Best Picture: 5 Quick Reviews of 5 of the Best Movies they missed in 2013

With award season drawing to a close, there were a few notable snubs from the academy and a couple of performances that were seemingly custom-made for them.

Jennifer Garner and Matthew McConaughey

There was Woody Allen, Ron Howard, Joel & Ethan Coen and Tom Hanks, just to name a few, who did great work in 2013 but were left off the Academy’s list because of so many other good movies last year. But also because they were all competing against their past work. And maybe because their films didn’t deal with politically charged subjects.

Jim and Jean

Here are reviews of three movies that are, in my opinion, better than at least two of the films on the Best Picture list… and also reviews of those two movie. Here are the amazing performances, some of them honored, some of them not, that I feel are some of the best of the year. My other picks for Best Picture that actually have a chance to win are HERE.

And I know that not every film can be Gravity. And not every performance can be nominated. But when one or two of the spots go to make a political statement or to increase box office, you leave some of the best work unrecognized.

you better recognize

I would like to recognize them now… but who am I?

I’m just a homeless guy on a public computer blogging about movies he just happened to see while trying to get out the cold, rushing to get it all down before the library closes.

No. That’s not true anymore. But just between you and me, that’s kinda how I feel.

To the reviews…

Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)

Blue Jasmine

Written & Directed by Woody Allen

Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard & Michael Stuhlbarg

Blue Jasmine is the latest sensational cinematic sob story from the great Woody Allen. It is the story of a woman, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett, a woman who is losing her mind after the financial betrayal of her husband, played masterfully by Alec Baldwin.

Blanchett and Baldwin

As in most of Woody’s latter films, there is more than a touch of misogyny here but it is a fantastic story none-the-less. I’ve noticed that since Mr. Allen started on this, one film per year string of, not very good, not very well-made, not very well-thought-out yearly films, he still seems to knock it out of the park every three or four years. (about 1 out of every 4 films is a masterpiece). Blue Jasmine is that one (the last was Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

Blue Jasmine Still

Woody Allen is in fine form here but the film benefits greatly from Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the title character. She is a woman in the middle of a nervous breakdown. In full denial of her life spinning out of control. And it is wonderful to watch.

Cate Blanchett is a master at her craft and should easily win the Oscar. (I love you Amy Adams but Cate carries this movie and you had a lot of help)

Cate

The main character of a Woody Allen film, male or female, is usually just a poorly disguised version of the director. Even when he doesn’t play the part himself, they all sound like him, they all act like him. Or at least most of the actors who don’t bring anything else to the role, who play it as written, play it like him. It takes an actor with a strong sense of self, and ideas of their own, to not just sound like Woody in a Woody Allen film.

Woody Allen Cate Blanchett

Cate brings so much more to the role. She is the singular reason this is not just another Woody Allen yearly offering but a great performance and a great film from a great director, who will go back to giving us another mediocre one next year.

There was a time when Woody Allen was my favorite director but that was a long time ago. Yet, it’s good to know that he still has flashes of greatness. Blue jasmine is a flash of greatness.

Cate Blanchett Bench

Rent it (If you haven’t been turned off by Woody as a person, realize that he is still a great artist and try to separate the two)

Next… I feel the need… the need for speed.

Rush (Exclusive Media, Universal Pictures, Studio Canal, Pathé Productions)

Rush

Directed by Ron Howard

Written by Peter Morgan

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara & Pierfrancesco Favino

Ron Howard has consistently made good films throughout his career. Rush is only the most recent. Ron Howard has become one of the greatest American filmmakers.

Daniel Bruhl as Nick Lauda

Rush is one of my favorite films from 2013. A true story of the competitive spirit with real-life strong characters played by two actors who bring a lot to their roles. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as James Hunt but Daniel Brühl as Formula One superstar Niki Lauda steals the film from the pole position… from the start. He is magnificent. One of the best performances of the year.

Daniel Bruhl

Rush is a movie about a sports rivalry. Well-acted and well-written and very well directed by professionals. I’ve never put Ron Howard on any of my lists. But I’ve enjoyed all of his movies and I like that he takes on epic stories and epic challenges.

Crash

I love racing. Well… racing video games anyway. Rush was really cool to watch for me because I recognized the tracks from the games I play. I’m a regular speed freak… in my living room. Gran Turismo has been one of my favorite games since the first one.

Hunt v Lauda

But there hasn’t been that many good pro racing films. The Fast & Furious movies are a fantasy. Speed Racer had some unbelievable racing scenes but it was based on a cartoon. So in my opinion Rush is the best movie about professional racing ever made. If you know of a better one, let me know about it. I love a good racing movie.

Racing

The racing and the competition are the true stars. The drivers take a back seat because the story is real. I remember the era. I remember the commercials. It was a golden age. But the performance by Daniel Brühl is off the chain. I hated the character. You’re meant to hate the character. But he makes you love him at the same time. It’s masterful work.

Rivalry

Rent it. (Rush is one of the best movies of the year. Pure adrenaline)

Next… a good movie about another awful person.

Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films, StudioCanal)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Written & Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund & Justin Timberlake

Inside Llewyn Davis is the story of a folk singer who is an asshole. I loved this movie. I think the Coen Brothers are the greatest artists in film right now. But how much I hated this character is hard to express. Oscar Isaac is so good in the role. Yet another actor creating an awful awful character and doing it extremely well.

Oscar Isaac

The movie opens with our hero (and I use the term loosely) getting his ass kicked in an alley and then it proceeds to show us why he deserves the beatdown. And it does. And he does. The man is a train wreck. Destroying everything he touches.

Isaac Timberlake Mulligan

Sadly, I identified with him a little too much. And because of it, I wanted someone to punch him in the face so very badly every time he expressed his ego and belittled his friends. I spent most of the movie thinking, “why doesn’t that guy just hit him?” or “Why won’t anyone slap him?” He is annoyingly anti-social and obnoxiously unaware. Oblivious to the disastrous impact he has on every other character in the film.

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis

By the way, every other character in the movie, with little but hilarious exception (the incredible John Goodman), is a motherfucking saint for putting up with this guy. And the cat… Even THAT cat owed him a beat down or a claw in the face. Oh my god, the cat.

Llewyn has the Cat

I love the Coen Brothers but this film annoyed me. Inside Llewyn Davis is not their best by a long shot. First, it’s a drama, while I still think they are at their best with light dramedy and not this heavy stuff. And definitely not their more zany comedies, those can be hard to stomach.

Don’t get me wrong, I think everything they do is insanely good and I’m just comparing this to previous films. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best films of 2013.

Llewyn

Inside Llewyn Davis is an extremely well-made cinematic look at the folk music scene in the time before Dylan. I was not a fan. Folk music was too religious. Too many major keys. Too (forgive me) white. Llewyn to his credit was trying to add some blues. Bob Dylan, to all of our benefit, did so successfully.

It’s just the character reminded me so much of myself I wanted to punch him. A homeless musician with an ego and an attitude, treating his friends like doormats and making bad decision after bad decision after bad decision.

Llewyn Davis

Rent it. (But there just wasn’t enough violence in it for me. I’m kidding the movie is marvelous and the beatdown is satisfying enough)

Next up… A true story gets dressed up for Hollywood…

Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures)

Captain Phillips

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Written by Billy Ray  Based on A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty

Starring Tom Hanks & Barkhad Abdi

Captain Phillips is intense. This movie is crazy intense. I loved the first part of the movie, a thrilling high seas pirate adventure. Tom Hanks is one of the greatest living actors and he shows off his talent once again. Based on a true story, it feels real and authentic… at first.

I am the captain now

The first half of the movie makes this one of the best movies of the year. But where Paul Greengrass loses me is on the backend. When the movie turns into a hostage drama, he tries too hard to pump up the jeopardy. In fact, I wished he would have calmed it down.

Hanks and Abdi

We know what happens in the end. We read it in the papers. We know the seal team super hero kick-ass American Cavalry comes and takes care of business. All bad-ass and shit. But he makes us wait for it.

During the wait Tom Hanks cranks up his acting to eleven. Paul Greengrass pumps up the volume to eleven and then my heart starts pumping at eleven. Everything is cranked up so high for so long that it loses my interest. It stops being entertaining and becomes annoying.

The claustrophobic life boat. The arguing pirates. The waiting for the kill shot. It was all too much.

Lifeboat

The first half is all emotion and characters and some really cool stuff with Tom Hanks matching wits with Barkhad Abdi. You meet the pirates; The impoverished fishermen that have been screwed over by commercial fishing and are at the mercy of organized criminal billionaires that force them to try and seize large vessels with only a few men, tiny boats, a couple of guns and little else for huge multi-million dollar ransoms; of which they get very little. It’s a great story where the good guys are good but the bad guys are sad and scary.

Tom Hanks

And If not for an overly drawn out third act, I would say Captain Phillips was the movie of the year. I just wanted off that lifeboat so badly. I just wanted the movie to end so badly. And the one thing I can always say about a great film, and the same with a great book, is that I never want it to end. I wanted Captain Phillips to end a half hour earlier than it did.

Pirates

Rent it. (It has a great first half and the second half goes on for far too long. But it has two colossal performances from Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi)

Next up… a movie that’s a few decades too late.

Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Dallas Buyers Club

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner & Jared Leto

Dallas Buyers Club is a decent movie. This is another true story. The uplifting tale of a man given only 30 days to live and how he uses his last days to help other people with AIDS to live longer. It takes place at the height of the plague, right after Rock Hudson dies.

Ron Woodruff

The performances are the stand out thing in this one because of the transformations that both Jared Leto & Matthew McConaughey go through for the movie. They are unbelievable. Neither actor is recognizable in their role. And both kick serious ass. Oscars all around.

Jared Leto

Jared Leto is extraordinary from the first moment he walks on-screen. And I was all set to see Matthew McConaughey deteriorate on camera but when you see him for the first time he is already sick and has been for some time without knowing it. He is a shadow of the buff and brawny former McConaughey. “Alright, alright, alright.”

Matthew McConaughey

MM

I was already amazed. But then McConaughey just takes that to a whole ‘nother level. He is sensational. This is the best he will ever do. And you know how the academy loves to reward the pretty people who get ugly for the part. So, to not give the Academy Award to Matt would be a crime against nature, for the body transformation alone. But he brings the goods. He is so good in this and then you add the mess he made of that gorgeous body for the role and -Best Actor. Throw your panties on the stage.

MM as Ron Woodruff

Jared Leto’s transformation is of a different sort. He becomes this transgendered drug addict with a heart of gold that rips your heart out of your chest and shows it to you. And while Matt is obviously Matt in a role. Jared Leto disappears completely. Jared Leto wins going away as well. Both Matt and Jared get Oscars. Game Over. Panties.

Dallas Buyers Cast

The movie itself, however, is a statement against the American medical system. The for-profit, treating of symptoms, and pushing of drugs, without caring about the lives of the people. It is a condemnation of our system. A system that has killed thousands upon thousands and still does (by the way, we need to do something about that).

The amount of money the Pharmaceutical companies make off of dying desperate people is obscene. There is a special place in hell for these people. Lower than the circle of traitors. To benefit off the misery of others is the greatest sin. May they burn in hell forever.

McConaughey and Garner

Rent it. (The movie is nothing special. It’s just a straightforward biography with crazy good performances, but you get to be creeped-out by how gaunt and emaciated Matthew McConaughey gets. It’s no Best Picture of the year but it’s worth a rental)

So to recap…

There were two movies about awful homeless people who wear-out their welcome: Blue Jasmine and Inside Llewyn Davis with performances by Sally Hawkins and Oscar Isaac snubbed by the Academy.

There were two movies about real life heroes who when their lives are threatened, rise to the occasion: Captain Phillips and Dallas Buyers Club that weren’t quite good enough to be Best Picture nominees but got it anyway.

And one movie about two men who go really fast but never fast enough; Rush that was one of the best films of 2013 and included one of the best performances by Daniel Brühl.

That’s all for my Oscar posts. Didn’t see Philomena or Nebraska. But I felt that their nominations were more about increasing their box office numbers. Every year a couple of spots go to good little movies that didn’t make a bunch of money but never go to good big movies that did. The Academy, it seems, hates box office success. Anyway…

My DVD folder is about to burst so plain old DVD reviews coming next.

See you guys at the movies,

– Mel

The Littlest Psychopath

(a sob story)

This is the story of a boy called Melvin. And before you think he is me… he is not me. We sort of share a name but he is not me. He is somebody else. A little boy who grew up in a house full of psychotic people. And everyone knows that psychos prey on the weakest. And he was the weakest. He was the littlest psychopath.

Let me see… There was Violent Psycho, Trust-Me Psycho, Grandma Psycho, Rapey Psycho, Uncle Psycho and a half-brother he called monster, that we’ll call Half-Monster Psycho.

And before you feel too bad for little Melvin. He was not alone in this house full of demented psychos. He had a friend; A teddy bear, he named Teddy Beam. This was his companion and protector… that doubled as a football on its day off. Its name was Theodore Melvin Beam.

Its first name was Theodore because Melvin was only five years old when he found it and failed to realize that this was an awful name for a teddy bear. He chose Melvin as its middle because HE was Melvin, so shouldn’t his bear be named Melvin too. And its last name was Beam because… Well, because it doubled as a football. Teddy Beam was a good football.

And I know he sounds like me, but little Melvin was not me. He was not. He was somebody else.

At five years old, Melvin wanted to be an actor when he grew up.

Grandma Psycho was an elderly heroin addict whose habit had outgrown her income. Melvin loved her for her stories and for her butter and maple syrup sandwiches. Heroin addicts sure love their sugar he never thought, because he was only five and had no idea.

When she baby-sat for him, they would read tarot in the kitchen and eat their sticky sweet sandwiches and laugh at the ghosts and demons that came to mess with them. Grandma Psycho would stay with him until the money was gone and the drugs wore off and there were no more suckers, who only wanted to hear what they already knew told to them by an old soul dealing out cards while an even older one stared blankly at their dead relatives or lost friends and grasped his little teddy bear for dear life.

But once the drugs wore off and there was nothing left in the house to steal, she would rent little Melvin to the local pedophiles for money. That’s right. Grown men would pay her money. Not a lot of money. Just enough for her to get good. Money to spend time with a little boy.

“Grandma needs her fix.” she said “And grown men need their hugs. She’ll just be in the next room getting high on these here drugs.”

Theodore Melvin Beam was a tan classic bear. One of his eyes was brown while the other was a black button. He had been someone else’s bear before Melvin and they had apparently let things happen to him. Bad things. But Teddy Beam wants you all to know that he’s safe now. He’s good.

At six years old, Melvin wanted to be a comic book artist when he grew up.

Uncle Psycho was Melvin’s least favorite uncle. He would take Melvin down the block to watch him and his friends drink cheap wine and get into fights. Sometimes there was blood and they would have to run. Or down to the bar or to the brothel until it got dark and Melvin couldn’t wake him because he was too drunk. Or until Melvin was forgotten somewhere along the way, like that jacket you’re always leaving everywhere, the one your mother tells you that you’re going to lose one day.

And the whores would kiss Melvin’s fat little cheeks and pretend to care about him in between giving blow jobs to patrons and it got too dark and he’d have to find his own way back in that dark and the six-year-old boy, older than his years, his cheeks stained cherry red, would head for the door to walk home in the dark.

“You’ve forgotten your jacket sweetie.” a working girl might say. “Can you make it back alone?”

“I got it. I ain’t scared at all.” In fact, it’s scarier at home.

Theodore Melvin Beam always smelled of wine, whiskey and spirits. Jack Daniels was his favorite. He could drink with the best of them. He was the most interesting bear in the world. Then Teddy Beam turned to the camera and said, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

At seven years old, Melvin wanted to be a professional photographer when he grew up.

Violent Psycho and Trust-Me Psycho were a couple. They were in love. He bought her things and made her feel pretty and wanted. Trust-Me’s mother, Melvin called her Grandma, was fond of telling her that no one would ever want her and she believed it. So when a violent psychopath brought her flowers, she overlooked that he’d been abusing her seven-year old son so badly that he’d been hospitalized twice.

Melvin had a scar over his eye where the doctors had to cut it open so that it wouldn’t go blind. This was before the time when “I fell on the swing” or “I bumped into the door” was questioned. No one cared and no one came.

Melvin was Violent Psycho’s whipping boy. VP had a long oak staff that… (Oh do you guys mind if I call him VP? It’s just so much easier) Well, he had a bo staff. And it was that he used to beat the hell out of little Melvin. In the morning. The afternoon. At night. He was a martial arts instructor, militant radical and an overall sadistic human being. Your basic violent psychopath.

At dinnertime, Melvin was his favorite little plaything. He would make Melvin stand beside the table with his arms held out at his sides parallel to the ground. If they dropped at any point, if Melvin got tired or lost his focus, VP would snatch up his bo staff and whack Melvin across the thighs with it or across the back or on the head.

While the rest of the psychos ate dinner in silence, Melvin had to stand there like a statue straining against gravity until everyone was finished with the meal. Or until Melvin had gotten angry enough or tired enough to drop his arms in defiance and take the beating. The savage beating that had hospitalized him twice. Some days he added books to his hands.

And before we go much further I can tell you think he’s me. He is not me. He’s somebody else. I say this honestly.

One day VP thought it would be amusing to juice Melvin’s most hated vegetable and force him to guzzle a large glass of beet juice in one go.

It got messy.

Little Melvin tried his best to keep it down. But it came back up violently and so Melvin ran into the bathroom to escape the beating. He would beat Melvin even when he wasn’t mad. Just for fun. So an angry beating was always particularly brutal.

The bathroom was the only room in the house with a lock. It wasn’t actually a lock but a hook and eye. It was a wall, a moat with alligators, a tower with sentries, an impenetrable force field with a thousand-year power source. It was a little piece of metal with a bracket screwed into the door frame. It was a place of solace.

Violent Psycho huffed and hollered. He banged on the door. He could have easily smashed it in but he enjoyed the game. Even angry, he enjoyed the terror he created.

Then there was the sweetest little knock. It was Trust-Me Psycho’s sweet little knock on the bathroom door. So he unhooked the eye and let her in. She smiled.

“He’s not angry anymore. Breathe. You can stay here if you like.” And then she shoved him out the door. I even think she whispered, “Psych!”

Theodore Melvin Beam was just a stuffed animal and did not feel pain. This came in handy when he was dropped from a great height. He was often dropped from great heights but he never complained. Teddy Beam was always cool like that. He was very cool.

At ten years old, Melvin wanted to be a rock star when he grew up.

Trust-me Psycho was fond of saying I love you when dropping Melvin off with strangers. “Out of sight, out of mind.” she used to say. She said a lot of things. “I love you.” “I’ll kill you.” “Who are you? Why are you trying to hurt me?” “What happened to my spaceship?” OR “God hates me.” Were some of her favorite things to say, to the wall, the door and anyone and no one in particular.

She met a man at school who lived with a mute boy. They were not related. Just a mute little boy who lived in his house. (Sounds legit, right?) She would drop little Melvin off at this house and leave him there so the boys could play.

I’m going to call the man RP for short. It stands for Rapey Psycho because his house was a full on pedo-trap. He had coins on his floor. Dimes and nickels that were easily pocketed when he wasn’t looking. And candy dishes near the sofa. Kids would come over to play and leave with almost a dollars worth of change and a pocket full of candy.

But on the table, where he sat and watched the children, he kept dollar bills, just out of reach. This one time Melvin took a chance and sat down with him at the table where the bills were. Melvin had gotten greedy for money and that’s when he served Melvin the Kool-aid, the Kool-aid with the quaaludes in it, or whatever, that knocked him right out cold.

And when Melvin opened his eyes he found himself on RP’s large creepy water-bed. The little mute boy, the little mute boy who was not the man’s relative, still played on the carpet. Who leaves their child in the house of a man with a large creepy water-bed and a boy who is not his own?

So when the man suggested a sleep-over, a chill ran up Melvin’s spine. Trust-Me Psycho gave him the choice. He could sleep over the pedophiles house or come back home where Violent Psycho had something special ready for him. It was his choice.

The little mute boy said, “Stay.” Not mute after all. Just scared and lonely. Melvin chose the gentler of the two options. He chose to stay.

“Giving your child to pedophiles seems like the family trade. But you’re doing this for nothing, bitch. At least Grandma was getting paid.”

Theodore Melvin Beam sleeps in a bed. He is hugged for comfort and not for pleasure. He chases away the demons with his softness. But the years have hardened his material. He is still soft on the inside but his outside is course and hard. Don’t judge him by his exterior. He has feelings, you know.

At fifteen years old, Melvin wanted to be a filmmaker when he grew up.

He was not alone. Melvin was not alone. There was someone watching from the corner of the room. There was someone with him. There was someone there at every turn. A monster in the corner delighting from his pain. Melvin had a half-brother. A half-monster. Three years older and dumb as a bag of bricks. He was friendly one moment and a complete monster the next. His half-brother must have hated Melvin like something out of a fairy tale to watch all that abuse and say nothing. He watched years of torture and torment that his little brother endured.

But at nicer times, they would play catch. During the down times, Teddy would fly through the air like a beam of light. He was a pretty cool football, that Teddy Beam.

His brother was not a football. He was a smiling witness. He was there to pour salt on the wounds because the psycho rolls downhill. He was glad he was no longer the youngest, the weakest, the littlest psychopath. And that smile of relief for not being the center of abuse never left this half-monster’s face.

He left home when he turned eighteen and never looked back. He asked Melvin to come with him. Melvin had a girlfriend. Melvin was in High School. Melvin was fifteen and moving across the country with a half-monster just didn’t seem like the right decision. The devil you know. Plus by this time all the other psychos were dead or in jail. Except for Trust-Me Psycho, who Melvin desperately wanted to trust. So, he chose to stay.

“I saw them beat, saw them rape you.” he said. “Put you in the hospital twice. But I don’t think it was that bad. It was actually kind of nice.”

And then he left.

Theodore Melvin Beam had been through the wars. Through the fire. Through the mill. And had passed every test. He was a good…

“And you don’t need a teddy bear.” his brother said, as Melvin complained in earnest, then he ripped it from his arms and then he threw it in the furnace.

Melvin stood and stared in horror as Theodore Melvin burned.

“Now you have nothing!” The monster slammed the door, never to return.

Theodore Melvin Beam had been through the wars. Through the fire. Through the mill. And had passed every test. He was a good friend. He was a good companion. He was even a good football. And he will be missed. R.I.P.

At seventeen years old Melvin didn’t know what he wanted to be if he ever got to grow up. It really wasn’t that important anymore.

He was left alone… with HER.

Trust-Me Psycho was in rare form. She was talking to herself and redecorating her life as if she lived by herself. But there was someone breathing in the next room. There was Melvin; Her son. She couldn’t drop him off with relatives; They were all dead, or pawn him off on psychos who were all in jail.

And the boy was a handful. He had anger issues and personality problems. He had beaten up those boys at camp and bullied kids at school. He had yelled and screamed at his grandmother and never visited on her deathbed. He had threatened the lives of her boyfriends and set fire to their things. He punctured that man’s water-bed and flooded his house. He had chased his uncle with a knife when he tried to touch him. He had no respect for his elders. No respect for his mother. The screaming. The fighting with his brother. The temper tantrums. She couldn’t take anymore of this… this… little psychopath. He was a psychopath and she just couldn’t.

“What do you want from me?” she asked. “Stop looking at me.” she ordered. “Are you telling your friends that I’m a bad mother?” She was all over the place. But then suddenly calm.

She said, “I love you, little Melvin. Of that there is no doubt.” and then she swung open the front door and screamed. “Get out. Get out! GET OUT!!!!”

Melvin, after seventeen years, had finally found himself psychopath free… and homeless. Homeless and psychopath free. Well… there was one more left; Melvin himself.

He had survived Grandma, Uncle, Violent, Rapey, Trust-Me and Half-Monster Psychos. And even lost his imaginary friend along the way (a psycho in his own right and one hell of a football). But there was one more psychopath to go. And this would be the trickiest one to get rid of.

He decided to decide that he did not want to live with Melvin anymore. He did not want to BE Melvin anymore. Melvin was a victim. Melvin was a sad-sack. Melvin was a whipping boy.

He would change his name and become someone else. Someone else entirely. Someone who didn’t have the same skeletons as Melvin, the same psychos in his past.

He would change his last name from that old man’s name to something given to him by someone he liked.

He would shorten his first name to something he wanted to be called. Something better.
Something that wasn’t short for anything. And he would just move on.

But this was not a fairytale. It does not have a happy ending. He tried to finish High School but didn’t graduate with his class, mostly because of attendance but also because his life-long straight A’s became straight D’s overnight.

And he would always have trust issues and relationship problems that had deep roots. And though he’d exhausted the hospitality of his friends, after three years of night school (while sleeping on the subway), he finally got his diploma. And would start his new life. Freeing himself from his old one.

It is not a fairytale. But the one thing he learned was how to survive. This new man was a survivor. The memory of old Teddy Beam still comforted him though it had been replaced by a psycho kitty. A cat, which is a better companion for a grown man than a teddy bear.

