Sunday, January 11, 2015

Into the Woods

Directed by Rob Marshall. Written by James Lapine (Screenplay/Musical).  Starring Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Daniel Huttlestone (Jack), James Cordon (Baker), Emily Blunt (Baker’s Wife), Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood), Meryl Streep (Witch).

Bottom line: Into the Woods is pretty ok, then again, I’m not the biggest fan of musicals but I will add that Meryl Streep is fantastic.

Into the Woods is a retelling of classic fairy tales: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Rapunzel. These stories are intertwined by way of a baker and wife who desperately want to reverse the witch’s curse that prevents them from having a family. The baker and his wife have to collect five items (one from each of the fairy tale characters): “the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold.” The movie ultimately asks what is the cost of their desire? Are they willing, for example, to swindle a poor boy by giving him beans for his cow? Is life “Good versus Evil” like the fairy tales of old?

Into the Woods is one of those movies where your enjoyment is bound to your attitude towards its style. The base value is “good.” If you love musicals add a point. If you merely like musicals add half a point. If you hate musicals subtract half a point.

The cinematography is reasonable. There’s a lot of smooth transitioning between shots making the images flow with the songs. The film’s world feels less like a world and more of a collection of positions in which one sings.

One of the benefits of seeing the film as opposed to the play is the casting. Meryl Streep – must I say more? She’s amazing. She’s always amazing. Emily Blunt plays a wonderful baker’s wife.  She pairs off well with James Gordon who plays her husband. Anna Kendrick’s performance as Cinderella is good too.

Overall, it feels like your standard fair musical. If you saw the play and enjoyed it, you’ll most likely enjoy this rendition. Naturally, if you didn’t enjoy the play, I’d be surprised if you are even reading this far but, just in case, to you, I wouldn’t recommend it. My above number assignment of two out of four is colored (despite my best efforts) by my general dislike of musicals. I think one of the things that bothers me is that a lot of the songs are almost all good. That is, more than half of each individual song I like; one verse might flow in a way that I like but the following verse I don't and the verse that I don't like is the one that gets stuck in my head!

I haven’t seen all of the 1991 Broadway production of Into the Woods but from what I’ve seen it’s really close. That isn’t surprising once I looked at the credits. The writer of the musical also wrote the screenplay. The question I ask is, “does the play translate to the screen well?” Is it even fair to make the comparison between the play and the film? After all, a film is a film and a play is a play. Apples and Oranges and the like. Then again, it might be worthwhile to determine why I have a tendency to dislike musicals.

I believe it has something to do with my early experiences with musicals. The one that sticks out most in my mind is Oliver! (1968). It was a big budget production with singing and dancing. It was a turbulent experience because as soon as you hear the music, strap in – you’re going to be here for a while. Within the first seconds you can probably tell if you are going to like the song and, for your sake, you’d better because after the lengthy song comes a dancing sequence to that music.

It is exhausting.

I am, however, totally down to watch a play and I think it is because it’s a live performance. That is, the actors get tired. The song and dance can’t physically go on forever. In a film, the characters have unlimited endurance so they can sing and dance forever. This threat of song and dance gives me an ever-present sense of dread in movie-musicals.

What do you think? Do you like musicals? Did you see and enjoy Into the Woods? Leave a comment or send me a message; I’d love to talk about it more! Thanks for reading!

2015 Golden Globe Picks!

Tonight is the 2015 Golden Globe Awards Ceremony!
Here is a list of my picks for the winners. I ought to note that I haven't seen the majority of these movies so I'm going on the very little information that I've heard and what little I know about the movies. That's just a disclaimer just in case I'm totally off. I'm also just going to comment on the movies.

Best Motion Picture, Drama
  • Boyhood - My Pick, Won
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything

My pick: Boyhood. It's a feat in filmmaking and it's getting 100% on Metacritic, which is incredible.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
  • Julianne Moore (Still Alice) -  My Pick, Won
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
  • Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
  • Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
  • Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

My pick: Julianne Moore. I was going to say Rosamund Pike or Felicity Jones but, after looking at their previous work, I'm going to go with Moore. I have heard more positive things about The Theory of Everything than Gone Girl and I haven't heard much at all about Still Alice but we'll see.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
  • Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) - My Pick, Won
  • Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
  • David Oyelowo (Selma)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

My pick: Eddie Redmayne. I have heard great things about Redmayne's performance. Steve Carell? Nah. Benedict Cumberbatch or Jake Gyllenhall? Not this time. I haven't heard that much about Selma to pick David Oyelowo.

