‘The Past’: Review

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Just going to awkwardly start this review by saying how incredible this film is. I wanted to state it as early as possible so there’d be no confusion, but I doubt that considering what I’m about to write. Man, this thing is like nothing I’ve seen before, it’s one great film for a while and then subtlety shape shifts genre so beautifully and effortlessly it creates so much more layers and meaning that I wasn’t even aware of. I mean, it was all their under the surface, and you don’t think the film could delve any deeper, but by so easily changing positions it reveals so much more. Alright, this is vague and veiled, so lets start at the beginning.

Ahmad arrives in Paris with dual purposes, most chiefly to see the kids he was once a father to (and very much still feels that way), but also to finalize and sign the divorce papers with his former wife. Ahmad stays at his ex-wife’s house and sees how much has changed since he’s last see them, and how much things are just like they’ve always been. The biggest change is his ex-wife, Marie, being engaged to a new guy, Samir, taking in his child and being with child herself. Of course, Ahmad’s presence shakes up the stasis, and delivers a fine drama about a man trying to reconnect with the life he loved so much that is drifting further and further away from him. This is just the film’s first gear, but a fine drama it creates just in the first one. Marie and Samir met under odd circumstances, where Samir previously and still has a wife, even through their flirting. Seemingly unprovokingly, Samir’s wife attempts suicide by drinking laundry detergent. She’s depressed, maybe. Found out about the affair, maybe. Thinks Samir is having an affair with a co-worker, maybe. Trying to spite said co-worker because his wife hates her, maybe. Within the film a mystery develops, that holds the fabric of the entirety of its events in the palm of its hand, and is ready to rip It apart at any moment.

It’s the skill of the film that from the first scene where we see Samir we’re directed to dislike him. Of course, we’re on Ahmad’s side, wanting him to get back with Marie where she sees the error of her ways in her impending engagement, and hoping he gets to be a father again. Samir yells at his kid and is just outwardly portrayed as a douche. While his wife lies in a coma here he is impregnating some new woman and planning to marry her, what a dick move. When the film switches over into it’s mystery quotient near the end, we shift focus towards Samir’s point of view, and everything becomes a lot clearer. His motivations that were unseen before are now sprawled out in front of us, and it’s all there for us to understand. You’re maybe not firmly, but definitely sympathetic to him when he delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding his wife’s suicide and how it puts everything in a new, and not better, but alternate view.

It’s a film that never seems like it’s going to take you down some twists and turns, and while unexpected, it totally works and just builds the film up even more. That’s what I loved about it the most, how organically it evolved and revealed this new layer that we never saw coming, but added so much more meaning. The first two thirds just lays the groundwork, connections, characters and such and then brilliantly plays off what we know and what we thought we knew to turn it on its had in a real way. I really didn’t expect much from the The Past, but it doubly surprised by actually being good and engaging and then ratcheting that up during the film. A truly unique film that not only tackles real everyday issues, but slowly tightens its grip on you until you can’t squirm free until the credits roll.

9/10

‘August: Osage County’: Review

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August: Osage County is just the worst kind of film. Oscar bait films, while never outwardly bad are just so eyerollingly annoying because of the checklist you can see being checked off throughout the film as they hit every cliché that the Academy loves to nominate and recognize. Yeah, and you know what, this film is actually pretty fine all around, sure it completes the checklist, but it’s at least trying. With great help from the acting, as is always necessary for these sorts of things, helps the film never be boring and at least makes things entertaining.

I was really set out to like this movie in some degree due to it being about a family coming together and basically airing out all their shit from over the years. That is my bread and butter; I love family conflict movies where people love, hate, yell and then yell some more. It’s pretty easy to create drama from this, obviously, but it’s usually pretty believable time in and time out when you have good writing and acting to articulate it.

I’m still kind of torn to whether Meryl Streep is great in this or awful. She incessantly hams it up and overacts, and although that matches the tenants of her character, it seems to be a bit much, even for Streep to pull off with some unnecessary levels that she constantly rose to. Yeah, she’s an eccentric drug addict, but it quite often turns into “Hey, look at Meryl Streep putting on this varied acting performance to get nominated for an award!!!” I think Margo Martindale does a better job by applying subtlety to her character who shares much of the same ilk. I’m not sure that Julia Roberts is completely deserving of her Oscar nomination for this, but nonetheless she is very good as the wife feeling out her separation from her husband, and being the glue between her sisters that keeps everything together. You can that she’s always been the dominant and outspoken one in the family, who doesn’t take shit and is often the one to stand up to her other family members.

