Manchester By The Sea went swimmingly for me


Following the death of his brother, a man returns to his home town and discovers he has been made the legal guardian of his nephew.
Angry, antisocial Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) works as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts. One grey winter day, he gets a phone call to say that his brother is in hospital, and that he should make his way back to the hometown he left behind him years ago as soon as he can as he’s in a bad way. When Lee reaches the hospital, he is greeted with the sad news that he is too late, and that his brother has passed away. As his next of kin, it becomes Lee’s job to sort out his brother’s affairs and tell his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) about his dad. The two try to adjust to life without the missing member of their family, attempting to deal with their own issues whilst looking after each other. Lee discovers that his brother has outlined that he is to become Patrick’s guardian, and struggles to decide what to do about the situation.

One of my most anticipated films of this year was Manchester By The Sea, and I feel like I had some good foresight by choosing it as one of the films I was most looking forward to. I had high hopes for the performances that were to make up the foundations of the film, and I was not let down. Enjoyable probably isn’t the right word to describe the film, but enjoy watching it is what I did. It isn’t an uplifting watch, but it has some very funny moments dotted throughout, making the whole thing very true to real life.

Casey Affleck is the person I am currently hoping wins the Best Actor award for this year. He gave a brilliant performance as Lee. it was very understated, and most of the emotion he conveyed was done so through his subtle facial expressions. For the most part, he had his hands in his pockets and did a lot of shoulder shrugging, but it was so fitting for his character to do this. Lee had a past that he has constantly tried to escape form, and we find out what it is that haunts him about halfway through the film. Affleck played the part wonderfully, and reminded me of exactly why I think he is one of the most underrated actors working today.

His co-star Lucas Hedges, who is up for Best Supporting Actor alongside him, was equally as good. In his solo scenes, he did a grand job of showing the usual struggles of a teenage kid whilst also trying to deal with the fact that he had just lost his father too. However, he really shone in each scene he had with Affleck. They both nailed the uncle-nephew dynamic they had going on, and this was what led to some of the funniest moments in the film, which were needed otherwise you’d have been seriously depressed by the end of the film.

the only criticism I’d have if you made me pick one was that the film did feel like it had a few pacing issues at times, but given the sheer quality of the performances, I can let this slide. the other question I have to raise is why was Michelle Williams nominated for an Oscar for her performance? She was very good, don’t get me wrong, but she simply was not on-screen long enough to have that sort of an impact on the film in my opinion. 

Overall, Manchester By The Sea is one of my favourites of the nominees I have seen so far this year. It does the simple things unbelievably well, and whilst at times it may feel a bit slow, the top drawer performances from the duo at the centre of this story make it worth staying right until the very end. For me, it was a very touching film that stays very true to how situations like this often play out in real life and it was a joy to watch the other day. I would highly recommend it. 

Opinion Battles Year 3 Round 3 – Favourite Film From 2015

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Favourite Film From 2015

Hitting the year 2017 we can now start looking back at films from 2015 and think what was our favourite without solely looking at the most recent watch. We had a brilliant list of Oscar contenders, the return of classic franchises with nearly all being great or better in their own way but just what do we call our favourite from this year?

If you want to join Opinion Battles our next question is returning to the Oscar winners as we pick our LEAST Favourite Oscar Winning Performance from an Actor in Leading or Supporting Role. To enter send your choices to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.ukby 19th February 2017.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

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Tuesday Top Ten – My All-Time Favourite Oscar Winning Performances

Another week has passed and we are one week closer to finding out the 2017 Oscars. To maintain this bit of Oscar buzz that I have going on here, this week i am taking a look back at some of my all-time favourite Oscar-winning performances. This list is a countdown, and doesn’t feature any performances from the 00’s as they were covered last week.

10. Nicolas Cage (Ben Sanderson, Leaving Las Vegas)


Perhaps Nicolas Cage’s best performance to date (and with what he has produced of late, maybe the best we’ll ever see of him) is his portrayal of Ben Sanderson, an ex-screenwriter who has lost everything and finds solace only at the bottom of the bottle. The film follows Ben as he slowly drinks himself to death. By no means is this an easy watch, but Cage makes it so that you cannot bring yourself to turn it off and escape what is a truly Oscar-worthy performance that takes a very long time to leave you once it’s finished.

9. Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito, Goodfellas)


Arguably the greatest thing about this film is Joe Pesci’s critically-acclaimed performance as gangster Tommy DeVito. I will never forget watching the film for the first time during the school holidays a couple of summers ago. When it came to the infamous ‘Do you think I’m funny’ scene, I had the windows wide open and Pesci’s character was going hell for leather for the whole street to hear. Not only is it a tremendous performance, but it has fond memories for me of the time the postman got an insight into how I spend my days home alone.

