Monday, March 24, 2014

Will's Top 10 Films of 2013 Part 2: 5-2

5. Star Trek: Into Darkness

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You misunderstand. It is true I chose not to feel anything upon realizing my own life was ending. As Admiral Pike was dying, I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of passing. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. Fear. I had experienced those feelings before, multiplied exponentially the day my planet was destroyed. Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again. Nyota, you mistake my choice not to feel as a reflection of my not caring. Well, I assure you, the truth is precisely the opposite.

I really hope J.J. Abrams is able to do for the Star Wars franchise what he has done for the Star Trek franchise.  Without the need to do origin stories, and shoehorn in quite as many trekkie easter eggs, Abrams was able to fashion the greatest Star Trek movie ever (with extreme apologies to the mighty cetaceans of Star Trek IV).

4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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This is the revolution, and YOU are the Mockingjay.

It pains my pretentious movie snob soul to have TWO mainstream tentpole sequels in my top five movies for the year.  What can I say?  They nailed it.  Admittedly, unlike Star Trek, my love for this movie comes much more from my love for the source material.  I devoured the Hunger Games series a few years ago when I first saw the teaser picture of Jennifer Lawrence as a bow-wielding riot-grrrrl heroine.  I absolutely love the "down with the man" mentality of the story, and I was impressed with the way the book handled the more uncomfortable subjects of insurrection that seem to be glossed over in most "rebel alliance" stories.  Whereas the initial offering in this series bungled some key scenes (I still don't get how the filmmakers screwed up the tension of the "berry" sequence), this movie nails everything that is moving and important in the novel.  Most people hate the "cliffhanger" ending, but it's true to the book, and I can't wait to hear those "fair-weather" fans whine if they actually get Mockingjay right.

3. Before Midnight

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If you want love, then this is it. This is real life. It's not perfect, but it's real.

Somewhere around 2000 or 2001 I stumbled across "Before Sunrise" in the $5 dvd bin at Wal-Mart.  Seeing it was directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed & Confused) and starred Ethan Hawke (who is pretty much my favorite actor), I made what turned out to be the best "blind-buy" of my life.  The movie follows a night in the life of two strangers who fall in love while walking the streets of Vienna.  They met for a sequel (Before Sunset) in Paris in 2004, and, true to form, nine years later in 2013 we are once again treated to 90 minutes in the lives of Jesse and Celine.  I could watch these two characters talk forever.  This movie, especially, is probably the closest thing I have to a mirror into my marriage than any piece of art I have ever witnessed.

2. her

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-I've never loved anyone the way I love you.
-Me too. Now we know how.

In only his fourth feature-length film in his fifteen year career, Spike Jonze made the most original love story of the past decade. Scarlett Johannson's vocal performance deserved much more recognition because, however far-fetched an A.I.-Human love story may seem, you WILL believe in the power of love conquering all barriers.

#1 coming soon with a little bit of a surprise.....

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Will's Top 10 films of 2013 Part 1: 10-6

Better late than never....

I still love watching movies. If you peruse my blog, you'll notice this love take hold around the turn of the millennium and reach it's peak somewhere around 2006 or so.  Since then, due to work, family, money, and inability to stay up all night, the quantity of movies I have been able to view per year has been on a decline. Luckily, I have been able to use the information garnered in my "addiction" period to ratchet up the quality of the films I choose to watch.  For this reason, I usually dodge bad movies.  I rate movies 1-5 immediately after I check them out and I saw a grand total of ZERO "1 star" movies released during 2013.  Of the 61 movies I have seen, I only rated nine "2 star" movies.  That leaves quite a hefty list of pretty good movies.

In no particular order here are my honorable mentions ("4 star" movies that didn't make the cut for the illustrious top 10):
The Croods
The House I Live In
Spring Breakers
Pacific Rim
The Way Way Back
American Hustle
Upstream Color
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Hunt
Captain Phillips
Cutie and the Boxer
Ender's Game
Dirty Wars
Afternoon Delight
Blue is the Warmest Color
Dallas Buyers Club
Inside Llewyn Davis

On with the show:

10.  Mud
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There are fierce powers at work in the world, boys. Good, evil, poor luck, best luck. As men, we've got to take advantage where we can.

We should count ourselves lucky to be living in the golden age of Matthew McConaughey.  Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, and True Detective.  That's five "knock-your-socks-off" performances in a row.  As for this little movie, he may have won the Oscar for DBC, but no film screamed of Mr. McConaughey's influence more than Mud.  A beautiful and mysterious trip through the bayou through the eyes of innocents in search of adventure, love, and meaning.  This is a must-see for pretty much everybody I know.

9. Don Jon

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And while we're doing it, all the bull$*%# does fade away, and it's just me and her right there, and yeah I do lose myself in her. And I can tell she's losing herself in me. And we're just #*@$in'... lost together.

Little Tommy from "3rd Rock from the Sun" is all grown up.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and starred in the most honest look at twentysomething male sexuality in the 00's that has graced the cinema.  That being said, it is pretty crude and explicit ... just like a twentysomething male.  It breaks all the rules of the romantic comedy, which is pretty much necessary to make a good romantic comedy anyway.  Casting Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore as his love interests was, I must say, a stroke of brilliance!

8. The Kings of Summer

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-I don't trust that old guy.
-He has a shadow behind his eyes.
-How long have you been standing there?
-That's not an answer.

A beautifully odd story about three runaways who make a summer of their dreams in the woods a short walk from suburbia.  This movie is what happens when auteurs from my generation, raised on The Goonies, Stand By Me, and Explorers, begin to make art-house films.

7. Frozen

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-Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I'll be a ...... HAPPY SNOWMAN!

Easily the best (non-Pixar) Disney movie since the near-perfect streak from 1989 (Little Mermaid) to 1994 (Lion King).  You've probably already seen this movie, so I'm moving on.  PS: If you haven't seen it yet, do so, like now...

6. August: Osage County

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My Wife takes pills, and I drink.  That's the little deal we've struck - a little paragraph in our marriage contract.

I wonder what would happen if you rewrote "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and replaced the two couples with a large extended family?  I'm pretty sure this is what you would get.  Some of the best actresses (and a couple of pretty darn good actors) on the planet convene to adapt this infamous stage play.  Hard to watch and always surprising, this is not a movie I would recommend to many people, but I just can't resist a dialogue driven vehicle for emotion and subterfuge.

Top 5 coming soon!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Will's Oscar Preview!!

So I've gotten quite lazy on my blog, but I couldn't let the awards season slip by without a post.  So here's my Oscar extravaganza.  For each category, I will list my ballot (from favorite to least favorite), omitting the handful of movies I haven't seen yet, give my prediction for the award, and mention a movie or performance that should have been nominated but was snubbed.  Here goes:

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Best Picture
I think this is a 2 horse race between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave.  American Hustle has a chance to pull the dark horse upset, but I think the Academy will go with the safe bet here and choose the front-runner since August.

My Ballot:
1. Her
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. American Hustle
4. Gravity
5. Captain Phillips
6. 12 Years a Slave
7. Nebraska

My Pick to Win:  12 Years a Slave
Shoulda been nominated:  Fruitvale Station and Short Term 12

Best Actor
I really really need to see Dallas Buyers Club.  If Matthew McConaughey was nominated for Mud, I would put him first on my ballot.  That being said he should win unless the Academy feels like giving DiCaprio a lifetime achievement award here.

My Ballot:
1. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Bruce Dern - Nebraska
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
4. Christian Bale - American Hustle

My Pick to Win:  Matthew McConaughey
Shoulda been nominated:  Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station and Robert Redford - All is Lost

Best Actress
Really the biggest lock of the night.  Cate Blanchett has won everything.  The last betting odds I saw were 1/50, which means you'd have to bet $50 to return $51.  Vegas knows what they're doing.

My Ballot:
1. Meryl Streep - August: Osage County
2. Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
3. Amy Adams - American Hustle
4. Sandra Bullock - Gravity

My Pick to Win: Cate Blanchett
Shoulda been nominated:  Brie Larson - Short Term 12

Best Supporting Actor
This won is the second biggest lock of the night.  Jared Leto hasn't lost a major award, and he'll get a bald little man to put on his mantle.

My Ballot:
1. Jonah Hill - The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
3. Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
4. Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave

My Pick to Win: Jared Leto
Shoulda been nominated:  Moises Arias - The Kings of Summer

Best Supporting Actress
This is a toss-up between everybody's favorite starlet Jennifer Lawrence and the beautiful newcomer Lupita Nyong'o.  Both nailed roles of tortured females (albeit very, very differently).  The Academy likes to give this award to the new kid on the block which could work for both young ladies, but I think they'll go with Nyong'o since she's just a tad bit "newer".

My Ballot:
1. Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
2. Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
3. Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
4. June Squibb - Nebraska
5. Julia Roberts - August: Osage County

My Pick to Win: Lupita Nyong'o
Shoulda been nominated:  Scarlett Johansson - Her

Best Animated Feature
My Ballot:
1. Frozen
2. The Croods
3. Despicable Me 2
My Pick to Win: Frozen
Shoulda been nominated:  Monsters University

Best Cinematography
My Ballot:
1. Prisoners
2. Nebraska
3. Gravity
My Pick to Win: Gravity
Shoulda been nominated: Her

Best Costume Design
My Ballot:
1. American Hustle
2. The Great Gatsby
3. 12 Years a Slave
My Pick to Win: The Great Gatsby
Shoulda been nominated: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Best Directing
My Ballot:
1. Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
3. David O. Russell - American Hustle
4. Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
5. Alexander Payne - Nebraska
My Pick to Win: Alfonso Cuaron
Shoulda been nominated: Spike Jonze - Her

Best Documentary
My Ballot:
1. Cutie and the Boxer
2. Dirty Wars
3. 20 Feet from Stardom
4. The Act of Killing
My Pick to Win: The Act of Killing
Shoulda been nominated: The House I Live In

Best Editing
My Ballot:
1. Captain Phillips
2. American Hustle
3. Gravity
4. 12 Years a Slave
My Pick to Win: Gravity
Shoulda been nominated: Short Term 12

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
My Ballot:
1. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
2. The Lone Ranger
My Pick to Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Shoulda been nominated: American Hustle

Best Original Score
My Ballot:
1. Her
2. Gravity
My Pick to Win: Gravity
Shoulda been nominated: Frozen

Best Original Song
My Ballot:
1. "Let it Go" - Frozen
2. "The Moon Song" - Her
3. "Happy" - Despicable Me 2
My Pick to Win: "Let it Go"
Shoulda been nominated: "Vicious" - Short Term 12

Best Production Design
My Ballot:
1. Her
2. American Hustle
3. The Great Gatsby
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Gravity
My Pick to Win:  The Great Gatsby
Shoulda been nominated: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Best Sound Editing
My Ballot:
1. All is Lost
2. Gravity
3. Captain Phillips
My Pick to Win: Gravity
Shoulda been nominated: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Best Sound Mixing
My Ballot:
1. Gravity
2. Captain Phillips
My Pick to Win: Gravity
Shoulda been nominated: Her

Best Visual Effects
My Ballot:
1. Gravity
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
3. Iron Man 3
4. The Lone Ranger
My Pick to Win: Gravity
Shoulda been nominated: Pacific Rim

Best Original Screenplay
My Ballot:
1. Her
2. Blue Jasmine
3. American Hustle
4. Nebraska
My Pick to Win: Her
Shoulda been nominated: Don Jon

Best Adapted Screenplay
My Ballot:
1. Before Midnight
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Captain Phillips
My Pick to Win: 12 Years a Slave
Shoulda been nominated: August: Osage County

...whew.....  Should have a top 10 list ready in a week or so...