And I know what you’re thinking; That last part definitely sounds a lot like me. And I’ll give you that much.

“We may share the same scars and our state of mental health.” he said again. “but this story is not about me. It’s about somebody else.”

Okay?

The End

Injured Teddy

For Teddy Beam

Best Picture: 4 Quick Reviews of 4 Movies (that are NOT Gravity)

Award season is upon us… and I have a blog to maintain. Time to post about the Oscars.

The Wait

“It’s about time. We been waiting for movie reviews… …and freedom.”

Sorry Captain Phillips. Sorry Philomena, Nebraska. Sorry Dallas Buyer’s Club, but of the nine Best Picture nominees, only four movies have a punter’s chance to win and only three of those four are NOT Gravity. I know Gravity. Gravity is a friend of mine and you guys are no Gravity.

These are my quick reviews of those three very special (NOT Gravity) movies. And also my dark horse pick. My Cinderella team, so to speak.

The one I want to win. The one I do not want to win. The one I think will win. And a wild card. What I liked about them, what I didn’t like, and why they are NOT Gravity. 

To the reviews…

American Hustle (Columbia Pictures)

American HustleDirected by David O. Russell

Written by Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell

Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner & Jennifer Lawrence

First of all. Amy Adams. Oh my god, Amy Adams. I was already in love with her. Now I’m just at a loss for words. The woman is amazing. Beautiful, funny, talented, amazing.

"You flatter me, sir."

“You flatter me, sir.”

Jennifer Lawrence too. I have never seen her this good. Yes, she is awesome in Silver Linings Playbook but this performance is even better than that. So good.

"Yes!"

“Yes!”

There are great performances all around in this one. The entire cast is on point, but this movie belongs wholeheartedly to the ladies. Amy & Jennifer drive American Hustle forward and keep it entertaining, sexy, funny and little bit heartbreaking. Just an amazing film.

"What do we look like... chopped liver?" "Shhhh. Let the man write."

“What do we look like… chopped liver?”
“Shhhh. Let the man write.”

American Hustle is a wonderfully directed film about a love triangle. A love triangle of emotionally manipulative con-artists. Amy, Jennifer & Christian Bale play the girlfriend, wife and husband. David O. Russell is at the top of his game. He is in a class by himself with regards to bringing great work out of great actors. An excellent actor’s director.

"I've been on Mel's blog five times. Can you say the same." "No. But I've been in Mel's dreams. Quite frankly, you scare him."

“I’ve been on Mel’s blog FIVE times. Can you say the same?”
“No. But I’ve been in Mel’s dreams. Quite frankly, you scare him.”

Even with the seventies hair, the cast is exceptionally sexy. The characters are deliciously flawed and… real. They feel as if they could step off the screen. A bunch of credit goes to the costumes which are exquisite (and I hope award-winning). This is how you make movies. Amy Adams SHOULD finally get her Oscar win (my fingers are crossed)… but alas she probably will not (Cate Blanchett has the inside track). Amy has been one of my favorite actresses for years and this is her best to date. Love her.

"Me?" "Her?"

“Me?”
“Her?”

Rent it. (American Hustle is wonderful. The performances are all award worthy. It is my personal pick for best film of 2013… that is NOT Gravity)

Next… we get loud & wrong (and so so long)…

The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures)

The Wolf of Wall Street

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Written by Terence Winter Based on The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler & Rob Reiner

The Scarface of Penny Stocks; The Wolf of Wall Street has no moral center. It is a very long movie that plays like a string of TV episodes. Not a movie but one great season of a TV show, a HBO or Netflix Drama, (even though it jumps the shark somewhere in the middle of the ocean heading to Switzerland). All build up, no pay off.

"I will give you this hundy if you shut the fuck up."

“I will give you this hundy if you shut the fuck up.”

The performances, however, are some of the best of the year. The best I have seen from Jonah Hill and from Leonardo DiCaprio (though Matthew McConaughey steals the movie early on) And Margot Robbie is scrumptiously good. Just like with American Hustle, the entire cast brings the meat. Martin Scorsese is still a master and like all of his films, The Wolf of Wall Street is seamless and flawlessly perfect; Visually & rhythmically.

"Just stop right there."

“Just stop right there. Don’t say one more fucking word. We’re good.”

AND YET (editorially), I wish I had never watched The Wolf of Wall Street because it angered me. Like Natural Born Killers with SEC violations. The Wolf of Wall Street is cartoonishly amoral. And because it stays true to life and rooted in the author’s own fucked up reality. Nobody learns nothing. Moreover, like Scarface and Natural Born Killers, this is a movie that inspires and will inspire psychopathic, sociopathic and narcissistic behavior.

"I swear to fucking god I will eat this goldfish if you don't stop right now."

“I swear to fucking god I will eat this goldfish if you don’t stop talking right now.”

And like the best movies about addiction or illegal drug empires, the only thing to be learned is that YOU QUIT WHEN YOU’RE ON TOP or you make sure to cushion your fall.

"It's cool Leo. I think he liked the fucking movie."

“It’s cool Leo. I think he liked the movie. Really man. Read between the fucking lines.”

Which is all well and good but in a movie that mentions Gordon Gekko as a villain and not a hero, it still portrays the financial world’s dark and disgusting core. After Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Wu Tang Clan and Reaganomics; A financial world populated by the greediest, self-centered, amoral fuck-tards that missed the entire point of Stone’s films.

"He doesn't like us. You fucking idiot. He just compared us to Wu Tang Clan."

“He doesn’t like us, you fucking idiot. He just compared us to Wu Tang Clan.”

It is for those that thought Wall Street, Scarface and Natural Born Killers were comedies or how-to manuals and the lead characters were, in fact, the heroes of the story. Greed is not just “good” in The Wolf of Wall Street. Greed is fun. It’s a whole lot of fucking fun.

"Yeah, baby."

“Yeah, baby.”

This is the world that The Wolf of Wall Street shows us and I believe it will replace those other films as the go-to cinematic sales pitch for selling your soul for a wad of cash, a pound a coke and a DTF blonde with long long lovely legs that go on forever.

Margot Robbie is Scrumptious

“He called me scrumptious. Are you going to stand for that?”

Oh yes. The Wolf of Wall Street made me weep for the world. For the world.

"You're welcome."

“You’re welcome.”

Rent it or Skip it. (It’s fantastic but I wish I hadn’t watched it.  It made me feel like shit. If I had my way it would not win a thing… except for Most Upsetting Movie that’s NOT Gravity) 

Next… the Brits give us an American History Lesson…

12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

12 Years a Slave

Directed by Steve McQueen

Written by John Ridley  Based on Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt & Alfre Woodard

12 Years a Slave is the brutal true story of a free man kidnapped into slavery and, it’s difficult for me to watch movies about slavery, even though this one is less brutal than the revenge fantasy, torture porn, dreck that Americans make about slavery, I definitely shed some tears during it. There was a lot of anger. Some joy and some sadness. But mostly just anger.

"Dear Mel, Would you be so kind as to not add funny captions to the photos from this movie... out of respect. Sincerely, Solomon Northup Your Homeboy."

“Dear Mel, Would you be so kind as to not add funny captions to the photos from this movie… out of respect. Sincerely, Solomon Northup, Your Homeboy.”

Excellent film-making. Who knew a film about slavery could be so multi-dimensional. It takes a bunch of Brits to make a really good movie about the slave era in this country. Even as it feels like 12 Years a Slave is just a great adaptation of a powerful book that just happens to be about slavery or about one man’s experiences during slavery.

"Did you tell that boy not to put funny captions on the photos?" "No, sir."

“Did you tell that boy not to put funny captions on the photos?”
“No, sir.”

A powerful film with some of the most sublime and, I have to say, “Southern” pacing. Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb and subtle and, in my opinion, the weakest part of the film (sorry dude). Again, the performances in this film, as with the last two, are beyond description. This is the year of the outstanding cast. There were some truly great ensemble performances this year. Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o are sensational. As is Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch et al.

"You hear that? He says we go well together." "That's not what he meant you twisted fuck."

“You hear that? He says we go well together.”
“That’s not what he meant you twisted fuck.”

This story is screwed up and fucked up but I can’t help but tell you that I never once identified the lead character as someone who should not be a slave BECAUSE he was a free man, BECAUSE he was kidnapped into it. ALL of the slaves were kidnapped into slavery and I was rooting for ALL OF THEM TO BE FREE in the end. But the timing was just a little bit off.

"I said no funny captions." "They really aren't that funny."

“But I told him no funny captions.”
“They really aren’t that funny, dude.”

This is a movie that is ONLY about the adventures of Solomon Northup. And the other Africans, or sons, daughters, grand & great grand sons & daughters of Africans, who were born into, sold into, kidnapped into, and forced into slavery are no less deserving of liberty than our hero Solomon, a musician before his ordeal, an abolitionist after, and their struggle felt the same to me. None of us are free if only some of us are free.

"So, we're all in agreement. The captions just aren't that funny." "Yep."

“So, we’re all in agreement. The captions just aren’t that funny.”
“Yep.”

12 Years a Slave is not your run-of-the-mill American slavery tale. It is an exceptional story, well written, expertly directed and brought to life by an extremely talented cast of actors and, in my opinion, the best movie about slavery ever made.

"I saw what you did, Mel. I am no longer your homeboy."

“I saw what you did, Mel and I am no longer your homeboy.”

Rent it. (Steve McQueen has made the movie of the year with 12 Years a Slave and if it doesn’t win best picture at the Oscars something went terribly wrong… or it was penalized because it was NOT Gravity)

Next… a Cinderella story…

Her (Warner Bros. Pictures, Entertainment Film)

Her

Written & Directed by Spike Jonze

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde & Scarlett Johansson

Her (a Spike Jonze Love Story) is an interesting story and a fascinating premise. It is about a man who starts a romantic and sexual relationship with an operating system. At first I was disappointed that it would be a run-of-the-mill relationship movie with a twist. If that’s not a horrible contradiction. It is about the romance between a man and an OS; A constantly evolving Operating System that strives to become his perfect mate.

Joaquin

“I am a creepy creepy man… playing a creepy creepy man in a movie.”

Every thing about their relationship feels real. It felt just like relationships I’ve had or ones I’ve witnessed. (At times it was something I’d never had but wanted). Her is a very good relationship movie, but then it became something else. It evolves. It gets really good.

"You're dating a computer program while Amy Adams is right... you know what I'm done with you."

“You’re dating your computer while Amy Adams is… you know what I’m done with you.”
“Siri? Don’t be mad at me, Siri.”

I don’t want to give it away but it was moving and emotional and it made me think. The science fiction element that creeps into the story turned a good movie into a great movie.

"Seriously, are you blind."

“Seriously, are you blind. I’m Amy fucking Adams.”
“Huh? Do you think Siri likes me?”

I didn’t feel their relationship was unique enough at first. But it redeems itself. The movie redeems itself. I am not saying the romance wasn’t good. If it had just been that, I would have been more than happy with it. Joaquin Phoenix is remarkable at what he does. He disappears into a character. While Amy Adams and the rest of the cast are these, only slightly, futuristic versions of social vs non-social, Isolated within a sea of people people. Living their lives virtually. It is a wonderfully prophetic vision of our not-too-distant future.

"He's right you know. I'm not even real while Amy Adams is hot." "Shut up Siri."

“He’s right you know. I’m not even real while Amy Adams is hot.”
“Shut up, Siri.”

But Spike Jonze creates these beautiful science fiction question marks that left me thinking when it was done. I love movies that do that. Her is Spike Jonze’s best film. The best thing he’s done. I wasn’t the biggest fan before. I loved his quirkiness and his wit but little else. I enjoy his films but this is the first one where I wasn’t bludgeoned by his style. Her was a little more adult, more real, more grounded even while being science fiction fantasy and I’m glad he is evolving as well. I am a fan, now.

"I think Mel's a little obsessed with Amy Adams." "You noticed that too?"

“I think Mel’s a little obsessed with Amy Adams.”
“You noticed that too.”

Rent it. (This melancholic, psychotic, romantic and psuedo-solitary cyber daydream lasted for only two hours but it will stay with me forever. It’s not going anywhere)

So to recap…

The Oscar goes to… NOT Gravity!

Reactions…

12 Years a Slave: “The Academy is racist. You know we should have won.”

American Hustle: “We were robbed. This was Mel’s favorite. Don’t they read his blog?”

The Wolf of Wall Street: “Thanks Obamacare. Income inequality forever! More hookers!”

Her: “We weren’t watching. We were playing Second Life. Who won?”

We all did, Siri. With all of these great movies, we all won.

– Mel

Song of the Year: LET IT GO (from Disney’s Frozen) sung by Idina Menzel

This is the song of the year. It should win a Grammy, an Oscar and, when the live-action musical comes out, a Tony. If you don’t like show-tunes, you can go.

I can’t stop listening to this song. So I’m going to put it here. This blog, it seems, is where I put the things that haunt me. She hides her true self. Everyone thinks she’s a monster. And so she chooses to live alone, in the mountains, with her super powers. Beautiful song. I guess I identify with her.

Frozen Queen Elsa

Presented out of context. (the context really makes the song soar), so if you haven’t seen Frozen, this is not a spoiler. But honestly why haven’t you seen it yet? This song is far and away the best part of it, but it’s still a really good movie.

From Disney’s Frozen. Written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and the amazing Robert Lopez. Sung by the incomparable Idina Menzel…

Let It Go

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,
Not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.
Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know.
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go.
Can’t hold it back anymore.
Let it go, let it go.
Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s funny how some distance,
Makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do,
To test the limits and break through.
No right, no road, no rules for me. I’m free!

Let it go, let it go.
I am the one with the wind and sky.
Let it go, let it go.
You’ll never see me cry.
Here I stand, and here I’ll stay.
Let the storm rage on.

My power flurries through the air into the ground.
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go.
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand,
In the light of day.
Let the storm rage on!
The cold never bothered me anyway.

-Mel

Invasion! of the Ceiling Leak or Liquid Alien Space Portal

There was another leak (the third in eight years). But this one was different somehow. Perhaps this one was not of this earth. Perhaps it was an invasion from fluid space. (probably not… but maybe It’s better to turn it into something silly before I get angry)

By god, it was an invasion!

DSC_0218

It started as an alien space portal on my living room ceiling. It did not feel like they had come in peace. They would find me ready to defend this planet.

DSC_0219

The portal sprang to life and then, for want of a better word, “peed” tiny aliens into my home and into my large plastic bucket, or “welcome wagon”, for what felt like eons.

DSC_0220

And then it stopped. Orders from the mothership. The fall into the bucket had killed them by the thousands and the rest of their tiny army was retreating back to fluid space.

I think we won.

DSC_0221

It looks dormant now. Life has returned to normal. They say it was our gravity that did them in. They were vulnerable and hadn’t counted on our planet’s many plastic buckets.

We had won.

The Memorial

This ceiling bubble will stand as a memorial to the fallen until after I’ve gotten some sleep (and googled how to get rid of it).  2014-01-14. We & They will never forget. 

This planet is defended.

Sleep well my friends.

– Mel