I’m no film critic – I don’t have the film-studies background to be able to dissect a film – but I do know what I like and why I like it. And I figure, since I’m doing this push to see the Oscar nominees, I might as well share my thoughts on the films I’m seeing. Two more films last night:
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
I’m well-aware that director Terry Gilliam isn’t for everyone. He has a wonky view of the world and I personally find that charming, but from what I gather, many others find it off-putting. Oh well, there’s no accounting for taste. Problem is, his films only work when he can channel his askew view of the world into a film that tells a coherent story (Brazil, 12 Monkeys). His last film – Tideland – didn’t, and it was a hot mess. Thankfully, while it’s not perfect, this film marks a return to form for Gilliam.
Junkii was disappointed in the quality of the CGI, but that was a minor concern for me. The CGI looked somewhat cartoonish, but I thought that worked well enough in what is essentially a fantastical film. The only real problem I had with it was that the climax felt rushed and, while it delivered the story in the end, it was kind of muddled. Otherwise, it was entertaining, (mostly) well-paced, and definitely well acted (other than Verne “mini me” Troyer), with a good sense of humour about itself. Heath Ledger was very good, as were his stand-ins Johnny Depp, and Jude law, although Colin Farrel fell a bit short. It’s only been nominated for a couple of visual categories – Costumes and Art Direction – and those are valid nominations, even though it won’t likely win anything. And I won’t be disappointed by that. My advice: know yourself. If you like Gilliam, see it. If you don't, stay away.
This might be another case of personal tastes. I love musicals. But a lot of people are really put off by them. I know my colleague Marie has never been able to get all the way through Moulin Rouge! for instance. And with that knowledge in hand, I will not recommend this film to her. Not that it’s the same as Moulin Rouge! – it’s not quite so frenetic – but it does have a visual flair that is comparable.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this film. I wasn’t familiar with the musical that it’s based on. Turns out I didn’t need to worry. The music is great and the visual style is wonderful, with each number having a completely unique look and feel – one in grainy black and white, one in gorgeous over-saturated reds, one with a 60s go-go feel, one with a french cabaret feel… you get the idea. Visually it was stunning, and I’m surprised it didn’t get a nod for cinematography. I do hope it got a nod for lighting in the technical awards because it really was beautiful to watch.
But what about the story? Well, there’s wasn’t really much of a story, but this is more a character piece – how a famous Italian film director has been/continues to be influenced by the women in his life. And it does the job marvelously – with each woman playing her part better than the last. Penelope Cruz was fantastic (and deserves her best supporting nomination) but Marion Cotillard was better and should have been on the best Actress list. Daniel Day was good too and would have been a better choice than Morgan Freeman, but maybe that's just me.
My advice: don’t go in expecting an intricate narrative and, as long as you like musicals, you won’t be disappointed. Glad I didn't listen to the IMDB reviews on this one. 6.6/10? Come on. This deserves better.