You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘War Horse’ category.

My writeups, if you haven’t already gathered, rank  the nominees in reverse order of how I like them.  But here, as John mentioned, we’re ranking the best picture movies as if we were Oscar voters.

1. The Artist.  Yeah, picking this film is almost cliche at this point in awards season.  But that’s only because it is the best film of this lot by leaps and bounds.  The others really aren’t in the ballpark.  At this point I’ve waxed rhapsodic about so many aspects of the movie that really, all that’s left to say is that all these wonderful aspects of the film: writing, directing, acting, cinematography, just everything all combines together into one really great movie.

2. Midnight in Paris.  It is a sign of how poor an Oscar year it is that when I saw the film over the summer, I was wavering over whether I thought I’d give it Oscar consideration and now it is my second-favorite film of those nominated.  It is light, fun, and not particularly deep.

3. The Help.  It is a decent movie, and pretty much nothing like what people are projecting onto it.  Race issues get people riled up, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but if you can look past all that, you’ve got a fine movie.  Maybe a little bit bloated and unfocused at times, but it is funny, warm, and entertaining.  Not one of the nine best movies of the year, but certainly no outrage.

4. The Descendants.  And here’s the part of the list with films that make me go, “Eh.”  I currently have  this film as the 36th best movie of the year.  There are certainly plenty of good things about the movie, like George Clooney and Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard and Shailene Woodley constantly being in a bikini.  Each of us has voiced our problems with the plot, chiefly the underdeveloped plotline surrounding the land deal.

5. Moneyball.  As I’ve mentioned, great job figuring out how to turn the book into a movie, but they didn’t get quite all the way there.  Every single supporting character seemed underdeveloped and underutilized to me.  But hey, it is hard to be angry about a best picture-nominated film about the economics of baseball.

6. Everything Loud and Incredibly Close.  Another one of those issue movies where people make all sorts of outlandish claims about the film trying to “solve” some really huge issue and obviously failing to do so.  It is insane, to me, that anyone could think this film was about healing the wounds from 9/11.  Sure, clearly, the events form the backdrop here, but the movie is much smaller than that.  It is about a kid who lost his dad, isn’t particularly close to his mom, and is trying to figure out his world.

7. War Horse.  Not as bad as some people would have you believe, but hardly a great movie.  My biggest problem was that it was hard to get attached to any character, so while obviously it was sad when they died and happy when they lived, it wasn’t that sad or happy.

8. Hugo.  Just a bad movie and and a horrible movie-watching experience.  Sure, it is pretty and it is great that it references the birth of cinema.  But I dunno, I prefer my movies to have an interesting story and not be boring.

9. The Tree of Life.  Speaking of boring movies that don’t have a story!  Look, I understand if you want to make the argument that this film is high art.  I won’t even disagree.  But as a movie, it is horrendous.  One of the items on the film’s imdb trivia page states that in an Italian theater, two reels of the film were switched and nobody realized the mistake for an entire week.  If your film can be shown out of order for an entire week, there is something seriously, fatally, tragically wrong with it.  I’m not saying it is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life, but I’m also not saying I’ve ruled it out.

Unlike other categories where voters pick one nominee, in Best Picture they rank them 1-9. Therefore my pick the winners post will follow the same format.

1. Midnight in Paris. In a season filled with nostalgic pursuits, this is the only one that seriously worked for me. It’s just an absolute delight and I had so much fun watching it. It has an enjoyable, original story and fills it with interesting characters. They’re most characters you’re already familiar with, but the film’s takes on them and their interactions are a good time. It’s all just a whimsical fantasyland. And its simple if elegant message about the nature of the past and nostalgia hit home for me.

2. The Tree of Life. Ambitious, beautiful, moving, grand. I love its structure of wispy memories paired with gorgeous music. It’s a bizarre creature that washed over me and I loved it. Plus it’s the only nominee with dinosaurs.

3. The Help. Probably the film here that surprised me the most. It’s very entertaining and I found it really effectively evoked a time and place (which always helps get me through the times the schmaltz gets dialed up to eye-rolling level). Great performances as well.

