October 19, 2014

2014...Lots of explosions, little bang, and as usual super backloaded the smart films for Oscar Season

3 things to remember (1) we are tough graders The Shawshank Scale is 1-10 but there are only (2) films that score 10's (yes of all time) think of it more like 5.5 and up are movies you should make time for (2) I take no responsibility for anything I write, mostly it is done when I can't sleep, and lastly (3) I really have no idea what I'm talking about, I just like movies and my poor memory requires me to rank them so I can remember what I like and don't like :)

UPDATE 5: Finally only a week before Oscar time I managed to check off the last of the Best Picture films, The Theory of Everything. Not too long ago I also saw American Sniper…well time to make the final list.

American Sniper-This is really Eastwood at his best, his best work since Changeling (which is a very very good movie), Eastwood solves the problem of a complicated man by really not addressing any of the controversy within the man and just giving us a war movie, a metaphor about war and what it does to people. I thought it was sharp and it unwarranted all the drama surrounding it. Again a man can be untruthful, maybe unremorseful, and perhaps even a racist…yet still be a hero.  The ending is a effective a choice for an ending I have seen in sometime (makes up for Million Dollar Baby).

The Theory of Everything-Fitting these are the last two films I saw given that they deal with complex ideas. The story of Stephen Hawking is an incredible story of triumph and perseverance. More than anything it feels like a love letter full of gratitude from Stephen to Jane. Both Stars shine incredibly bright and though the film is slightly uneven in its thematic tone versus the story it’s telling, it is wonderfully effective and emotional, mostly because of the two stars (Redmayne and Jones).  This is a worthy Best Picture candidate and well worth your time.

UPDATE 4: Well I have just American Sniper and Wild to go, maybe a few more sneaky gems I missed, and perhaps a few rewatches, but the 2014 Oscar watch is finally coming into focus. Last year Philomena was my pick for best film and I have probably rewatched it 4 times by now I'm not sure this year has produced a film I like as much as Philomena (did I mention you should watch it?), but the film industry has at least taken a few big swings and given us a few films we can be proud of that don't include comic heros (not that I don't like those films but they always come up a little short of great). *The Dark Knight Rises is the only comic film that has ever hit 7.0 on the Shawshank Scale and still the more I watch that film the more flaws I see, that said I still greatly enjoy it and I thought Captain America The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were both flawed but very entertaining so maybe we are moving in the right direction (2015 Antman anyone? written partly by the guy who wrote Ancherman and Step Brothers...I'm intrigued)

Inherent Vice-I am not the biggest P.T.A. guy on the planet but I read going in this was his Big Lebowski so perhaps that raised my expectations up a bit too high, this film is less entertaining than Boogie Nights and much less profound than There Will Be Blood (the only 2 P.T.A. films I really like) so it's not in my wheel house. Inherent Vice does let some very talented actors and actresses eat up some great scenery and perform some very nice dialogue so if your looking to see stars shine, and don't mind that you don't know whats going on then this may be for you (Phoenix gets old in the lead but Josh Brolin and Reese Witherspoon chew up scenes).

Whiplash-Wow very interesting film, the choices it makes are very smart and as you have all heard (Oscar Oscar) J.K. Simmons's performance as a brash, loud, violent, music professor is as advertised electric and Mile Teller is growing on me, that said Whiplash falls short of great because as good as it is (love the ending) it leaves me wanting more in a bad way. 101 minutes is just not enough to get Andrew (Miles Teller) from where he starts out at, to where he ends up. (why is Transformers 4 165 minutes and Whiplash 101 minutes, Hollywood?)

The Imagination Game-The story of Alan Turing is both tragic and fantastic and The Imagination Game tries hard to capture both sides of that story, but ultimately only succeeds in telling the fantastic part really well. It tries very hard to explain just how awful he was treated after the war when England essentially destroyed him (along with some 49,000 others) for the crime of being a homosexual but the latter part of his life feels too much like a footnote in this film. Aside from that this is a really well made film both Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch shine and it should be on your 2014 must see list.

Selma-I was blown away by just how good David Oyelowo was in this moving film that covers an extremely important moment in the Civil Rights Movement. This is the only man who has a chance to take away Keatons Oscar (For Birdman). Rarely do you see a filmmaker who takes on such a difficult story make so many good choices, and this early in their career, but Ava DuVernay is a rising star (mark my words) and she has made a wonderful film with Selma (SEE IT!).

Kill the Messenger- Jeremy Renner puts down his arrows for a much more poignant film that covers now deceased journalist Gary Webb's crusade to expose just how deep the connection between the CIA and the Drug Dealers (who were funneling money to help the Contras) ran. I thought this film was a noble effort to help clean up Webbs somewhat tarnished record (the slimy Washington Posts still sticks by its smear campaign even now), he may have played a little fast and loose with the facts but ultimately his thesis proved true...don't believe me, ask John Kerry.This is the perfect film to watch when you are in the mood to google for a few hours afterward...fascinating and shameful story.

UPDATE 3: Getting there, I've seen most of what I was hoping to see but I still have a few more (Inherent Vice, Wild, still Whiplash, American Sniper, and Selma to name a few)

Into the Woods-Wonderful job by all the Actors, great job showcasing the songs that made the musical so great, but the tone was a bit off and it lacked some of the charm of the show...its worth mentioning out of resepect that Meryl Streep is no Bernadette Peters in the role of the witch, not even close.

Unbroken-I wasn't sure what to expect from Jolie and her WWII Epic, It garnered many uneven reviews but I think it was very good, incredibly moving in a year when there were not many films that moved you, the mans story alone is incredible and Jolie does a noble job delivering it, though at times it is a tad cheesy and uneven I think it is mostly a triumph for her as a director and I look forward to her next film (is she the next Kathryn Bigelow?).

Foxcatcher-Bennent Miller is a director I'm starting to love (MoneyBall), even though he mostly misses with this film. It is dark and unimaginative (tells us nothing we really don't already know, does not even try to guess motive really), but it is very watchable and the actors are all very good (Mark Ruffalo shines the most), I just wished it took a shot at explaining what happened besides the obvious.
Big Eyes-Though it makes me exceedingly happy to see Tim Burton come down off his animated or Johnny Depp fascination and do something normal (reminiscent in tone to another Burton film I like, Big Fish), Big Eyes is a wonderful story of a naive woman with talent and a conniving man without a lick of it, I thought it was well made and well acted (Maybe Waltz is a bit over the top but it works 50% of the time), worth seeing without a doubt.

Pride-A sneaky good British film about the teaming up of Union Coal Miners and Gay and Lesbian rights activists in  1984, very heartwarming and well made, made me think of Gung Ho, a film I have always loved. You may have to look to find it, but it is worth it.

***Bonus-The 100 Foot Journey-This years Best Exotic Hotel Marigold, just not quite as good, but still cute, entertaining, and worth seeing!

UPDATE 2: Still yes a long way to go but checked off a few more,

Birdman-Without a doubt this movie will make waves at Oscar time, Keaton is excellent, so is Norton and Emma Stone...the music is tremendous and the way the film is shot is so engaging that you will forget the few whiffs it makes in the direction of the story toward the end.

Rosewater-In a way I didn't want this film to be this good, it isn't perfect mind you, but it is very well done especially considering first time director (A Mr. Jon Stewart). It has an original way of presenting a clean cut story taking place in a very complex land and it handles that with a hint of brilliance, now I thought it could've been a little longer and bit more graphic, but nontheless a fine film firmly in the top ten of the year. It will receive Oscar buzz at minimum but in my view should get Oscar noms.

St. Vincent-A heartwarming and more complex than you expect comedy that really was full of good performances (Oscar Watch for Melissa McCarthy seriously and yes the Great Bill Murray should be considered as well).

Intersteller-Well Nolan deserves a lot of credit for taking BIG film chances on space, time, quantum physics, and making all that great to look at, and he really got a great cast, then sadly he forgot to develop the characters and polish a lackluster script...I was much more dissapointed with the lack of character development (um Anne Hathaway's character is a useless ice queen) than the confusing storyline that really requires a chart to follow.

Still a long way to go but NOTE: refer to sidebar I have already changed my mind on many of these films I was able to rewatch and or reconsider them...Sidebar will be updated through the rest of the year :)

UPDATE 1: I have a lot of films to go (Birdman, Whiplash, Interstellar, and The Skeleton Twins) to name a few but if you thought 2013 was a bad year (and it was, outside of 2011 maybe the worst of the 2000’s) this year is possibly gearing up to be the WORST ever! Huge blockbusters like Godzilla, Transformers 4 and Spiderman 2 were really not good and even some very anticipated (and in some cases critically acclaimed) films like Gone Girl and Monuments Men just not very good at all. I am not sure the 2014 fall season can save a year where in October the (2) best films are about a food truck and Legos lol, that said really strong films like Philomena and Inside Llewyn Davis really saved the day last year, perhaps Interstellar and Birdman can do that this year?  In any case the time has come…the top ten list (of course subject to change) has arrived.

Top Ten of 2014
  1.       Birdman
  2.       Selma
  3.       Rosewater
  4.      Whiplash
  5.       Chef
  6.       Grand Budapest Hotel
  7.       Boyhood
  8.       American Sniper
  9.       The Theory of Everything
  10.   Unbroken