Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World ? 2 Stars (Average) Master and Commander is set during the Napoleonic Wars and pits the British frigate HMS Surprise and its Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey on a quest to catch and destroy the French privateer Acheron in a cat and mouse game off the coast of South America. The Surprise is rather pedestrian compared to the larger Acheron with its greater firepower. The Acheron strikes the first, crippling the Surprise and leaving Lucky Aubrey (Russell Crowe) two choices: either retreat and limp back to England or repair his vessel and fight against a superior opponent. A lot of moviegoers saw Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World as a great picture with great acting and pretty much a shoo-in for a handful of Oscars. I did not see it the same way, nor did the Academy. This film was nominated for 10 Oscars and won two, being aced out in the two significant awards-- Best Picture and Best Director-by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
I was not surprised at this result as Peter Weir was both the director and writer of the screenplay, a dual role that generally breeds more failure than success. Master and Commander is slow to develop, suffers from too many still shots when actors are present, and creates tremendous confusion in trying to identify which side the combatants are on during the fight scenes. I believe that Crowe's jaws were wired a little tight when he was not nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.
He has four Oscar-nominated performances to his credit and won an Oscar for his role as Maximus in Gladiator, which was nominated for 12 Oscars and won 5, including Best Picture as well as Crowe's Best Actor award. But Crowe could not carry Master and Commander's script. I was more impressed with the performance of the 13-year-old Midshipman Blakeney (Max Pirkis).
Pirkis picked up two lesser awards as the Most Promising Newcomer and Best Young Artist. Weir (average rating) joins a not-so-exclusive club of fellow writer/directors who have fallen short, including Nancy Meyers (average rating) for Something's Gotta Give, Thomas Bezucha (average rating) for The Family Stone, Michael McGowan (average rating) for Saint Ralph, Jared Hess (terrible rating) for Napoleon Dynamite, Robert Rodriguez (terrible rating) for Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Paul Thomas Anderson (terrible rating) for Punch-Drunk Love. Released in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Master and Commander could not compete big time. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was nominated for 5 Oscars and won none yet was four times as good as Master and Commander ever thought of being on its best day.
Do not even bother comparing Russell Crowe to Johnny Depp with moviegoers; Depp would win on his worst day and Crowe would lose on his best day as captain of any ship. Depp is aleady an icon as the best pirate in movie history. Leave Master and Commander on The Far Side of the World. The Lion in Winter ? 2 Stars (Average) The Lion in Winter is a 2 Star movie with some 4 Star (Excellent) performances. It is Christmas time in 1183 and an aging King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) calls his dysfunctional family together to determine who will succeed him as King of England.
The players in this game of chess are Henry's scheming but imprisoned wife Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), his mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow) who he hopes to marry, his sons Richard (Anthony Hopkins in his film debut), Geoffrey (John Castle) and John (Nigel Terry), and King Philip of France (Timothy Dalton) who is Alais' brother. Henry and Eleanor are involved in a terrible rivalry over who will succeed him. All three of his sons have flaws, including his eldest son Richard the Lionhearted who apparently is gay.
In the end, Henry banishes his three sons and his mistress from his sight as he considers all four of them unworthy. He keeps his wife Eleanor in confinement, and ponders what lies ahead. I wanted to give this film a 3 Star (Good) rating but there is no resolution to the relationship problems and at the end we are left with an even more dysfunctional family, thus the 2 Star rating despite some 4 Star acting. The Lion in Winter received 7 Oscar nominations and won 3, including Best Music, Best Writing and Best Actress as Katharine Hepburn won her third of four Oscars. She holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar nominations with 12. Hepburn's acting career spanned 7-plus decades.
She appeared in her first film and 1932 and her last in 1994. She celebrated her 96th birthday on May 12 and died in June of 2003. The American Film Institute rates Katharine Hepburn as the top female star ever. Peter O'Toole was nominated for Best Actor, Anthony Harvey for Best Director and Martin Poll for Best Picture.
The recognition of these two films is staggering. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World earned 19 wins and another 43 nominations for awards in 2003 and The Lion in Winter earned 14 wins and another 16 nominations for awards in 1968. I still came away from both movies feeling that they are average films because they stir no emotion in me, foment ill will and breed confusion when clarity should rule the day and resolution should be the result.
Ed Bagley is the Author of Ed Bagley's Blog, which he Publishes Daily with Fresh, Original Articles on Internet Marketing, Jobs and Careers, Movie Reviews, Sports and Recreation, or Lessons in Life intended to Delight, Inform, Educate and Motivate Readers. Visit Ed at . . . http://www.edbagleyblog.com/MovieReviewArticles.html http://www.edbagleyblog.com/LessonsinLifeArticles.html http://www.edbagleyblog.com/InternetMarketingArticles.html