Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Fistful of Reads: October Edition

So, this month saw me reading a classic to my kids and indulging on two literary master's answer to the 'short story collection'.  Sadly, those masters didn't quite live up to my expectations, but a classic is a classic and continues to delight me (and thankfully my children as well).

That classic was 'The Swiss Family Robinson'.  Have you read this?  It is such a brilliant book because it manages to be so many different things (including genres) while remaining astonishingly grounded from chapter to chapter.  The great thing about this particular novel is that the storytelling itself is right up to par with the actual story, which can actually be a problem with some of these older, critically acclaimed novels.  I remember reading 'Treasure Island' to my daughters and we were all squinting at times with the way in which the novel was written (I ultimately finished it on my own).  Thankfully, Wyss is on top of every moment in this book.  His language is so fluid and easy to read (and listen to).  You find yourself engaged in every sentence, and the great thing is that no matter how familiar you are with the story itself, you remain excited and intrigued with each reading.

The rest of my month, while not a complete waste, was less rewarding.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Oscar Predictions

I hate my months.  I never have enough time to really dedicate to fleshing out my predictions like I’d like to, and the more time I spend analyzing shit, shit changes in the blink of an eye (a movie moves to next year, a movie jumps back to this year, a trailer is released and the internet goes apeshit crazy over its potential) and so it almost seems like a waste of time to over analyze anything, at least not until the awards are in full swing.  SO, I’m ditching the entire WEEKS WORTH of typing and questioning and discussion I’ve worked around my current predictions and am just going to give you them as they are with no explanation and no alternates.

This is how I see the race at the moment:

An early look at the Documentary race...

I'm notorious for not watching a single documentary each year and basically winging my predictions based on what everyone else is predicting.  In fact, I rarely know what the documentaries are about when I predict them (I know, I know...bad prognosticator!) and so this year I'm determined to at least watch a few and start following this race a little more closely.  The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced their nominees yesterday, and while I've heard that they aren't the best source to actually 'influence' the Oscar race, all five of their nominees are eligible for Oscar this year, so it's a start.

The nominees are:

The Act of Killing
Let the Fire Burn
The Square
Stories We Tell

I actually have both Blackfish and Stories We Tell in my Netflix queue, so I'll be seeing them for sure, and I plan on seeing The Act of Killing when it is released because of the critical acclaim and fact that it is probably going to be up for Oscar this year.

How is it for you and this category?  Do you get your hands on many documentaries each year?

Monday, October 28, 2013

What the fuck? : My weekend with ‘Upstream Color’…

I don’t think I’ve ever stared at a screen as intently as I did while watching ‘Upstream Color’, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to watch and rewatch a film so quickly as I did with ‘Upstream Color’.  In fact, I watched the film twice on Saturday and then again last night.  I know that this sounds like the beginning of some hefty praise (look, he loved it so much he watched it three times in two days) and yet after each viewing I was left even more unsure of what I saw, scratching my head at just how empty everything seemed to me despite sporting a premise and an atmosphere that screamed “I’M DEEP!”

Is it really?

I’m honestly at a loss as to how to go about reviewing a film that I cannot wrap my head around.  It all feels so trivial too, since in retrospect the film seems so simple and so vapid and maybe that’s why I cannot fathom how absolutely mundane the whole thing really feels.  It may very well be the most pretentious film I’ve seen this year.

But that isn’t to say that the film is a complete bust, for it isn’t.  From a visual standpoint, the film is intoxicating (some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in any film this year or in the past decade even) and the mix of score and sounds has an alluring intensity that keeps you waiting with baited breath for the answers to be revealed.  I’m just so perplexed as to how those answers are exposed.  There are fewer films that make as little sense as this one, and yet I’m left dumbfounded at the idea that it is all supposed to make sense in the end.

A Fisti Finish! The 1967 Fisti Awards are here!

It actually wasn't that tough, because once I saw 'I Am Curious' it was pretty obvious that it was the superior film of the year.  After that though, it was pretty hard to hand out trophies since there was so much deserving going on this year, and forget about actually narrowing down my actual ballots!  God, five nominees is just not enough sometimes.

Anyways, check out the full list here, and don't forget to chime in with your personal thoughts.  Next up is 1994, but I'm waiting on fucking Netflix to send me the remaining discs for 'Satantango'.  I refuse to finish up my awards until I see that movie, and I've had the first disc at my house for two weeks and the second disc still says 'very long wait'.  FUCK!  Like, whoever has that disc needs to watch it and send it back NOW!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Let's Review Something: Tea and Sympathy

Sometimes you watch a film without expectation and find yourself more than merely invested but moved by the intimate and honest nature of the film itself.  It can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, to sit back and become pulled into the very fabric of a film, the very ‘being’ it processes.  That happened for me last night, while I was watching ‘Tea and Sympathy’, a little known gem from director Vincente Minnelli.  In fact, until last night I hadn’t ever heard of the movie.  As a fan of Deborah Kerr, I was interested in seeing it, but I had no idea what I was about to watch and had zero expectation walking in.

