BAM Best Picture Profile: Inception (2010)

Introduction

After my series of posts on Django Unchained which began with a translation and then spawned my own posts I wanted to have posts for all my Best Picture winners. Therefore, I decided to revisit those I’ve not written about here.

NOTE: 2009’s Best Picture Where the Wild Things Are was reviewed here, therefore skipped in this retrospective.

Inception (2010)

One theme that I can’t help but notice in my Best Picture winners is that in quite a few of them there’s been a sense of anticipation. Now, on the flip side there will be just as many, I wager, that took me completely by surprise, but quite a few I saw coming ahead of time.

On the Site That Must Not Be Named, in part because there was an impetus there to write about breaking news, I wrote a piece about Inception prior to its release.

Christopher Nolan’s upcoming movie Inception seems like it might be another mind-bender in very much the same vein, perhaps, of Memento and The Prestige but to the nth degree. It is described by its logline as: ““a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.” The plot is still rumored at this point and is under a cloud of quasi-Spielbergian secrecy. There are clues to it complexity though, as Nolan has been quoted as saying that it is “the biggest challenge” he has faced.

The cast is not only studded with stars but with talent featuring the likes of: Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine and stars Leonardo DiCaprio who has the most telling quote about the film’s complexity saying in the Inquirer:

“The material and its complexity are what I’m attracted to…I’ve been lucky to work with people who want to tell stories that hit on different cylinders simultaneously. ‘Shutter Island’ is definitely that. ‘Inception’ is the same. It is Chris delving into dream psychoanalysis and, at the same time, making a high-octane, surreal film that came from his mind. He wrote the entire thing and it all made sense to him. It didn’t make sense to many of us when we were doing it. We had to do a lot of detective work (laughing) to figure out what the movie was about.”

Sounds like it should be one of the more intriguing summer releases and perhaps even more apropos for the fall.

One thing that that piece doesn’t mention is something that could only be realized when the film was released, and something that was only hammered home when I read the published version of the screenplay: in the introduction Christopher Nolan discussed how he wanted to do a film about dreams but what he needed was a recognizable mechanism to convey the story and make it accessible. So what he ended up finding was a heist film model. And the heist scene is one of my favorite parts no doubt, even though some of the parts fall into that new-age that’s-not-a-plothole style dialogue.

One thing that really impressed me was how small a film, how much less impressive this film was on blu-ray when I revisited it. It surely is a meant-to-be viewed on the big screen experience. In the end my thoughts from 2010 have not changed much in hindsight.

You will rarely if ever see such an audacious combination of high concept and highbrow. Typically, a film dealing in dreams is too busy being aloof to tell a coherent much less have an intelligent storyline. Nolan’s film is not, in my mind, overly-concerned with trying to confound quite on the contrary one of the few negatives you could say about it is that it is very concerned with making sure the audience is still holding on tight almost as if the subtext of certain lines of dialogue is “Are you still with me here?”

Yet it manages to impart its information in a way that is not overly-expository, we never learn what’s eating at Cobb all at once. In fact, we don’t know there is anything for some time. An important point is danced around in one scene and cleverly revealed later. A character unaccustomed to the world of dream espionage is the vessel through which we learn.

Inception takes a wild vision of the future and makes it seem mundane and doesn’t make a spectacle of itself but slowly builds a world and a narrative. It’s a blur slowly coming into focus and with each ratchet towards clarity more and more meaning can be inferred. It is a grandiose tale told in the intimacy of the psyche of its characters. It’s a tale that reduces large concepts into characters that dresses as a heist film only to shed that skin and reveal something even more appealing.

Yet through all its brashness, pomp and circumstance there is a deft hand at the controls of this tale too. It is a film that does hint at larger meanings that travels through the catacombs of the mind and makes you consider if you are reminded of someone… a man you met in a half-remembered dream.

Advertisements

BAM Best Picture Award Profile: Let the Right One In (2008)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Let the Right One In (2008)

Not that long before Twilight descended on the world Let the Right One In crept up on the United States in limited release. And I’m fairly sure that I got to see it before I subjected myself to that first work that purports to be a New Age vampire tale. Let the Right One In concerns a bullied boy, Oskar, who finds a most unusual ally, Eli, and is a film that’s surgically precise and brainy enough for viewers of all ages; demanding rather than seeking serious consideration and easily sustaining gravitas.

