Award season is upon us… and I have a blog to maintain. Time to post about the Oscars.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh yes. The Wolf of Wall Street made me weep for the world. For the world.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.