Tag: War Horse

Movie Review: Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory is not the movie I thought it would be. From the posters it seemed like it would be a straight up war film, albeit a straight up war film directed by Stanley Kubrick, which would likely be something special. And the first third is a standard war film. It’s all trenches and explosions, this being WWI. Kubrick gives us the set-up: Kirk Douglas is told that he must take a German stronghold. He tells his superior officer, played by George Macready as an evil and power hungry man looking for his next star, that his forces are not big enough nor will they have enough support to accomplish their goal. This, of course, doesn’t matter and although Douglas tries his damnedest to take the hill he barely makes it halfway through no-mans-land and a third of his forces won’t even dare to leave the trenches. This sequence is just as intense as the opening section of Saving Private Ryan, though it is shot completely differently. Where Spielberg’s movie is all shaky cam and tinnitus, Paths of Glory scrolls along, not shying away from the terror, but giving a continuous forward push. Is the camera following the soldiers or are they following it? It’s amazing, actually, in such an action packed frame that we can pick out Douglas as he blows his whistle and climbs over dead bodies and artillery holes. At one point the camera zooms in to spot him and his glorious chin only to zoom back out and show how crazy this attack is. It is grimy to the extreme, at the same time as it is emblematic of Kubrick’s complete control over his films.

After the failed maneuver, the evil General must cover his tracks. He sets up a court marshal in his ridiculously opulent base, a mansion with room sized paintings and marble floors. One soldier from each of the three sections of the troop will be tried for cowardice and shot if found guilty. Luckily, Douglas also happens to be the best lawyer in France, and he jumps to defend his men from the silly trial. To go any further into the film’s plot would do a disservice to it. It is a Kubrick film and as such isn’t exactly a rip-roaring good time. He films his characters with the standard detachment, though he allows them to be real people. You can sense the Douglas is pained and wants to do right by his men, not only from what he says but from how he acts. It’s him against the world, Germans and French alike. The film is as much about the failings of military thinking as it is about the French vs. the Germans. Douglas rages against the machine but to little avail. It is only the final scene that changes how he views the world. It’s a marvelous scene, at first terrifying, then strangely comforting.

As the second film in my 1957 marathon, Paths of Glory continues the year’s excellence. Along with Throne of Blood, it shows that filmmaking was just as vibrant then as it is now. There’re plenty of explosions and gunfire and later plenty of explosive dialogue and fiery speeches. It is at least as good as that other courtroom drama from the same year, 12 Angry Men. And you can imagine the entirety of War Horse happening alongside it! Both films rely on American and British actors playing foreign characters. Where are the cries of crass commercialism for Kubrick’s film? Lost in the fog of war, I guess.

2011 Film Awards: Part 1

It’s the beginning of the new year which means it’s the end of the film year. With the Oscar nominations soon to be announced I figured it was time to give out my own awards. These are kind of my top five in each category along with some other fun categories. I’ll write a little bit after each section just for fun. Enjoy.

Best Picture

  1. War Horse
  2. The Adventures of Tintin
  3. Hanna
  4. Drive
  5. The Tree of Life
War Horse

That’s two Spielberg films at the top. I wouldn’t consider him one of my favorite directors but I guess he’s pretty ok. Hanna is just a lot of fun. Drive is stylistic as hell and a great time. And The Tree of Life is beautiful and meaningful. A good year.

Best Director

  1. War Horse – Steven Spielberg
  2. Hugo – Martin Scorsese
  3. I Saw the Devil – Kim Jee-woon
  4. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn
  5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Tomas Alfredson
Drive

War Horse perfectly captures the classic Hollywood style of John Ford and Frank Borzage and feels perfect throughout. Scorsese’s film is old and new at the same time, with wonderful 3D. I Saw the Devil is a film I don’t wholly love, but it moves like a rocket and works so well. Drive, like I said before, is super stylized, but the mood is perfect. And Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the most packed movie I’ve seen this year, both visually and thematically. It’s subtle and intense without any action.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Attack the Block – Joe Cornish
  2. The Guard – John Michael McDonagh
  3. The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick
  4. Rango – John Logan
  5. Submarine – Richard Ayoade
Attack the Block

Four of these guys also directed their films (Rango’s John Logan is the only outlier) and three of them are debut films (only The Tree of Life and Rango, again). Each of these films are the very definition of original, whether it be the plot or the style of the writing or both.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Adventures of Tintin – Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan
  3. Drive – Hossein Amini
  4. Winnie the Pooh – Stephen J. Anderson and company
  5. War Horse – Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
The Adventures of Tintin

Are you starting to see a trend here? War Horse just keeps showing up. It is that good, though. For real. Also, Tintin has three of the best screenwriters going and Winnie the Pooh captured the feel of the original stories perfectly. It doesn’t shy away from the meta aspects and the songs are great.

Best Actor

  1. Brendan Gleeson – The Guard
  2. Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  3. Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class
  4. Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  5. Hunter McCracken – The Tree of Life
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

I’ve always liked Gleeson and his role in The Guard is genius. Andy Serkis (and the animation crew) somehow made a chimp an effective and emotional character. Fassbender is Fassbender (and might get replaced by the Shame version of himself if it ever shows up around me). Oldman is quiet and very real. Hunter McCracken is a talented young actor with a big role that he played very well.

Best Actress

  1. Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
  2. Viola Davis – The Help
  3. Elena Anaya – The Skin I Live In
  4. Brit Marling – Another Earth
  5. Sally Hawkins – Made in Dagenham
Viola Davis in The Help

Hanna continues Ronan’s work with Joe Wright and she’s just as good as she was in Atonement, if not better. Viola Davis first broke my heart in Doubt and she continued to do so in The Help, a surprisingly ok movie. Elena Anaya does very well for herself playing a complicated and difficult role. Sally Hawkins makes her character real and powerful.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  2. Michael Fassbender – Jane Eyre
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  4. David Tennant – Fright Night
  5. Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life
Benedict Cumberbatch in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Alan Rickman started his movie career with one of the best villains of all time (Hans Gruber) and has now brought to life one of the best conflicted characters in modern cinema. Fassbender is, again, Fassbender. Both Cumberbatch and Tennant proved that they can play roles other than the ones that they played on BBC shows. And Brad Pitt fully embodies his stern father role. I lost him in the performance, which is a pretty great feat for such a movie star.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Cate Blanchett – Hanna
  2. Elle Fanning – Super 8
  3. Jessica Chastain – The Help
  4. Sally Hawkins – Submarine
  5. Emily Blunt – The Adjustment Bureau
Cate Blanchett in Hanna

I know a lot of people hated Blanchett in Hanna but I loved how arch she was. She played a great fairy tale evil queen. Elle Fanning is a new talent, just watch the acting scene in this film for definitive proof. I know most will probably go with Chastain in The Tree of Life for this category but I really liked what she did with her role in The Help. Sally Hawkins was basically the opposite of her role in Made in Dagenham and wonderfully weird. Emily Blunt’s chemistry with Matt Damon was the best part of The Adjustment Bureau, outside of the hats.

Best Ensemble Cast

  1. War Horse
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  3. Super 8
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Midnight in Paris
Super 8

I love everybody in War Horse, especially Hiddleston and Cumberbatch and Emily Watson. All of those sad men in TTSS were great (again, Cumberbatch). Super 8’s kids were wonderful, along with a few key adult roles. The Tree of Life, too, mixed great kid and adult roles. Midnight in Paris magically combines modern day elites and old-timey artists, all played to perfection (if exaggeratedly).

Best Non-English Language Film

  1. The Skin I Live In
  2. I Saw the Devil
  3. Trollhunter
The Skin I Live In

These are the only foreign language films I’ve seen. I am ashamed. They’re all good, though. The Skin I Live In is melodrama and horror mashed up into one glorious concoction. I Saw the Devil is a violent revenge tale, superbly directed. And Trollhunter takes the found footage horror film and amps it up a bit. Also, trolls.

Best Animated Film

  1. The Adventures of Tintin
  2. Winnie the Pooh
  3. Rango
  4. Batman: Year One
Winnie the Pooh

This was not a great year for animated films. Tintin is a whole lot of fun. Winnie the Pooh felt like an instant classic. Rango is a spaghetti western pastiche that works as a kids movie. Batman: Year One is basically Batman: The Animated Series, so it is great.

Best Documentary

  1. Bill Cunningham, New York
  2. Tabloid
  3. African Cats
  4. Cropsey
  5. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
African Cats

Bill Cunningham, New York is a pretty straightforward doc about a fascinating person (a fashion page photographer for the New York Times) but there’s a scene at the end that is truly amazing. Tabloid looks at an interesting case through the lens of the British tabloid system. African Cats is a movie about baby lions and cheetahs, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, so it is awesome. Cropsey examines an urban legend and takes a bit of time to talk about the horrible way the mentally ill were treated at one time in our recent history. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold takes a Super Size Me-esque look at the product placement industry. It’s fun and informative, even if I don’t think that product placement is the most evil thing in the world.

Sometime next week I’ll make the next post in this two part series. Exciting categories like Best Editing and boring ones like Best Comedic Scene and Best Line. Join me! Tell me what I missed!