Invictus

Going to see Invictus made me realize that the onslaught of  big Oscar players had begun. Know this upfront, I am a big Clint Eastwood fan and in general consider his work absolutely great. Of course how can you not with a track record of Mystic River, Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, and last years Gran Torino just to name a few.

This film begins just as eventual South African President Nelson Mandela is elected. The first portion of the movie deals with the taking of office and setting the stage explaining and understanding the problems of South Africa. The Nations Rugby team isn’t playing all that well, and viewed by the nations black population as a sign of apartheid. So literally the home team was being booed every time out. Mandela decides to use the Rugby team and it’s entrance into the world cup to begin to heal the racial hatred that exists in his country, and everything culminates in the finals match against an unbeatable New Zealand team.

Well, what was my take on the movie? Well, let me say, this is a very entertaining film, and I was never bored with it, but to my disappointment I can’t say that I think this is a Best Picture caliber film. It almost seemed that there was a struggle of what type of film this was, whether it is a political film or an inspiring sports film. With not having a true direction, neither sports or political story were told in enough detail or depth. At times I was wanting more from the political side, but during the second half when the Springbok Rugby team was in the forefront, I felt like I had missed out on character development and the sport of rugby. The only character that was developed at all, was of course the Matt Damon (Bourne Supremacy, Good Will Hunting) Francois Pienaar. I am a big sports fan and know some basic rules about rugby, but when it came to the final match against New Zealand, I wanted to know more details about how the game is played, and extra character development would have helped in in caring and cheering for them that much more in the end. I really wanted Best Picture material from this film and it didn’t quite get that high.

As far as performances, Nelson Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). Of course he does a good job playing the character and does everything necessary for the film, but having such high standards for him, this isn’t the best performance by him. Matt Damon also, is adequate for the role, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. Don’t get me wrong, they are not terrible at all, just nothing that si jumping off the screen screaming Oscar.

I normally wouldn’t make to much of a comment about music unless it moved me one way or another. I think Mr. Eastwood as a director should keep more of an open mind when it comes to the score of a film, and realize that his Malpaso piano “interludes” and solo horns don’t work for every film or in the same way it worked for Unforgiven and Gran Torino. You would think that a film about South Africa, you wouldn’t have music that was poignant and soft. Although there were poignant and touching spots in the film, overall I don’t think his music worked well at all. The only point where you hear anything bold was when the Springbok team goes for the 6am run. I definitely would have prefered a soundtrack a bit more primal or native sounding.

Ok, back on a good note. Would I recommend this film to friends, yes, absolutely. It really is an enjoyable film, especially the last 45 minutes when the main focus seems to shift from politics to the Springbok rugby team. It is a feel good, uplifting film that can be enjoyed by all.

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The Informant

the_informant_posterFrom the previews, this was a film that I was looking forward to and thought it might have some Oscar potential, maybe as far as Best Picture and possibly something for Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, The Bourne Identity) the acting category. To be honest, it was a very enjoyable film and very entertaining, but didn’t think it was Oscar worthy.

The Informant was directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) who always seems to take some unique approaches to his films. I am not sure I really get his approach on this one. This was based on a true story that was taking place during the 1990’s, yet the typefaces, colors and even the music had a very 70s feel. The music being quirky, for some reason I really liked it. Maybe a nomination could come in that category simply because it was so unique.

As far as the acting performances, Matt Damon did very good, but  the best parts of his performance was the voice over, which I think will keep him out of the lead actor category. Of course I haven’t seen many great acting performances yet this year, so who knows.

I won’t give too much away, but it is like The Insider meets The Talented Mr. Ripley. There are lots of good cameos including Clancy Brown (Highlander) and The Smothers Brothers. Right now this is one of the best out there to see. I don’t think you will be bored with this one, worth catching for sure.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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This is one that most will really like, or really hate. Myself, I choose to really like it…OK love it. This film is just great on so many levels. Director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) does a masterful job with the actors and the creation of their characters. He also incorporates the small Italian town and the music throughout almost as if they were characters themselves. A second viewing you might even pick up on all the symbolism throughout, the reflection of Ripley’s face in the piano and the ending scene, the different reflections of Ripley….think about it!

I try to write reviews and encourage those that haven’t seen these movies, to see them…or on the other hand to avoid like the plague. So to talk about the story without giving away key plot points and twists….kind of hard on this one. Everyone should experience the trills seeing it for a first time. It really is a classic potboiler movie that starts out with one innocent lie about a jacket of all things. Things begin to twist and turn from there.

As far as the acting, to me everyone in this is on the top of their game and very good. I don’t know how Matt Damon got snubbed. I thought he was clearly better than Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown and better than Denzel Washington in The Hurricane. Jude Law is very good and was nominated in a supporting role. And 3 other incredible performances from Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), Just great all around! (Also kudos to the costume designers, make a not of how Ms Paltrow’s costumes change in color and style with her demeanor throughout the move.)

The first time I saw this film, I enjoyed it, but the more I see it, the better I like it, and the more I can read into it. If you have only seen it once and liked it, I recommend a second viewing, and if you haven’t seen it, give it a chance. Also being an avid cook, this a a great movie to break out a nice bottle of wine, maybe a pinot grigio or Sauvignon blanc, cheese and crackers…OK and a few grapes. Keep the wine cool and close, you won’t want to miss any part of this flick. Highly recommended!