Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Admission - This is a very odd movie.  I'm not sure what it was trying to be. It certainly isn't the romantic comedy that it is advertised as; I would describe it more as a small family drama.  It's jarring, considering the two leads, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, are both hilarious and charismatic (and could probably make a really cute romantic comedy together).  They are both stripped of personality for this movie.  Instead, the movie is about this woman bonding with her mother, who is the complete opposite of her (played by Lily Tomlin - aka, the best part of the movie. Class act.) and possibly bonding with her son who she gave up for adoption, all while balancing a stressful time at work as a college admissions counselor. It's an interesting story, but it's unfortunately unbalanced, contrived and unconvincing. The movie is just filled with weird scenes - like them helping a cow give birth and then showering in outdoor shower stalls together - how can anyone relate to that?

2. Jobs - Ashton Kutcher is waaaay over his head here. He is not even close to being a serious actor, in my opinion. However, I think the movie benefits from his charmingly natural goofiness. The only aspect that I like about this movie is watching the technology being created. I was really young when all of this was happening, but I remember how fast everything seemed to be evolving. Now, it's amazing to see all of the technology we have at our fingertips and impossible to imagine how we lived without it! Steve Jobs was a visionary and obviously, a business genius, but instead of being inspired by a great man; this movie just reaffirms that he was kind of an asshole. I don't care how brilliant or imaginative someone is, if they don't treat people with respect and give credit where and when it is due; then I return the favor. The movie makes me happy about not owning hoards of Apple products (I have an iPod from 7 years ago that I rarely use) as they continually reference the fact that owning their products is part of a "social status". It's a status that I want no part of.

3. Ain't Them Bodies Saints - The movie is a little boring, but there are some extremely beautiful shots (just look at that poster for proof) and it is very well-acted. I love Casey Affleck so much, but the standouts are Ben Foster and Rooney Mara.  I think I was expecting more of a western action movie featuring bank robberies and such, but this movie focuses on the aftermath of the action. It's all visual, poetic, and emotional. The best part of the movie is the music, which consists of rhythmic hand-clapping.  It made for a really haunting and memorable experience - honestly, without it, the film would be forgotten already in my head.

4. Simon Killer - Brady Corbet really creeps me out and this film is no different. The story is an original tale of a confused and lonely young man who befriends a prostitute (that was sarcasm...), but there is an underlying feeling of dread.  The audience is fully aware that something very bad is going to happen and we spend the movie just waiting. I absolutely love the dancing scene (the first one; the second one is pretty great too); the way it was shot is so weird, but it works and the song is perfect.  The editing, including the sound, is a bit jarring, but it's supposed to be that way (to enhance the sense of uneasiness).  I did find a lot of mistakes in the movie that distracted me, but otherwise I like it.

5. Insidious Chapter 2 - I don't know why I watched this, considering I am not a big fan of the first one. The biggest reason that I dislike the first one, though, is because it was hyped so much as the next great horror movie; my expectations were through the roof.  Without those expectations, I can admit that it's a solid horror movie with a very bad ending.  I appreciate that the sequel begins right where the first one leaves off - sort of redeeming the terrible third act. I love Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, but they are wasted for this movie. As someone who isn't that into the supernatural horror genre, I try to overlook the ridiculousness of the plot and focus on the filmmaking.  I absolutely love the opening credits of the first Insidious. Those black and white shots are stunning and haunting...and memorable.  Similarly, this years The Conjuring, has some amazing moments that I will remember, even if I don't like it as a whole. Sadly, I can't find anything of value with this sequel. It's a waste of talent and time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Oscar Nominations: The Good, The Bad and The Snubbed

The Good - 

-Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club is my favorite male performance of last year; Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave is my second. I am happy that Leo is there, as well.  However, I have a STRONG feeling this will be the surprise win category that the Academy likes to throw in and Bruce Dern is going to walk away with the Oscar.

-I've seen 4 of the nominated Best Picture films and 3 of them are on my Top 10 list (The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Dallas Buyers Club is a good film with outstanding performances).

-Cate Blanchett deserves every award there is for Blue Jasmine. The best performance of the year, male or female (and don't even get me started on how incredibly sexist it is that these award shows still separate genders. Imagine if your place of work divided people by their sex? It's sad that the entertainment industry believes that women can't compete in the same category as men).

-Two time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill? Yeah...I like the sound of that. He's incredible in The Wolf of Wall Street. Yes, Jared Leto deserves the win.

-Catherine Martin in the Costume Design category for The Great Gatsby.  I don't think any other film has had such a strong effect on fashion this year. Working in a women's accessory store, the most popular request I've had this year is "I want the Gatsby look".

-The entire Directing category is fantastic. The incredible thing is that all 5 directors are so different in aesthetic. For me, it's the toughest category but I would say McQueen has the strongest film, but then again....Scorcese! Plus, David O' Russell is one of my favorite directors. And Gravity is an absolute masterpiece thanks to Cuaron. Hmmmmm...

-The Hunt for Foreign Language film.  It's in my top 10 of the year.

The Bad - 

-Honestly, I'm not too upset by any of the nominations.  Only a few irk me, starting with Michael Fassbender.  If there is a weak link in 12 Years a Slave, it's him.  Sure he was great at portraying true evil, but it was a bit one-note and he struggled with the accent (sorry, I know how much everyone just loves him, but his accent completely distracted me).

-I don't really get Sally Hawkins.  She was annoying in Happy-Go-Lucky and she is annoying in Blue Jasmine.  Is that Oscar-worthy? Or does she just have an annoying personality?  I don't know yet.