‘Tea and Sympathy’ may be one of the most powerful portraits of bullying, loneliness, tolerance and sexual identity ever put to film.

Some will balk at this.  Some will say that the film is dated and that its presentation of homosexuality is stilted or false, but one also has to remember the time in which a film like this was being made.  In the 50’s, it was extremely taboo to tackle these themes.  In fact, it is still to a small degree considered taboo today.  It was very hard to express sympathy or tolerance for those struggling with their own personal feelings and identity because there was very little tolerance to be found.  That is why a film like ‘Tea and Sympathy’ is so important and so powerful.  It may not address certain issues with definite clarity (it never once mentions the word homosexual or even gay) and yet in doing such it actually speaks to a larger audience.  It makes the core theme of bullying a more universal subject, and in doing so it becomes a more powerful and more effective film.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Awards Tally 2013

Alright, so the Oscar nominations are in and so I've adjusted the tally's below to ONLY show the films/performances nominated for Oscar in each category, since the rest doesn't matter anymore, and this will keep everything streamlined and easier to follow.  I've kept the Ensemble and Comedy Film categories, but only list the nominees that correspond with Oscar's Best Picture lineup.  I hope that all of this is helpful!

Gotham Awards Nominations!

It's official, the Awards Season is upon us!  Seriously, Winter has always been my favorite time of year, but as the years trickle by and I become more and more invested in the Awards Season hoopla, this season truly has SHONE for me.  The very idea of Winter makes me smile.  Give me a sweater, a coffee and a movie and I'm content!

So, with the season revving it's engines, the early starter Awards Bodies are showing their support for their favorite films of the year.  We're still a month away from getting into the barrage of critic's awards, but between the Hollywood Film Awards winners announced over the last few weeks and the Gotham Awards announcing their nominees this morning, all it good in movie town.

What I find really reassuring (and comforting) is that these Awards, which for the longest time seemed rather insignificant, are truly showing a change in the way that AMPAS thinks.  It started when The Hurt Locker was embraced here and then swept the Oscars.  Since then we've seen films like Winter's Bone and Beasts of the Southern Wild pop up here and go on to achieve not only critical acclaim but a place at Oscar's table.  The reign of big studio monsters may not be completely dead, but Independent films are on the rise and getting more respect and attention, and it shows in the films that get mentions here (and at the Spirit Awards) and manage to rack up serious Oscar mentions.

Just look at this batch of nominees:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Another Fisti Update...

Wait...don't you love me?

Yes Paul, I do love you very, VERY much, so don't be alarmed by your epic snub at my 1967 Fisti Awards.  I know that this is going to rub some people the wrong way, but this year was just too good and that category was just too crowded.  In fact, I had three actors fighting it out for the last slot, and I wound up going with the one actor who surprised me the most and doesn't have the chance to rack up other nominations (Newman is nominated for MANY Fisti Awards and wins a few).  Still, I know that he is oft remembered for this particular performance, and that many people actually feel he should have won the Oscar over the likes of Rod Steiger, but I'll say this...

Steiger in 'In the Heat of the Night'>>>>>Paul Newman in 'Cool Hand Luke'

Anyways, indulge and let me know what you think of my winners and nominees.  This may be my favorite collective winners circle of actors of the posted Fisti's so far.  I am in AWE of all four of these winners.

Odd casting news of the day...

But can he sing?

So, I didn't see this coming at all.  I didn't even know that the idea of an Elton John biopic was being flirted with, but the idea of Tom Hardy playing the famed musician has me on the fence.  I'm an advocate for Hardy's talent.  I even give him a Fisti for his tremendous breakthrough performance in 'Bronson', but I never saw him as the Elton John type.  That being said, he has the chops to pull this off (he's tough, but he can easily slide into flamboyant) and so I'm interested to see where he takes this role.  I'm also interested to hear that this is going to be an extended biopic and will focus on his life and not a mere moment in time.

But really, I just want to know if Hardy is going to do his own singing!  I know that John is rerecording his own songs, but will Hardy all?

Something interesting this way comes...

The look of an original voice...

Say what you will about Yorgos Lanthimos, but at least he isn't recycling the same story that we've already seen a thousand times before.  Both 'Dogtooth' and 'The Alps' were highly original pieces that showed Lanthimos has a distinct voice and knows how to use it.  Stepping away from his Greek roots and embracing the English language, Lanthimos has gathered himself a diverse and very promising cast (Clarke, Coleman, Seydoux and Whishaw) for his upcoming film, 'Lobster', and has concocted a synopsis that can't be faulted for it's lack of originality.

Get a load of this:

…an unconventional love story set in a dystopian near future where single people, according to the rules of the Town, are arrested and transferred to the Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the woods. A desperate Man escapes from the Hotel to the Woods where the Loners live and there he falls in love, although it's against their rules.

