placing it on her bed, joining mother and son together. His four-year-old son has just arrived to meet Arthur in the city of Crythin Gifford, where the woman in black’s home resides. Arthur has decided that everything is finally over, so he and his son decide to take the next train home. But while Arthur is talking with someone, his son seems to have run off and is now walking in the train tracks while an incoming train is headed toward him. Arthur realizes it and suddenly jumps into the track to retrieve his son – and the train goes bustling into them. We’re not sure whether they made it out alive or not. We think they might have–and the film does a nice one over on us–until we realize that both father and son are dead. Need reassurance? Out from the back emerges the woman in black.

All that to say that the play’s ending is vastly different from the film’s ending: real time would not be plausible in its scenario if Arthur had died when he was young.

The strength of the story of “The Woman in Black,” I believe lies in the woman’s character. She remains the same in both formats. She never speaks, but she appears mysteriously throughout both. She’s very creepy, and she acts sort of like an angel of death, especially in the film.

Which do I prefer? I enjoyed both. They’re both incredibly different from one another, that I wouldn’t want to choose. They both work effectively in their own formats, and I enjoyed both for different reasons. I enjoyed all of the background information the film offered regarding the woman in black, but I appreciated how the play ended more than the film. Both seemed to suffer from a slightly laborious and long beginning, as mentioned in Dan the Man’s review on the film. I’d equally recommend both for viewing. I know there’s also a book (written by Susan Hill) on which the play was based off that shares similarities and differences with the play and the film.

Did you enjoy the film? What do you think of the differences? Would you have preferred the ending from the play or the film better?