It’s pretty obvious of the film’s stage play origins, and it provides a great canvas for the actors and the subject matter as well. It’s like a WWE Royal Rumble where they just shove all these great actors in a house (ring) and yell ACT (fight!)! Really everyone is up to par with their company, and this whole thing is just a playground for acting, and Oscar bait material. It’s some of the same stuff done before, but at least it’s being done competently.  A refreshing tone to the film though, was it’s constant dangling threads in pretty much every storyline. Nothing was wrapped up neatly in the film, everything just dragging on, some things got better, sure, but things got a helluva lot worse for others as well. I know, that’s life, but it was nice to have the film not tie everything in a nice bow with a happy ending.  Unlike this review *ties a perfectly symmetrical bow and places it at the end of this paragraph*

7/10

‘Lone Survivor’: Review

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Lone Survivor is of several minds when it approaches the war film genre. It has all-out action like Black Hawk Down, tries to bring some commentary to the war like Jarhead did way better, there’s attempts at tear-jerking and trying to pull on your heart strings ala something like Saving Private Ryan. I’m not saying Lone Survivor is as good as any of these films, it’s not, but it tries to do a lot with what it has and only really accomplished these goals on one front.

It seems like I’m the only one, but I’ve always been of the mind that Black Hawk Down is grossly overrated. To me it was just one two –anda-half hour action scene, with little character development and nothing to grab hold of. Sure, I’m like every red-blooded male (clichés are fun) and love action scenes, especially in a war, but it just became too much where it was all the film became. That’s largely what Lone Survivor is for the vast majority of the runtime, just an extended action scene. It’s also basically like a survival horror movie, minus the horror part, where we have a cast of about eight people or something, and throughout the film they’ll be picked off in different ways, and like the title promises we’ll be left with a “lone survivor,” get it?

The film wants to have all this action, but deeper than that Peter Berg wants it to MEAN something. I mean, let’s get real here, when you break the very thin veil of this film it’s all just American war propaganda. It’s a film that is showcasing the resiliency and plight of the American soldier, and their strengths in overcoming adversity. It’s so blatantly shoved down our throats that it eventually turns into a self-righteous message film. Of course, it’s terrible what happened to these men, and a tribute they deserve, but the way the film aggrandizes everything, and puts the main focus on Mark Wahlberg eventually becomes a disservice.

While the action and message aspects of the film don’t work, it does manage to find some touching and interesting moments near the end where Wahlberg’s character is taken in by a local Afghan tribe and protected.  It’s not much and isn’t very long, as it’s just a transition area where Wahlberg can eventually easily get rescued, but the moments spent with Wahlberg and these tribe members are really well done. Of course, Wahlberg doesn’t know their true motive and is distanced by a language barrier, but some actual character development and connections are created that, hey, actually made me feel something when he was torn from these people who saved him, and when he thanked them for basically risking their lives for an American.  This is the stuff that the relentless action is often quick to pass-over, not that it can’t be done that way, but it’s quick to be jettisoned for more explosions.

I know Peter Berg really wanted to do this film, something different than his other more “action-y” films, and while there are some strands of it, his old films creep in too much. I mean, sure he wanted to do something like this over Battleship but really when you boil it down it’s all the same. Action, action, action, FEEL SOMETHING. Now since this is supposedly an actual serious film, Berg doubles down on the MESSAGE OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW GREAT AMERICANS AND THEIR SOLDIERS ARE. That’s what this film is screaming at you.

6/10

The 86th Annual Academy Awards Nominations Reaction

(ABC)

(ABC)

Best Picture:

Pretty great list of films, only haven’t seen Nebraska (which I’m almost literally dying to see) and Philomena, which I didn’t think it was necesary to see, but maybe I’m wrong. As with others, I can’t believe Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t get nominated, such a wonderful film in so many ways, and a Coen Brothers film, okay then. I think Before Midnight should be here, but of course it wouldn’t, it’s cool.

Best Actor:

Perfect list. Ejiofor deserves to win, but who knows.

Best Actress:

I’m a Bullock fan all the way, but I know Blanchett has been getting a lot of praise going into awards season. She is fantastic in Blue Jasmine, indeed, but really don’t think she matches Bullock in Gravity.

Best Supporting Actor:

Jonah Hill was good in The Wolf Of Wall Street, but not as great to get Oscar-worthy claim, but okay. I think Jared Leto takes this, but it’s a worthy category all around.

Best Supporting Actress:

Fine category, but I don’t think anyone has a chance against J-Law, and rightfully so.

Best Director:

I think Cuaron wins this like he won the Golden Globe, he tackled something unseen before in film, and even with the quality of director, I think he wins.

Best Documentary:

The only I’ve seen is The Act Of Killing, and it’s a juggernaut, I’d think it wins.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Great selection, anyway it could go. As good as Before Midnight is, I think it’s down between 12 Years A Slave and The Wolf Of Wall Street. Might be a toss up.

Best Original Screenplay:

Her should take this in a great category.

A kind of more shorter and abrupt post than I expeceted, and also didn’t expect to predict winners, but here we are. I’ll probably predict EVERY category right before the awards, but these are just some quick reaction thoughts after the nominations have been posted. All in all, though, this has been one of my favourite years of film in recent memory, where I’ve trully loved quite a films as standouts like Before Midnight, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Gravity Inside Llewyn Davis, Her and Dallas Buyers Club. Just great stuff all around.

The 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards Reaction

(Reuters)

(Reuters)

Alright, so lets talk about some general actual Golden Globes ceremony shit before we get into the shit that actually matter (but, actually doesn’t as well). I’m an unabashed Ricky Gervais Golden Globes supporter, I’m a huge fan of his and absolutely loved when he was given the reigns to the show, and eventually a couple more. He was biting, funny and toed the line on not giving a fuck about who he was making fun of. Now, I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler almost as much, and so I was sad last year when it wasn’t Gervais again, but Fey/Poehler were just as great. This year wasn’t any different and their monologue killed, with some great jokes on McConaughey, Clooney and DiCaprio.

As good as they are, they were sparingly seen throughout the telecast. As great as their straight-forward jokes are, I think they work best when they do bits. I always loved when they did those bits in the Emmys during the Best Comedic Actress category with all their nominees. Legend Julia Louis-Dreyfus played along with this in the monologue and later in the show, riffing off being nominated in film and TV, and it was wonderful. I liked the idea of Poehler playing off Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick’s daughter where she’s the onstage “shooer” (a technicale term), but it almost seemed to common-based SNL humour. But, yeah, Fey/Poehler were great, and if I can’t get Gervais, they’re really the next best.

Alright, so what the shit is up with giving Woody Allen the Cecil B. DeMille award if he’s not even going to be there? I mean, make no mistake, Allen deserved the award ten times over, but of course you know he’s not going to show up, so really why even bother. It’s incredibly weird dedicating 20 minutes to someone, and going so in depth on their career driving towards something so anti-climatic it just falls flat and then awkwardly going to commercial.

Actual winners, okay cool. Jennifer Lawrence is great in American Hustle, even if the film isn’t so itself and totally deserved to win. Lawrence is that great actress who can do actual awards calibre films along with blockbuster type films (“Hunger Games”) at the same time. Infinite props.

Bryan Cranston wins of course, and how was Liev Schreiber and James Spader nominated? lol

Breaking Bad won best dramatic series. WOW jk

I don’t know how Jon Voight wins for ‘Ray Donovan,’ I mean the show sucked, and he was alright, but there’s really no reason he wins against Josh Charles, who is great, Aaron Paul, who is terrific, and Corey Stoll who was fantastic and should have won.

I love Amy Adams, I really do, but I’m too much of a Before Midnight fan (which is a masterpiece) to let go that Julie Delpy didn’t win. Dreyfus and Gerwig were almost equally good to win. I mean, really I like them all, so it’s all good.

Robin Wright won best actress in a drama, which is fine, she was good, but I really didn’t think she was given all that much to do. She was good, but I don’t think the show really pushed her to do anything that great.

I loved Jared Leto winning, he was so deserving and I loved Dallas Buyers Club, even if it seems its been fallnig by the wayside in awards season, performances aside.

So stoked to see Spike Jonze win for writing Her. What a gorgeous film, not only visually, but how Jonze paced it all out.

How does Brooklyn Nine-Nine win best comedy? It’s an entirely fine, if slightly above average show, but to actually win? This was the most baffling award of the night. Not that the rest of the shows were that great, but I just don’t know how this wins, but I guess this was the Golden Globes. And also Andy Samberg wins? Again, the same as before, he’s funny, but award-worthy? Ehhhhhhhhhhh.

Amy Poehler wins for “Parks.” So happy, she’s the best, so much deserved.

Alfonso Cuaron was in the compnay of some great directors, but he was the most sensible winner. Not only was his film daring and different, but within it he created and pulled off something that didn’t seem possible a few years ago.

DiCaprio wins for best actor in a comedy which is hilarious as he said, Leo in a comedy, which is all sorts of great. But, really a tough category with Bale being amazing in American Hustle, Phonenix in Her, Isaac underratedly perfect in Inside Llewyn Davis and Bruce Dern supposedly great in Nebraska (which I’m so sad I haven’t seen yet).

American Hustle wins best comedy. Alright, then. It’s not like Her, Inside Llewyn Davis and The Wolf Of Wall Street were nominated against it…

Cate Blanchett winning for Blue Jasmine. Nice choice, even if I’m a Bullock fan myself.

I really love McConaughey winning for “Dallas” even if I think Ejiofor is more deserving. I’ve been in awe of Ejiofor’s performance since I’ve seen it, and think McConaughey would win in any other year, but hey, I guess it’s this year. McConaughey was so great, in his best role of his career, and pretty much turned me back into a fan of his.

Very happy that 12 Years A Slave won, after I thought it was falling by the wayside in awards season. I think Before Midnight is the best film of the year, but it’s too small to get any attention, and thus 12 Years A Slave is my second favourite film, and something that should be rewarded. Lets see if the moment pushed along to the Oscars.

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis really just classic Coen themes. You’ve got your introspective character on some sort of journey, usually snarky in some sort of way/kind of an asshole, bizarre characers being met along the way, SYMBOLISM, music and so on. It’s all here, and it’s all so goddamn great.

After watching Treme for the last few years I absolutely how it didn’t give a fuck about the story and would just show people singing a song for, like four minutes or show, not-outwardly pushing any plot along, but creating an experiene and an atmosphere. I love shows/movies that don’t care about typical format and just do what they feel. Well, “Davis” is like that in so many ways, and chief among them its reliability  on music and its presence in the film. We learn so much about these characters when they sing, branching out in to how they perform and what they sing, it’s as much character development as anything else. It’s not a “musical” film, but rather a film that happens to have musical moments and uses that device to further the characters.

Of course it’s 1000x better when you have this quality of acting skill to back everything up. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t heard of Oscar Isaac before this, but holy shit whoever casted him deserves a shiny gold ribbon because he’s utterly perfect. Not only can he actually sing wonderfully, but he’s that perfect mix of sad-sack and motivational that makes you always hope for the best with him. I was just constantly amazed at the depths he would go to and how terrifically he embodied the role, and it’s a shame he’s not really getting recognized in awards season, even with the stiff competition.

I really loved the film twofold as a character study and as a journey or adventure film, but if you really want to get down to it, they really fit into the same category. I still find it hard to believe that the Coen’s can keep topping themselves, but they seemingly do it every year or so, and this is no different. It’s a new approach they haven’t taken before, yet the themes and subject matter are still so familiar that it feels so very “Coen.”

9/10

‘Her’: Review

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Her is just kind of a great film in every conceivable way. Direction, acting, concept, message, you really name it and it’s featured amazingly in the film. Kind of the greatest concept where a man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a computer, for all intents and purposes, exploring what exactly are relationships nowadays and how has technology shaped our everyday life.

I mean it’s such an utterly bizarre and bafflingly concept at first, Joaquin Phoenix dating a computer. How stupid and dumb does that seem, that a person would be so idiotic to feel emotions towards a computer, a grouping of plastic and metal to feel some kind of emotions. It is as weird as it sounds, but Phoenix constantly makes it so insanely believable. I would often switch from thinking how dumb this concept is to totatlly understanding Phoenix’s real feelings for this “person”/computer. It’s quite the testament to Spike Jonze and Phoenix that they made this ludicrous idea (for now) totally believable and heartfelt.

I have no qualms about saying that behind Leonardo DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix is the greatest actor of our generation. The work he consistently puts in is second-to-none, and his performance in The Master is literally one of the greatest pieces of acting I’ve seen in the last decade. Her is more subdued, but of course it’s a more intimate film with Phoenix playing it perfectly where we understand and sympathize with every emotion he puts forth.

How great is Spike Jonze, like come on! I’ve loved him since his skateboarding and “Jackass” days when he was feeding his immature side of things, but little did I know what he’d turn into. Again, using literally in it most literal sense, all his film are masterpieces in their own right. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., Where The Wild Things Are and now Her? I mean, c’mon, any director would be lucky to have one of these films in their filmography, but Jonze has all four. I love Jonze’s use of flashback to Phoenix’s previous “happy” life with his wife and how that informs and juxtaposes how he is now. It’s a beautiful selection, and how Jonze places it is utterly perfect. And, hey, Jonze wrote this shit as well, which I mean talk about auteurship.

As, well, we’ve got the ‘ol technology aspect, where, hey, maybe this is all changing how we’ve done everything before. Can you truly feel love strictly through a phone, computer or mechanical device? Do you actually need to meet or see so-and-so to form a romantic connection. Her addresses all these questions, but doesn’t beat it over the head or demand a strict answer into being message film. It lays everything out, but doesn’t really ever come down hard on either side, each has their merits if you yourself feel so inclined one way, and you’re not looked at as an idiot if you do so.

9/10