Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nebraska - 9 stars out of 10

Nebraska - 9 stars out of 10

"Nebraska" is a truly special film.  Honest simplicity makes its characters relateable and entertaining.  The genius in Bruce Dern's acting becomes obvious when you see interviews with him and realize that he is not a senile man.  The bewilderment in his eyes and complete helplessness to take care of himself make you believe that they just found this guy on the street and asked him to wander around a set.  Would I nominate him about Robert Redford in "All Is Lost" or some of the other impressive acting performances that were passed over in this strong year of movies?  Probably not, but his acting is truly impressive.  For me, the highlight of this film is June Squibb.  She just absolutely hilarious.  I ate up every single line that she delivered and found myself waiting for her to come back on screen.  While I understand why she did not win an Oscar against Jared Leto in "Dallas Buyers Club," it was truly one of my favorite performances of the year.  Will Forte also offers a surprising good serious performance.  These three characters come to life so perfectly through the script.  The script for "her" was popular (and perhaps overrated even though I enjoyed the film), but I found "Nebraska's" to be much better.  I think that Alexander Paine is a genius for his use of extras in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska.  His selection of people who are salt-of-the-earth is a perfect compliment to the realistic characters.  The scenery and black-and-white filming are simple to allow the complexity of the characters to shine.  "Nebraska" is a great film, as indicated by its 6 nominations in such a strong Oscar class, but the field was just too close; still, this is a film that needs to be on everybody's list, from Squibb's hilarious lines to the very satisfying conclusion to the film.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Disclaimer: These are the films that I personally believe should win in each category, not my prediction of who I believe The Academy will choose.  Also, I did not see The Book Thief, The Grandmaster, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Invisible Woman, or Philomena.

Picture – Gravity  (2nd Pick: 12 Years A Slave)
Actor – Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years A Slave”  (2nd Pick: Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”)
Actress – Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County” (but Cate Blanchett will win)  (2nd Pick: Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”)
Supporting Actor – Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”  (2nd Pick: Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”)
Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o in "12 Years a Slave"  (2nd Pick: June Squibb in "Nebraska")
Directing – Alfonso CuarĂ³n for “Gravity”  (2nd Pick: Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave”)
Cinematography – Gravity  (2nd Pick: Nebraska)
Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – 12 Years a Slave  (2nd Pick: Before Midnight)
Writing (Original Screenplay) – Dallas Buyers Club  (2nd Pick: Nebraska)

Costume Design – American Hustle  (2nd Pick: The Great Gatsby)
Film Editing – Gravity  (2nd Pick: 12 Years a Slave)
Animated Feature – Frozen  (2nd Pick: The Wind Rises)
Documentary Feature – The Act of Killing  (2nd Pick: Cutie and the Boxer)
Makeup and Hairstyling – Dallas Buyers Club  (2nd Pick: Jacka** Presents: Bad Grandpa) 
Music – Steven Price for “Gravity”  (2nd Pick:  Thomas Newman for “Saving Mr. Banks”)
Original Song – Let it Go (by Idina Menzel) from “Frozen”  (2nd Pick: The Moon Song (by Karen O) from “Her”)
Production Design – Gravity (though The Great Gatsby will win)  (2nd Pick: 12 Years a Slave)
Sound Editing – Gravity  (2nd Pick: All Is Lost) – (Overall sound design)
Sound Mixing – Gravity  (2nd Pick: Captain Phillips) – (Mixing sounds together)
Visual Effects – Gravity  (2nd Pick: no contest)

Movie Reviews for 2014 Oscar Nominees

12 Years A Slave -
20 Feet From Stardom -
The Act of Killing -
All Is Lost -
American Hustle -
August: Osage County -
Before Midnight -
Blue Jasmine -
Captain Phillips -
The Croods -
Cutie and the Boxer -
Dallas Buyers Club -
Despicable Me 2 -
Dirty Wars -
Gravity -
The Great Gatsby -
Jacka** Presents: Bad Grandpa -
The Lone Ranger -
Prisoners -
Saving Mr. Banks -
The Wolf of Wall Street -

Before Midnight (2013) - 8 stars out of 10

Before Midnight (2013) - 8 stars out of 10

I loved it but I hated it.  “Before Midnight” goes to a much darker place in relationships than the previous love stories in this series.  I suppose that it was time for a dose of the real world for Jesse and Celine, but you never want to see such a perfect love story fall on hard times.  But that’s why this film enhanced the series instead of being the forgettable final chapter that ruined the entire thing: the relationship continues to evolve.  Once again, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy act with such effortless and natural delivery of the script that it feels candid and real.  Every relationship falls on hard times, even the ones that seem to be perfect.  While this story is incredibly depressing, it also carries a message of hope.  The screenplay has been nominated for an Oscar but aside from the fight scene, I don’t think that it is nearly as good as “Before Sunset.”  Granted, this could be a result of my personal emotions as I don’t enjoy hearing this relationship fall apart instead of the actual quality of the script.  But it’s so great to have the Academy recognize these films once again.  The most amazing part of the series is that it is more than just a few chapters of a story.  We are watching two characters grow old together, from a couple of young twenty-somethings to middle-aged parents.  The question on everybody’s mind is the same: “Where will this couple find themselves nine years from now?”  We can only pray that Hawke, Delpy, and director Richard Linklater will have the desire to further one of the most unique viewing experiences that you will ever see as it unfolds over DECADES in real time.