REVIEW: Big Eyes

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Big Eyes
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter and Jason Schwartzman

Is it art or is it trash?

Tim Burton’s latest poses this hyperbolic question about the paintings of Margaret Keane several times, but he isn’t (I’m sorry) too keen on exploring it.  Instead, he renders the answer unimportant and focuses on a more generic conflict: Keane (Amy Adams) finding the courage to fight her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) for the right to her artwork after years of letting him take credit for it so it would sell. Walter uses traditional 1960s gender roles against his wife so he can pretend her work is his, at the same time pretending like he’s doing her a favor by getting her paintings out to the public.  That doesn’t sound more generic, but when the movie introduces questions that would make it more interesting and then ignores them, the narrative’s single-mindedness becomes annoying.

Burton also doesn’t allow Keane to grapple with anything that would make her character anything other than a saint.  There’s a brief shot where she reads a brutal pan by a New York Times critic (Terence Stamp), and shame convincingly washes over Adams’ face for a split second before it cuts away to Walter’s theatrical rampage about the article.  The inspiration for her lawsuit against Walter is her joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the script doesn’t delve into it beyond a couple of simple verses; it becomes a way to take the story to its anti-climatic courtroom climax, and little else.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Django Unchained

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Django Unchained
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington

Django, like the ‘D’ at the beginning of his name, is silent.  This is no small feat, given that he is the main character in a Quentin Tarantino movie, and should be stopping to yak at any given opportunity, preferably before a burst of ultra-violence.

Of course there is plenty of bloodshed in Django Unchained, so much in fact that it paints a white plantation red, mostly with the blood of its owner and his employees.  It is Tarantino’s second historical revenge fantasy in a row, following the revisionist WWII epic Inglourious Basterds.  Here, though, he crucially refuses to revise the horrors of American slavery, and depicts them in ways that are startling and horrific.  The blood from the shootouts may be gratuitous and expressionistic, but it’s the beating, dog mauling and whipping that feel brutally real even if the movie they are in is often highly stylized.

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REVIEW: Django Unchained

Django Unchained movie still

Django Unchained
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington

Django, like the ‘D’ at the beginning of his name, is silent.  This is no small feat, given that he is the main character in a Quentin Tarantino movie, and should be stopping to yak at any given opportunity, preferably before a burst of ultra-violence.

Of course there is plenty of bloodshed in Django Unchained, so much in fact that it paints a white plantation red, mostly with the blood of its owner and his employees.  It is Tarantino’s second historical revenge fantasy in a row, following the revisionist WWII epic Inglourious Basterds.  Here, though, he crucially refuses to revise the horrors of American slavery, and depicts them in ways that are startling and horrific.  The blood from the shootouts may be gratuitous and expressionistic, but it’s the beating, dog mauling and whipping that feel brutally real even if the movie they are in is often highly stylized.

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10 Movies I Changed My Mind About

I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it.  The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it.  When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since.  To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.

Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are.  Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice.  With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast.  The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.

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Oscar Acting Up Close: Quite a bit Country, not enough Rock ‘N Roll

Image courtesy of Alt. Film Guide

As it stands now, it looks like the four winners for for acting Oscars this weekend will be Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Christoph Waltz, and Mo’Nique.  One washed-up country singer, one modern country belle, one Jew Hunter, and one mom from Hell- see any similarities?

The acting categories usually go to four very distinct roles from very different styles of acting.  Not so this year.

If you were to look at the supporting categories this year, you’d see that.  Waltz gives his tour de force in four languages layered with charm and menace, while Mo’Nique gives hers in one language, amps up the menace, takes away charm, and adds insanity.   Different styles of acting?  Yes.  But, both of these roles are antagonists.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Inglourious Basterds

Image courtesy of IMDB

Inglourious Basterds
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Eli Roth, and Diane Kruger

I consider myself to be a rather big fan of Quentin TarantinoPulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Jackie Brown all have their place on my list of favorite movies.  I am disheartened to announce, then, that Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt Mr. Tarantino’s worst film.

By no means does this mean it’s a bad film, it just lacks that all-important vibe of urgency and humanity that brings his other genre pieces to such vivid, unmistakable life.  Is it cool?  Sure.  Is it entertaining?  You bet your ass it is.  But it just doesn’t resonate.  I watched it in the theater and then kind of forgot about it until it was coming out on DVD.  It’s like Avatar in that way.  I liked it, but I won’t remember it.

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And the Winner Should Be… 2010 Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards, whether I like it or not, are the biggest thing that happens to movies during the year. Though profit often blind sides quality, good decisions occasionally shine through all the sappy bull shit. Here are my picks for the office Oscar pool, who should win, and who should’ve been allowed a chance to swim.

Best Picture

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up In the Air

Will Win: Avatar. Highest grossing movie of all time, revolutionary special effects, James Cameron- though none of these factors qualify it in my book, the Academy went with Titanic, and it will go with this one to get a ratings boost.

Should Win: Up In the Air. Jason Reitman’s film is a movie that perfectly captures and analyzes the point we are at in this country’s history. With a pitch-perfect screenplay, cast, and production team, you can’t go wrong.

Left Out: Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are. Kids movie my ass, this movie deserved recognition. Not only does it speak the truth, something watered down in The Blind Side, it looks and sounds great thanks to revolutionary production design and some of the best voice work ever recorded.

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