Well, we survived February you guys! We did it! This year I largely avoided the horrendous let down that February typically brings for new movie releases, partly because I still had Oscar nominees to see and partly because there were some decent movies released in February this year. This movie falls into that latter category (I technically saw it in March, but it still qualifies.)
I made up my mind to see this movie—regardless of what other options were available to me—when I first saw the trailer back in December. My interest was piqued because I was convinced I had the plot figured out. Who is this mysterious creature texting a U.S. Air Marshal that a plane passenger will die every twenty minutes unless he is paid $150 million? Being the cinematic genius that I am, I though it was obvious. Not obvious in the sense that it would be obvious from the get-go to everyone, but obvious because I knew that they would try to misdirect me with those “obvious from the get-go”-types, and I wouldn’t fall for it, I tell ya’! No siree, I was sure at the end of the movie I would be smugly saying “told ya so.” Because I’m a cinematic genius.
Well, as it turns out I’m just a regular dummy. I was wrong. And thank God for that. Had I been right, I might have been disappointed that I spent my Sunday morning waiting for a conclusion that I had telegraphed months ago. Instead I spent nearly two full hours being totally engaged and thoroughly entertained. Sure, I had my suspicions along the way and pretty much had it figured out before the final reveal, but there were still plenty of surprises and twists along the way. I really want to avoid saying it’s a non-stop thrill-ride, so I’m not going to say that. But if I had said it, it would be a fairly accurate assessment. It’s not winning any awards or anything, but it’s an enjoyable movie. Especially if you’re on board the Liam Neeson as Badass train (who isn’t?).
So I definitely recommend this one. Three of my most eagerly anticipated movies of 2014 come out in March, however, so I think you should watch those instead if your movie time/money is limited (I’m talkin’ ‘bout The Grand Budapest Hotel, Veronica Mars, and Divergent, of course). But put this one on the list if you have got the time/money.
LIAM NEESONS IS MY SHIT!
Non-Stop: Put it in Your Netflix Queue at the very least
Oscar Day is finally here, you guys, and since it’s basically my Christmas (Christmas is also my Christmas; I have two Christmases) I’m pretty excited. I love seeing Hollywood take itself so seriously; it somehow validates the important role I allow movies (and TV) to play in my life. Plus, the fashion is pretty rad.
Instead of doing a post about who I think should win each category, I’m just going to give you a rundown of my thoughts on each of the Best Picture nominees. Since these nine films are pretty much the only films nominated in all the major categories this year (August: Osage County, Blue Jasmine, and Before Midnight also snuck in a few nominations), what’s the point of going through each category? So here goes, in order of how much I enjoyed them (not necessarily how I would’ve voted had I been an Academy member):
1. Nebraska. I can’t emphasize enough how much this movie meant to me. I still think about it every day. I would love to see Bruce Dern take home the Best Actor prize, but I’m resigned to that not happening. I know that this film is probably not for everyone, and it’s not a total joyride, but of the nine movies nominated it’s the one that made the longest-lasting impression on me. My love for this movie is entirely subjective. Deal with it.
2. American Hustle. I am 100% on board with the David O. Russell movie factory. He can keep casting these same actors in every movie he makes from now on and I will keep excitedly seeing them (especially if my Welsh sweetheart Christian Bale remains on board). I will applaud any awards it wins tonight. Among the four nominated actors Jennifer Lawrence probably has the best shot of taking home a trophy, but I hope she doesn’t (see below).
3. Her. I love that this film takes place in the future and provokes a myriad of interesting thoughts and ideas and possibilities. It’s the only one of the nominees that has that quality, and I salute its individuality. Plus, I’ve got big girl crush on Spike Jonze. I’ll be rooting for The Moon Song to win Original Song, and of course for Spike to win Original Screenplay.
