Posted in Movies on March 5th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We saw the Oscar nominated film Doubt the other night.  Normally, I like to see as many of the major Academy Award contenders before the awards show airs as it did a few weeks ago, but it’s usually not possible to see every single one in time.  Even though it didn’t win any of the 5 Oscars for which it was nominated, the buzz that surrounded Doubt was so intriguing that we decided to check it out.

For a movie being based primarily on dialogue, it is very fast-paced.  I was never bored, which is something I can’t say about a Good Will Hunting, an Oscar winning movie we watched last week.  Good Will Hunting a long movie, so it took us two nights to watch it, and I fell asleep both nights during the movie.  Not that it was a horrible movie; I don’t know much about it – I  was sleeping!

Ok, back from the Oscar tangent, back to Doubt.  This movie is based on a stage play, and the author of the play also wrote the screenplay and directed the film version; which I think is very important so nothing was lost in the translation between stage and screen.  The story is compelling; it’s about a Catholic school in 1964 where the principal, a nun brilliantly portrayed by Meryl Streep, suspects the priest is having an inappropriate relationship with the school’s only African-American student.  Amy Adams portrays Sister James, a naive freshman nun who is caught in the middle of the conflict.  Amy Adams is one of the actors from this movie who was nominated for an Oscar, and it’s understandable when you see what a far cry Sister James is from Adams’ purse-selling ex-cheerleader Katy on The Office or the character Leslie Miller from her first film, the teen beauty pageant spoof Drop Dead Gorgeous from 1999.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was excellent in Doubt also; hardly recognizable from the 1990’s roles where I saw him previously in the movies Twister and Leap of Faith.  It’s easy to see how Viola Davis received her Oscar nomination for Doubt as well – she had lines in just one scene in the entire movie, but her performance was excellent, however short on screen time.  You win some and you lose some, which explains how those 3 actors walked away without their Academy Awards.  Inexplicable, however, is how Meryl Streep did not win an Oscar for Doubt.  True, I haven’t seen The Reader with Kate Winslet, the actress who won the Leading Actress Oscar instead of Meryl Streep.  I did see Changeling with Angelina Jolie who was also nominated, and judging by the phenomenal performances of Streep and Jolie and the fact that Winslet was the winner, I might just have to see The Reader.  I loved Angelina Jolie in Changeling, and I’m not usually a fan of hers, so that says something.  I  loved Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, but honestly, I used to think Hollywood had a strange habit of sucking up to Meryl Streep.  How can she be THAT good, I would wonder…  until I saw Doubt.  She IS “that good”.

I can see where this movie would make an excellent stage play.  But after seeing 4 of the most talented actors out there portraying the lead roles on the big screen, who would even want to be compared to that by  staging a live theatrical production of Doubt?

4 Christmases

Posted in Movies on December 6th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I shouldn’t have liked it.  It’s an 82 minute comedy farce co-starring Reese Witherspoon – what’s to like?  But I actually enjoyed the movie 4 Christmases more than I thought.

So why did I see if I thought I’d hate it?  For one, it was the only thing playing at the matinee price and for two, I had a sort of curiosity about the acting abilities of two country music super-stars:  Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw.  Actually, having seen Dwight Yoakam in Sling Blade, I’m well aware of his acting skills.  It was such a great performance in Sling Blade that I thought it was Oscar-worthy.  He’s not given much to work with in this movie however, and his role as one of those Leap of Faith-type preachers is not very well developed.  I don’t think it’s any fault of Yoakam, though, but more a testament to the lazy script.

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as a freewheeling couple who don’t see the need to marry since they’re already happy, and they don’t want kids.  The first scenes of the movie really emphasize how perfect this couple’s lives are, and it’s almost sickeningly sweet how well they get along.  Enter their extended families, and they become miserable people.  It begins when their flight to Fiji is cancelled on Christmas and they are featured on the news.  The couple (their names were not memorable) is now busted in their annual lie about travelling to some exotic location for charity work.  They fib about this every year to their families so they can avoid seeing all 4 families (each set of parents is divorcd) for Christmas.  So now that they can’t go to Fiji, they have to visit 4 sets of crazy relatives on one day and yada, yada, anticipated baby jokes and predictable chaos ensues, you get the picture.

For some reason, a lot of Hollywood stars agreed to be in this movie.  And just as I expected, Vince Vaughn was the same in this movie as the characters he always plays.  He can be funny, but he’s not very versatile.  I was surprised that Reese Witherspoon did not get under my skin because for some reason, she annoys the heck out of me, and it’s distracting when watching her in movies.  As far as the country music super-stars are concerned, I consider this movie a waste of Dwight Yoakam’s acting talent, and Tim McGraw was barely in the movie at all.  I read somewhere that he beefed up for the role, and he was hard to recognize, although I don’t really know why he bothered gaining all the weight for a part that hardly has him on camera and with barely any lines.  Other big name actors making cameos were Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek – maybe it’s just me, but even though she’s almost 60, I still look at her and see Carrie the fire-starting teen from the famous Stephen King horror movie of the ’70’s.

Overall, there was only one scene where I couldn’t even watch because of its ludicrousness, so instead I turned to my husband and whispered, “This is unbelievably dumb”.  Other than that, I was entertained, and mostly because it was a holiday movie, it was fun to sit, watch, and eat popcorn.  I wonder how Christmas With The Kranks will compare.  I’ve heard that one is just awful, yet I want to see it since I read the John Grisham novel upon which it was based.