There are a lot of things that stand out about this film, not the least of which is that it was my first introduction to the work of John Ajvide Lindqvist. He’s the latest Swedish literary sensation and the most recent, most naturally presumed successor to the horror in commonplace crown that the still-alive-and-kicking Stephen King wears so well. I’ve not yet read this book, but I’ve read Lindqvist since this time and plan to continue doing so. What’s evidenced in this film is not just Alfredson’s fine direction (which is re-iterated in his follow-up Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) but also the quality and depth of Alqvist’s narrative.

Another testament to this tale that I can cite without even delving into the picture itself too deeply is the fact that this is one of the few foreign films of any ilk, much less one in the horror genre, that has spawned an American remake that comes anywhere near having the same tonal quality, emotional complexity, and performances on par with the original. Yes, as I cite in my review, Matt Reeves and crew get full marks for their Americanization, but the bones are there and if well-reproduced can create an engaging tale in almost any nation and language.

Getting down to the film in an of itself perhaps the most brilliant thing about this film is indeed the balance and the unusual co-existence of so many seemingly disparate elements. You have in this film horror and a coming-of-age, however, they co-exist in such a way that it’s not gimmickry or even overt commentary on either state of being. The given parameters of the situation complement each other so perfectly that once you’re eased in to the tale it seems like the most natural combination in the world.

Then you, of course, have the performances of Lina Leandersson and Kåre Hedebrant who have to play two very opposite characters and come to a mutual understanding. Leandersson is guarded, as one in her condition must be, and carefully examines her new friend to see if, in fact, he is the right one that must be let in. Hedebrant’s natural sensitivity allow him to convey a state or near perpetual petrification that is usually broken only by his fascination with his new friend and neighbor.

All this reasoning aside there is a moment, usually a more enigmatic, intangible one wherein a film’s Best Picture status makes itself clear; something I feel right in my gut. With this film it was the fact that, for the first time since early childhood, I was watching a movie I literally didn’t want to see the end of. That’s a kind of magic that’s hard to capture, but this film had the right elements in place, and a proper pace to make such a thought possible.

There are a few rarities and a first in this selection: although the second in a row, a foreign language film isn’t often my Best Picture, and as much as I love horror, it’s the only horror film to have claimed the top prize. Here’s hoping both those categories are represented again. If they are in the same film odds are Alqvist will have something to do with it.

BAM Best Picture Award Profile: Day Watch (2007)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Day Watch (2006)

Firstly, it must be said that I cannot recommend you go out and see Day Watch unless you’ve seen Night Watch first. Yes, this is a sequel. In a way similar to what occurred in 2002 this is a sequel that is a game-changer. However, while Attack of the Clones merely changed Star Wars in my eyes, giving me a glimmer of what it is that drew the fanbase; The game-changing here is completely narrative-based. I cannot get too deeply into except to say that it’s a second installment that not only trumps the first entirely, but also sets the table for almost anything and everything to happen in the third.

Now the bittersweet follow-up to that sentiment is that the third installment, at least on film, may never come. The films are based on a trilogy of novels by Russian authors Sergey Lukyanenko and Vladimir Vasiliev. As best as I can tell co-writer and director Timur Bekmambetov still has ahold of the rights. While I was tempted to be mad at him for coming to the US and directing and producing things I either didn’t like or had no interest in seeing, I read a while back that one of the hold-ups was that financiers wanted to make a third installment in English, which I am against. If that’s the case I applaud the holding out.

Leading me to my next point that if you do seek these films out do so by watching with the original audio. I’ll not bash dubbing all the time, but when it’s bad it’s awful and the dubbing here is the worse. Aside from the fact that you hear the actors speak in the Russian language version you also get some of the most creative implementation of subtitles that you’re likely to see. The text floats about where it makes the most sense for it to be, the lettering is stylized and dynamic and is every bit as much an artistic statement .

At its very core, when boiled down to a bare minimum, yes this is a narrative like others you’ve heard of before. The series is a tale of the eternal unseen battle between forces of darkness and light in a very literal way. However, it’s the adornments, the style and the production that give the films their added flair and meaning. It’s also not a film whose cultural setting is inconsequential, which is a large part of why an English-language follow-up would be a mistake, being a Russian story very much factors into this film.