8. Jodie Foster (Clarice Starling, The Silence Of The Lambs)


To have picked Anthony Hopkins here would have been predictable, so I’m actually going to sing the praises of Jodie Foster’s performance instead. She was wonderful as Clarice, the young FBI go-getter who gets assigned a really tough case. She was a joy to watch here, and was every bit the ideal match for Hopkins’ Hannibal – no mean feat, you could say.

7. Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Schultz, Django Unchained)


I stated that I wished I could have included this performance on my last list, but as Django Unchained came out in 2012, it was too little, too late. However, now that we’re onto all-time favourites, there’s nothing to stop me talking about Christoph Waltz’s turn as Dr. King Schultz – the bounty hunter with extreme class in Tarantino’s superb western. Every time I see Waltz’s name, I immediately pay attention because, as someone who wants to be an actress, there is always something to be learnt from him. Here I learnt that it wasn’t a fluke that he won his award for Inglorious Basterds. He is simply masterful.

6. Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone, The Godfather Part II)


I have so much admiration for Robert De Niro in this role because he took on someone who had been made famous by Marlon Brando in a previous film and then had to learn roughly half his dialogue in another language. You can’t say he didn’t earn his Oscar here. However, De Niro also managed to further remind audiences of the main theme from The Godfather – family. There are many tender moments we share with him during the film that make this and the whole trilogy so special.

5. Robin Williams (Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting)


One of the best things about this film, and there are many to choose from, is Robin Williams’ life-affirming performance as therapist Dr. Sean Maguire. Williams was so good that you just wanted to spill your guts to him after watching the film. It was a serious role, no doubt about it, but he managed to give it his own special touch that made it feel so personal.  

4. Octavia Spencer (Minny Jackson, The Help)


If you were to ask me how I would describe this performance, the word I would use would be iconic. I watched part of the film before reading the book, and when I finally read the book, all I could hear as I was working my way through the chapters was Octavia Spencer’s voice as she took on Minny echoing in my head. She was fierce as the sassy little maid, and brought a lot of humour to a film that actually covered something very serious indeed, without causing you to forget what the main point of the film was in the first place. The only shameful thing about it is that she was the only cast member to win the award she was nominated for.

3. Jared Leto (Rayon, Dallas Buyers Club)


Jared Leto has been acting for a long time, and has starred in some very heavy-going films (need I mention Requiem For A Dream?). It is with his turn as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club however that he proved to the world what a serious and capable actor he truly is. It is a very moving performance that he provide us with here, and after undergoing such an immense physical transformation as well, he is well deserving of his win.

2 Al Pacino (Frank Slade, Scent Of A Woman)


It would have been so wrong of me not to include good old Al on this list now that I finally had the opportunity. Personally, I would have thought that he would have won more that his single Oscar for his role as Frank Slade, especially after Serpico. Alas, this remains his only win, but it is an award he won for what is perhaps my favourite role of his outside the obvious Michael Corleone. Pacino did a marvellous job playing the blind ex-army serviceman, and that speech at the end must surely have been what swung it for the board that year.

1. Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump)


Forrest Gump is a film that runs for nearly two and a half hours, and that is roughly the time I spent smiling when I watched it for the first time years ago. This was solely because of Tom Hanks’ wonderful performance as the big-hearted man who had led a life to look back on and marvel at. After seeing much of his other work, I still say that this is my favourite performance by Hanks, and one that was very worthy of the Oscar it won. 

That wraps up my all-time favourite Oscar-winning performances. Maybe there have been a couple of surprises for you there, but I know for sure that those of you familiar with this site by now will know there were names mentioned there that were certain to make an appearance. Who would you include amongst your favourites? Let me know – we might just get ourselves a little discussion going!

The Long Riders (my Genre Grandeur entry)


The tale of the Jesse James gang members, their numerous exploits and their individual fates.
The Long Riders is a sympathetic portrayal of the story of the James-Younger gang that undertook a number of legendary bank robberies as way of revenge. The group, headed up by none other than Jesse James (James Keach), had their share of excitement during their time together, and went down in a blaze of glory when some plucky townspeople call time on their raids.