Bizarre, yes, but Lanthimos is good with bizarre.  I'm excited about this, if nothing more than to see Seydoux, Coleman and Clarke getting meaty, experimental roles.  I honestly could care less about Whishaw, but maybe he'll impress me.

Hollywood Film Awards

They claim to be the kickoff to Awards Season, and yet no one takes them seriously since Harvey Weinstein basically shells out cash to buy awards for his contending films in order to make their buzz feel more cemented.  Still, they are awards and they really are the first of the season, and while awards are never that interesting unless they have actual nominees, and these ones are pathetically announced in gradual style over the course of a few WEEKS, let's go ahead and discuss.

What do these wins mean for the honorees?

Producer: Michael De Luca for Captain Phillips (so, basically Captain Phillips just won their version of Best Picture)

Director: Lee Daniels for The Butler
Breakout Director: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

Screenwriters: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight

Actress: Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Actor: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Supporting Actress: Julia Roberts for August: Osage County
Supporting Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal for Prisoners
Breakthrough Performance: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
New Hollywood Award: Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave
Career Achievement: Harrison Ford for 42
Spotlight Awards:
Michael B. Jordon for Fruitvale Station
Sophie Nelisse for The Book Thief
David Oyelowa for The Butler

Ensemble: August: Osage County

Song: Atlas from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Production Design: American Hustle
Costume Design: American Hustle
Visual Effects: Pacific Rim

Animated: Monsters University

A couple of things right off.  They seem intent on rewarding everyone.  I mean, what is the difference between a Spotlight Award, a Breakthrough Award and a New Hollywood Award?  I know that every awards body seems to want to cover every base so that they can say that they 'predicted the Oscars', but really, why?  First off, Leto isn't breaking through.  He's been done broke through MANY years ago.  

I do like though that Before Midnight was rewarded here.  I was beginning to think that maybe it would be forgotten completely come Oscar, but hopefully this will be the beginning of things to come.

But here's the thing; these awards lose all credibility when you see a film like Gravity and then awards Pacific Rim in Visual Effects.  Yes, those effects were spectacular, BUT, you can't deny Gravity.  It doesn't make a lot of sense.  

I'm beginning to wonder if I was onto something at year's beginning when I said that Monster's University was going to walk away with the Oscar.  The closer we get the more it seems realistic.

Anyways, these are dumb but fun.  Poor Gyllenhaal.  This is probably where his awards run will end, but yay for Jared Leto!  He's on his way to Oscar.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fisti Updates: 1967 has begun!

Feeling the heat?

So, moving along with the Fisti Awards, 1967 has begun.  I only have the first five categories posted.  Those categories are Picture, Director, Film Editing and the Screenplays.  1967, next to 1939, is probably the best year for film ever, and yet it is one of those years where Oscar seemed to botch everything up.  Their top five were Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night.  Of those five, only one of them makes my ballot and the other four don't even factor into my top twelve.  That isn't to say that they aren't good films, but they aren't great and really don't represent how brilliant the year was for film.  What it does represent is the change in the industry, with racism, violence and sex (maybe not all) being the focal point of four out of the five films.

What are your thoughts on the film year?  What do you think of my nominees?  How many of them have you seen?

Next up will be the actors!  I'll give you a little hint.  Only two of Oscar's acting winners wind up nominated for a Fisti.  One category has four of the actors coming straight from my personal Best Picture lineup and two of them don't have a single Best Picture represented in the lineup.  Only one of my personal winners was actually nominated for an Oscar for this particular performance, although one of my winners WAS nominated for a different performance.

Any ideas as to who I nominate?

The return of the Biblical Epic?

What is that I see on the horizon?

We haven't had a good biblical epic in a while.  2004 tried to give us one in 'The Passion of the Christ', but it isn't really all that well remembered (and honestly, I never saw it).  But with the hype surrounding Aronofsky's upcoming 'Noah' (and this bootleg trailer that's floating around right now) all the attention is shifting to this long thought dead genre and what may become of it.  I'm all for a revival, if it's done right.  Ridley Scott, who is no stranger to the epic, has his hands all over a retelling of the story of Moses with 'Exodus', and this new crop of pictures is circulating the web and causing a stir:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trailer Break: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BRING ON 2014!  This movie looks marvelous, and between this and 'Noah', March is going to be a great month at the movies.  After the masterpiece that was 'Moonrise Kingdom', I'd follow Wes Anderson anywhere, and this is where he wants to take me.  This ensemble is to die for (seriously, read these names!), and the whimsical almost cartoonish delivery of everything is delicious.  He proved with 'Moonrise Kingdom' that he could pull such natural delight out of children, so I'm anxious to see what he does with Ronan (about time she gets a great role again) and newcomer Tony Revolveri.

Oh, and can I just say, I'd give Ralphe Fiennes the Oscar just for this trailer...fucking brilliant!

