Tuesday, February 18, 2014

QUICKIES: Some Oscar-nominated 2013 movies

Here are my quick reviews of American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Philomena, Rush, and Lee Daniels' The Butler.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Her (2013)

"I feel like I can be anything with you."

Set in the future, Her is about a man who fell in love with his female operating system (It's Scarlet Johansson, what testosterone-infused human being wouldn't? LOL). Sounds silly? Not really. In this internet age, every kind of relationship is possible. Who's to say that falling in love with someone you haven't even seen is not right? You talk to that "person" every single day, you share your innermost thoughts, your dreams, your feelings. You tell that "person" everything without second thoughts. You "connect" with that "person." Who's to say that's not love?  This film gives us a closer look & a wider understanding of what a relationship is, conventional or not. Love is universal. Emotions are real as they are felt.

Directed & written by:  Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation)
Starring:  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams
Music by:  Arcade Fire
Cinematography by:  Hoyte van Hoytema (Let the Right One In, The Fighter)
Editing by:  Eric Zumbrunnen (Being John Malkovich), Jeff Buchanan
Running Time:  126 mins
Box Office:  a little over $23 million

Her is cinematically beautiful, that's undeniable. The romance underneath the almost tangible melancholy is so bittersweet you can't help but feel it... get affected by it. You can't look away, even when you're witnessing a somehow laughable but sweet sex scene from Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Forget about racism. Forget about this film being just an Oscar bait, or whatever negative people say about 12 Years a Slave. I'm just gonna tell you why this is such an epic film for me, without expounding on its socio-political/historical relevance.

McQueen's patient direction in contrast with the cast's intense & nuanced acting, along with the awesome music makes this unbearably painful film beautiful. His scenes are so atmospheric, you can't help but get chills because you feel the weight of everything you're seeing. Even when there's seemingly nothing going on, it's actually those scenes where you feel the most.

Directed by: Steve McQueen (Shame)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o
Screenplay by:  John Ridley (Undercover Brother)
Based on Twelve Years a Slave (Solomon Northup)
Music by:  Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by:  Sean Bobbitt (The Place Beyond the Pines, Shame)
Editing by: Joe Walker (Shame)
Running Time:  134 mins
Budget:  $20 million
Box Office:  over $97 million

Before watching this, I was really rooting for Leonardo DiCaprio to win Best Actor. I still am (because I effin' love Leo!!), but I really think that Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves to win this award. With Michael Fassbender's awesome-in-a-psychotic-way Master Epps to torment Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), Chiwetel's subtle acting (suffering) resonates all the more. They complement each other. I love every bit of screen time they share together. 

The cast is great. Even the smallest actors on set gave great performances. It shocked me that the scene which made me cry (the first time) was not because of the main characters, but from someone who I only saw for several seconds. The scene where Patsey was being given some salve for her back, the woman applying it caught my attention. Suffering in silence, forced to accept whatever fate their masters decide for them, all they can do is cry silently - that's what I got from that woman's acting. It was actually so great that Lupita's scene was overshadowed because I was already bawling like a hungry kitten even before the camera zooms into her anguish-filled expression. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

A three-hour long spectacle of gratuitous debauchery, of people & their unrestrained pursuit to satisfy their id, of characters long blinded by greed that they forgot how to be real human beings, and of shallow characterizations & plot - or the lack of it.

This could have given you a sour taste in your mouth & a giant hangover if it wasn't for Scorsese's unrestrained playfulness & DiCaprio's psychotic charm.

Directed by:  Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Raging Bull)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Screenplay by:  Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire)
Based on Jordan Belfort's The Wolf of Wall Street
Cinematography by:  Rodrigo Prieto (8 Mile, Brokeback Mountain)
Editing by: Thelma Schoonmaker (worked with Scorcese for over 40 years)
Running Time:  179 mins
Budget:  $100 million
Box Office: over $222 million

It's funny how you read on movie boards that The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the funniest comedies/best movies/"insert your own hyperbole" of 2013, and see on the next page that it's so goddamn awful that people have walked out of the theaters. And the same people insisting how juvenile or stupid others are for liking this movie. I say, to each his own - but let me share my thoughts regarding some of the reasons people didn't like this film.


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