The Snubbed - 

-As much as I don't have too many issues with those nominated - there are A TON of snubs.  That's never a bad thing, though - it just means there were too many good movies this year!  I think the biggest snub is for Stoker, which is my favorite movie of 2013.  I didn't expect it to get any recognition, considering it has been shut out of every major awards show, but still.  In my world, Mia Wasikowska would have a Best Actress nomination, Chan-Wook Park would have a Directing nomination, Wentworth Miller would have a Screenplay nomination and Chun-hoon Chung would have a Cinematography nomination.

-My second favorite film is Mud.  McConaughey deserves a Supporting Actor nod and what about Tye Sheridan? He might actually be my favorite male performance of the year, now that I think about it.

-Only God Forgives is a beautiful movie. Even its harshest critics won't deny that.

-12 Years a Slave received nominations in practically every category except Cinematography? That doesn't even make sense.

-I would have loved a surprise nomination for Sam Rockwell for his performance in The Way, Way Back - oh and even Allison Janney was incredible and the Screenplay too.  I just love that movie.

-Julianne Moore gave amazing supporting performances for both What Maisie Knew and Don Jon.  

-I could go on forever...but I'll just do one more: Pacific Rim for Visual Effects and funnest movie of the year (oh is that not a category? Well, it damn well should be).

Friday, January 17, 2014

3 Thoughts on The Wolf of Wall Street

1. It's brilliantly excessive - I usually have issues with long movies; I can't fully explain it and I completely understand the counterargument of letting a director create their full vision (and also,  if something is great then why wouldn't one want to keep watching it?).  Personally, for me, I just prefer stories that are tight and concise.  Two hours is long enough to sit in one spot and focus on one thing (first, I'm female and, like the cliche, my brain moves in a million different directions; second, I get really bad back pain from sitting for too long (from a childhood injury), so around the two hour mark, I need to get up or face days of pain).  As much as I love movies and as much as I would love to sit in a theater ALL DAY, it just isn't realistic.  I know I'm not the only one that feels this way. I can feel the audience getting impatient during long movies (the rustling of bags, checking phones, shifting positions).  That said, The Wolf of Wall Street - a three hour long movie - went by so quickly that I was actually surprised when it ended.  The length is part of the movie. It's excessively long; as it's ridiculously funny and outrageously horrific.  Could it have been edited down to a two hour movie? Absolutely. It's just one of the few that didn't need to be. There isn't one moment that isn't pure entertainment.

2. Leo and company - How many times should Leo have won an Oscar by now? I count 8 (This Boys Life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, Romeo + Juliet, Titanic, The Aviator, The Departed and Django Unchained). Of course, that's purely based on his performances and not necessarily who he was competing with, but my point is that he gives us an Oscar-worthy performance pretty much every time he steps in front of a camera.  This is no different. Will he win an Oscar for it? Probably not.  It would actually be pretty ironic if he finally did, because this isn't his best role and it's not the best acting performance of the year (McConaughey owns this year). I would still be ecstatic if it happened. This is probably his funniest role, but there is also that sinister charm that he excels at. The scene with him and Kyle Chandler on his boat really captures it all. It's just so, so good.  Leo is not the only acting success of this movie, though. Jonah Hill is fucking perfection.  Just imagine the kind of pressure on his shoulders; stealing scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio, with Martin Scorsese watching his every move.  People can snark all they want about Jonah Hill being a "two time Oscar nominee", but I just think it proves that his performance in Moneyball wasn't a fluke (and also, he's always been solid - Superbad, This is the End - just because they are comedic roles, doesn't make them any less difficult).  Also, expect to hear the name Margot Robbie excessively over the next few years. I spent a great deal of the movie trying to figure out what I knew her from (it was Pan Am), but also fascinated at how absolutely stunning she is; like a real-life version of a Barbie doll.  When the movie was over, I commented to my best friend how beautiful she is and he said "oh I know, her skin is flawless" (this threw me into a fit of giggles - leave it to my bff to notice flawless skin on a beautiful woman who gets completely naked! That would probably make more sense if I prefaced that with the fact that he is gay.).  I should also note that aside from her beauty, she was really great in the role.  She's fairly new, so again, that had to be an intimidating experience, but I think she nailed the part even better than a lot of seasoned actresses would have.

3. The "morals" - There was a lot of "controversy" about whether the movie was glorifying Jordan Belfort's hideously obscene lifestyle, but I didn't get that experience at all while watching it.  Honestly, if at any point in this movie, you want his life, then you're probably a douchebag.  The only part I can sort of understand is when he's fucking one of the most beautiful women in the world.  I get that, sure, but then once you see how she really feels about him, how would anyone want that? I fully believe that the scariest people in the world are wealthy, entitled, white males. Most bad experiences that I've had with the opposite gender have been with this type of man; one who is used to getting what he wants and doesn't behave well when someone tells him "no".  For me, this movie gives insight into the ugliness and destruction that these men create. It's a sad, pathetic and lonely lifestyle, falsely identifying itself as "the American dream".  There is absolutely nothing admirable about it. One can still laugh and be entertained by his story though, without considering it a "glorification", as I did.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best and Worst Films of 2013

I hesitate making my Best and Worst Films list without having seen some of my most anticipated movies that were released right at the end of the year, but I want to stick to tradition so here goes: 


1. Stoker
2. Mud
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Only God Forgives
5. Before Midnight
6. Gravity
7. The Way Way Back
8. Sightseers
9. The Hunt
10. Pacific Rim

*Honorable mentions* - What Maisie Knew, Upstream Color, World War Z, The East

**Still haven't seen** - The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Blue is the Warmest Color, Captain Phillips, The Spectacular Now (I expect most of these to dramatically shift my Best List)


1. The Canyons
2. Movie 43
3. The Host
4. After Earth
5. R.I.P.D
6. Identity Thief
7. The Numbers Station
8. Oz the Great and Powerful
9. The To Do List
10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation