Posts Tagged ‘Oscar’

Weekend Oscar Battle: “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Les Miserables”

There are nine movies nominated for “Best Picture” in this year’s Oscar race.  After going to the movies yesterday for a double feature, I’ve now seen five of the nine.  Interestingly enough, the only one of the nine that I really have no desire to see is “Django Unchained”, but I’ll check it out when it’s released on DVD.

With popcorn and Coke Zero (with a splash of Cherry Coke) in hand, we grabbed our seats for “Zero Dark Thirty”.

zero-dark-thirty

This Kathryn Bigelow-directed spy thriller, which is nominated for five Oscars, takes us along on the painstaking search and execution of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The movie begins on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Those attacks led to the murder of more than 3,000 Americans and kicked off  “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.”

While a very talkative movie, Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, who was also at the helm of the 2010 Oscar winner, “The Hurt Locker”, gives you a thorough history lesson that didn’t make it feel like you were in school.

When we first see Best Actress nominee Jessica Chastain, she’s a quiet, mousy CIA agent observing torture techniques to get information on al-Qaeda.  As the search for bin Laden drags on for almost ten years, we see her become a confident, assertive agent that gave the government the ammunition it needed to convince the president to order the U.S. Navy SEALs to go in and take bin Laden out.

The movie is being criticized in some circles as being pro-torture.  Yes, we see several scenes of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, starvation, physical abuse, and psychological torture with one prisoner being naked in front of his captors.  While the scenes were tough to watch and you did feel compassion toward the Middle Eastern detainee being interviewed, the reality of the situation is that 3,000+ Americans were killed and the U.S. needed information to prevent another 9/11 attack.

Jason Clarke was superb as the aforementioned interrogator.  The acting in the movie is top-notch.

The movie is more than 2 1/2 hours long, but once the order is given to storm bin Laden’s compound in Pakistani darkness, you’re sitting on your seat and you hold your breath to see how the operation will go down.

GRADE:  B+

les mis

As most of you already know, “Les Miserables”, or “Les Mis” is now a movie and Broadway musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel about Frenchman Jean Valjean, who served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed starving relatives..

Once Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison, he breaks his parole and a police inspector, Javert (Russell Crowe) dedicates his life to track down Valjean and put him back in prison.  In the course of redemption, Valjean becomes a factory owner and the mayor and he rescues the child, Cosette, of one of his dying factory workers, Fantine.  (That’s not a spoiler if you know anything about “Les Mis”.)

Hugh Jackman received a Best Actor nomination and Anne Hathaway is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her heartbreaking performance of poor, dying prostitute Fantine.  Although her time in the movie is limited, when she performs “I Dreamed A Dream”, I was ready to give her the Oscar right then!

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were amazing as the lying, cheating, unconscionable Thenardiers.  Their comic relief was needed in a very bleak and depressing movie.

Now, since this is a musical, I have to mention the singing.  Instead of singing along to pre-recorded tracks and lip synching, the actors were required to sing live with piano accompaniments.  The orchestra was added in post-production.

Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks (adult Eponine) were spectacular and Amanda Seyfried (adult Cosette) is just as captivating as she was in “Mamma Mia”.  Hugh Jackman has done many productions that required singing, so he did a great job, too.  I was also pleasantly surprised with the singing voices of Eddie Redmayne (Marius) and Aaron Tveit (Enjolras).  Even Oscar winner Russell Crowe, while not a spectacular singer, was acceptable.  Let’s just say he’s no Pierce Brosnan in the “Mamma Mia” movie!

However, singer Adam Lambert of “American Idol” fame was very critical of the singing in the movie.

Adam Lambert

While I like Adam and I have his latest album, I thought that was a little harsh.  I mean they all can’t be “American Idol” winners.  Oh wait, neither were you!

The “Les Mis” soundtrack is the #1 album in America and, in just the first ten days of release, it has already outsold Adam’s last album, “Trespassing”, in the U.S., which was released eight months ago.  And, yesterday, it was reported that Adam Lambert was dropped/parted ways from his label.  So, I guess he shouldn’t be too bitchy about the singing in “Les Miserables”.

My favorites numbers in the movie for those that have seen it are:  “I Dreamed A Dream” (Hathaway), “Master of the House”  (Bonham Carter, Baron Cohen, & Cast), “ABC Cafe/Red and Black” (Redmayne, Tveit, & Students), “On My Own” (Barks), Russell Crowe’s final song (giving you the title would be a spoiler!), and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” (Redmayne)

While “Les Mis” was nominated for eight Academy Awards this year, after seeing the movie, I’m very shocked that director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech) was snubbed for a Best Director Oscar nomination, along with director Ben Affleck of “Argo”.

“LES MIS” EXTRA — SAMANTHA BARKS “ON MY OWN”

GRADE:  A-

Crooks, Cheaters, Killers, & Lovers

Prior to meeting Ray almost four years ago, the late great Miss ABBA and I spent much of our free time during the winter on walks in the cold and ample Midwestern snows.  We also spent a lot of time curled up on the couch watching movies.  While we haven’t had much snow this winter (officially, 5.3″ in the Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois), I’ve been watching plenty of movies lately and I want to recommend some to you.  This past Saturday, Ray and I had a marathon movie day watching five movies!

“ARBITRAGE”

Richard Gere is already a Golden Globe nominee this year for his role as multi-billionaire Robert Miller in “Arbitrage”.  While Gere has won a Golden Globe for his performance as Billy Flynn in “Chicago” and he was also nominated for “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Pretty Woman”, the 63-year-old actor has never been nominated for an Oscar.  I think it’s time for that to change.

While it’s almost a given that Daniel Day-Lewis will likely take home the gold statue this year, Gere deserves his first Academy Award nomination.

As Miller, a hedge fund manager, he’s not only being shady with his company’s assets, he’s also cheating on his wife, played by Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (“Dead Man Walking”).  While trying to keep his French mistress happy, something unfortunate happens and Miller not only has to work to secure a make-it-or-break-it deal to keep his company afloat, but also to stay out of jail.

The movie does have plenty of business talk diaogue to comprehend, but there’s enough drama and suspense to make it a must see.

Gere is as striking to me today as he was in “Pretty Woman” two decades ago.  As Robert Miller, he was phenomenal.  While she wasn’t given a part that is worthy of Oscar’s attention, Sarandon looks amazing.  I sure hope Hollywood keeps Gere and Sarandon busy in the years to come.

GRADE:  A

“ABSENT” (“AUSENTE”)

This Spanish-language film by Argentinean director Marco Berger won the “Best Feature Film” Teddy Award, which is part of the Berlin International Film Festival, last year.

This psychological drama follows 16-year-old Martin (stunning Javier De Pietro) as he spins a web of lies to seduce his sports coach Sebastian (Carlos Eschevarria).  The movie is told from the perspective of the coach and it leaves you with many unanswered questions:  did something really happen between the two and if so, is the adult still at fault even if he was the “victim”?

Berger (“Plan B”) is a great director and I look forward to more movies from him.

The only problem I had with the movie is that if it’s left up to the viewer to decide what really happened, we should have had one more scene to show what may or may not have happened that night.  The kiss goodbye at the end of the movie implies that something did happen, but since we didn’t see that, it was just confusing.

GRADE:  B

“ELLIOT LOVES”

This comedy-drama follows the life of Elliot, a Dominican-American, first as a 9-year-old trying to bond with his mother, and then as a 21-year-old trying to find love in New York City.

Elliot and his mother have one thing in common — looking for love in all the wrong people.

The movie is a perfect combination of feel good laughs and a few scenes that will tug at your heart and push you almost to tears.  Like his mother, Elliot will do anything to be loved.  As in real life, you find love when you’re least expecting it.

GRADE:  A-

“GAYBY”

This is easily one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in some time.

Matt and Jenn have been friends since college and now that her biological clock is ticking, she wants to have a baby (oh yeah, there’s a trust that requires a baby).  So, she asks Matt, her gay BFF, to be the father of the baby and after thinking about it, he agrees.  When she tells him that she wants to do it the old-fashioned way, many awkwardly funny scenes ensue.

GRADE:  A

‘THE HUNGER GAMES”

Since I’m one of the last people in the world to see this movie, my review will be short.  Just see it, it’s amazing.

It’s about 24 poor kids (12 boys and 12 girls) called “tributes” that have to fight to the death in a futuristic reality show.

There’s a girl, Katniss, who’s fierce with a bow and arrow and she has a fiery dress.  There’s a boy, Peeta, who bakes bread and believe it or not, that comes in handy in the “hunger games”.  And, there’s a hottie back home, Gale, that has to watch a scene in a cave that has nothing to with cuddly bears or Osama bin Laden.

Did I mention that they fight to the death and only person survives?  Or, do they?  Keep in mind that the movie has made $686 million dollars and there are three sequels coming.  I don’t want to spoil it, but who do you think might survive?  Oh, Jennifer Lawrence, the star, may be nominated for an Oscar this year for “Silver Linings Playbook”.

GRADE:  A

“KILLER JOE”

This Southern white trash film was pretty much ignored at movie theaters.  It’s made only $3.7 million.  And, that’s a shame because the movie stars some of Hollywood’s best:  Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Thomas Hayden Church, and Juno Temple.  It’s also directed by William Friedkin, the mastermind behind “The Exorcist”.

One reason this movie might have been skipped over was its NC-17 rating.  Other reasons might be the violence and a provocative, controversial sex scene between McConaughey and Gershon.  All I can say is that I’ll never look at KFC the same way again.

The acting is spectacular, the subject matter is violent, and the pivotal scenes are truly disturbing.

GRADE:  A

“THE FALLS”

After seeing “Latter Days”, one of my favorite movies of all time, any future coming-of-age or coming out Mormon love story would have big shoes to fill.  While mildly entertaining and the actors showed promise, this was not that movie.

GRADE:  C

Anthony

Oscar Is Tempting Us Into Movie Theaters

Going to the movies these days is not a cheap date.  By the time you buy two tickets (even at matinee prices), a large popcorn, and two large sodas, you’re looking at over $30.  I guess that’s not really all that bad for two hours of entertainment, but what if the movie is disappointing.

Prior to last night, I’ve gone to  the movies seven times this year.  I saw “This Means War”, “Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter”, and the original “Halloween” in the cheap theater.  As for first run movies, I saw “Dark Shadows”, “Magic Mike”, “Argo”, and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”.  I really hope that when the Oscar nominations are announced in January that we hear “Argo” and “Perks” among the nominees.

oscar-statues-02

When we get to November and December, we start seeing movie companies baiting Oscar.  The superheroes and the serial killer/slashers are replaced by more thought-provoking theatrical releases.  I saw one of those movies last night.

Lincoln

LINCOLN”

“And, the Academy Award for Best Actor goes to [sound of opening envelope] Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln”.  There’s no need to draw this until the Oscars on February 24, 2013.

When the Oscar nominations come out in January, we’ll be seeing this movie nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Screenplay (Tony Kushner), Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), and likely nominations for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress (Sally Field) and Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones).

Much of the 2.5-hour-long movie takes place in January 1865 as the Civil War rages on and President Lincoln works behind the scene toward getting the 13th Amendment passed that would end slavery.  (In case history was your weak subject, he was assassinated in April 1865).

While watching the movie, I didn’t see Daniel Day-Lewis portraying our 16th president, I saw Abraham Lincoln!  Day-Lewis, who has already won two Best Actor Oscars for “My Left Foot” (1989) and “There Will Be Blood” (2007), was mind-blowing and has a very good chance of picking up his third Oscar.

I could have sat there for another two hours watching him play Lincoln.  You could see the heartbreak he felt about losing one of his sons and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that died in the Civil War, and his quest to ensure that slavery would be abolished.  But, Spielberg and Kushner also gave us a chance to see Lincoln’s fun side when he would tell stories and jokes.

Sally Field definitely took advantage of the stories we’ve read about Mary Todd Lincoln’s unpredictable and unstable personality.  While going off the deep end in some scenes, she was very much in touch with the politics that her husband was dealing with and you could tell how much she supported him in other scenes.  Portraying both sides of Lincoln definitely raises Field’s chances for a third Oscar.

After the big vote about the future of slavery and the end of the Civil War, we see President Lincoln walking down the hallway and down the stairs at the White House.  If Steven Spielberg had asked me, I would have faded from that scene to the last scene of the movie of Lincoln giving a speech that led into the credits.  I would have cut out the five minutes or so of the movie (two scenes) that Spielberg left in there.  I won’t say what those two scenes were, but the movie didn’t need them.

But, who am I?  He’s Steven Freaking Spielberg!

GRADE:  A

“RISE OF THE GUARDIANS”

This Thanksgiving, many people will park themselves at the table or on a couch watching parades and football, while others will go shopping for “Black Friday” bargains.  Many will be heading to the movies and feasting on “Lincoln”, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2”, “Life of Pi”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, “Red Dawn”, and “Rise of the Guardians”.

Rise_of_the_Guardians_poster

However, on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Gretel and I have a date to see “Rise of the Guardians”.  (If we can convince Ray to go along with us, we’ll wait until the weekend of Thanksgiving!)

Why not hangout with Jack Frost and the Guardians (Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman) all in the same movie as they fight off the evil Pitch, the Nightmare King?  Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher, and Jude Law voice the main characters in this $145 million dollar fantasy movie.

It looks fun and there’s even Oscar buzz for this movie for Best Animated Feature.

There are three other movies that are on my list to see this holiday season, but one will not open wide until January 11, 2013, although it opens before Christmas in New York City and Los Angeles.

“ZERO DARK THIRTY”

ZeroDarkThirty

This is the follow-up to Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”, which also won “Best Picture” and “Best Original Screenplay, along with three other wins.  It follows the hunt to eliminate al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and stars Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain.

It’s being billed as “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.”

“THE IMPOSSIBLE”

the-impossible

Another touching movie that I want to see is already getting award season buzz.  “The Impossible” follows one family during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left around one-quarter of a million people dead.

It stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.  The $45 million movie has already made its money back since it was released in some foreign markets in October.  Most of the $46.3 million that the money has made is in Spain.

I know the movie opens December 21st in the United States, but I can’t confirm if that’s limited or wide release.  (I’m leaning toward limited.)

“LES MISERABLES”

les mis

And, finally, on Christmas Day, the movie adaptation of the successful stage musical, “Les Miserables”, opens across the country.

Watching a movie about a man who goes to prison for stealing bread and a poor woman who is ridiculed for having an illegitimate child and forced into prostitution!  What a depressing way to spend a glorious holiday that already depresses many people!

This movie has OSCAR written all over.  It’s directed by Tom Hooper, who also directed the Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech” and stars Hugh Jackman (“Real Steel”, “Swordfish”, and the “X-Men” series), Russell Crowe (“Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind”), Anne Hathaway (“The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Dark Knight Rises”), Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia”), Eddie Redmayne (“My Week With Marilyn”), Sasha Baron Cohen (“Hugo” and “Borat”), and Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech” and “Dark Shadows”).

What movies are you excited about this holiday season?

Anthony