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.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (David O. Russell)

Starring:  Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Running Time:  138 mins.

Fun soundtrack, groovy outfits, amusing performance by JLaw. Totally enjoyable editing & music, with solid performances from the cast. But what seems to be this year's awards favorite turns out to be the most overly-hyped film in my book. It was just okay. Is it better than the other nominees? No. Definitely not. I couldn't care less about the characters' fate because they are so unlikeable & uninteresting. The slight pity I felt for a character or two was just perfunctory - an automatic human response - then whoosh, gone in like 3 seconds. It has no lasting impact, quite forgettable I would say. The attempt to surprise us wasn't even jaw-droppingly amazing. It was almost expected. It felt like it was trying too hard. My favorite scene was when Robert De Niro showed up (albeit in the dark. lol) but that was just a tease. Too bad. I'm not saying American Hustle is not good. It is entertaining, and the cast's performances (esp. Renner, Cooper, & Lawrence) were good. Bale is typical Bale. He's batman, what do you expect. LOL. All I'm saying is that this movie is overrated. I've enjoyed the quieter Oscar entries more than this one.  

My Rating: 3/5
Countdown to the Oscars: American Hustle has 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Original Screenplay, & Best Director.
Moot Pick: I prefer the other nominees. Sorry.

*     *     *

BLUE JASMINE (Woody Allen)

Starring:  Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale
Running Time:  98 mins

Cate Blanchett is superb in this film. To shift from a charming sophisticated woman to a neurotic, screaming, talking-to-oneself pitiful lady with such grace and ease is a performance truly deserving recognition. The screenplay was tight. The sarcastic & biting humor was injected to the scenes pretty well - a much needed antidote to counterbalance the depressing situation Jasmine's in. The supporting cast did great as well, but the one character that surprised me was not Sally Hawkins' but Bobby Cannavale's Chili. A character (a blue-collared boyfriend) that's usually the antagonist in any other movies, Chili is strikingly the bigger person in here. Probably the only mature person in the house.

Blue Jasmine boasts of a stellar performance from the cast, an excellent screenplay & direction, but this film at times felt too depressing. Like I wanted it to end. Oh why won't it end sooner? But then again, that's probably what Woody Allen wants us to feel, and he's probably proud of that achievement. :)

My Rating: 3.5/5
Countdown to the Oscars:  Blue Jasmine received nominations for Best Original ScreenplayBest Actress (Blanchett) & Best Supporting Actress (Hawkins) in the 86th Academy Awards.
Moot Pick: I still want Meryl Streep to win Best Actress for her crazy performance in August: Osage County, but Cate Blanchett deserves the award as well. Ugh. Torn. 

*     *     *


Starring:  Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Running Time:  116 mins

To see Jared Leto transform from his usual drool-worthy rockstar persona to an HIV-positive transgender is just so awesome to witness. I may have wanted more from his character, but he really deserves his nomination. Jennifer Garner, despite her girlish charm, is a miscast in my opinion. Maybe her sunshiney personality is needed to counterbalance the depressing setting of the movie, but instead of adding to the film's depth she only managed to distract me. She's not all that bad, she had her good moments. But I wish they could have cast another actress that wouldn't have eaten dust from Matt & Jared's acting performances. And then we have Matthew McConaughey. He didn't just lose weight to fit the role, he embraced it. He became an AIDS patient. And I believed him. He owns this role. He is the film.

Dallas Buyers Club is worth watching because of the solid acting from McConaughey & Leto. Aside from their individual performances, their chemistry is also notable, sometimes infused with humor (which I appreciate), and at times tugging at your heartstrings - the way they managed to survive together, despite their differences.

My Rating: 4/5
Countdown to the Oscars:  DBC's nominations in the 86th Academy Awards include Best Picture, Best Actor (McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Leto), Best in Film Editing, & Best Original Screenplay.
Moot Pick: I say give the award to Leto because he's so damn cute as Rayon!

*     *     *


Starring:  Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Running Time:  105 mins

One of my favorite shots

There's a reason why The Coen Bros. are always in my top 3 list of favorite directors of all time - it's because they're so damn good. Don't be fooled by the beautiful cinematography and music, the inside of Llewyn Davis is totally dark and depressing. The Coens always gives us these endings that will leave us gloomy for days, hearts empty, mind blown... But --

SPOILERS:  in this case, I think, that the ending could be interpreted either way, good or bad. To summarize the whole film - nothing happens. It could be that Davis would always be like that, sleeping on couches etc. etc. But I choose to interpret it differently. The zooming in on Bob Dylan in that scene at the end, plus the fact that Mulligan's character mentioned that some important people would be there may signify the inevitable recognition of these Gaslight people's music (folk scene) in the near future, with Dylan in the front row, thus  giving Davis a morsel of success he so craves as an artist. But then again, with Dylan's huge career (as we all know), everybody else might be pushed further back in the shadows. 

So yes, usual Coen mindgames. And I love it.

My Rating:  5/5 - The music is haunting. The cinematography is lovely. Oscar Isaac is amazing. I want to see more of him. Oh and Justin Timberlake, I just wanna pinch his cheeks! So talented, so sexy.
Countdown to the Oscars:  ILD received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography & Best Sound Mixing.

