REVIEW: The Revenant

The Revenant 4

The Revenant
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by: Mark L. Smith & Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay), Michael Punke (novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter

Leonardo DiCaprio endures such an excruciating array of torments in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant that by the time he guts a dead horse, strips naked and climbs inside it to keep warm for the night, I couldn’t help but laugh in pity.  The movie, set in an unspecified area of the American frontier in the 1820s, is a series of grueling endurance tests for his character Hugh Glass, and its payoff is a brawl that paints the snow red and fills it with chunks of skin and bone.

The Revenant is a predictable, hyper-masculine revenge story told with a brutal beauty. Glass is helping navigate a group of fellow frontiersman after their hunting expedition, though the movie wastes no time before pummeling the group with violence.  As they rest in the woods, a Native American tribe surrounds them and attacks;  arrows pierce throats, bullets rip through bodies. Much of the scene unfolds in a single take. The camera follows a person, usually until they die, and then picks another.  Unlike Birdman, Iñárritu’s underwhelming showbiz satire that was filmed as if it were all a single shot, The Revenant’s visual design enhances the movie’s other elements instead of overwhelming them.

Continue reading

Advertisements

2014 Oscars: Matt’s Predictions

There are a lot of worthy contenders at this year’s Oscars, and even more oversights (Also, water is wet).  Few of the best nominees are front-runners or sure-fire bets, so during Hollywood’s annual night of back-patting I’ll mostly be tuning in for potential upsets and also pretty excited that Seth MacFarlane isn’t hosting.

Christian Bale;Jeremy Renner;Bradley Cooper

Best Picture: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Will Win: American Hustle.  Like last year’s winner, Argo, this is an un-upsetting ’70s period drama that plays at prestige and doesn’t feel the need to really deliver it.  To its credit, it is much less self-serious. Of the nominees, though, this one and Dallas Buyers Club are probably the least deserving. I’m holding out for an upset from 12 Years a Slave.
  • Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street.  The year’s best movie was nominated for Best Picture, but has little to no chance of winning.  My second favorite in the category, 12 Years a Slave, actually does and I’d be more than happy with that.  
  • Left out: Where do I even start? Spring Breakers never had a chance but I think I would have respected the Academy forever if they’d had the nerve to give it some recognition either here or for Best Cinematography or Editing.  I’d also throw in Frances Ha, The Bling Ring, Inside Llewyn Davis, Computer Chess and Rush.  That’s just sticking with the Academy’s English-language fixation.  Foreign language picks: A Touch of Sin, Blue is the Warmest Color and Like Someone In Love.

Alfonso Cuaron

Best Director: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón pulled off a lot of impressive tricks with a skilled crew in Gravity, and the Academy will give him the directing trophy even as it hands away Best Picture to Hustle.
  • Should Win: It’s only natural that if I picked Wolf for Best Picture, Scorsese should take home Best Director.  However, I think Steve McQueen would be just as deserving a winner.
  • Left out: Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers, Jia Zhangke for A Touch of Sin, Sofia Coppola for The Bling Ring, Shane Carruth for Upstream Color, Noah Baumbach for Frances Ha, James Wan for The Conjuring.  I could go on and on.

TORONTO

Best Actor: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

  • Will Win: The McConaissance will culminate with an Oscar win in this category.  He was good in Dallas Buyers Club, but everyone else, even Bale, is more deserving of the trophy.
  • Should Win: DiCaprio gave the performance of the year and of his career (so far) in The Wolf of Wall Street.  I’m starting to feel like a broken record giving it top honors in every category.  Ejiofor’s performance was so crucial to anchoring 12 Years a Slave in humanity, and if he somehow pulls off an upset in this category you won’t hear any complaints from me.  Same goes for Bruce Dern.
  • Left out: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight, Joaquin Phoenix in Her and Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station.

Blue-Jasmine

Best Actress: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

  • Will Win: Cate Blanchett is pretty much a lock in this category.
  • Should Win: Blue Jasmine is the last Woody Allen film I plan on watching. That being said, when it came out, I praised Blanchett’s performance and even listed it in the top 5 performances of the year, and I still stand by that praise.
  • Left out: The biggest omissions in the acting categories this year are here. Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha and Adele Exachopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color both deserved slots over pretty much all of these people.  I’d also throw in Julie Delpy for Before Midnight.

Jared Leto

Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

  • Will Win: Jared Leto. Sigh.
  • Should Win: Jonah Hill. Sigh.
  • Left out: James Franco in Spring Breakers. Simon Pegg in The World’s End. James Gandolfini in Enough Said. Sigh.

12 Years a Slave Lupita Nyong'o

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)

  • Will Win: I’m going to call this one for Lupita Nyong’o. I still have hope that the Academy won’t throw another trophy at Lawrence just because she yelled “SCIENCE OVEN!” with conviction.
  • Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o gave the most heart-wrenching performance of 2013. Overall this is a fairly weak category, though I’m also not going to deny how much June Squibb’s turn in Nebraska grew on me the second time through.
  • Left out: Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street, Lea Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color andJulianne Moore in Don Jon.

Her-Screenplay

Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell), Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen), Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack), Her (Spike Jonze), Nebraska (Bob Nelson)

  • Will Win: Spike Jonze, unless Hustle ends up pulling a sweep.
  • Should Win: Of these nominees, Bob Nelson for Nebraska.
  • Left out: Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay for The Counselor is far and away the most original and misunderstood work from last year. I’d also nominate Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig for their collaborative effort on Frances Ha.

12 Years a Slave script

Best Adapted Screenplay: Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke), Captain Phillips (Billy Ray), Philomena (Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope), 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley), The Wolf of Wall Street (Terrence Winter)

  • Will Win: John Ridley.
  • Should Win: Ridley is a fine choice, but so is Terrence Winter and the collaborative team from Before Midnight (although how the hell is that adapted? Adapted from two previous movies by the same people? The Oscars are dumb).
  • Left out: Sofia Coppola for The Bling Ring.

Gravity_SBullock

My predictions in the remaining categories (Will Win, Should Win):

Cinematography: Gravity, The Grandmaster

Animated Feature:  (I didn’t see any of these)

Costume Design: American Hustle,The Grandmaster

Production Design: Her, Her

Editing: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave

Foreign Language Film: (I only saw The Hunt and I didn’t like it. They need to change the rules for this dumb category).

Documentary: The Act of Killing, The Act of Killing

Makeup: Bad Grandpa, Bad Grandpa

Original Score: Gravity, Her

Original Song: “Ordinary Love”- Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, “The Moon Song”- Her

Visual Effects: Gravity, Gravity

Sound Editing: Gravity, Gravity

Sound Mixing: Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis

BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Wolf of Wall Street

the-wolf-of-wall-street-official-extended-trailer-0-624x415

The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Terrence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie and Kyle Chandler

One of the biggest bright spots in this year’s Oscar nominations is the amount of prestige bestowed on a three-hour spectacle of almost non-stop vulgarity.  I have a pretty good feeling that Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is nominated simply because of the pedigree of talent involved.  It is almost as polarizing (and misunderstood) as Shutter Island, which probably would have been nominated had it been released during awards season.

Scorsese, whether or not he likes it, is an Oscar mainstay now, and would likely have to tank in an almost unfathomable way to not get attention from the voters.  The Wolf of Wall Street looks kind of like an Oscar film on the surface, but it’s also everything that they typically dislike:

It’s a comedy.  It’s a black comedy.  It’s not self-serious.  It’s three hours and not about World War II or ancient history.

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street movie

The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Terrence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie and Kyle Chandler

There was a man sitting in front of me during The Wolf of Wall Street who was in such anguish during the entire three hours that he asked his girlfriend multiple times if they could leave “this foolishness.” She sat almost entirely in silence, whispering something along the lines of “If you wanna leave, leave,” a couple of different times.

Loud bursts of hysterical laughter also popped up throughout the theater during the movie as well, as a bunch of white collar Wall Street crooks in the ’80s and ’90s made a debauched spectacle of their privileged lives in ways that nearly transcend vulgarity.  Several people walked out, though the agonized boyfriend/husband sat it out until the end.

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Great Gatsby

A290_L003_120245.0003106_R4.DNG

The Great Gatsby
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Written by: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce (screenplay), F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgarton

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a rollicking, cinematically frenzied and inconsistent take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel.  It is pop art done in the most extreme way, using what it likes from the source material’s Roaring Twenties setting and glossing over the rest with Lana Del Ray and Beyonce.  This is why as an adaptation of what many consider to be “The Great American Novel” it fails miserably, but as a movie it is far from miserable.

Fitzgerald’s novel is not a work of maximalism like this movie is.  It is the story of parties ending, and of dreams and identities being born, shifting and dying.  Luhrmann may have many of the more beautiful passages flash on the screen in fancy font as Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) narrates, but he is clearly more in tune with the party than the language or the themes of the source material.

Continue reading

BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Django Unchained

url

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.

Continue reading

Our Favorite Performances of 2012

072712-the-master

1. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)- There must be something about Paul Thomas Anderson that gets such raw, elemental performances for his movies.  Phoenix, after his faux crazy odyssey, gives The Master such ferocious, filthy life that he managed to beat all the other fantastic roles this year, including the great Daniel Day-Lewis (who also gave Anderson an immortal performance in There Will Be Blood).

Day-Lewis_Lincoln_trailer.png.CROP.rectangle3-large

2. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)- Though Lincoln is an ensemble drama, it is built from the ground up around a character that needed to be reigned in and humanized.  Day-Lewis is not larger than life as our 16th president because that would’ve added layers of cheese to a movie that was already scored by John Williams.  His take on Lincoln often appears exhausted, both physically and emotionally, as he should be while overseeing the Civil War while trying to push through the 13th amendment to ban slavery and contend with family drama.

Emmanuelle+Riva+Amour

3.  Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)- The slow, ruthless decline of Anne during Michael Haneke’s Amour is essential to the movie’s success.  From her first, silent stroke at the breakfast table to her crippled, mangled body by the end, this is a performance that required great emotional honesty without overdoing it.  She gives one of the most wrenching depictions of hopeless, helpless illness ever.

Continue reading