REVIEW: Fury

Brad Pitt;Logan Lerman

Fury
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman and Michael Peña

There are a lot of despicably violent images in David Ayer’s Fury, a World War II movie set in the scorched-Earth Germany at the end of the conflict.  It begins with a majestic white horse carrying an anonymous soldier through a battlefield, though it’s not long before he’s identified as the enemy when we see Don Collier (Brad Pitt) jump out from a tank and stab him in the neck and eyes.  He lets the horse run off.

Not long after that moment, Collier tells a newbie named Norman (Logan Lerman)  to clean out his seat in their tank, which includes plenty of blood and the upper quadrant of a human face, eye and all.   Norman vomits, and you may want to too.  Not only are the images in Fury grotesque, but much of the behavior is too.  At first, Collier’s tough-but-fair-ness is insisted upon by the script, but then it’s slowly chipped away.   There are times when he seems at risk of transforming into Colonel Kurtz.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: 12 Years a Slave

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE

12 Years a Slave
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: John Ridley (screenplay), Solomon Northup (memoir)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Sarah Paulson

Connecting 12 Years a Slave immediately to its Oscar buzz because of when a studio chose to release it would be a disservice to it.  To put it simply, this is the most powerful film about American slavery that I’ve ever seen, and diminishing that accomplishment by asking if the white male establishment of the Academy can handle it enough to award it with anything is at the bottom of my list.

Steve McQueen’s previous two features, Hunger and Shame, were visually brilliant, but at times lacking a crucial human element.  This was especially true of Shame, whose miserabalism was supposed to be its own profound reward but ultimately registered as empty.  There is obviously a great deal of suffering in 12 Years a Slave, but also an intense humanity.

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REVIEW: 12 Years a Slave

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12 Years a Slave
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: John Ridley (screenplay), Solomon Northup (memoir)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Sarah Paulson

Connecting 12 Years a Slave immediately to its Oscar buzz because of when a studio chose to release it would be a disservice to it.  To put it simply, this is the most powerful film about American slavery that I’ve ever seen, and diminishing that accomplishment by asking if the white male establishment of the Academy can handle it enough to nominate it for anything is at the bottom of my list.

Steve McQueen’s previous two features, Hunger and Shame, were visually brilliant, but at times lacking a crucial human element.  This was especially true of Shame, whose miserabalism was supposed to be its own profound reward but ultimately registered as empty.  There is obviously a great deal of suffering in 12 Years a Slave, but also an intense humanity.

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REVIEW: World War Z

world war z stevens 650

World War Z
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof (screenplay), Max Brooks (novel)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz and James Badge Dale

There is no grand re-imagining of the zombie movie with this adaptation of Max Brooks’ critically acclaimed World War Z.  Despite the hype and the presence of Brad Pitt, it is almost disarmingly straight-forward.  A contagion is spreading, turning everyone into zombies, there is a cure somewhere and a man must go find it.  And he does.  And that’s pretty much it.

Director Marc Forster ensures that it’s quite a thrilling ride, opting for frantic, well-choreographed action sequences than flesh-ripping. By the end, though, it felt like a story that, while sincere, was ignorant of the fact that this movie has been made fairly continuously for the past few decades.  It doesn’t do something new with the idea of zombies, the filming technique is similar to the frantic style of 28 Days Later but on a larger and less gory scale.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Written by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, and Sean Penn

You always look at nature a little differently after you see a Terrence Malick film.  This is a man that you suspect has spent a great deal of time wandering through its various forms, envisioning ways to capture its essence.  Of course, all of us outside his friends, family and colleagues can ever do is suspect.  Malick creates his films, and then stays out of the spotlight.

The Tree of Life, his latest meditation on nature by way of the Big Bang, won the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and the one who was there promoting it was Brad Pitt.  In a way this is fitting since he and Sean Penn are all the marketing team behind this movie will have to promote it with.  It’s likely that countless Americans will attend this film to see Pitt and then be outraged.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Moneyball

Moneyball
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin (screenplay)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt

Moneyball is a movie preordained to be an Oscar contender simply by the marketing.  Brad Pitt is in a sports movie, and he’s at his Brad Pittiest.  The odds are in this movie’s favor to be a contender, though, not to win (yet).

Billy Beane (Pitt) would not like that.  He is a man who needs to have the last word, to win the last game.  As the manager of The Oakland A’s, one of the poorest teams in professional baseball, he’s willing to grapple with a new strategy: play by the numbers, not the players.  Along with Yale economics alum Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), they shift the focus of recruiting new players to computer-generated results to acquire overlooked players on the cheap.

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Oscar Nomination Predictions 2012

Best Picture: While The Artist is this year’s clear frontrunner with big wins at the Golden Globes and Producer’s Guild Awards, The Descendants and The Help are close on its heals. If this were a year with five nominations Midnight in Paris and War Horse would round the pack. But this isn’t a five-film year, nor is it a ten. Rather than explain the complicated, new system, just note that there could as many ten or as few as five films nominated pending on the number of votes a film receives. The totally will likely be around seven or eight with the sheer number of worthy-contenders. Odds favor darker dramas (like our pick for best film of the year, The Tree of Life) over an already largely comedic selection of sure-bets. Continue reading