4. The Descendants. I didn’t love it, but it has some undeniable beautiful, heartfelt sentiments and moments. Even as the stories never really came together in a satisfying manner – this is the only movie where I wanted to hear more about a perpetual trust! – a sense of sadness settled within me. I have a lot of goodwill for this film though I wanted it to be more.

5. The Artist. I just never took to this like everyone else seems to have. It’s fine enough, but there’s just not enough there. It gets some flak for being slight in that it’s thematically light, but its bigger sin is being narratively slight. Not enough happens and the thrill of the silent, black and white aesthetic wears off.

6. Moneyball. I can’t deny its technical proficiencies, but even after a second viewing it still feels like maybe a quarter of a story. I just think the filmmakers concentrated on parts of the Moneyball story that I find less interesting.

7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I never expected to like this and hell if it isn’t… adequate. It can be contrived and exasperating, but its unique perspective and occasional moments of earned emotion pull it through.

8. Hugo. It just didn’t do much for me. In fact, it mostly just bored me. I kept waiting for the magic to begin… then it ended. I guess my hard heart is a tough nut to crack.

9. War Horse. I’m going to ruin this movie for you: it’s just a damn horse. So when people do a bunch of stupid stuff for the main character they’re doing stupid stuff for a horse. And judging from the music you’d think the horse scores a winning touchdown every 20 minutes or so. Still, it has a few good WWI scenes.

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Art Direction

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • Hugo, Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
  • Midnight in Paris, Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
  • War Horse, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

JOHN

Art Direction is probably my favorite small category after Song. Why? I love sets! Many a mediocre film has been upgraded in my eyes due to neat sets. Sherlock Holmes, for example, is a lot of noise but the film’s stylish take on Victorian London always gives you something to look at when the plot takes another stupid turn. Or how about a similar entry from this year, missing from the nomination list: Captain America devolved into a lot of mind-numbing explosions, but it happened in some fantastic-looking enemy bases with their mix of Nazi, supernatural, and mechanical elements.

There’s a clear best in show winner for this year in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which of course wasn’t even nominated. There’s a film with meticulous, detail-rich sets that help establish the film’s cool style. Is there a set image more iconic from 2011 than the egg-crate insulation in the MI6 isolation meeting rooms? That and that neat doorframe in the middle of the desert in The Tree of Life, of course!

So my winner will instead be Hugo, another film whose setting really sets the tone for its overall style. It’s colorful, busy, and often quite beautiful. The train station will get most attention, but the designs of Méliès’s studio and house are also quite memorable. The film intent to pull the audience into its sense of magic didn’t really work on me, but I can understand how the production design would help sweep away those who fell under its spell.

The Artist also looks great. Design is a different beast in black and white and the film still has a nice sense of artistry as well as a neat period look. Furthermore, War Horse also has some effective sets. They’re not as flashy, but I liked the look of the windmill and the family’s house at the beginning of the film. The war scenes, mostly stripped of any gore, work as well as they do to show the horrors of war with the help of the design of the bleak trenches and No Man’s Land.

JARED

As anyone who has seen my room may attest, aesthetically pleasing spaces are maybe not so much my forte.  Being a war movie may have made War Horse a shoo-in, but I found the sets merely adequate.  Similarly, nothing in particular stood out for me with Midnight in Paris.  Though I suppose big and bold is what tends to get my attention in this category, and that may not be fair.  Speaking of bid and bold, though, this Harry Potter was the first that I’ve seen.  The wide range of locations were really impressive, but I wonder if maybe people are conflating their love of the series with admiration for the art direction.

I love many things about The Artist, and the scenery is certainly up there.  I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but putting together a modern take on an old-timey look isn’t easy, and the crew pulled it off with style.  In particular, I’m thinking of the movie sets and scenes at the studios, which felt wonderfully alive.

Infringing on Brian’s turf here, but I think Hugo is my pick here.  I’m a big enough man to admit that even though I disliked much about the film, creating the world of the train station was really something special.  From the inner workings where Hugo lived to the bookstore, to the wide open concourses, the film established a magical, vivid world.  And Ben Kingsley’s film set was pretty neat too.