This was the first year my awards went to 10 Best Picture nominees. I cited it as not being a very strong year at the time, but the top couple of films were quite memorable. Even if this series never sees completion this is quite a way to go.

BAM Best Picture Profile: Wah-Wah (2006)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Wah-Wah (2006)

In many of these recaps I discussed my pre-life with the film. In some cases they were either adaptations of stories I already knew rather well, or that I had anticipated for some time. I had no idea Wah-Wah was coming or even existed until right before I saw it. There was a review for it in the weekend section of the Philadelphia Inquirer and I decided to head out and see it based on that.

The last time I’d seen Nicholas Hoult onscreen prior to this film was in the marvelous About a Boy, which made a rather significant dent in the 2002 BAM Awards. This tale is a bit different but one I was drawn to nonetheless. Being perhaps the most obscure title I’ve ever selected as Best Picture I will cite an IMDb synopsis.

Set at the end of the ’60s, as Swaziland is about to receive independence from Great Britain, the film follows the young Ralph Compton, at 12, through his parents’ traumatic separation, till he’s 14. It is written and directed by Richard E. Grant, and based on true events from Richard E. Grant’s childhood.

So you have a few things at work here: although playing off two completely different cultures, I could certainly relate to the story of a British boy growing up in Swaziland. As a dual-dual citizen there is a that sense of belonging in two places that’s a commonality. With the impending independence there’s also the perfect backdrop for a coming-of-age tale. The feeling of ex-empire underscore Harry’s (Gabriel Byrne) feelings of inadequacy. The family and their situation are viewed with perfect clarity by Ruby, Harry’s new wife, played brilliantly by Emily Watson, who vocalizes the film’s title as an imitation of the family’s complaining. Alongside them is Miranda Richardson, as Ralph’s (Hoult) mother, and Julie Walters, too, as a neighbor.

In preparing this write-up I read on the IMDb page that this was the first film ever to be shot in Swaziland, which is certainly an interesting footnote. Of course, one of the great things about cinema is that it can take you places and underscore things you had never really considered before. The liberation from colonization of Africa had many ramifications and permutations and this is just one of them. It’s also a wonderful means of personal expression, of course, and that’s where this film succeeds. It’s not run-of-the-mill but it does put you as a viewer in a position to identify with situations even though the world you’re witnessing is not of this time and not your own.

Wah-Wah is a captivating, funny, heart-rending family drama and coming of age story that is one not much talked about that’s just waiting for you to discover it.

BAM Best Picture Profile- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia is another series that I have a long history with. I presume it must’ve been The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe that was a book read aloud when I was in a Montessori grade school. We later saw the BBC animated rendition of that book at least (if not more of them- and it’s a far less frightening animated version than their take on The Hobbit). I don’t recall ever revisiting the books, or continuing the series in my childhood.

Then when the first film version was due out naturally the books became more prominently displayed in stores again. I seized the opportunity (as films have been known to occasionally act as catalysts to me reading) to acquire the omnibus presentation of the entire series in the now-preferred reading order; the one first suggested to Lewis by a young reader named Laurence. Since I commuted quite a bit at the time, and it was the end of the semester, I had quite a bit more free time on my hands. I ended up reading the entire series in a weeks’ time, at least one of the books being the ever-so-rare re-read.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (2005, Disney)

This had to be less than one month prior to the release of the film. Therefore, I was quite ready for it. However, I was not expecting what I ended up getting. Firstly, as I’ve highlighted before distance between the reading of a book and then seeing the film can be a great, even a beneficial thing. It leaves you less encumbered by the facts and more willing to accept a tonally true version. So the film had that against it rather than for it.

I ended up finding myself very engaged and enthralled by the vision of this land presented in a way I’d not seen, nor ever imagined. Perhaps more so than in any other book in the series, Wardrobe focuses on a character’s struggles with temptations and greed. In the “Pevensie Tales” it is Edmund who is the most layered and interesting and it is in this story, through the writing, directing and rendition by Skandar Keynes that he fully, vibrantly comes to life. Alongside him is one of the more brilliantly portrayed antagonists in recent memory – Tilda Swinton’s White Witch.

It’s reflecting back on this film this year that lead me to a truth: I cannot cite thinly-veiled propaganda or allegory alone as a dismissal of a film; films both good and bad can be hung with that label. I say that because the Biblical allusions in the series, this installment especially, are fairly overt. However, what’s at the core of the tale are things far more universal and eternal: basic values and human struggles that are not unique to those of the Christian faith. It just seems these books/films take a lot of backlash (especially via ridiculous comparison to the works of Tolkien and friend and rival of Lewis’) as if they were some Bible-thumping bore. Whereas I’m rather sure the same fundamentalists appalled by Harry Potter, don’t take to kindly to talking beasts; especially a godly one (symbol or not).

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe was another late-in-the-year jolt to my awards picture. It was the beginning of what, most certainly behind-the-scenes, has been a long and most unusual journey. The series through three films has seen two studios, and now survives based on its international grosses. The fourth film, The Silver Chair, has a green light, a writer, a new production company and potentially a new studio (that remains to be seen). This was the start, and even in my fandom, I admit Prince Caspian was a letdown, but think the series righted itself. Now as it awaits its next port I still look back on this installment with the greatest of fondness; not just for bringing a treasured childhood tale to life, but to the cast for making the Penvesies more engaging and vibrant than I could have imagined.

BAM Best Picture Profile: Mean Creek (2004)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Mean Creek (2004)

There are a few things that can be said concerning the viewing of this film, considering what the IMDb cites as its release date, and the fact that I know I saw it at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York upon its release; I can fairly guess that this was what is as close to a birthday movie as I had in 2004.

As opposed to some prior titles, this is not one that I had anticipated for a very long time, but one that I ad heard of in indie film previews of the coming summer slate.

In casting terms there are a few things of note in this film: One of the more notable appearances in the film is that or Rory Culkin. Aside from his participation in Signs there was not really a very noteworthy credit on his resume yet. Certainly nothing with the teeth this film has.

And teeth, in a figurative sense, is what this film comes down to. In a prescient plot Mean Creek deals with a group of kids who trick a bully into going on a boat ride, the situation and the fallout thereof allows each of the characters to show their true colors and different reactions to the moral dilemmas faced.

The film also deals enigmatically with the bully, in perhaps one of the strongest demonstrations of just how hard it is to get inside someone’s head. The bully in this case played by Josh Peck. This a departure for him at the time as he had just finished up his time on The Amanda Show and was about to being Drake & Josh; and it remains his best work to date.

Not only amongst these kids do you have one actor playing completely against his type but you also have a revelatory kind of performance and a mind-changing one: The revelation in this film is the work of Ryan Kelley, he playing one of the characters on the more sensitive side of the spectrum (in another great tough he’s the adopted child of a same sex couple, while that it not the focus of the film). This was the first in a string of a few great performances from him. The mind-changer being the performance of Carly Schroeder. Who at this point I only knew from her work on Lizzie Maguire. Her character on that show was supposed to be on the annoying side, but it was not standout work she did there.

Jacob Aaron Estes

Jacob Aaron Estes

These casting choices and performances owe a lot to writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes who not only imbues this film with a great situation rife with dramatic possibility and ripe for the character development that ensues, who placed his trust in this young cast and they delivered in spades. Had I had parity in my award categories at this time Mean Creek definitely would’ve taken the Youth Ensemble prize as I’m not even done enumerating the great performances within it.

Then you also have the foils, Marty and Rocky. They seem similar enough but do have a split. Scott Mechlowicz is a assured and spot on as the calculated type; I saw him in a lot of indie work around this time and this is I believe the best and most widely available of those films. Then with Rocky, played by the always great and frequently under-appreciated Trevor Morgan, you have a seeming tough guy who does have a conscience and and empathy as events escalate.

Mean Creek is perhaps one of the best most recent examples of how you needn’t have a high concept to be highly engaged in a narrative.

BAM Best Picture Profile: Peter Pan (2003)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Peter Pan (2003)

While I didn’t really post explications that I can easily access for the BAM Awards back in 2003, this was a year wherein I lost my nominees and can only find winners) I was able to quote myself from an unusual source nowadays, my IMDb reviews:

There should be a rule that bars people from remaking a story when the definitive edition has been made. While I loved the much maligned ‘Hook’ and Disney’s version PJ Hogan created the perfect version of this tale. It uses more from the book than ever and even improves on some elements. The proper theatrical conventions are kept like Hook and the Father being played by the same actor and also the proper ones were done away with like a woman playing Peter’s role.

This is the way the story of Peter Pan should be told The imagery is balanced between fantastical and realistic. Every single character is perfectly cast, especially Jeremy Sumpter as Peter. The special effects were so amazing and unique I was actually surprised to see that Industrial Light and Magic did them. The film flows beautifully with scenes that seem as if they are pulled straight from my dreams.

This is a story that has always been very dear to me and I feel that people are making way to much of this film. Peter’s escape embodies a fear all children suffer from at one point or another: growing up. This is the essence of the film and the conflict is heightened by the fact that Wendy loves Peter and for him to love her back he knows he’d have to grow up. One day we know we must grow up. As children we envy Peter’s being but know that our destinies are more those of Wendy, Michael and John. As adults we find Peter’s dream of perpetual childhood beautiful but as we see his heart breaking because he cannot change who he is and live with the Darlings, so do ours. For that is our plight. There is not an audience this film can’t play to for that very reason.

It’s a heartwarming, swashbuckling, funny, adventurous, to say that its an experience doesn’t do it justice. This film is truly a dream come true.

It’s impossible not to like this movie. Open your heart, shut off your brain and watch Peter Pan the way it was meant to be seen.

Yes, I included that in its entirety even though there are some aspects I’d caveat or amend today. One of the amendments would be about stopping remakes. My point was that there’s a crystallization of a narrative in a certain form, to me this version of Peter Pan is it. It’s conscientiously still a storybook version but more real than prior versions, darker and more dramatic.

The second statement above that would need clearing up was the “shut off your brain” segment. While I still agree that Peter Pan is more a visceral than intellectual experience I wrote that as a knee-jerk reaction to some of the over-analysis of certain production decisions I read at the time. In terms of the intellectual aspect this version perhaps places the most emphasis on the tension between Peter and Wendy and the inner struggle each faces; Peter’s clinging to childhood and Wendy’s realization that she needs to go towards adulthood. Furthermore, the Hook/Pan dynamic, to borrow a trite modern colloquialism, the “frenemy” status exemplified by Sumpter and Isaacs is brilliantly portrayed.

Quite a few of my selections I believe were directors going where they were not necessarily expected to, and PJ Hogan hadn’t done anything in this vein yet. That’s for sure.

Peter Pan (2003, Universal)

One history of the BAM Awards-related note. I used to in the days before streaming and on demand selections call the end of the year on-or-about Christmas. I believe Peter Pan’s release date was 12/27. Based on the conception and the strength of the trailer I extended the deadline that year and it became the first last-minute title to claim the number one spot.

This was and is a story I have a long history with. There was never a version quite like this one, and I don’t anticipate there will ever be one like it again. It’s something rather special. I knew that from the moment James Newton Howard’s “Flying” began (Another BAM note is that I erroneously eliminated it from scoring contention because of the classical cues used, when most of what I loved was original work).

Peter Pan
, in the face of being written off by many, won a slew of BAM Awards in one of the most dominant showings ever, and I can explain why further if need be, but I think my case is made.

BAM Best Picture Profile: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

NOTE: The 2001 winner was covered extensively in a very long series starting here.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

Basically I will here, as I have done with a few of these posts, synthesize not only my writings on the given film, but also discuss my personal history with the film. And understanding where I’m coming from with both Star Wars and the prequels is key to at least cutting me a stone if not understanding and agreeing with what I say here.

Here’s a brief intro to my history with Star Wars and why I didn’t even think I’d like this one that much in the first place:

I saw the Star Wars prequels first. Having never felt the urge to see the originals, and then hearing about the prequel concept which was popularized, if not invented by, Lucas – I wanted to watch the movies in the story’s chronological order. So I waited until 2005 to see the original trilogy. After having seen The Phantom Menace I just didn’t get the appeal, but I stuck it out and went to see Attack of the Clones and then I got it – Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones is awesome. The Phantom Menace was just not that good at all and it never will be no matter how many times I watch the film. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones won the BAM for Best Picture in 2002 (BAMs are my personal movie awards – look out for those here next year).

So allow me to continue what I discussed with regards to Invalid complaining about the prequels in general:

Here’s where my watching the series knowingly in chronological, so far as the narrative goes, order starts to factor in. This is one of the most over-debated and over-analyzed aspects of the entire saga. You can like or dislike it as you please, but I really don’t see the point in getting all up in arms about this point, when you have so many you could possibly choose from. Granted you implement things in the prequel trilogy that don’t follow through to the original and it removes an element of mystery but how much does it really detract? Furthermore, to parlay the filmmaker point above, it was introduced when the prequels were very much Lucas’s design, as concessions may have been made later on, so clearly he had it in mind. So it may not fit your vision but it fit his. Essentially, if one if offended by the very notion of the prequels they ought not waste time on this factoid. Conversely, if this is your biggest issue with the series that’s not so bad or you’ve blown it way out of proportion.

I later realized I probably saw snippets of them growing up, but that’s not really seeing them. And having seen these first things like midi-chlorians which were later introduced are easier for me to stomach as a “late-series” change.

Now while I will always defend Jake Lloyd from the lynch mob, I agree The Phantom Menace is no great shakes. However, a few things bear considering: the first is that if you think there are problems with that film he’s one of the very small ones, there are others. Next, oddly enough, and my brother and others in his generation are a testament to this; Lucas really did make that one for kids. In essence, he always did, at least to the kids in adults. Over the years while no new follow-ups emerged the legend ballooned, the grandiosity, importance and gravitas foisted upon the series by fans sky-rocketed.

To such an extent that when I saw The Phantom Menace, with no prior frame of reference, I was like “That was OK, but I don’t see what the big deal is.” When Attack of the Clones came out – that’s when I started to see what the big deal was. The 2002 BAM Awards are a testament to that.

While you can sit there and write-off the awards as a newfound fanboy heaping love on his new pet if you want some things are separate from the film that were awarded merely on technical and artistic merits of the work done. Williams’ scoring in this film remains one of my favorites in his canon; arguing against ILM on a Lucasfilm project is folly; cinematography in CG-heavy films does matter (perhaps the Academy was a bit misguided in choosing Avatar to recognize that notion, but it does). And wooden dialogue or not this film does move wonderfully and has great situations and is a bifurcated tale of romance and political intrigue. It plays much closer to its serial film roots here.

It’s also a film I’ve revisited very often since I saw the original films and given the chance to do this year over again I doubt I’d change my mind.

BAM Best Picture Profile: Titus (2000)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

NOTE: I have skipped the 1999 Best Picture in this retrospective because I covered it earlier in this post.

In the history of the BAM Awards Titus has taken on a rather important place. Prior to the year 2000 I was even looser with release dates than I am now. With this film, my renting and viewing it after a very limited release in late-December 1999; I had to create some kind of eligibility rule, especially considering how much I liked it.

Here’s my post that explains the rule in detail:

Below you will find a paragraph which was prepared for the Best Films of the Decade list:

9. Titus
This is the over-looked film of Julie Taymor’s cinematic career thus far and it was here debut. It was an emphatic statement of style and vision but it also combined with substance to reinvent Shakespeare’s most violent tale with verve and surrealistic panache. The ensemble, headed by Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, is brilliant and not overly-stagey even dealing with such cumbersome dialogue. The film is visually stunning and engulfing.

All this is true. What’s further true is that Taymor adds a bit of surrealism to the tale not only with the hallucinogenic interludes that appear on occasion, once to try and convince us Titus is mad but also through the opening of the film. An opening which introduces us not only to the character of Lucius, played very aptly by Osheen Jones, but also to the mix of modern technology, furniture and settings that will be mixed into this film. We see a child epitomizing with action figures and ketchup the kind of over-the-top violence that will be the reality of this tale, a reality he is put into. A reality he is a mute witness to for approximately an hour of the nearly three that the film runs.

All that is well and good but some of you may be asking why this film didn’t make the final cut. It was based on a technicality. The technicality is this. Titus was released by Fox in New York and Los Angeles on December 25th, 1999 in order to qualify for that year’s Academy Awards. It was resoundingly ignored. It’s wide release to general consumption and an equally absent public audience was in January of 2000. Upon double-checking the release date on the IMDb app on an iPhone I proceeded to re-screen the film to confirm inclusion on the best of the decade list. It fit. Then before publishing a trip to the IMDb proper showed all release dates.