*     *     *

NEBRASKA (Alexander Payne)

Starring:  Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb
Running Time:  110 mins

What I initially thought to be a drab film turned out to be one of my favorites in this Oscar season. The moment June Squibb came out of that screen door and called Bruce Dern a dumb cluck, I was 100% glued. A funny & heartwarming story that will make you appreciate your family all the more. Alexander Payne is a really good painter of human drama - foibles and their redeeming qualities - and whatever canvass he uses, it's still an interesting work of art, no matter how simple the strokes were or the colors used. It's real, one that people understand.

My Rating:  5/5 - June Squibb & Bruce Dern  for Best Love Team of the Year! haha.

Countdown to the Oscars:  Nebraska received 6 nominations in the 86th Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best DirectorBest Actor (Dern), Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Cinematography, & Best Original Screenplay.

*     *     *

PHILOMENA (Stephen Frears)

Starring:  Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
Running Time:  95 mins

Such chemistry between Dench & Coogan! It saddens me to think that Judi Dench wouldn't win an Oscars simply because there are stronger "favorites" in the Best Actress category. But she was really great in here. She makes you laugh, sad, angry - just a little bit of everything. Coogan gave a solid performance as well.

My Rating:  4/5

Countdown to the Oscars:  Philomena's nominations in the 86th Academy Awards include Best PictureBest Actress, Best Original Score, & Best Original Screenplay.

*     *     *

RUSH (Ron Howard)

Starring:  Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl
Running Time:  122 mins

The thing I love about diving into a movie blind, without any expectations, is when it surprises me completely - in a good way. I enjoyed every second of Rush. Bruhl & Hemsworth were both champs. It's irrelevant if this movie was snubbed at the Oscars. It doesn't need an award to convince me that this whole picture was beautifully-made (technical/music/acting-wise) & totally engaging.

What's your favorite Niki Lauda/James Hunt scene? Mine was when Marlene's car broke down, she & Lauda were trying to stop another car for help - that reminded me of the classic scene in "It Happened One Night"- and up until the moment when Lauda was driving the guys' car, giving in to Marlene's urges to speed up. That was so cool.. and sweet. My favorite Hunt scene is when he beat the crap out of that reporter.

My Rating:  5/5 - This is in my top 5 favorite films of 2013. And I'm now looking at Thor with a leer, and dirty thoughts in my mind.

*     *     *

THE BUTLER (Lee Daniels)

Starring:  Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey
Running Time:  132 mins

A solid cast & a decent film, but is it really as powerful as compared to the frontrunners of 2013? Seeing different actors portray famous personalities was fun for me. Seeing Oprah Winfrey slap the bejesus out of her bratty son was fun for me. Seeing Forrest Whitaker be the butler for how many administrations was cool. And yeah, fun for me. 

My Rating:  3/5 - The Butler is an enjoyable film, but also quickly forgettable.

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YOUR POINT OF VIEW: Which among these films is your favorite? Your least favorite? Why?

Here are my reviews of other Oscar-nominated films:

Her - 3.5/5
12 Years a Slave - 4.5/5
Frozen - 4/5
Before Midnight - 4.5/5
Gravity - 4.5/5

Let me know what you think, LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, let's talk!  
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  1. Enjoyable arrangement of reviews. Nice work here .

  2. Love the little reviews! I REALLY need to get around to watching Inside Llewyn Davis already- I've been meaning to for awhile. It's nice to see you give it five stars- I've read some negative reviews of it.

    1. yay thanks Skye! found myself with 7 un-reviewed movies, with so little time, so I just decided to put them all in one post. lol.

      I loved ILD because Oscar Isaac was absolutely good in here. And the music. and the script. Maybe you need to be in the right mood for this, idk, but I can understand why others didn't like it. But yes, it deserves to be watched, let me know how you felt about it haha ^_^

  3. Really fun to read reviews! :) I saw Rush going in blind too and it paid off. Haven't seen American Hustle but I've been hearing quite a few people say it's overrated. I'll have to check out Nebraska too! Lots to catch up on! :p

    1. Nebraska is really nice. Bruce Dern and June Squibb were so good. I'm curious to see how you will like American Hustle (as compared to the other noms)

  4. Loved your quickie reviews and love your blog. Who do I think WILL win Best Picture? 12 Years a Slave. Who do I think SHOULD win Best Picture? The Wolf of Wall Street.

    Leonardo DiCaprio was absolutely amazing in this film, and no one else could have played the role so perfectly. I have to say I haven't laughed so hard in years! Jonah Hill was brilliant and beyond funny, and this girl is a huge Matthew McConaughey fan and even his cameo was perfection - super hilarious! I truly wish I could vote, as I feel like The Wolf of Wall Street deserves the win based on the script and the acting, the directing and everything else. Just Wow.

    I followed you, and you can make me a happy girl, too, with a follow - you can find me at www.filmfashionistachele.blogspot.com with film & fashion reviews. I love comments, too!

    1. thank you very much Chele! :) Followed you back, and I also added you in G+

      I wish that the Oscars will do another Blind Side stunt, and vote for another (surprise) winner aside from 12 Years a Slave. I do like the film, and it deserves to win, but so does the others. Probably the major reason it will win is bec of it's socio-political content - and you know how these award giving bodies are. LOL.

      Wolf is such a fun movie! Not only fun, but technically well-executed. And I loved Leo in here. LOVED HIM!!!

  5. The Butler is the only I wasn't able to comment on the past year. I was shocked it didn't appear at the oscars...In my opinion, it was so much more powerful and meaningful than 12 years a Slave.



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