Mobi’s Moscars (Part 6) – 8th February, 2015

Mobi’s Moscars (Part 6)

Continuing my review of films which have received nominations for Oscars.

Here are the last two.

Two Days, One Night (“Deux Jours, Une Nuit”)

This is a peach of a movie.

If you like continental European films and have penchant for a gritty, realistic genre, which brings the dramas of everyday life to the big screen in totally believable and original ways, then this is a film you shouldn’t miss.

This Belgium offering was directed by the multi-award winning (Cannes) brothers, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, and stars the beautiful French actress, Marion Cotillard, who had to learn to speak with a Belgian accent and ‘dress down’ to make her look more ‘ordinary’.

Cotillard will never look totally ordinary, but she does a wonderful job of making you believe that she is a struggling young Belgian mother who is recovering from depression and receives some devastating news from her employer.

Her workmates had been asked to vote – either for her to be dismissed and still receive their annual bonuses, or to let her continue to work and, as a result, forfeit their bonuses.

The film relates the young wife’s efforts over a single weekend to try and persuade the staff to change their minds after her boss agrees to hold a new ballot on the Monday morning.

It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it is riveting.

I don’t know why, but one of the user reviewers has compared this film  to Lost in Translation, which I personally think was a boring load of nonsense. The truth is that this film is nothing like ‘Lost in Translation’.

This is a film full of heart-wrenching emotion, which explores the good, the bad, the selfishness and the generosity of the human spirit as our young mother embarks on a series of one-to-one meetings – sometimes confrontations – with her fellow employees, over a long weekend.

Collitard is just superb in the role and is well deserving of the film’s single Oscar Nomination for Best Actress. All the supporting actors, representing today’s diverse Belgian society, also act their hearts out as working class folk, trying to make ends meet during the recession and desperate to keep hold of their bonuses for one reason or another.

 It is a truly 21st century moral dilemma.

Needless to say, both the professional and user movie critics are pretty much united in their views that this is a very fine film.

My initial feelings are that although the best actress nomination has a very strong field, Collitard has edged it, but, of course, there is no way the Academy will agree. It’s going to be one of the luvvies– for sure.


Into The Woods

Ever since I saw West Side Story at the cinema back in 1961, I have been a glutton for musicals. At that point in my life, the only musicals I had seen were on film.

Prior to West side I had seen numerous  20’s and 30’s black and white musicals with such luminaries as Astaire and Rogers, and then in the 50’s there were films like Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and even the highly rated Singing In The Rain, all of  which all left me unimpressed. Okay, they were mildly entertaining, but not in a way that would tear at my heartstrings, or carry songs that may inspire me.

Westside Story changed all that, with its gripping story and the sensational Bernstein songs.

Then came Andrew Lloyd Webber, with Jesus Christ Super Star and Evita and I was totally hooked on the musical genre. I saw both of these gems on stage in the west End, and then on film, and in both instances the films’ directors made a pretty good fist of it. Jesus Christ was clearly made on a very low budget and these days it looks a tad corny, but in its day it was every bit as powerful as the stage show, and very cleverly done.

Then, much later, Evita was made into a film starring Madonna, and I still believe that this was the best film adaption of a stage musical ever made. Madonna pulls off the performance of a lifetime, and the Director, Alan Parker, was inspired. This is one of the few movies I can watch again and again – and never tire of it.

But Evita and Jesus Christ are the exceptions rather than a rule, and most film adaptions of musicals fail to maintain the magic of the original stage productions.

I hated the film versions of Phantom of The Opera, Mama Mia, and Les Miserables, even though the latter two were box office hits.

But I am not writing about these old musicals. I am writing about Into The Woods, which is the film adaption of a renowned stage musical by America’s Stephen Sondheim.

I have not seen the stage version of the musical so I am unable to compare it to the film, but I have to admit upfront that I am not an enormous fan of Sondheim songs. Most of his songs are admittedly tuneful with some very clever lyrics, (such as in Sweeney Todd), but unlike  Lloyd-Webber, Schönberg and the Bernstein’s’ of this world, most of Sondheim’s songs are instantly forgettable, with some rare exceptions.

(Such as Children will Listen, which happens to be one of the main featured songs in Into The Woods).

The film has any number of ‘Name Stars’: Jonny Depp, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Emma Thompson, and many more.

Unfortunately, none of them can sing.

I frankly doubt whether I would have enjoyed the stage version of this musical, because Sondheim musicals leave me kind of cold, and the story – which is a mishmash of 4 different Grimms’ Fairy Tales – is neither amusing, nor exciting, nor heart wrenching. Nobody really gives two figs who dies and who lives happily ever after. 

The Daily Telegraph, in their wisdom, have given the film four stars, (out of five), and the reviewer calls it ‘Pure Pleasure’, going on to say: The film is a whirl of pure pleasure that just keeps whirling…. Mind you, I was pleased to see that even this smitten reviewer admits: Sondheim doesn’t write show-stoppers….

Really? I thought that was the whole point of musicals??

The Guardian film critic gives the film three stars and talks about a clutch of very fine performances.

But they can’t sing!!!! And it’s a musical!!!

As with several of the Oscar nominated movies this year, there seems to be a total disconnect between the arty-smarty film reviewers of New York and London, who mainly seem to love it, (Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes in their ‘review of reviews’ both give it 3 ½ stars out of 5), and the movie-going public, who by and large seem to hate it.

On the internet Movie Data Base (IMDB), the first 11 user-reviews gives the film a single solitary star out of ten and they carry such headings as: Horrible!, Save your money!, Horrible Mess!, Walked out!! LEAVE the Woods!!…and many more. (I didn’t check any further.)

Here’s an excerpt from one user review, which just about sums up everything, everyone had to say:

What the hell was that? We took the family to see this movie based on the trailers. It looked cool, we knew it was a musical and an adaptation of Grimms Fairy Tales. Instead, we were treated to a really bad story line, bad singing and over acting (yes Meryl Streep, You!). It was so bad we left the theatre and I demanded and received a refund. Unless you’re a snooty art critic, movie critic or a die-hard Manhattan Broadway regular, do not go to see this garbage. This is coming from normal people who thoroughly enjoy Disney films, the Grimm Brothers movie, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, etc…..

And yet folks, this very boring, unspectacular, badly sung musical, garnered no less than 3 Golden Globe nominations (including Best Film – comedy or musical, best actress and best supporting actress), two Bafta nominations , and no less than 3 Oscars, including best supporting actress – for guess who? Yeah, you got it, the film Goddess who can do no wrong – Meryl Streep.

And yet SELMA, that wonderful, truly inspirational movie that faithfully portrays a crucial part of American 20th Century history, and will undoubtedly become a film classic was totally ignored by BAFTA, and has received only two Oscar nominations, of which only one was in the main Oscar categories.

It seems to me like a clear case of giving all the gongs to the luvvie in-crowd, which, as I wrote last week, is one of the reasons that this will be my swansong as far as Mobi’s Moscars are concerned.

Nuff said…..

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