BRIAN

Hugo

ADAM

Midnight in Paris

 

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Sound Editing

The nominees are:

  • Drive Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ren Klyce
  • Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • War Horse, Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

And also:

Sound Mixing

The nominees are:

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
  • Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
  • Moneyball, Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco and Ed Novick
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
  • War Horse, Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

JOHN

Sound Editing is basically sound effects and do you know what had great sound effects? Drive. I’ve seen plenty of movie car chases in my day, but the sounds of a car engine have never made an impression on me like they did here. It made me want to go out and drive! I saw Drive about five months ago and I still think of it when I’m driving and the engine revs. But it’s not all mechanical noises here. Another one that made quite an impression on me is the sound of Ryan Gosling’s leather driving gloves and their creaks as he pulls them on or adjusts his hands on the wheel.

Sound Mixing is the mix of all audio elements of a film: dialogue, music, ADR, sound effects. People who have actual knowledge of the subject sayMoneyball has a great mix. But I think I’ll plump for Transformers. It sure has a lot of sound! But I was also struck with how it isn’t overwhelming. The dialogue remains clear even in the busiest action sequences while the music is complementary: notable but not overwhelming. Plus it would be nice to see Greg P Russell finally win an Oscar on his fifteenth try. The film would probably also make a good fit in the Sound Editing category for all those mechanical noises.

Something that crossed my mind during the big Chicago shoot-out at the end of Transformers is what would happen if they went for more realistic sounds as buildings crash and Transformers clang around? We think we know what disasters sound like from seeing so many movies, but think about footage from true disasters like 9/11 or the Japanese tsunami. The sounds are not like the movies and they are horrifying. An action movie should try it some day, unless they are worried about freaking people out for being too real.

The real best sound mixing of the year is Hanna. Truth be told, I’m kind of excited just to have an actual favorite sound mix. Since when does that happen? Anyway, Hanna has a great audio design with, like the rest of the movie, a bit of flair. They really put the thumping Chemical Brothers score to great use.

Hugo, War Horse, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all got nominations in both categories. I can see Tattoo for Mixing while war films generally do well in sound categories, but I don’t get Hugo. How about some Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

JARED

Sound just isn’t something I notice terribly often.  So if I really had to pull for someone, I’d probably go with what the guilds went for.  The MPSE honored War Horse for Sound Effects and Super 8 for Dialogue and ADR.  I will make the case, though, for Transformers.  That movie is pure eye and ear candy.  The Michael Bay conversation probably isn’t appropriate here, but to me, those movies are all whiz-crack-bang-boom, and that isn’t a bad thing.  Sound plays rather heavily into that sugar symphony, but it never gets distracting, just a natural part of the metallic cacophony.

ADAM

Transformers for both.

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

This time we are going to talk about Score.

Music (Original Score)

The nominees are:

  • The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
  • The Artist, Ludovic Bource
  • Hugo, Howard Shore
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
  • War Horse, John Williams

BRIAN

I enjoyed many of the scores that came out this year and am generally pleased with this crop of nominees. I’d have liked for there to have been room for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ work on The Social Network was stronger, but their collaboration was a good match for Lisbeth Salander’s detached perserverance. Other good scores: X-Men: First Class and Super 8. (I’m a sucker for Michael Giacchino’s work)

On to the nominees (with an interesting note — only the film names are included on the ballot, not the composers):

John Williams for Tin Tin and War Horse: Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Tin Tin, so my knowledge of this score comes solely from YouTube audio streams. I’m guessing if I saw it I’d have stronger feelings, but what I heard didn’t sound very adventurous or exciting. Williams’ composition for War Horse was one of the high points of the much-maligned (unnecessarily, honestly) film. He transposed an Irish jig tune into a moving theme that popped up throughout the movie. It’s not Williams’ fault that the movie itself was overlong and melodramatic, but the score fit the tone well.

Howard Shore for Hugo. I loved this movie for many reasons, and Shore’s score helps it along. But where Williams’ War Horse succeeds by infusing what the audience knows (an Irish motif) with something new, Shore’s Hugo fails by being too close to the cliched Parisian cafe tones. The multiple train station characters were enough of a reminder of what I loved about Amelie — the music made it just too much.

Alberto Iglesias for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: This nominee is probably my least favorite of the bunch, though my criticisms of it are also the same I have of the movie itself: too plodding and sparse, not enough tension. Giving it a 2nd and 3rd listen don’t bring back any visceral memories of watching the film — no specific memories or callbacks. A good score should at least do that.