5 Obstructions Blogathon: Obstruction #5

I’ve been struggling with this final obstruction all month.  It’s crazy; all these months of weird assignments and complete firsts (interviews, plagiarism, outright lies) and the final obstruction seemed like such an easy get.  WRITE WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT TO!  Well, I don’t know what the fuck I want to talk about!  How’s that for a snag in this armor.  I didn’t see that one coming.  I mean, when I saw the obstruction for the month I was so sure of myself.  I knew that this was going to be easy.  I even commented “now all I have to do is pick a subject” but doing that was hard as hell. 

For those unfamiliar, I'm speaking of Nostra's '5 Obstructions' blogathon, which you can read more about here.

I think at the end of the day I was making this harder on myself than it needed to be.  I wanted this to be an important subject, something that felt really poignant to movies today, but I’m not all that profound despite constantly trying to pretend that I am, and so penciling down a subject was giving me a headache. 

Seriously, just yesterday I was thinking about throwing in the towel, and it’s barely the middle of the month.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I love me some inspired casting choices!

On the rise!

I've been on the Foster train for years now, but it wasn't until I saw 'Ain't These Bodies Saints' that I realized just how untapped his potential really is.  Seriously, he's on his way to a Fisti nomination (maybe even a win) and now I hear news that he's landed the coveted (you know it is) role of Lance Armstrong in the Stephen Frears directed biopic!  This is big news for him, and really who better than Frears to bring this story to the big screen.  I'm so glad they went with someone who could use a profile boost, as opposed to merely casting Michael Fassbender yet again.

Even better news (or news that is just as good)...the film will also star this guy:

Consider my ass in that seat!

A flood of controversy surrounding the final cut of 'Noah'...

I've been afraid of this day coming, but apparently there is a flood (pun intended) of controversy surrounding the final cut of Aronofsky's biblical epic 'Noah'.  The film is set to release next March, and I've been awaiting it's release with baited breath.  The combination of Aronofsky, Crowe and God has me ridiculously excited, and everything I've seen so far from this film has my interest peaked and my expectations high.  

I just read this article at The Ropes of Silicon, and I must say I'm worried.

I had a feeling that this would happen.  You always run the risk of controversy when you tackle a subject held sacred, and when you tamper with Scripture you have to face a firing squad of religious cohorts who judge every decision you make.  Sometimes, these alterations pay off and sometimes they come across as tacky or disrespectful.  You have to play to your audience in a way, but that really raises a sincere question; just how much SHOULD a director cater to his audience?

As a devoted film lover, I would say "not at all".  We like what we like, and if we don't like your film, we'll watch another one, but I have no respect for an auteur who would compromise their own vision for the sake of 'drawing a crowd'.  Still, this isn't some small indie, and with a huge studio backing you and shelling out millions to make this movie 'epic', they obviously want to recoup that money and so I understand where the concern comes in.  Controversy is a money maker in its own right though, and this could very well work in the film's favor.  If Aronofsky is allowed to keep his third act (please let is be so) then I for one am even more excited to see where he has taken it.

Either way, my ass is in that seat, but I would much rather see the film Aronofsky intended me to see than see some butchered version the studio felt more appropriate.

Is Kate Winslet the best actress of all time?

First off, I love this video in all it's tacky wonderfulness.  Kate Winslet knows her reputation, and you can rest assured she's in on the joke and stoking those fires here.  She's not serious, but in a way she is, and that's what makes her so wonderful.  When you base your career on a wide range of roles and critical acclaim, you deserve to think you're the best.

It's funny that this video was released now, because just the other night I was actually asking myself this very question.  I've been a rabid fan of hers for years (they call us Winsluts, and I'm totally fine with that) and yet in recent years I've found my love and adoration shifting to other actresses who seem more intent on stretching themselves cinematically.  When I think of the film choices that Winslet makes versus the choices I see actresses like Marion Cotillard making, I wonder just who is the better actress (or at least the smarter one).

But, for the record, I think that Kate Winslet would make the perfect Lady MacBeth.

Anyways, with all this doubt in my mind, whenever I see Winslet or hear her speak I'm instantly reminded of her legendary greatness (she's only 38 and yet she already feels like a screen icon) and she's instantly my #1 again.  I can't wait to see 'Labor Day' and I hope she's wonderful in the film.  I'd love to see her stretch herself a little more now, especially since she's already snagged her Oscar (I happen to adore her performance in 'The Reader', so I'm perfectly fine with her win), but really, her career speaks for itself.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

'Gone Girl' has a release date, and Rosamund Pike has her ticket to the Oscar show!

Bask in her beauty!

First of all, isn't she fucking BEAUTIFUL?!?!  Seriously, this woman is damn near perfection.  She's 'blonde bombshell' personified.  She's like a Barbie, seriously.  

Enough ogling, let's move on.

