Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade) 2016

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Toni Erdmann is a serious comedy. It makes you laugh, but it wants you to think.

I believe that there is going to be a Hollywood remake starring Jack Nicholson, in his first role for many years. Had it been any actor, other than Jack Nicholson, I would have thought it doomed to failure, but with him in the title role, it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Who they choose to direct will be important, too.

Maren Ade is a clever director, she throws in many jokes that are not funny, in order to make you laugh out loud at the serious parts, which are absurd and ridiculous.

It’s about a father daughter relationship. They have grown apart and the dad is determined to rectify that, whether or not his daughter has time for it. Sandra Huller as Ines is very good indeed, initially irritated by her father’s attention and his worry about her life/work balance, but gradually coming to see that he might indeed have a point.

Peter Simonischek is also good as Winfried/Toni, who is at his wits end, trying to work out how to win back the lost regard of his only daughter.

This movie is slow to start, but this is purposeful, in order to make you enjoy the gentle build up to the satisfying conclusion.

I have to admit, that I haven’t seen the other films up for the best foreign language Oscar, but I can say, that one of them would need to be exceptional indeed, if it is to beat Toni Erdmann to that Academy Award.

Maleficent (dir. Robert Stromberg) 2014

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This movie has earned over $750million so it is a huge success by many standards and it certainly has a lot going for it. It looks spectacular – this is obviously what Disney were aiming for when they hired Robert Stromberg, whose previous experience was in special effects, as director. They took a risk by giving him the largest ever budget for a first time director and it paid off. The style of the film is individual and the worlds he created are lush and beautiful.

Angelina Jolie is perfect for the part, always visually striking. As Maleficent, she is cold and polished, yet she is compassionate and composed when necessary and she makes us believe these changes in temperament. She needs to be strong as this film is all about her, every other role is almost a cameo.

It was nominated for an Academy Award for Costume Design and this was deserved.

It is darker than expected for a Disney film, but this adds a little depth and probably reflects the slightly older audience they were aiming for.

Overall, although it does not really go any where new, it is a high quality, enjoyable Disney telling of a classic fairytale.

Defiance (dir. Edward Zwick) 2008

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A the start of the movie we are told this is a true story. Edward Zwick is the director and he made the decision to sacrifice realism for action and character development. I am sure that this has made it more interesting and exciting to watch, for it is both of these things, but it is a Hollywood version of a true story.

Defiance is an apt title given that the movie depicts a large group of Jewish refugees surviving harsh winters in the forests of Belorussia, despite the attempts of the Nazis to annihilate them. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell are all excellent as the brothers who led the group, and the story told is both gripping and inspiring.

It was nominated for an Academy Award for the best Original Score. The script is rough and the point of view fixed, this makes some of the characters seem a little two dimensional. However, in terms of action and tension, the film works well and it held my interest right to the closing credits.

Funny Girl (dir. W. Wyler) 1968

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“Hello Gorgeous”

Barbra Streisand won the Oscar for best actress for this film in 1968. This film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards in total. It is almost always included in lists of all time best musicals.

It is too bright. It is melodramatic. It is both camp and kitsch. Omar Sharif does not sing well…….but the film is about succeeding by overcoming faults and making the most of what you do have.

This movie has Barbra Streisand, who is amazing in this film, the role could have been written for her and she grabs it with both hands and wrings every piece of emotion out of it. It has some fantastic, powerful songs that still sound great almost fifty years on. It also has a line that is often included in lists of most memorable movie quotes:”Hello Gorgeous”

If you like musicals or are interested in cinema history you have to see this film.