I’ve always been a fan of westerns – I kind of have to be given that my dad is too. I think it’s fair to say that for an 18-year-old girl, I’ve seen quite a few new and old, traditional and contemporary westerns and have enjoyed most of them. When this month’s Genre Grandeur came up, I thought it was right up my street. I had initially thought about watching something with John Wayne or Robert Mitchum in, but decided to venture a little further out in the end. The Long Riders was a decent western, but not one of my favourites, and here’s why.

The cast of this film is quite an ensemble. You have the two Keach brothers, both Quaids and three of the Carradine clan – more than fitting for a film about a gang that is made up of brothers wouldn’t you say? This benefitted the performances so much as there was a lot of real family ties that already existed. The bonds portrayed on screen just felt so genuine, and I think this made the telling of the story so much more enjoyable to watch.

There was plenty of action in this film, especially in the last half an hour or so. While I am a fan of both slow burners and fast paced movies, I perhaps edge slightly further towards the more high-octane westerns. It was really fun to watch when all the shots were being fired, and it let you see the Jesse James gang in all their glory. One of my favourite scenes in the film was when the men were trapped in a cabin by the Pinkertons chasing them, and they had to break their way through the panelling in the back and take a back route to escape. For me, it’s scenes like that that encapsulate the old west – big shoot-outs and the heroes escaping by the skin of their teeth.

I do have one big issue with the film, however, and while it may seem like a minor detail, it was a big issue for me. Some of the transitions from scene to scene were a bit rushed. the biggest example I can give you of this is at the end of the film when Jesse meets his maker. The big moment happens, and then straightaway the shot cut to the scene of Frank James, played by Stacy Keach, handing himself over to the authorities. This took away so much of the impact of what was one of the biggest blows the film dealt in my opinion, and I really wish that more time had been spent of making the change more meaningful.

All in all, as much as I enjoyed The Long Riders, it didn’t make enough of an impression on me to be amongst my favourite westerns. There were some rip-roaring shoot-outs and I loved the family dynamic that was made so wonderful by the fact that the cast consisted of so many brothers. What damaged the film so much in my eyes was some of the dodgy transitions between scenes. It really impacted some of the biggest moments in the film for me, which is why I cannot place it amongst the ranks of El Dorado or The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Nonetheless, it was worth seeing, and was an hour and a half of my time well spent.

My Mystery Blogger Award!


At some point in the last week, I was nominated for this award by none other than Carl from Listening To Film. Carl is fairly new to blogging, but his site holds a lot of promise if you ask me. A big thank you goes out to him for this Mystery Blogger nomination. Now, let’s go to work…

The rules:

Put the award logo/image on your blog

List the rules.

Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well

Tell your readers 3 things about yourself

You have to nominate 10 – 20 people

Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)

Share a link to your best post(s)
The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma. You can find out more information about it here.
Three things about me:

  1. I want to be an actress and filmmaker. I think I’ve always fancied myself as a storyteller and entertainer, but drama classes at secondary school also meant that I stopped being so shy (everyone who knows me now is quite sorry that ever happened I think). 
  2. I am ridiculously clumsy. Believe me, if there is something to trip over or bump into, I will subconsciously seek it out and proceed to do so. I never mean to do it, I just kind of have a natural talent for it.
  3. The film to spark my unhealthy obsession with movies was Die Hard. After watching Die Hard 4.0 one night in the school holidays many years ago, my mum and dad told me to watch the rest of the franchise. They had been really strict with age ratings befor that… NOT ANYMORE! I will always be eternally grateful to Bruce Willis for that.

 Carl’s questions for me:

What is one piece of advice on blogging that you would tell yourself from back when you started writing?

Post regularly and consistently – try not to have too many dry spells when posting. When I started blogging, I literally posted whenever the mood took me. I then started posting every four days. It’s way better now that I have an outline for the week.

What is the most disappointing film/TV experience you’ve had?

I have to say The Hateful Eight. I was buzzing for it, think Tarantino was going back to his roots with a big-budget Reservoir Dogs Wild West type film. After watching it, I spent three days on the phone to the samaritans. Needless to say I was rather upset.

If you were to start another blog on a topic completely unrelated to the one you do now, what would it be and why?

I’d do a journal or something like that. I’m about 5 months away from leaving school so I have a few adventure to come.

If you could trade places with a fictional character from any universe/property, who would it be?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Lara Croft. I played the games and watched the films. I think that is the reason why Angelina Jolie is one of my favourite actresses today.

What is your favorite movie/tv show that most people have never heard of?

This is hard because many of the people who will potentially real this will have heard of every film under the sun. I guess I’ll pick You Don’t Know Jack – the HBO movie starring Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian, who became known as Dr. Death for his work involving assisted suicide. It is a very thought provoking watch to say the least.