And my pick for winner, which I think will be the Academy’s as well, is Ludovic Bource’s phenomenal work for The Artist  Just consider how much heavy lifting the score had to do to keep the action moving. There were at least 2 or 3 distinct reoccurring themes that had as much personality as the characters each represented. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mock Kim Novak for her bizarre tirade against Bource’s sampling of Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo. The absurdity of it makes me think that she may be mentally ill, so I won’t dwell on it or mock Novak for it, but the homage was far from “rape.” I thought it was a great wink-and-nudge for the film buffs in the audience. The Artist gets pretty bleak in parts, and theVertigo score was used well. Now if it had been used in The Hangover Part II, then maybe Novak would have something to stand on.

JOHN

Original Score is an interesting category because who I want to win and who should win are a bit different. The best of the nominees is John Williams for The Adventures of Tintin. It’s the right amount of playfulness for the fun motion-captured/animated adventure flick and it’s consistently complementary without overwhelming the rest of the film. That’s not the case with Williams’s other nomination, for War Horse. That score is more quintessentially Williams and overbearing. That dude knows how to hammer home a swell in the music and it becomes way too much.

But Williams already has five Oscars and this is a fairly insular branch. It’s good for everyone to spread the love around a bit in this category. I would probably vote for Alberto Iglesias’s work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a string-heavy, understated yet tension-building work. I think The Artist will win and I wonder if that’s partly because there’s just so much music. The score is the dialogue and is therefore very noticeable. But is any of it really memorable? Don’t get me wrong, it complements the film well and has a nice period-appropriate style. I just hope voters have the right motives.

I’ve heard a lot of good music in movies this year, even if they didn’t always qualify as original scores for the Oscars. The Tree of Life uses music marvelously though much of it was not original to the film. Other great uses of music include the electronic scores in Hanna and Attack the Block and the colder but still terrific Contagion and Drive. Music went a long way to establishing the disturbing atmospheres of Shame and The Skin I Live In.

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here!  Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small.  We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before.  On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

This time we are going to talk about Cinematography and Film Editing.

Cinematography

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
  • Hugo, Robert Richardson
  • The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
  • War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

JOHN

When I saw War Horse, I thought it was being projected incorrectly. Particularly in the opening act as our remarkable horse is mucking about in the mud, the lighting is so bizarre that I thought it looked like a sound stage. It turns out they were specifically going for an old-fashioned visual style and lit accordingly. But, well, it’s not for me. I understand that shooting in black and white requires some special considerations from equipment to lighting and The Artist certainly has some visual flair, so I suppose I won’t begrudge its nomination. Dragon Tattoo and Hugo both look great, though the 3D was sort of a miss for me in the latter, but The Tree of Life really takes this in a walk. Even though it drives my colleagues nuts, the bulk of the film is a stream of exquisitely crafted shots. Lightbeams, clouds, reflections. A little meandering, but gorgeous! It’s really just a visual delight. And while I know that’s all part of Malick’s style, DP Emmanuel Lubezki still captured those images and they aren’t the delicate, crisp visuals that they are without him.

ADAM

As much as it pains me to say it, The Tree of Life should win Cinematography (if for no other reason than it shouldn’t even be considered a “movie” without the fantastic camera shots).

JARED

There are differing schools of thought on just how invisible good cinematography should be, but I think everyone can agree that great cinematography shouldn’t be distracting.  Well, everyone save for Janusz Kaminski, apparently.  His shots may be pretty, but they are so repeatedly in your face, demanding you acknowledge their beauty.  If I were to guess, it seems like there were a few specific shots that locked in his nomination here, and I would have edited every single one out for taking away from the film.  The cold, gray feel of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems rather appropriate, though I’m not sure anything stands out in particular.  Here’s some thoughts from Robert Richardson, cinematographer for Hugo, on the film.  I’m not sure if it is fair or not, but I’m docking the film some for the 3D here.  If Hugo represents the new frontier of 3D movies, then to me, 3D is dead.  Here’s an interview with Guilluame Schiffman, cinematographer of The Artist.  I was struck by how the film managed to look both old and new.  It is impressive to end up not looking like a replica, or a parody, of old black and white films while still feeling like it was something more than someone just hit the switch for black and white.  Schiffman talks about light in the interview, and I really liked the lighting of the scenes just before the fire.  In the end, though, if John and Adam can agree on something, seems like I’m going to be with them.  Whatever my thoughts on The Tree of Life as a movie, it seems impossible to argue against the cinematography.  The shots were, yes, beautiful and memorable and exquisite.  But they did all that while feeling so essential to the movie as a whole.

BRIAN

I wish I knew more about how the film industry, the production aspect essentially. I don’t wholly understand how to split out film editing from directing from cinematography from each other. Who makes specific decisions on how to film a particular scene or splice a set of scenes together? Who should I really be giving credit to? Hopefully, the Oscar voters themselves know how to divvy up the credit, but I’m probably giving them too much credence. No matter, I’ll use this space to offer the first in a series of why Hugo is my favorite movie of the year.

I have seen two movies that give me hope for the future of 3D technology: Avatar and Hugo. The former bombarded me with visual awe, in part because that’s what James Cameron does and in part to obscure the weaknesses in plot and character development (also what James Cameron does). But Hugo uses the technology to create the atmospherics surrounding Hugo the character. The opening sequence especially threw me into the world of early-20th-century Paris — first the snow that appeared to be falling on my feet and then the journey through the clock gears of the Montparnasse station. The movie itself is a mash note to the early days of film and the imaginative spirit of the industry’s pioneers – and Scorsese and his team created a film that the Georges Melieses of the world would have made had the technology existed. I was enthralled by the film for multiple reasons, but the aesthetics made me yearn to be a part of Hugo’s world.

As for the other nominees, I’d also be pleased to see recognition for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Artist, as both also built a world in which even if I don’t want to visit it (those Scandanavians are scary!), I feel as though I understand the types of characters who live there.

MoneyballWar HorseThe Descendants and Tree of Life — all of them leave me cold and uninterested.

Film Editing

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
  • The Descendants, Kevin Tent
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Moneyball, Christopher Tellefson

JOHN

Film Editing is an interesting category, partly because I’m not sure I’d always be able to tell a well edited film! The Artist, Hugo, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all had bloat issues. I know that’s not all editing; it’s not the editors’ fault that the script for Dragon Tattoo calls for a story that just refuses to end. On the other hand, I had significant problems with The Descendants and Moneyball but still found them slickly edited. The visual style of Moneyball gives a film about numbers some flash. The segues between scenes are something I definitely noticed on a second viewing. I suppose I pick The Descendants as my winner for its tonal balancing act. The dramatic parts don’t become over the top and the comedic parts are nicely balanced by pathos. Yes, that’s also parts writing, acting, and directing, but hitting the right beats and matching with the right shots are all within the Editing realm.

Snubs: To me, the master Editing work of the year is in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In such a dense, non-stop story, the editing needs to be precise to keep it all coherent. But this is also a film that keeps its revelations understated, allowing the audience to figure things out for itself. With that in mind, editing is key. A shot lingers just long enough to register who that character is out in the courtyard or to note that there’s something odd with one man’s shoes. It’s always just enough to tease without hammering its points home.

JARED

I feel completely out of my depth when talking about editing, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ve found the article I’ve read on the discipline fascinating, but it kinda seems that without knowledge of the script and total footage the editor had to work with, bestowing honors is something of a crapshoot.  I’m going with Moneyball.  I had a number of problems with the movie, one of which was some of the weird scenes that felt out of place from the standpoint of the story.  But these stylistic touches, or flashes to statistics from a computer, or video from a baseball all felt like they organically flowed, and I’m going to chalk that up to the editing.

It wasn’t very good.

I’ll have more to say later, but with people looking for any reaction they can find to War Horse I figured I may as well get mine out there.

It does have some really neat war scenes. But it’s PG-13 so there’s no blood, sapping it of realism. How is it supposed to really make an honest connection when the fighting scenes look like they come out of The Mummy? Imagine the inhospitable no man’s land, the terror in a soldier’s eyes as he wills himself to cross it… and bodies cartoonishly flailing and yelling “ahh!” as they crumple bloodlessly to the ground.

Not that this is my biggest complaint, but it’s one that’s easy to explain and requires no more consideration.

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