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
  • Into The Woods
  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel - My Pick, Won
  • St. Vincent
  • Pride

My pick: The Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved it…although I've heard a lot of really great things about Birdman.

Best Actress In A Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
  • Julianne Moore (Maps To The Stars)
  • Amy Adams (Big Eyes) - My Pick, Won
  • Emily Blunt (Into The Woods)
  • Helen Mirren (The Hundred Foot Journey)
  • Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie)

My pick: I think it will come down to Amy Adams or Emily Blunt. I love their performances in Big Eyes and Into the Woods, respectively. I'm going to go with Amy Adams.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
  • Michael Keaton (Birdman) - My Pick, Won
  • Bill Murray (St. Vincent)
  • Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice)

My pick: I'm going to go with Michael Keaton in Birdman. I loved Ralph Fiennes but I don't think the role in The Grand Budapest Hotel quite has all the variety to push him to victory.

Best Animated Feature Film
  • The Lego Movie - My Kinda Pick
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2 - Won
  • Big Hero 6 - My Kinda Pick
  • The Book of Life
  • The Boxtrolls

My pick: I suspect it will be either The Lego Movie or Big Hero 6. My goodness The Boxtrolls had better not win. I wrote a post about it, if you are interested.

Edit: In retrospect, I realize that I didn't actually make a pick. I suppose it was more an anti-pick against The Boxtrolls.

Best Foreign Language Film
  • Ida - My Pick
  • Force Majeure
  • Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
  • Tangerines
  • Leviathan - Won

My pick: I bet it comes down to the WWII Ida or the more currently topical Force Majeure. I'm putting my money on Ida. On another note, are the Best Foreign Language Films always so serious? We've got a WWII movie set in Poland, a woman trying to escape a destructive marriage, the war in Georgia, and corruption. Sheesh. Not that I'm criticizing serious topics or anything, I wonder if it's an indication that the only way a foreign movie might be considered "the best" would be to take the serious route. I think I will go check out previous nominees to see.

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
  • Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) - Won
  • Meryl Streep (Into The Woods) - My Pick
  • Emma Stone (Birdman)

My pick: Meryl Streep. She was wonderful and then there's always the fact that she is Meryl Streep. 

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) - My Pick
  • Robert Duvall (The Judge)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) - Won
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

My pick: I'm thinking Ethan Hawke because Boyhood is allegedly so great and he isn't competing with Meryl Streep. 

Best Director - Motion Picture
  • Ava DuVernay (Selma)
  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)
  • David Fincher (Gone Girl)
  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood) - My Pick, Won

My pick: Richard Linklater because of the orchestration required for Boyhood.

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo (Birdman) - Won
  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood) - My Pick
  • Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)

My pick: I'm thinking Boyhood is going to sweep so Boyhood is my pick for this category. 

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
  • Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game)
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory Of Everything) - Won
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)
  • Antonio Sanchez (Birdman)
  • Hans Zimmer (Interstellar) - My Pick

My pick: I'm going to go with Hans Zimmer, if for no other reason than his previous work.

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
  • Big Eyes
  • Selma - My Pick, Won
  • Noah
  • Annie
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

My pick: John Legend and Common's song from Selma. You can listen to all of the songs on this page if you too didn't know them.

All right, there you have it - my picks for the 2015 Golden Globes. I'll come back to this to do a retrospective in the near future.
But, what do you think? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
Thanks for reading!

Edit: Alright: eight out of fourteen. Not quite spot on at all but I'm content. I believe it was my Oscar picks from last year were all completely wrong. Yay for progress!

The awards made me feel that I should watch Boyhood, Birdman, and How To Train Your Dragon 2. I was particularly surprised by the animated award. I, incorrectly, assumed that a sequel couldn't possibly be much good, let alone Golden Globe worthy. Then again, it wasn't that good but it was marginally better than the other animated movies for this year.