My Nominees:
Jason (Jason’s Movie Blog)

Damien (Riley Film Reviews)

2 Eyes 1 Screen (2 Eyes 1 Screen)

Josh (Reffing Movies)

Tom (Plain, Simple Tom Reviews)

The Projectionist’s Room (The Projectionist’s Room Blog)

Diego (Lazy Sunday Movies)

Catherine (Thoughts And All Sorts)

Liam (Motion Picture Blog)

My Five Questions:

What do you know now that you wish you had known 10 years ago?

What film or TV series would you say is your guilty pleasure?

If you could pick any two famous people to be your parents, who would they be?

If you were to start a Film Club, what film would you show at the first gathering and why?

What would you call your own talk show?

My Favorite Posts:
The Hills Have Eyes – I had terrific fun writing this post, the only good thing to come from watching the film.

Children Of Men – my very first review to be posted on Film And TV 101.

Spotlight, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Nice Guys, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts, Split, La La Land – all the films I have seen at the cinema with my best friend in the last year, they all hold good memories from great days. 

La La Land, whilst not what I expected, is 100% for the dreamers


An aspiring actress and jazz pianist fall for each other in Los Angeles as they pursue their dreams.Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) moved to L.A. from Nevada after dropping out of college in a bid to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. There, she meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a guy who wants to one day open his own jazz club to prevent the music style dying out. Both are brought together by their passions, but as they start to get where they’re going, the two are ultimately driven apart by long hours and the miles between them, proving that success doesn’t come without great sacrifice.

So, I got round to seeing La La Land yesterday, and I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. It wasn’t a bad film, don’t think that for a second, but compared to the films I saw that had been Oscar nominated last year, it wasn’t as good as those.

Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have been nominated for acting gongs at the Academy Awards, and Stone has already won a Golden Globe for her performance. Once again, if I’m completely open with you, I don’t think these were especially memorable performances. They weren’t bad, but they just weren’t particularly memorable characters. I did like the chemistry that was very evident between Stone and Gosling, especially during some of their dance numbers. I am also very happy that director Damien Chazelle decided to make use of Gosling’s comedic capabilities that we got to see previously in The Nice Guys. Both worked together very well and put on quite a show, but personally I feel as though I’ve seen more Oscar-worthy performances from each of them.

The music featured throughout was good, but (and hear I go, moaning yet again) for a musical, there wasn’t a stand-out feel-good sing-along track that I’ll be serenading people with for weeks to come. City Of Stars was by far my favourite song of them all, but this wasn’t exactly what I’d call the catchy anthem that La La Land will be remembered for. I think I had been expecting lively songs with vibes similar to those given to us by The Blues Brothers and The Commitments, but instead I got quite a lot of stuff that was far more melancholy than that.

Stone said in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that this is a film for dreamers, and that is one thing that I can still say is definitely true after seeing it. You do leave the cinema feeling that what you want to achieve in life is possible, however, the film also does well to point out that you may have to put in long hours in order to do so. This aspect of the film was something that really hit home with me, and if nothing else, I am happy that it sort of offered an encouraging kick up the arse by showing that anything is possible, even when you think you’re down and out.

On the whole, I would say that La La Land is an enjoyable film that most people will like. With regards to the number of Oscars it has been nominated for, I have to say I don’t quite agree with whoever makes these decisions, but I do understand why it has received the critical recognition it has. The film pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood through modern day cinema. It’s a nostalgic homage to days gone by that looks to revive the magic of the past, but in my eyes at least, falls short of greatness.

Tuesday Top Ten – Best Oscar Winning Performances Of The 00’s

Last week, we received the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, and I think it’s fair to say there were some shocks and surprises hidden amongst them. However, I also thought that the release of the nominees up for Oscars in 2017 has created the perfect opportunity for me to have my own little awards season celebrations. To start off, I’ve compiled a collection of my favourite Oscar winning performances of the noughties. I’ve chickened out a bit as they’re in no particular order, but these are ten of the most memorable performances of the most recent decade.
10. Hilary Swank (Maggie Fitzgerald, Million Dollar Baby)


Million Dollar Baby did so well at the Oscars in the year 2000 by winning four awards including Best Picture, but I think what makes this film so memorable for me two years after first watching it is Hilary Swank’s performance as the lead character, Maggie Fitzgerald – a young woman who dreams of becoming a boxer despite the many hardships she’s faced in life. It was such a moving performance in a film that certainly isn’t one you’d watch if you needed your mood lifting, but the fact that I can remember so many different parts of her performance after all this time says something, hence why I’ve included her here.

9. Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin, The Last King Of Scotland)


To watch Forest Whitaker become this Ugandan dictator, you wouldn’t believe that he was portraying a real person. Idi Amin was a very charismatic leader that hid his agenda behind charm and magnetism, and Whitaker captured these characteristics wonderfully with this Oscar-winning performance. It was chilling to watch his transformation from the start of the film right to the end. It showed just what this Whitaker’s capabilities are as an actor, and is, again, a performance that hasn’t completely left me behind just yet.

8. Russell Crowe (Maximus, Gladiator) 


I may have chosen this performance purely because I loved the film so much, but it cannot be denied that Russell Crowe was on form as Maximus in this epic tale of revenge in Ancient Rome. It is yet another performance that I haven’t seen in some time so it is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember revelling in every moment of the film, and every second of Crowe’s performance. It is absolutely appropriate to say that this is a creation of epic proportions, with terrific contributions from everyone involved.

7. Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund, The Fighter)


I have to be honest, this list is dredging up some right blasts from the past. I think it was 2013 when I saw The Fighter, the story of Micky Ward and his rise through the ranks with the help of his brother, Dicky Eklund, played by the ever-brilliant Christian Bale. Bale finally got the recognition for his skill set that he had been deserving for at last five years before that with his Oscar win for the role. It was another performance that saw Bale undergo a significant physical transformation, although his acting alone would have been enough here.

6. Sean Penn (Harvey Milk, Milk)


When I was working through the contenders for this list, two performances from Sean Penn were in contention – his turn as Jimmy Markum in Mystic River, and this performance as Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay politician. I loved this very insightful biopic about Harvey’s political career, and so much of this was down to Penn’s unbelievably moving performance as the title character. I have told so many people about this film since seeing it last year as I think it is a story that more need to know about, and Penn makes the telling of it so much more impactful as well.

5. Denzel Washington (Alfonso Harris, Training Day)


It would be wrong of me not to include Denzel Washington in this list. He was another charismatic character as the dodgy detective, and what I think is so great about his performance is that you never really know what side of the law this guy is really on. Despite this though, the way Washington portrayed Harris made it hard for me to dislike him. Was he an anti-hero? Or was he the real villain? I’m not entirely sure, and I keep going back to the each time hoping to find answers to those questions, but because of how Washington plays it, I’m never quite sure.

4. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Erin Brockovich)


My favourite performance by Julia Roberts was her turn as Erin Brockovich. I was forced to see the film by my mum who is a hardcore fan of the actress, and I’m so glad she made me see it. She showed every bit of determination that seeped out of every part of the real Erin Brockovich’s being and really was a joy to watch as she took on the water companies and won. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, I would highly recommend it – it is a fascinating watch made all the more so by Roberts’ tour-de-force performance.

3. Christoph Waltz (Hans Landa, Inglorious Basterds)


A character that many have argued to be the best ever created by Quentin Tarantino is Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds. Christoph Waltz is someone I will always happily watch purely because of his performances in both the Tarantino films he has starred in, although I couldn’t pick Django Unchained over this as it was made in 2012. This was a performance with which you could just soak up every ounce of evil that radiated from the character, and I doubt many other people could tell me an actor who could have played it better.

2. Daniel Day-Lewis (Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood)


The final two films on this list went head to head in the same year. Winning Best Actor in 2008 was Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of greedy oil prospector Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Day-Lewis is always memorable no matter what role he takes on. It is in epics like this film that I believe he is often at his best. The story that unfolded surrounding Plainview’s life would not have been anywhere near as riveting if it wasn’t for the show put on by Day-Lewis – it is a film that I think is elevated so far solely because of his work.

1. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men)


Quite possibly one of my favourite performances ever in one of my all-time favourite films was given to us by Javier Bardem – one of my favourite actors (as you can see, he made bit of an impact here). No Country For Old Men won a number of Oscars in 2008, and was often pitted against the previous film I spoke about. As Anton Chigurh, super villain extraordinaire, Bardem was spectacular. His performance was talked about for months after in my house, and is still referenced at some points now. It was an award that Bardem deserved every part of, and if I had to name my number one favourite Oscar-winning performance from the noughties, this would be it.

It’s fair to say that sometimes in the past, the Academy have gotten it wrong, and I’m sure they will continue to have some outrageous slip-ups in future. I hope you will agree with me, however, that they got things right with this lot. As always, let me know what your thoughts are, and stay tuned for another Oscars run-down next Tuesday!