Based on the wide release date it was the best of the year in 2000 but due to its actual release date not on the best of the decade list. Therein lies the problem. The good films get sat on until the end of the year and those not able to attend special advance screenings are left with many a film in a no man’s land.

Recently, there had been a reticence on my part to allow films from the prior year entry into award consideration, which punished The Reader. While it seems difficult to consider Titus a film of the aughts because that is a much bigger threshold to tread over I will no longer be disqualifying end of year releases from consideration in the next year. It’s only fair. While Titus can be denied a place in this decade passed it will always be a standout of year 2000 to me.

Going back to the film more than the business and politics of release dates, which I may come back to in a separate post at some point. Since I’ve completed my formal education I’ve not successfully picked up a Shakespeare text without first viewing an adaptation. While painstaking and pedantic, the formalized, syllabus-based approach slows it down and structures it such that I can better absorb the text off the page.

However, I’ve found that viewing a representation of it on film, no matter how modernized, breaks that barrier down. This film was the first that showed me that and it was while I was still in school. That fact has re-proven itself with Coriolanus and with yet another Romeo and Juliet adaptation recently. One task I may want to partake in next year is viewing more of these modernizations, including also reading A Winter’s Tale, which I’ve started many times.

If there’s a bit of youthfulness about this choice its my connecting to one of Shakespeare’s early works, as presented in this film. Titus, like my first Best Picture selection, influenced me, but for far longer than that title did.

Technicalities and rallying cries aside Titus remains a film I’m very fond of and a testament to the power of film to introduce the uninitiated to Shakespearean works.

BAM Best Picture Profile: Central Station (1998)

Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.

Central Station (1997)

Central Station would be the first time the BAM Awards ventured to foreign soil to pick a Best Picture winner. However, maybe it’s more apropos to say that it ventured to soil foreign to the US. For I am a dual citizen of the US and Brazil. In fact, I first saw this film while visiting family in Brazil and I believe I later revisited it when I was back home.

It is so great, so big a hit and important enough that I did discuss whether or not it was the emblematic Brazilian film, first with regards to how the film was cast:

If you hire an amateur child from substandard living conditions you should, as Walter Salles did for Vinícius de Oliveira in Central Station, help improve their station in life. At that point you truly are picking a lottery winner rather than just casting a role.

Then about the film in general:

What of Central Station then? Central Station made quite a bit of money in the US. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress. Brazil has more a pedigree on the high-end of world cinema than most would expect. What separates Brazil from most is the consistency of product and, of course, due to the dictatorship there was censorship and artists had to fend for themselves. Now, the government is more active in promoting the arts, the major studios have a presence in the country and so forth. Yet, the fact that Brazil has been up for the Oscar, is the only Latin American nation to win the Palme d’Or (O Pagador de Promessas) and has also scored at Berlin (Elite Squad) is not what is going to dictate the most Brazilian film. Those are just indicators of quality.

Therefore, what’s the quality of Central Station? It has memorable source music, it’s a heart-wrenching drama, it tells a tale of a letter-writer and poor illiterate boy. It crosses that divide and it check off a lot of the qualities I’m looking for in a film representative of Brazil. Not to mention that it’s named after the largest train station in the country, therefore it’s a metaphor for the country and the letter-writer hears many stories from people of all walks of life that are indicative of the country and its people. The blend that exists.

Central Station is one of a long list of, I believe, far more enduring films that didn’t win Best Foreign Language Film. It didn’t win because America had a momentary brain fever and decided to ignore the issues of suspension of disbelief and taste that had Benigni’s film win everything. I can’t say I didn’t fall under it at the time to an extent, but not such that I thought it should win.

However, thanks to that foreign language film nomination it did allow one of Brazil’s great actresses to be nominated for an Oscar and be seen on the world stage. Sure, I’m as cynical about the Oscars as anyone. Had it not been for my own opinion splitting with theirs so violently I wouldn’t have created my own awards, however, I still recognize that it’s a great show and of great significance.

Central Station is a moving an enduring film that has been renowned the world over. Although it may not have won many of the prizes it was up for it surely wasn’t a case of me reaching very far afield for a winner.