So, we've already talked up the amazingness of her casting in Fincher's 2014 film, 'Gone Girl', but now the film has a release date which is PRIME for Oscar and Pike's chances at gold,  or at least a nomination.  The film opens on October 3rd and I for one can't wait to get my ticket.  Sure, this is a thriller, but this is Fincher, and he's on a role with wracking up Oscar noms for his actors.  If she nails this, she could finally breakout and get the career she deserves.  

And for those of you who haven't seen them yet; see pics of Pike on set after the jump:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poster Break: August Osage County

This is kind of fucking awesome, in all it's tacky awfulness.  I have very little desire to see this (I mean, I'll see it, but I'm not expecting anything great) but this poster is just the greatest thing I've ever seen.  Poor Julia Roberts though.  She looks like Sarah Jessica Parker in this poster, and no one wants to be mistaken for her; especially if you want to sell movie tickets.

Could 'Philomena' be a surprise contender in...everything?

At the beginning of the year, I was confident of one thing with regards to this movie; Judi Dench was winning the Oscar.  It just screamed BAIT, and her name really feels like the kind of name that has 'Lead Actress Oscar Winner' attached to the front of it.  Then the trailer was dropped and protagonists stuck their noses up and said "TOO LIGHT" and I said "Dench cracking inappropriate jokes and OMG tears is bound to result in an Oscar".  Then early word from test screenings was less than positive, and this dreadful poster was released and I started to question not only her win, but her nomination.

Then Venice happened. 

Since then, this film has been garnering all the necessary praise and recognition to snag some very high profile nominations, and the recent Audience Award it won at the Hamptons Film Festival is yet another notch in the belt of success.

So now I wonder, could this really be a bigger contender than a mere Actress nomination/win?  Could Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actor or even Director happen?  Could this, and not 'Fruitvale Station', be Weinstein's big Oscar vehicle this year?  I'm seriously beginning to think we've all underestimated this one.

Let's Review Something: Captain Phillips

I want you to close your eyes (not really, because then you couldn’t read this) and imagine something for a moment.  A weathered Bruce Willis sips his coffee while chatting up a group of young, muscle bound actors as they stare out at the open sea.  Just as calm is setting in over the group, Willis sounds the alarms because there are pirates approaching.  Next, we see Will Smith stagger into view as he wields a gun and tries his hardest to win an Oscar by talking with an uneven accent.  He demands money, and lots of it, and next thing you know there is an all-out war as these seaman tear off their shirts, exposing their pulsating chest muscles, and race throughout the ship, taking out pirates left and right.  Willis, who appeared old and weathered on the outset, turns out to be in better shape than he’s ever been in his life and the finale centers on a meticulously choreographed fight sequence between him and Will Smith where he spews some one-liners and winds up single handedly rewriting history.

I shudder at the thought of what this movie would have turn into, had someone like Michael Bay directed it.

Thankfully, we don’t really have to think much about that, since Michael Bay did NOT direct this.  Paul Greengrass did, and while Greengrass has had his fair-share of directing action films (those Bourne sequels), he’s done so with grit and class, and he’s also managed to formulate some really interesting ‘adult’ films (‘United 93’ still makes a serious impact on me).  He’s smart, and he understands that creating tension does not have to revolve around the obvious.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Nights With...Killer Couples: Pierrot le Fou

So, here we are, at the end of the week and the end of this series for the month.  This has been a fun week of crazy mayhem and some astute observations not only on violence but also on the danger of striving for celebrity.

To close the week, we get to talk about a very special film.  You can read Josh's review of the film here (thanks for playing along buddy).

So...what film are we discussing today?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Saying goodbye to a cinematic treasure…(my review of 'Enough Said')

When the credits finished rolling on ‘Enough Said’ and the words ‘For Jim’ came on the screen, I shed a tear.  The shock of Gandolfini’s death and the impact it has had on me as a fan is still hard to take, and I have to say that watching him in ‘Enough Said’ was one of those bittersweet moments.  It was sweet, because this is, without a single doubt, the greatest performance he’s ever given.  It was bitter because I knew that I’d never see him tap into this side of himself again.

I seriously want to cry right now.

The power of Gandolfini’s performance comes from the fact that he is not acting here, at all.  He’s simply living this performance, and he completely wins the audience over.  While the ensemble as a whole is wonderful, Gandolfini is in a league all his own.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus is hilarious, and yet where she is obviously reaching for those moments (she gets them, but you can see her reaching), Gandolfini just sits back and lets it all roll off of his natural charm and charisma.  He never has to reach out for anything, it just comes to him.  Toni Collette (the best I’ve seen her in years), Catherine Keener (always a joy) and Ben Falcone work with Holofcener’s rich dialog and character development with ease, but none with the ease of Gandolfini, who delivers one of my favorite performances of the year.

Let's Review Something: Wish You Were Here

I’ve been anxious to get my hands on ‘Wish You Were Here’ for about a year now.  I heard about it last year when it was released in Australia and heavily anticipated a stateside release for an awards run in 2012, but that didn’t happen.  Despite going on to win a slew of Australian awards (for everything from writing to acting) the film didn’t catch on with American audiences when it was finally released in June of this year.  It never reached a theater near me, and so I patiently waited for the DVD release.  I found myself checking my Netflix ‘saved queue’ every week, waiting for word on a release date and then finally it got bumped to the top of my queue and it landed at my front door the beginning of the week.

I’ve been on the Joel Edgerton train for a while now.  I’ll admit right here and now that he is the reason I was awaiting the film with such anticipation.  He’s a staggeringly good actor, not to mention an incredibly handsome man, and he just drips with screen presence.  Watching his star slowly rise has been a dream, and with this film and his phenomenal turn in ‘The Great Gatsby’, he’s had a banner year so far.

2014 looks even better.

So, Edgerton is what drew me to ‘Wish You Were Here’, and while he is brilliant in the film, he isn’t the only thing that kept me watching.  In fact, this is an exceptional ensemble who works wonderfully within the confines of the film itself.  While the narrative is slightly fractured due to the constant flashbacks and oddly fit construction of the film, the performances drive so much of the intention home and make this an unforgettable ride that asks some very provocative questions without forcing us to come to a definite answer.  The open-ended morality of it all feels very intentional, and that makes for an even more impactful finish.

Five Nights With...Killer Couples: Natural Born Killers

Well, last night was a trip.  As I settled in to watch 'Natural Born Killers' I had a completely different idea of what I was going to experience, but I should have known that nothing in the hands of Oliver Stone is what it seems.  The more I think about this film the more I wonder if I really do like it, or if I hate it, or if I love to hate it; and it's only been a few hours.  The thing is, I can see where Stone wanted to go with this, and yet I don't think he got there.

Or maybe he did and this feeling I have right now is exactly what he intended for me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bucking the trend, 'Wolf of Wall Street' says "fuck you 2014, I think I like 2013 after all!"

It's all about the money...

With film after film jumping ship and moving to 2014, it was beginning to feel like 2013 wasn't going to have any high profile end of year releases...and then this news dropped.  Yes, it's not official yet, but it looks like Scorsese's 'Wolf of Wall Street' is eyeing a December release date after all.  With editing due to be finished the end of November, we could be seeing this flashy Wall Street drama becoming the big ticket money maker for the Christmas box office swell.  What does this mean for Oscar?  Probably a lot.  I've been high on this film's chances since the trailer dropped, and word on the screenplay was VERY good, and with a mixed bag of reviews for 'Rush' and some underwhelming early tweets for 'American Hustle' looming, maybe 'Wolf of Wall Street' is peeking at the right time.

The real question is this; with a wide open Lead Actor race basically boiling down to a breakout performance by an undervalued African American actor and a legend getting raves in a moderately recieved film where he says absolutely nothing (but the word "fuck"), could the overdue nature of DiCaprio's reputation result in a sudden shift in this category?  Could he actually WIN the Oscar?

I think so.

Five Nights With...Killer Couples: Badlands

So last night was great.  I haven't seen 'Badlands' in years, and it was a nice surprise to still feel the same weight of urgency and surprise of identity as I did the first time.  This is still my favorite Malick film, although a recent viewing of 'The Thin Red Line' has bumped that up a bit in my esteem.  

But really, this is a vastly different film for him, when you consider his filmography, and it stands out to me as one of his deeper character studies, relying less on his cinematographer and more on his own perceptiveness to carry the message of the film to the viewer.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Five Nights With...Killer Couples: Bonnie and Clyde

Rewatching ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ last night was a bit of a treat for me.  It was the first film I had ever seen from the year 1967, and it carries one of those really fond memories with me.  My wife and I had decided a few years back that we wanted to watch all of the Oscar Best Picture nominees, and we started with this film.  Sadly, we never followed through with this (I’m working on it on my own, but my wife is just not a movie person) but that week spent with the 1967 Oscar nominees was a lot of fun.

When I first saw ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ I was rather spellbound.  It was nothing that I expected, and watching the way it helped shape cinema at the time was like witnessing a special (and personally meaningful) piece of history.  Watching it last night reinvigorated something in me that had lulled somewhat.  While I’ve always respected this film, as the years trickled by I found myself pondering the power of the film itself.  Watching it with older eyes, I can see the film’s flaws a tad clearer, but with that clarity I can also see the film’s impact, and I have to admit that the film is still as powerful as ever.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Foreign Language Oscar entries are here!

I'm stealing this right from here, but YAY, now predicting won't be so all over the place.

Afghanistan, Wajma (An Afghan Love Story) (dir. Barmak Akram)
Albania, Agon (dir. Robert Budina)
Argentina, Wakolda (dir. Lucía Puenzo)
Australia, The Rocket (dir. Kim Mordaunt)
Austria, The Wall (dir. Julian Pölsler)
Azerbaijan, Steppe Man (dir. Shamil Aliyev)
Bangladesh, Television (dir. Mostofa Sarwar Farooki)
Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown (dir. Felix van Groeningen)
Bosnia and Herzegovina, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (dir. Danis Tanović)
Brazil, Neighbouring Sounds (dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho)
Bulgaria, The Colour of the Chameleon (dir. Emil Hristov)
Cambodia, The Missing Picture (dir. Rithy Panh)
Canada, Gabrielle (dir. Louise Archambault)
Chad, GriGris (dir. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
Chile, Gloria (dir. Sebastián Lelio)
China, Back to 1942 (dir. Feng Xiaogang)
Colombia, La Playa DC (dir. Juan Andrés Arango)
Croatia, Halima's Path (dir. Arsen Anton Ostojić)
Czech Republic, Burning Bush (dir. Agnieszka Holland)
Denmark, The Hunt (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Dominican Republic, Who's the Boss? (dir. Ronni Castillo)
Ecuador, Porcelain Horse (dir. Javier Andrade)
Egypt, Winter of Discontent (dir. Ibrahim El-Batout)
Estonia, Free Range (dir. Veiko Õunpuu)
Finland, Disciple (dir. Ulrika Bengts)
France, Renoir (dir. Gilles Bourdos)
Georgia, In Bloom (dirs. Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Groß)
Germany, Two Lives (dir. Georg Maas)
Greece, Boy Eating the Bird's Food (dir. Ektoras Lygizos)
Hong Kong, The Grandmaster (dir. Wong Kar-wai)
Hungary, The Notebook (dir. János Szász)
Iceland, Of Horses and Men (dir. Benedikt Erlingsson)
India, The Good Road (dir. Gyan Correa)
Indonesia, Sang Kiai (dir. Rako Prijanto)
Iran, The Past (dir. Asghar Farhadi)
Israel, Bethlehem (dir. Yuval Adler)
Italy, The Great Beauty (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
Japan, The Great Passage (dir. Yuya Ishii)
Kazakhstan, The Old Man (dir. Ermek Tursunov)
Latvia, Mother I Love You (dir. Jānis Nords)
Lebanon, Blind Intersections (dir. Lara Saba)
Lithuania, Conversations on Serious Topics (dir. Giedrė Beinoriūtė)
Luxembourg, Blind Spot (dir. Christophe Wagner)
Mexico, Heli (dir. Amat Escalante)
Moldova, All God's Children (dir. Adrian Popovici)
Montenegro, Bad Destiny (dir. Draško Đurović)
Morocco, God's Horses (dir. Nabil Ayouch)
Nepal, Soongava: Dance of the Orchids (dir. Subarna Thapa)
Netherlands, Borgman (dir. Alex van Warmerdam)
New Zealand, White Lies (dir. Dana Rotberg)
Norway, I Am Yours (dir. Iram Haq)
Pakistan, Zinda Bhaag (dirs. Meenu Gaur, Farjad Nabi)
Palestine, Omar (dir. Hany Abu-Assad)
Peru, The Cleaner (dir. Adrián Saba)
Philippines, Transit (dir. Hannah Espia)
Poland, Walesa (dir. Andrzej Wajda)
Portugal, Lines of Wellington (dir. Valeria Sarmiento)
Romania, Child's Pose (dir. Călin Peter Netzer)
Russia, Stalingrad (dir. Fedor Bondarchuk)
Saudi Arabia, Wadjda (dir. Haifaa al-Mansour)
Serbia, Circles (dir. Srdan Golubovic)
Singapore, Ilo Ilo (dir. Anthony Chen)
Slovakia, My Dog Killer (dir. Mira Fornay)
Slovenia, Class Enemy (dir. Rok Biček)
South Africa, Four Corners (dir. Ian Gabriel)
South Korea, Juvenile Offender (dir. Kang Yi-kwan)
Spain, 15 Years and One Day (dir. Gracia Querejeta)
Sweden, Eat Sleep Die (dir. Gabriela Pichler)
Switzerland, More than Honey (dir. Markus Imhoof)
Taiwan, Soul (dir. Chung Mong-Hong)
Thailand, Countdown (dir. Nattawut Poonpiriya)
Turkey, The Butterfly's Dream (dir. Yılmaz Erdoğan)
Ukraine, Paradjanov (dirs. Serge Avedikian, Olena Fetisova)
United Kingdom, Metro Manila (dir. Sean Ellis)
Uruguay, Anina (dir. Alfredo Soderguit)
Venezuela, Breach in the Silence (dirs. Luis and Andrés Rodríguez)

Five Nights With...Killer Couples: The Hunger

So, another month has passed and here we are with another edition of 'Five Nights With...'.  I forgot to post a reminder on Friday, but I really hope some of you can participate this week.  Last night was rough.  First of all, it was the first time I had seen 'The Hunger', so I really wanted to pay close attention, so as to take it all in.  Sadly, I nearly forgot about the fact that today was the start of this and so it wasn't until around 11 last night that I thought "shit, I need to watch 'The Hunger'".  Unfortunately, my son (who is only two months old) was not feeling sleep, and so he was screaming for nearly an hour before I could get him to pass out, and not just pass out, but pass out to the point where I could lay him down without him stirring himself awake again.  So, it was around 12:30 this morning that I settled in to watching 'The Hunger', and while I was exhausted I found myself completely consumed with this film, frame to frame.

So, let's get this thing started!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Let's Review Something: Gravity

I don’t often get to the movies on opening night, so this review is a treat.  Honestly, with the hype surrounding ‘Gravity’ there was no way I could avoid seeing it tonight; I was being compelled by forces beyond my control.

Sometimes it is hard to separate your true feelings for a film and the bountiful opinions of other, more vocal critics.  Walking into ‘Gravity’, I was nearly set up for sheer disappointment.  The buzz surrounding the film and the near unanimous raves for it made it appear to be one of those overhyped gargantuan films that leave the viewer with nowhere to go but down.  That was my biggest fear tonight, that I was going to wind up feeling betrayed by the early ink and ultimately have my theater experience dampened.

‘Gravity’ does not disappoint.

One Scene Wonder: Orson Welles

Some actors can take a single scene, a solitary moment of screen time, and turn it into the most unforgettable aspect of a movie.  In fact, many actors have used limited screen time to carve out unforgettable turns.  We all remember that Judi Dench won an Oscar for 8-minutes of sass in 'Shakespeare in Love', and quite frankly we all remember her turn in the movie as well.  But she had more than one scene.  Some actors have ONE SCENE, and one scene only, and yet manage to make that one scene the best part of the film.  Last night I finished 1956's 'Moby Dick', and with one scene Orson Welles has shot to the top of my Supporting Actor ballot for 1956, and he's only in ONE SCENE!  Yes, as Father Maple, Welles is a tremendous force of nature, and his natural yet elevated (near godly) delivery of his sermon was so passionate and composed that I almost jumped out of my bed and screamed "HALLELUJAH" when he was through.

In fact, he's so good here I really wish that HE had been cast as Ahab instead of Gregory Peck.

I found this video on Youtube, but sadly the sound is off a tad and so it isn't the best way to experience this moment, so if you can find the film I recommend watching it for this scene alone (which comes in the first fifteen minutes of the movie).  The film, outside of the special effects (and of course Welles) is kind of awful, but you still really need to see this film for this performance alone!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Do the Hustle!

Where 'Blood Ties' went with pure 70's grit for their character posters, 'American Hustle' is all about the glitz and glam of the 70's night life, and this is giving me complete 'Boogie Nights' realness here.  I honestly cannot wait for this movie, and I am far from a David O. Russell advocate despite being intrigued by some of his films.  This movie just looks like so much FUN!

Just check these out!

The Wright Moves: a visual review of the films of Joe Wright

Well, it's about damn time that I actually post another 'visual review', and I've been sitting on this one for a while.  It's been so busy over here on the blog (I'm not complaining) and I've just been waiting for the right time to post this.  You can click on the tag below (visual reviews) to see the rest of the ones I've posted.  These are a fun way to review a complete body of work (shorts and television movies excluded) without getting too wordy.  Yes, I still feel that the best way to understand a film is through the visuals presented, and some directors just 'get' that.  Joe Wright is one of them.  His films are beautiful.  Joe Wright also happens to be one of my FAVORITE voices in film right now, and aside from one GIGANTIC snag, his body of work is pure perfection.


So here are my thoughts on his films to date:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Poster Break: Blood Ties

Character posters are in for 'Blood Ties', which made a splash at Cannes and is one of my most anticipated of the year.  The cast is ridiculous and promises some great scenery chewing, but more than that, the film is said to be smart and tight and expertly directed, so I'm really excited.  I love the 70's vintage look of these posters.  Grainy and earthy and almost make me think of vintage Woody Allen, these posters are brilliant.  Check them out below:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The year of ScarJo continues!

If you haven't read this interview between Darren Aronofsky and Scarlett Johansson, you MUST READ IT NOW!  I've been in love with her for years, and this interview has only strengthened that.  She is such a charming talent, and her interview skills rival the natural bliss of Jennifer Lawrence.  Seriously, get this girl an Oscar campaign because I want to see more of her this year!

A Fistful of Reads: September Edition

Well, September is over and that means another month of reading is through.  I only got through three books this month, and sadly I wasn't a fan of any of them.  I hate when that happens, when you bite into a book and wind up finishing it, not because you're endeared to it or even remotely interested in the outcome but because you have that urge to always finish what you start.  That's pretty much what happened this month, outside of 'Catching Fire', which wasn't good but was at least interesting (and I was mostly interested because I read the first book).  

On another note, my goal for the year was 30, and these three books brought me up to 26, so I'm going to reach my goal this year and that makes me really happy!

So, here are my thoughts on the books of the month: