7. 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Steve McQueen

Horrific and gruesome and incredibly painful to watch, 12 YEARS A SLAVE seemed to pretend it was the great slave narrative of our time when, in reality, the film told the wrong story the wrong way. In case you haven’t noticed already, I’m going to be harsh in this review, as is my right.

There’s not a whole lot I was happy with. What irked me the most was that this film attempts to portray the worst evils of American slavery with faces an American audience would instantly recognize. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it felt very wrong watching it. This is essentially what film critic Gerald Peary of ArtsFuse.org argues, that Steve McQueen throws in Paul Giamatti as a slave dealer “having a great time” and then later in the film suddenly throws in Brad Pitt “to deliver the film’s didactic message.” No. Just no. It was wrong on too many levels, and clearly it has affected my ability to review this movie properly….

McQueen’s treatment of slavery on screen was, simply put, too horrific. I won’t go so far as to say what one (African-American) critic said, that “two hours of torture and degradation were done much better in SAW and HOSTEL. This is not a major statement about slavery but one about a visual artist’s preoccupation with pain.” I won’t say that. But I will argue that there is something much, much deeper going on here. As I watched a woman’s back get ripped open whip after whip after whip after whip after whip, as I watched the hero of this film struggle to make footing as he hanged by the neck from a tree for hours (the audience witnessed several minutes straight of this) while children played in the background, I started wondering to myself, “Who could possibly like this movie?”

Certainly not I.

I’m not being obtuse or close-minded or anything of the sort. Let me be clear: this film was not a great representation of slavery. Full stop. Frankly, Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER would have been better suited for the nomination than 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Watching this, I couldn’t help but realize that Tarantino with DJANGO UNCHAINED handled the topic of slavery better than McQueen did with this movie. I will pay homage to Chiwetel Ejiofor, who gave an honest performance, and Michael Fassbender, who, despite his archetypal character as the ultra-violent slaveowner, did manage to raise this film to a higher standard. Ultimately, I couldn’t stand watching this. It did not cajole me to think or to question, as a film of this genre must do; instead it horrified and disgusted me. If this movie wins Best Picture, I’ll be sick to my stomach.

You get the picture.

I rate 12 YEARS A SLAVE 3 stars out of 5.

(Source: takemewithyer)

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4. HER, Spike Jonze

HER is a strange film; at times it made me uncomfortable, at others it made me smile. It’s one of those movies you’re not quite sure if you like until its final scenes.

But I liked this one.

Set in a near-future where an entire city walks around interacting with and obsessing over their devices, the movie introduces us to a man named Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who writes love letters for a living and who was recently separated from his wife. Throughout the film he is in search and in need of the love and companionship he lost with his wife, and he finds this and more in an artificially intelligent operating system who calls herself Samantha. She’s a futuristic SIRI, and she can do everything from sort through emails to fall in love.

This movie is, as I mentioned, a strange one, but it challenges what it means to love somebody, to love an “other” person. At first glance, HER looks like a satire: we get it, we’re becoming too attached to our devices. But quickly it becomes clear this isn’t the case; rather, Spike Jonze really seems to be arguing that love hasn’t any limits, that in a world with the paradox of more social interconnectivity than ever before yet with less and less real human interaction, a man’s heart goes to where it is seen, to our devices. As Amy Adams’ character, a friend of Theodore’s, puts it: “falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity,” and isn’t she exactly right? When Theodore isn’t at work writing beautiful love letters for and to people he’s never met, he’s falling in love with a bodiless, soulless “computer.” Is our hero an extremely troubled individual, or is he merely inherently human? I’d say that with this film Jonze is arguing the latter.

Phoenix gives a delightful performance, and Scarlett Johansson (the voice of Samantha) found a way to give an OS the feel and warmth of a human being searching for her place in the universe. In essence, HER celebrates the richness and vastness of life; it introduces us to a new way of seeing ourselves, as more than just a world of distanced individuals but as a community driven by one thing and one thing only: love.

I rate HER 4 stars out of 5.

(Source: takemewithyer)

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2. GRAVITY, Alfonso Cuarón

The second film of nine on my Best Picture viewing journey is GRAVITY. It stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Lieutenant Matt Kowalski and that’s… it. They’re the only actors we (really) see on screen, which means director Alfonso Cuarón was rolling the dice when he made the decision who to star in this movie. But I’ll admit that while I’m not Bullock’s or Clooney’s biggest fans, they certainly did it for me in this garishly intense film (that’s a compliment, by the way). For the large majority of the film the characters wear only spacesuits—in fact, that’s all the audience ever sees Clooney in—so it’s no surprise they were rather limited in how they could express themselves.

Not only was Bullock able to convey her very pure (and very real) fear through her voice and face alone, she and Cuarón were able to make that fear believable enough for the audience to feel too. Maybe it was the omnipresent heartbeat that rang over the high-speed collisions of space debris or maybe it was the character backstory that made us feel (and fear) for the characters and their ultimate wellbeing. More likely than not it was a combination of those and the movie’s overall intensity that made the action of this movie, and those actions’ consequences, so real.

In other words, GRAVITY was very well-done.

And what a relief that a film can still be well-done in America without dragging on for hours. At just 90 minutes, GRAVITY is a film that sucks you in and keeps you glued to the screen till the credits roll. That’s an accomplishment, and it’s an accomplishment of many that this film achieves. I’m not surprised it’s tied with AMERICAN HUSTLE for 10 Academy Award nominations: Cuarón’s vision for this film broke down barriers and, in some ways, had to be an experiment. It’s kind of revolutionary, actually. Or at least I think so. But the film wasn’t perfect. It lacked any extra meaning or alternative interpretations or deep truths (something I always look for in a film of this caliber), and the characters were flatter than the story was intense. In the end, it was just an entertaining movie. But I was impressed, and I’ll leave it at that.

I rate GRAVITY 4 stars out of 5.


(Source: takemewithyer)

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1. AMERICAN HUSTLE, David O. Russell

First up this year is AMERICAN HUSTLE. I have so much to say about this movie, but I must admit I don’t quite know how to say any of it. Let me start with David O. Russell, whose direction has also brought us THE FIGHTER (2010) and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2013), two excellent films in their own right, two previous nominees for Best Picture, and two films I each enjoyed. But AMERICAN HUSTLE is in a league of its own. Even in the year since his last directing venture, Russell’s style and technique has undeniably matured and become what is essentially his own. His art of conveying characters as real human beings, an accomplishment normally assigned to actors and/or writers, has everything to do with how he frames his scenes and how he gives the audience a front seat to each and every character’s own experience.

But a round of applause, please, for this cast.

Christian Bale, nominated for Best Actor, was at times an indignant excuse for a human being, at times a man comfortable with his decisions and his lifestyle. And then there’s Amy Adams. I can’t begin to do either of them justice, so I’ll speak of the plot instead. It’s 1978. Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Syndey Prosser (Amy Adams) cross paths and find true love, and he quickly lets her in on his conning operations. After a good amount of success at this, they get caught by one Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent, who agrees to let them walk if they help him make arrests. Featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C. K. (that’s right), Robert De Niro, Shea Whigham and Jack Huston (those last two both from Boardwalk Empire), AMERICAN HUSTLE is a damn-good story that’s told damn well. I loved it.

I rate AMERICAN HUSTLE 4.5 stars out of 5. image

(Source: takemewithyer)

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My 5 Favorite Albums of 2013


5. Alice SmithShe

I discovered the pure soul that is Alice Smith and She a couple weeks back, and what a pleasant surprise it’s been. Smith sings and writes of love and of heartbreak, but it’s genuine: the soul is there, the pain is there. And her dazzling cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Fool for You” is enough to melt my speakers. I’ll tell you something you might have guessed: I really like Alice Smith. She made me a new fan of R&B, and so did She. {Best Tracks: “Another Love,” “Cabaret”}


4. Julia HolterLoud City Song

Two weeks ago I’d never heard of Julia Holter or of her music. Today, I can’t get enough of either. I’d say that Loud City Song is gorgeously experimental, but the word “gorgeous” doesn’t do this album justice. Holter’s third studio album is the kind of rare achievement in music where every last song on the record is a flawless gemstone; they’re all my absolute favorite, and for that reason alone I really can’t praise Loud City Song enough. So I’ll stop now. {Best Tracks: “Maxim’s I,” “This Is a True Heart”}


3. Mazzy StarSeasons of Your Day

Ah, Mazzy Star. I challenge you to find me a dreamier, more mesmerizing voice than Hope Sandoval’s. (I’ll save you some time: there isn’t one.) After seventeen years of dormancy Mazzy Star returned from the the dust with their fourth studio album, and even after nearly two decades of hiatus, Hope and David Roback still sound as good and write as well as they did in the heart of the 90s. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: with Seasons of Your Day Mazzy Star have perfected their own genre of dream pop, and it was hearing them live this November that convinced me. {Best Tracks: “Lay Myself Down,” “In the Kingdom”}


2. David LynchThe Big Dream

Who would’ve doubted that filmmaker David Lynch, in all his artistic and creative glory, could release two fantastic full-length albums in as many years? Mixing the best of blues and rock and electronic, The Big Dream picks up right where Crazy Clown Time (2012) left off, incorporating lyrics and voices and a sound that are (almost) as surreal and (definitely) as beautifully strange as his best films. If nothing else, Mr. Lynch’s second album has officially proven that any and every medium of art is a dish best served Lynchian. {Best Tracks: “Star Dream Girl,” “Say It”}


1. Atoms For PeaceAmok

The debut album of Thom Yorke’s supergroup/side project Atoms For Peace really needs no introduction. Yorke and the band combine haunting vocals, upbeat percussion, powerful synths, and Flea’s killer bass rhythms to create what is essentially electronic rock at its most evolved. Amok is at times beautiful, at times head-bobbing ecstasy, but every track is new and exciting and wow. And hey, believe it or not, this album sounds even better live in concert. {Best Tracks: “Amok,” “Before Your Very Eyes…”}

Honorable Mentions: Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend; Pure Heroine, Lorde; Woman, Rhye

(Source: takemwithyer)

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All finished! It’s already over once again. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year’s nominees for Best Picture, as I have for the past few years. I did express some dismay when I first learned of these nominees; I felt THE HOBBIT, THE MASTER, and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, among others, each deserved a spot among the top pictures of the year. But I have to say, upon watching them all, I was not disappointed with these movies. Here’s my personal ranking, from best to worst, of the nine nominees:

  4. ARGO
  5. AMOUR

As for which film I believe will win Best Picture, I’m almost certain it will be LINCOLN.

Thanks for reading, liking, and re-blogging my reviews. I had a great time seeing and reviewing them. I’m looking forward to watching the Oscars tomorrow evening; it’s one of my favorite nights of the year.

To me, the common denominator of greatness this year was the wonderful acting: Riva and Huppert in AMOUR; Affleck and Goodman in ARGO; young Wallis in BEASTS; Waltz and Foxx in DJANGO; Hathaway and Jackman in LES MIS; Sharma in PI; Day-Lewis and Field and Jones in LINCOLN; Cooper and Lawrence and De Niro in PLAYBOOK; and Chastain in ZERO DARK THIRTY. Wonderful acting all around!

Now it’s time for me to shut up for another eleven months, when I’ll see and review some of the best films of 2013. I wouldn’t keep doing this if I didn’t love it. Until then, happy watching!

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BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is a story about finding oneself in the universe.

I certainly didn’t plan for it, but I saved the best for last. Easily the best of the nine nominees for Best Picture in my opinion, BEASTS is a beautiful story full of beautiful people full of beautiful surprises. I couldn’t turn away from the screen.

About a young girl named Hushpuppy, the film follows her discovery of her world, where she lives with her father deep in the backwards southern wild, in a place called “the Bathtub.” It’s completely cut off from the world by a levee, so the threat of rising waters looms in this community. Meanwhile, large, extinct beasts, known as aurochs, awaken from their frozen slumber in melted icecaps far away and, throughout the film, make their journey to Hushpuppy. They’re real in the film, yet their role is more figurative than anything else: they seem to represent the southern wild itself.

Full of gorgeous imagery, glorious storytelling, and genius moments, BEASTS was perfect. It was, verily, the best film of the year. I enjoyed every second of it, and I found it profound, impeccable, and full of life. It was on a different plane than the other nominees.

I rate BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD 4 stars out of 4.


beasts of the southern wild academy awards oscars best picture review

ZERO DARK THIRTY {film 8 of 9}


ZERO DARK THIRTY is a story about pursuance.

When a Navy SEAL is asked by another, before they plan to sack a stronghold, why it is he believes it’s Bin Laden living there, he responds, “her confidence,” indicating Maya, Jessica Chastain’s character. Maya is the dedicated CIA officer that’s been on UBL’s case her entire 12-year career, and her confidence descends directly from her commitment.

Here’s what I liked: the acting. Jessica Chastain was wonderful as per usual, and strong performances from the cast kept the film going. Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones) was in it! And Chris Pratt (Andy from Parks and Recreation) had a significant part, too. It’s strange to see these faces in a film like this, but they were both excellent all the same. I also loved the very ending—so simple, so perfect. Nothing over the top, exactly what the story, and Chastain’s character, called for; that’s all I’ll say about that.

To be honest, though, I didn’t really like the film. The entire movie was told from the CIA perspective, which was a serious mistake. It was too long by about an hour. And, after watching ARGO, it seemed ZERO DARK THIRTY did not come close to the kind of thrill, stake, and tension in its climax that it was capable of, perhaps because we all knew the ending already? Most of all, the film did not pose any real questions: should torture be condoned? Was it necessary to torture all those people to get one man? What else could be done? ZERO DARK THIRTY did not answer these questions, yet it certainly seemed to pose them. Why spend the first forty-five minutes of the movie obsessed with torture when no statement was ultimately made on its moral standing, or lack thereof?

It’s a great story, but I felt it just wasn’t told well.

I rate ZERO DARK THIRTY 2.5 stars out of 4.


zero dark thirty academy awards oscars review

LIFE OF PI {film 7 of 9}


LIFE OF PI is a story about clinging to life amidst struggle, hope, and companionship.

When 16 year-old Pi’s family zoo goes bankrupt, his father makes the tough decision that it is time to leave India behind and start a new life in Winnipeg, Canada. They set sail on a large freighter that ultimately sinks in a torrential storm, of which he is the sole human survivor; tragically, he loses his entire family and is ultimately forced onto a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean along with a dying zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and an adult tiger called Richard Parker. Very soon the orangutan, hyena, and zebra are killed, leaving Pi alone with one wild and fierce Bengal tiger. The film mostly follows the struggles of, and the relationship between, Pi and Richard Parker during their extraordinary 227 days at sea.

Many elements of the story are fantastical, it’s important to note, often leaving the audience incredulous, even stupefied. When Pi and Parker land on a small undiscovered island occupied by thousands and thousands and thousands of meerkats, for instance, I couldn’t help but smile. By the end of the film, the audience is sure to question whether Pi’s story was real or contrived, but this I feel is the greatest mistake one can make in watching LIFE OF PI: it is not meant to be questioned so much as cherished.

Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, was said to be impossible to make into a film for all of its beauty and intricacy, and yet, Ang Lee’s stunning vision come-to-life proves not only that it was very possible but that it could be achieved majestically. LIFE OF PI is a moving tale full of impeccable imagery, genuine excitement, and powerful emotions. Yet in all its fantasticality, the film still manages to exude more the stuff of life than not.

I rate LIFE OF PI 3.5 stars out of 4.


life of pi academy awards oscars best picture review

ARGO {film 6 of 9}


ARGO is a story about perseverance and hope in the face of an impossible struggle.

I enjoyed ARGO quite a bit. Of course, I might need to check my blood pressure after that intense, prolonged climax, but it was certainly entertaining for it all the same.

Where should I begin? Ben Affleck. He’s done it again. In ARGO he stars as Tony Mendez, a CIA exfiltration agent with the passion (and the balls) to come up with (and pull off) a crazy enough stunt to return the escapees of the American embassy in Iran to the United States alive. We all know the general history behind the Iranian hostage crisis, which lasted nearly a year, but Affleck consumes his film with the lesser-known story: of the six that escaped the embassy before the mob rushed it. The incredible story involves the incredible plan the CIA agent comes up with. He suggests they pretend to be making a science fiction film called “Argo” and that, with the six escapees, they’re looking for a filming location, Iran among the contending locations.

Other big names in ARGO include John Goodman, who is always a pleasure to see on screen, and he and Alan Arkin provide for some great comedic relief. And relief we need! What an utterly intense airport scene! Affleck has truly perfected the high-stakes, tense situations his films have been known for (recall, for instance, THE TOWN).

But the intensity may have been too much; ARGO, at times, became too much a hyperbolic, Hollywood-ized take on an already incredible story. Were some of the decisions to kick up the tension essential? Probably not. Did the movie suffer for these decisions? Not particularly. But it didn’t help the film either. Maybe it was just me.

I rate ARGO 3.5 stars out of 4.


argo academy awards oscars review ben affleck

LES MISÉRABLES {film 5 of 9}

LES MISÉRABLES is a story about love, hope, and revolution.

I’ve never read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. I’ve never seen the musical on stage. I’ve never seen any film adaptation before today. In short, before seeing Tom Hooper’s adaptation, I had never been exposed to the story, the music, or the characters. Naturally, then, I knew I was in for a treat.

First, I want to talk about the story because for this film it was not original, obviously. I loved it. The story was beautiful, beautiful! And the film told it perfectly, I felt. So for those who know nothing about the story, this particular adaptation is certainly worth a viewing.

Now for the acting: it was tremendous! Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway. Wonderful, all! And this has been one aspect of the nominees for Best Picture this year that has blown me away every film. With LES MIS, I expected no less from the phenomenal actors, but expecting tremendous acting is different from actually witnessing tremendous acting. Splendid acting all around.

It was really an emotional film, mostly because it’s an emotional story, and the ending. The ending! Profound. Powerful. Incredible. It was a magical ending, and it made the whole film in my mind. All right. Enough from me. I liked it a lot. It was really good. This review sucks.

I rate LES MISÉRABLES 4 stars out of 4.

les miserables academy awards oscars review

LINCOLN {film 4 of 9}


LINCOLN is a story about hope and change and war and peace.

I saw LINCOLN back in November. It was the first of the Best Picture nominees I got to see, and it was the only one, in fact, that I saw before they were announced in mid-January. Even before I watched it, though, it seemed like a given that it would be nominated. A film about Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones, directed by Steven Spielberg? It’s no coincidence this was a film I’d been looking forward to seeing for three years.

Spielberg requires no introduction, but his historical films do deserve some mention here if only for the sake of context. This is the same man who directed SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, SCHINDLER’S LIST, MUNICH; even WAR HORSE deserves a passing mention. Spielberg has spent the latter half of his career largely dedicated to his successful historical projects (THE PACIFIC comes to mind), and with LINCOLN I feel he’s reached his crescendo in the genre, truly.

As for Day-Lewis, no better actor exists for the part to have played the sixteenth president of the United States. Day-Lewis, with this performance, has entered another realm of acting, in an echelon higher than any of his contemporaries. I am still comprehending the genius of his performance—his ability to encompass the essence of a president that lived and died a hundred and fifty years ago is truly extraordinary—and I am sure my comments are more than superfluous at this point. Please note, too, the lack of exaggeration in my comments.

LINCOLN, like the president himself, is hard to dislike. As a film, it manages to grip the audience in a way often difficult for an historical film of its weight and length and breadth. As each character attempts to overcome what seem to be herculean objectives, from winning the Civil War to coping with psychosis to earning enough votes to pass the most progressive amendment in American history, President Lincoln has no choice but to keep his composure, and Day-Lewis, playing the “gentle giant,” was mesmerizing to watch.

The plot requires no summary—certainly not from me—and I don’t deserve to praise this film any further. Of course, many aspects of the film were flawless. Its mistakes I count none. Its the kind of movie history buffs and film critics alike wait decades for. I’d argue LINCOLN is Spielberg’s best historical work, better even than his work on SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, which we know earned him the Academy Award for Best Director in ‘99. I felt that Daniel Day-Lewis, too, gave his best performance to date, including his performance for, yes, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, which, again, won him the Oscar for Best Actor in 2008, to no surprise.

Am I implying Spielberg should win Best Director? Am I implying Day-Lewis should win Best Actor? Am I implying LINCOLN should win Best Picture? I have yet to see the remaining nominees … but I am rooting for them alright.

I rate LINCOLN 4 stars out of 4.


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DJANGO UNCHAINED {film 3 of 9}


DJANGO UNCHAINED is a story about love and freedom.

I have to say of all the nominees for Best Picture, DJANGO was the one I most wanted to see. Quentin Tarantino is one of my all-time favorite directors, and I enjoy his films with a fervent degree of pleasure. PULP FICTION, both KILL BILL movies, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, RESERVOIR DOGS—these are all wonderful works whose praise would be a given in any number of separate reviews. This review, however, concerns Tarantino’s most recent endeavor, for which I have praise and criticism alike.

First, allow me the privilege of bowing down in the name of Christoph Waltz, who gave a profoundly remarkable performance in DJANGO. Yes, he’s outdone himself. If you thought he could pull off an evil, unyielding Nazi in BASTERDS with flourish, then you’re in for a real treat: as a kind, enigmatic bounty hunter, Waltz enters new realms of acting genius. Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio, too, each provided performances worthy of nominations, even if they were neglected. But more about that another day.

Now for the premise. We meet two slaveowners hustling a group of chained slaves “somewhere in Texas,” Django (Foxx) among them. Dr. Schultz (Waltz), an out-of-practice dentist who now makes a living collecting bounties, intercedes their trek and calls for a parley to purchase Django, who knows the faces of three men with a hefty bounty on their heads. After collecting several bounties with skill, Schultz and Django eventually make an agreement to continue working together until the end of winter, at which point the doctor will help Django find his wife, Broomhilda, whom he was separated from during a cruel slave auction in Mississippi. They learn she was sold to the fourth largest plantation in Mississippi: Candieland, where an eccentric man named Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) presides as slaveowner. The two bounty hunters plan Broomhilda’s daring rescue, and the rest of the film involves that plan’s execution.

Here’s what I liked about the film: the acting. Superb acting! Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson, who pulled off Candie’s senile, long-residing chief slave, were all fantastic. I also favored Tarantino’s style. With every new film he makes, his style matures, not unlike a fine, aged whisky, and a very violent whiskey it has become. Speaking of said violence, the backdrop of the spaghetti western allowed novel opportunities for the violence-inclined Tarantino to explore, a particular treat for fans of his more gory works. Much about the film was more than satisfactory, to say the least.

Here’s what I disliked: the movie was too long. It overstayed its welcome, in my opinion. Clocking in at nearly three hours, it was too long for a film of its genre. I was also puzzled by a few choices with the soundtrack; there were a couple instances of modern rap leaking into the late 1850s setting, which is fine—it merely left me puzzled. I couldn’t help, too, wondering what statement, if any, Tarantino was making. The film is Django’s story about love and the obstructions of achieving it, in a way, but the attention given to Dr. Schultz’s character overshadowed the majority of the story’s core and begged the question. What were his intentions? Who is he really? Why is he a bounty hunter? We never find out. I didn’t like that either. For this reason, I found the story was flat. Perhaps because it lacked an engaging subplot as BASTERDS did, employing not the clever multi-narrative arc I’ve come to know and love from Tarantino but a solitary storyline with a few elements of a nonlinear plot.

Ultimately, DJANGO is a fine film, but I didn’t love it. Something was missing, I just don’t know what. It was entertaining, sure, riveting and powerful, but it lacked the “panache”—as Dr. Schultz describes a slave he pretends to try and purchase—and for that the movie suffered. But who knows? Maybe I expected too much of the film in my anticipation. But let’s be honest: can you ever expect too much from Tarantino? He’s better than DJANGO.

I rate DJANGO UNCHAINED 3 stars out of 4.


django unchained oscars best picture academy awards review



SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is a story about finding one’s way back to happiness.

The movie is about a lot of things — it’s about love, it’s about family, it’s about hope and happiness. Most of all, I’d say, it’s about life: relationships, mistakes, anger, football, mental illness; you know, the “usual” stuff we face day-to-day.

Alright, so this movie is difficult to pinpoint. And I’d attribute that to its unique style, its flavorful denial of conforming to genre, and its exploration of character.

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) just got out of a mental hospital, where he spent eight months recovering from a serious bi-polar episode. His wife left him, he was fired from his teaching job, and everyone thinks he’s crazy. But despite all this, we find a positive, optimistic figure in Pat from the second he returns to the real world. When he’s invited to a small dinner party at his friend’s house, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow and recovering sex addict with mental problems of her own. Before long, the two befriend each other and make a deal: if Pat promises to partner with her in a local dance competition, she’ll agree to deliver a letter to his wife.

If you, as I certainly did, expected from the previews that this film is just another cheap romantic comedy, you’d be wrong. Very wrong. And not because SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK isn’t a romantic comedy — it is — but because this movie rejects the typical, banal form of romance found in nearly every rom-com ever made. It also avoids the cheap jokes and silly banter almost always present in said genre. Instead of equipping corny humor and watered-down romance, SILVER LININGS extracts somehow the meaningful, genuine, real-life comedic relief found in our everyday lives. The romance in the film, too, has echoes of something more … which brings me to my next topic: the stunning characterization.

You get the distinct sense while watching this movie that the characters on screen possess a third dimension, that they think, act, and make decisions of their own accord. In other words, the writing and story and characterization of this movie are so well-done that the audience is utterly absorbed with the lives and outcomes of these characters. And when half of them are mentally imperfect, it’s no mystery why that is. Pat suffers from severe bi-polar disorder, Tiffany is coping with some form of hysterics, and Pat’s father (Robert De Niro) is an out-of-work, superstitious-to-a-fault Philadelphia Eagles fan.

A lot was done well with this movie, and to be honest, I didn’t expect to be admitting that. While a lot more could be said, I’ll just say this: it’s not your typical rom-com.

I rate SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK 3.5 stars out of 4.


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"What he had actually done was make a philosophical statement about man’s place in the universe, using images as those before him had used words, music or prayer. And he had made it in a way that invited us to contemplate it — not to experience it vicariously as entertainment, as we might in a good conventional science-fiction film, but to stand outside it as a philosopher might, and think about it."
- Excerpt from Roger Ebert’s Review of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

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