4. Philomena. I just wrote about this one so I won’t dwell on it here, but i’m pulling for Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope in the Adapted Screenplay category. Really enjoyed this one.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street. This movie was a lot of fun and it makes me wish the Academy gave awards for “Most Mesmerizing Dance Sequence” and “Awesomest Physical Comedy Involving Quaaludes.” I’m rooting for Leo to edge out McConaughey for the Best Actor prize because people don’t give him enough credit. I would also be pulling for Margot Robbie to win Most Beautiful Lady if that were a category, but alas it is not (which is okay because Jared Leto probably would have won anyway).
6. Dallas Buyers Club. It’s basically a foregone conclusion at this point that McConaughey and Leto will sweep the Actor categories, and I’ve made my peace with that. Leto definitely deserves it (plus if he wins he gets more screen time and I want to see him with my eyebs as much as possible), and McConaughey doesn’t not deserve it. I just hope people didn’t just vote for McConaughey because he lost all that weight, or in recognition of his McConaissance, or because of how much they love True Detective (to be fair, that show is ridiculously good).
7. 12 Years a Slave. The only reason this movie is so far down on my list is because of how upsetting an experience it is. It’s most certainly a worthwhile experience though and an amazing movie, and I will not be disappointed in the slightest if it takes home Best Picture. In fact, if I were a member of the Academy it would probably get my vote. I am also actively rooting for Lupita Nyong’o, who is breathtaking and fantastic (and I also can’t wait to see what she’s wearing). I am not rooting for Steve McQueen to win Best Director, however, because he’s being punished. He knows what he did (so does everyone: It was Shame.).
8. Gravity. Good movie, but it’s the one I saw longest ago so it has lost a little momentum with me. My fitness guru (don’t ask) asked me yesterday whether Gravity was any good, and I told her it is a great movie but a traumatic experience. I think that sums it up. 12 Years a Slave was traumatic too, but it has historical significance and I almost feel like it’s a trauma that all Americans should be forced to periodically endure as a reminder. Gravity is terrifying because you feel like you’re lost in space too, but it’s also visually breathtaking and therefore worth watching. The only category I am actively rooting for it to win is Director for Alfonso Cuaron. I’m also pulling for our gal Sandy B in the Best Actress category, but since Cate Blanchett has practically run the table in that category I’m not holding my breath.
9. Captain Phillips. This is the only nominee I didn’t see in the theater; I just watched it a few weeks ago in the comfort of my living room. I don’t dispute it’s nomination, but I have to admit I was never fully engaged. I found myself getting distracted by other things (which is a problem with watching movies at home; I have a short attention span), but I did pay attention long enough to notice that Barkhad Abdi deserved his nomination. Tam Honks was also great (I’m never going to stop calling him that so get used to it). I would say his lack of a nomination was a snub, but I wouldn’t be able to pick a nominee that should have been excluded to make room for him, so I won’t. Sorry Cap’n.
Ok, I lied. This post is clearly about who I think should win each category. The only other category of which I’ve seen all the nominees (other than some of the technical categories) is Live Action Shorts, so I’m going to throw my hat in the ring for Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) for that one. It’s really good and I think far superior to the others. I also really liked The Voorman Problem, but I felt like it needed to be just a bit longer (I know, I know; it’s called a short for a reason).
That’s all I’ve got. Here’s to Ellen Degeneres doing a great job as host, and let’s all say a little prayer that no one says or does anything too embarrassing or scandalous (unless you’re into that sort of thing). And don’t forget to bring your tissues for the In Memoriam segment; this year is going to be a doozy.
Philomena, you elusive minx. You’re in theaters one week, then gone the next. How’s a girl to see all nine of the Oscar Best Picture nominees when you are playing so hard to get? But I finally tracked you down, oh yes I did. And you know what? You were worth the wait.
I wasn’t actually super gung-ho to see this movie, which is part of the reason it took me so long. I had opportunities, but I kept passing them up in favor of other activities (laying on my couch is an activity, yes?). But I persevered, in part because it was Oscar-nominated so I had faith that it would be a good movie (not that a nomination is always an indicator of quality), and—perhaps more importantly—I am a fond admirer of Steve Coogan. Dame Judi is no slouch herself, but she’s not what got my butt in the seat (when the girl that sold me my ticket asked “are you a Judi Dench fan?” and I responded “more of a Steve Coogan fan,” she looked at me like I had just kicked her cat).
Both Coogan and Dench were great in this movie, and I enjoyed it very much. If you aren’t familiar with the plot, it’s based on the true story of a journalist who helps a woman track down the son that was forcibly given up for adoption 50 years prior. It’s alternately heartbreaking and heart-warming, with a fair dash of comedy thrown in for good measure. Plus, of all the Best Picture nominees this year, I’d say Philomena holds the prestigious honor of having the broadest audience appeal. It’s not scary, strange, or alienating. It doesn’t have violence, vulgarity, or depravity. And although there is some sadness, it’s not overly upsetting or depressing and doesn’t leave you with any other emotion than satisfaction. It’s just a super delightful little movie and I highly recommend you check it out as soon as availability allows.
Philomena: See it in whatever format it becomes available to you
Joel Kinnaman. That is all.
RoboCop: See It In the Theater if you love sexy Scandinavians, mostly entertaining but not overly substantial shoot-em-ups with a dose of social commentary, movies that are filmed in and/or take place in Detroit, or the long-awaited resurgence of Michael Keaton. Otherwise, Put It In Your Netflix Queue.
Bill Murray. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Etc. Etc. Let’s be honest, this movie would have to be pretty terrible to not be at least somewhat enjoyable. Thankfully, it was more than somewhat enjoyable. I think I’ve settled on “pretty” enjoyable.
But it’s not perfect. I’m a sucker for World War II stories, and true (or “based on” true) stories are even better. The tale being told here is downright incredible: a group of artists band together with the backing (and so-so support) of the U.S. military to search for and rescue works of art stolen by the Nazis. Unfortunately, the movie felt like an overview or snapshot of the full tale. A necessary evil of trying to condense such a rich saga into 120 minutes, I suppose, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching the CliffsNotes.
My sister read the book (I think she’s read most books), and I had the honor (or was it misfortune?) to see this movie with her. She was very quick to let me know every time the true facts were rearranged or elaborated or whathaveyou in service of the movie version of the story. So maybe it would be best to read the book first. Or if you see the movie first and your interest is piqued, get thee to the library. Me? I think I’ll just re-watch Band of Brothers with a Quick Change nightcap.
I realize the tone of this review might give you the wrong impression. Don’t forget that I JUST told you it’s pretty enjoyable. But I understand why they moved its release to February (the month where movies are sent to die). An entertaining movie to be sure, but it doesn’t have the heft to have been able to survive against this year’s excellent crop of Oscar contenders. I think my dad liked it a lot more than I did though. So there’s that.
The Monuments Men: Put It In Your Netflix Queue
Yes, it’s true. I finally got around to seeing Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve been meaning to for quite a while, but I missed my chance when it had its first run here in town. Thankfully the Oscar nominations triggered an encore, and my friend Laurie and I jumped at the chance to check it out. It did not disappoint, and I finally understand why Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have running the table at the awards shows.
Actually, I had become particularly keen to see this movie because I wanted to make sure the awards were justified. Not that I’m one to judge, or that there’s a damn thing I could do about it, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to shout my dissent at the TV from my couch come Oscar Sunday if that happened to be how I felt. But they were both really great. I’m loving McConaughey’s McConnaisance, as some are calling it. He was fucking stupendous in Mud, my second favorite coming-of-age-story-involving-a-snakebite movie of 2013 (the first being The Kings of Summer), and his small role in The Wolf of Wall Street left a big impression. And Jared Leto was amazing too, which is a relief because I was a bit concerned that he was getting praise simply for playing transgender. Not that I didn’t have faith in him (Jordan Catalano was a very important part of my formative years), but I’m not a fan of thinking actors are brave for portraying brave people.
Fun Fact: I went on a trip to Los Angeles in October. We stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, which also houses five popular bars/nightclubs. As we were pulling up to the valet in our boring rental car when we first got there, all the other cars were very fancy except the rusty old SUV directly in front of us. We were commenting on the contrast when the SUV’s doors opened and out stepped none other than Jared Leto. In all his ombre-haired glory. And let me tell you: he is even better looking in person, if you can believe it. He’s just so, so pretty. And that’s what initially struck me when I first saw him in this movie: he is just so pretty. But guess what: he’s a great actor as well. Way to go Jared, old pal.
This movie is more than just great performances though. It really makes you think about the AIDS epidemic (which remains a huge issue, despite the fact that Magic Johnson is still with us) and the pharmaceutical lobby. At one point it is mentioned that a drug cost $10,000 per year, which was the most expensive drug at the time (or something along those lines). I couldn’t help but think of my asthma medication, which would cost me $4,000 per year if I wasn’t lucky enough to have insurance (and even still it costs me $540). I have a hard time believing it costs that much to produce. Let it go generic, you big bunch of dickbags!!
Sorry for the slightly off-topic tirade. Pharmaceutical companies get me riled up.
Dallas Buyers Club: See it in the Theater (if you still can)
I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t he official poster for Her. And you’re right, it’s very clearly not the official poster for Her. But is it a better poster? I don’t know; I’m no movie poster expert. What I do know is that just looking at it makes me giggle and I couldn’t help myself even though it meant breaking my tradition of using the actual movie poster for my reviews. Way to plant, Ann! But please don’t interpret my divergence from tradition as anything more than misplaced Arrested Development obsession. It has nothing to do with how I feel about this movie. How did I feel, you ask? Well, I thought it was pretty great.
For those in the dark, Her is the story of a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). It takes place in the not-so-distant future and doesn’t seem so unreasonable a possibility for our cultural trajectory. As we become more dependent on our technology and detached from the people in their lives, it’s not hard to imagine something like this happening. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few people out there right now in love with Siri (see, e.g., that one Big Bang Theory episode).
And if I’m being brutally honest with myself, I would probably be susceptible to such a predicament. I live a pretty solitary lifestyle, mostly by my own design, but I wouldn’t mind having someone around to talk to now and then. I hesitate to go so far as to say I could fall in love with a disembodied voice, but if that voice was a constant presence in my life and helped out with my every need, I could definitely get very attached.
So I found this film very compelling and alluring, but I tend to enjoy most things Spike Jonze touches. He has been making an impact on my life since before I even realized it (the Sabotage video alone is enough to make me a fan for life), and I just think he’s brilliant.
The one thing I thought was strange about this movie was the choice to have all the men wear high-waisted pants. I guess it was intended to signify that this is the future and styles change, but the way they were wearing them was bizarre. Strangely, however, I didn’t even really notice it until more and more men showed up wearing them. On Joaquin, they looked normal. They seemed like the sort of pants he might wear, past, present or future. He’s kind of a strange dude, to say the least, yet he’s both mesmerizing and disquieting at the same time. Like, you can’t keep your eyes off of him, but you aren’t sure you’d want to be alone in a room with him.
I was kinda surprised that Joaquin didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this, but even National Treasure Tom Hanks (aka Tam Honks) was passed over this year. Plus, the rest of the nominees are all very deserving. Speaking of the Oscars, I’m a bit disappointed that only 12 movies got nominations in the main categories. The silver lining, however, is that there’s no excuse not to see them all. Get to it. You’ve got 5 weeks.
Her: See it in the Theater
Not sure where to begin with this one, but I think, in retrospect, this may be the movie from 2013 that will have the longest lasting effect on my psyche. It spoke to me in a lot of ways, which I think can be boiled down to two main things: old men and the Midwest.
First, I love old men and feel very protective over them for some reason. As anyone who knows me well can attest, if I see an old man cry I will immediately burst into tears. I have no control over it, it’s just something that happens and I’ve learned to accept it. Old women are cool too, but it’s not the same. I think it’s the whole Greatest Generation thing, with their machismo and chivalry and sacrifice and everything that came from being a child during the Depression and then fighting in a war. You just know the last thing they want is to be seen crying, and the fact that something has so affected them that they cannot help but cry? Well it just breaks my cold, dead heart. And this movie is just jam-packed wall-to-wall with old dudes.
If you aren’t aware, this movie is about an elderly man named Woody (played heartbreakingly by Bruce Dern) stubbornly intent on getting to Nebraska to claim a million dollar sweepstakes prize he is certain he has won, and the journey he embarks on with the son (the amazing Will Forte) who reluctantly agrees to accompany him. Now, I’m against the death penalty, but I firmly believe that vigilante justice is warranted for those that are so devoid of morals that they would take advantage of the elderly in any way, shape, or form. It’s just unacceptable. When I was a child, someone somehow convinced my Grandma to purchase a bunch of frisbees and other junk with her name on them. I still think about it constantly. If I knew where that person was today, I would punch him or her in the junk.
Also, watching this man’s journey with his son I couldn’t help but think of my own father, our shared life experiences, and the 37 years of life he experienced before I arrived. The majority of this action takes place in a small Nebraska town, a locale with vistas and surroundings not unlike those of the small Michigan town in which I—and my parents and grandparents before me—grew up. I couldn’t help but draw similarities between Woody’s family and my own. Woody and my dad are really nothing alike, but they share some characteristics, such as being small town farm boys who grew up, went to war, and then made a living working with cars. I’m sure many Midwesterners could similarly relate. The entire movie could have been shot in my hometown and not a thing would have changed. It was just very Midwesterny, for lack of a better ability to express myself using words that actually exist.
So anyway, to me the experience of watching this movie was very personal and made a tremendous impact on me. If you don’t have strong feelings as far as the elderly are concerned and/or you aren’t from a small Midwestern town, you may not feel the same. It’s also a beautiful meditation on the veracity of life, how our actions define us, and all that sort of nonsense. But to me it was really just a wonderful way to spend two hours.
Nebraska: Just see it, unless you’re a heartless, elderly-hating bastard, in which case I’m coming for you. So watch your back.
This movie was pretty goddamn fantastic. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while, as Leo & Marty’s inter-generational bromance has a pretty good track record. I was pretty sure it would be, at the very least, an enjoyable movie. My level of anticipation was ratcheted up a billion degrees when that GIF hit the interwebs. You know the GIF of which I speak. This one. Since it first appeared in my life, it has meant the world to me. I think about it constantly. I’m like a 4th grade boy who just laid eyes on his first Victoria’s Secret catalog with this GIF. It’s my everything. And it’s not just the amazing dance moves exhibited by Leo that make me love this GIF so much. It’s the background players as well. Look at Ethan Suplee and Jonah Hill. Did you notice Shane from The Walking Dead and his goatee? Have you seen the guy in the pink pants? I mean…it’s just the best.
But enough about the GIF. That scene in the movie takes up less than 1 minute of the 180 minute total run time. Luckily, the rest of the movie is, if not equally ridiculous and amazing, at least not disappointing in comparison. Our boy Leo gives an amazing performance. We’ve all known he was a great actor since he knocked our socks off in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but who knew he was a brilliant comedian as well (at least physically speaking). Although, even when Jordan Belfort was engaged in the most salacious of behaviors, I couldn’t help but think, “I bet Leo’s done this in real life” a time or two. And don’t even get me started with Jonah Hill. His teeth. Oh lord. I love to hate Jonah Hill for some reason (part of why I loved This is the End so much), and I spent this entire movie wanting to kick in his comically-white teeth. I’m suspect I would have the same reaction if I were to spend any time with him in person. But he was great, and he deserves any acting nominations he may or may not get. The whole cast was great.
If I were to criticize any aspect of this movie, it would be the vulgarity. I know that’s ridiculous, because this is a Martin Scorsese joint. But sometimes it was so over the top that it took me out of the moment. I’m assuming they were just being true to whatever nonsense Jordan Belfort actually got up to back in the day (or claims he did), but—as a woman—sometimes if you’ve seen 100 naked women and zero naked men, you’ve seen too many naked women. Also, there is a lot of throwing around the gay slur that starts with F that will not be named. I just don’t like hearing that word, even if it was a word casually thrown around at the time the movie takes place. If another, less-offensive slur could be used in its place, that would have equal impact, why is using that F word necessary? I guess that’s a similar criticism to people who complain about hearing the N word in historical movies. I get it. I don’t like that word either. But at least in a movie like 12 Years a Slave, they use that word because it is somewhat relevant to the plot (i.e., the theme of the movie is about subjugating an entire race, and that word was a weapon used for that purpose). Here, there was no gay rights agenda at play. So I’m not on board.
But, I still liked the movie an awful lot, even despite that criticism. A lot of people are criticizing this movie because it apparently glorifies drug use and other immoral behaviors. I didn’t get that feeling. Yes, it shows stock brokers getting very rich by exploiting others. Did I ever feel the urge to emulate them? Not once. Sure, some poor schmuck may watch this movie and feel like he should follow in Jordan Belfort’s footsteps, but couldn’t he get the same message from reading the Wall Street Journal or taking a field trip to the Financial District? That’s not this movie’s fault.
Anyway, I very much enjoyed this movie, but if I’m being honest I liked American Hustle better. And not just because I love Christian Bale with ever fiber of my being (you can’t hide under that fat & bad hair, Christian; I see you). I just think it’s a better movie, as a whole.
The Wolf of Wall Street: See it in the Theater
P.S. I would also like to take a moment to mention a supporter of this here little movie blog, Sue Radloff. She was one of my most loyal readers, and I had been looking forward to letting her know that the blog was coming back. Unfortunately, she passed on December 27th following a brief battle with cancer. I was devastated to learn of her passing. So I dedicate this post to you, Sue. RIP.
Guess who’s back. Back again. Staci’s back. Tell your friends.
Yes, it’s true. I’ve decided to resume my role as the internet’s premier movie blogger for those interested in what I have to say about movies. No one else even comes close. Throughout 2013 I became painfully aware of the absence of any other dedicated to sharing my movie opinions, so I knew I had to come back to fill the void.
For those of you who missed my ramblings, I’m sorry. I could say Movie 43 broke me, and it would be true, but I also had a lot of other things going on in 2013 that kept me away from my blog duties. I changed jobs, went on some awesome trips, engaged in other hobbies, et al. I almost came back briefly to blog about The Kings of Summer because I loved it so much, but I couldn’t quite pull the trigger. But you should totally see that movie if you haven’t already. It’s great. (A few of my other 2013 faves: Mud, This is the End, The World’s End, About Time, and American Hustle, among others)
I actually saw quite a few movies in 2013. As the weeks rolled on sometimes it felt like I was barely seeing any movies, but when I recently looked back at my year in movies I counted 37. Not too shabby. But there are a lot of movies I missed, and I regret that. In 2012 this blog forced me to go to the cinema even when I just felt like lying on the couch all day. At times that made going to movies feel like a job, and I started to resent it a little, but in retrospect I’m grateful for that pressure because I saw a lot of great movies in 2012. I mean, sure, I could have seen those same movies by now, on DVD, Netflix, what have you, but nothing compares to seeing a movie the way it was meant to be seen: on the big screen.
So I’m back. Hang on to your nutsacks, because 2014’s going to be a great year for movies. Lots to look forward to. I’ll be back this weekend(ish) with a review of my first movie of 2014: The Wolf of Wall Street.