Flickchart Battle: The Descendants vs. Dear Zachary

November 1, 2013

The-Descendants-movie-poster vs.  dear-zachary

This is an interesting match-up because these are two movies that I was deeply moved by (okay fine, I bawled my damn eyes out) and are two movies that I wouldn’t particularly want to watch again because of how emotionally draining they are.

Dear Zachary surprised me because all I knew going into the film was that it was a documentary about a father who died and who’s best friend wanted to make a video for his son to learn about the father he’ll never meet. But gosh dang! This movie had one of the more surprising events where I can remember exactly where I was when my jaw dropped to the floor. I won’t ruin that moment for anyone, but it’s definitely one powerful aspect that Dear Zachary has over The Descendants.

Meanwhile, The Descendants is just an all-around good film. Led by an Oscar-nominate performance from George Clooney, he’s the heart and soul of the film as he tries to juggle the situations between his immediate family, his wife in a coma, and selling his ancestors’ land. It’s also the role that put Shailene Woodley on the map for bigger things to come. And it’s an Alexander Payne film, who I’m a big fan of.

While I liked both of these movies a lot, I’ll have to pick The Descendants as the winner of this Flickchart battle. Dear Zachary did seem a bit preachy towards the end, but overall was a very well-done documentary that presents plenty of questions while suggesting immediate change. It’s an important film. But in the sense of cinema, The Descendants stands out as one of the best family-dramas in the past few years. There are layers and layers of conflict that gives the film its pure richness.

Winner: The Descendants


Movie Review: Gravity (2013)

October 8, 2013

Gravity (2013)
90 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

gravity-poster

Grade: A

Easily one of the most talked about films of the entire year, Gravity is most definitely worth the wait (it took over four years to make). Believe me, you have never seen a movie like this before. And just a small word of advice, see it in 3-D. Don’t roll your eyes about how 3-D sucks and don’t start your rant about how it gives you headaches, just do it. The movie is only 90 minutes long, and after ten minutes you’re so engrossed in the film you forget you have those 3-D glasses on.

Also, I won’t be discussing any of the methods used while shooting this innovative film, because after reading many articles on the subject matter it’s necessary to keep all the smoke and mirrors behind the scenes. If you want to be truly “wowed,” you wouldn’t research how a magic trick was done before watching the act, would you? Just sit back, relax (as much as you can since this is one for gripping the arm rests tight), and enjoy the spectacular visuals through the lenses of your 3-D glasses.

Now to the movie. Gravity starts out with a brilliant and breathtaking 13-minute tracking shot that is as gorgeous as it is suspenseful. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is on her first shuttle mission while her colleague, Matt Kowalski (Clooney), is the long-time veteran who is very light-hearted, telling stories and jokes and playing Country music. Dr. Stone on the other hand is all business, concentrating on the task to be completed and often ignoring everything around her to see her job done. The procedure they were to see through never got completed though, because of debris from a neighboring space station that catches them off-guard.

The rest of the movie is about survival, and for Dr. Stone this is a lot more difficult for her to find than one can imagine. Believe me, this is a fist-clenching, leg-shaking, nerve-racking experience. Cuaron loves to move the camera around like you’re a character inside of the movie, as he shows here when a bead of water splashes onto the camera lens (similar to the blood that splatters on the camera during Children of Men). But the most fascinating aspect about Gravity is the number of lengthy and uncut shots that will surely go down as some of the most impressive tracking shots in cinematic history.

Technically, this movie is at the top of its class. The special effects and the computer animation involved to make it look like Bullock and Clooney are really floating in space is seamless. But while the spectacular editing and camera techniques steal part of the movie, it’s equally important to mention how strong the characters and the plot of the film are. Bullock has given the best performance in her career here (yes, better than her Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side), dealing with the emotional and physical struggles to make it back home. When asked why Dr. Stone liked space so much, she responded that she likes the silence. The silence that can take you away from all the hurt of your past, but can also bring back the many painful thoughts and memories that you’ve been trying to run from. Then all that’s left is for you to try and find it within yourself to fight against the silence until you hear that ear-shattering noise of rejoice.


69th Annual Golden Globes

January 16, 2012

Last night was the infamous Golden Globes telecast, the first awards show during awards season and the one that has the least amount of impact for the one and only, Academy Awards. But nonetheless, NBC airs the unpredictable awards show and has asked Ricky Gervais to host once again. While this made the public salivate at what kind of shenanigans he could get into this year, he was much more subdued as host this time around.

I’ll run down the television winners first, since they will always be runner-up in importance to cinema.

Television

The Best Series – Drama was sort of a pleasant surprise, as the debut season of Showtime’s Homeland won the Golden Globe over other shows like Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. While Boardwalk Empire is great, I still think it’s slightly overrated. In my opinion, Game of Thrones was the best show of the five nominated, but I’m glad that Homeland won.

Best Series – Comedy or Musical went to ABC’s Modern Family for the second straight year. The family-comedy didn’t have any real competition aside from HBO’s Enlightened. Glee has definitely tailed off to the point where I’m surprised it was even nominated. New Girl is one of the most watched comedies, but still overall is just a “cute” show.

Best Actor in a TV Drama went to Kesley Grammar for Boss. This was probably the biggest surprise of the evening, as he beat out last year’s winner Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), the popular and amazing Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and the acclaimed Damian Lewis (Homeland).

Best Actress in a TV Drama went to Claire Danes (Homeland) and it was the right choice. I sort of thought Julianna Margulies would take the award, but looking at the past decade of winners in this category, none has won the award twice so that ruled her out (she won the Golden Globe two years ago for The Good Wife).

The Best Actor in a Musical Comedy TV Series went to Matt LeBlanc (Episodes). So Joey finally got an award? People actually watched Episodes? Everything was confusing for me, but what confused me the most was how Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) was nominated instead of his co-star Jim Parsons.

The Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy went to Lauren Dern (Enlightment). Beating out the very competitive group that consisted of Tina Fey (30 Rock), Laura Linney (The Big C), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) was impressive. But hey, this was The Golden Globes, not the Emmy’s. No one has had a run in this category since Sarah Jessica Parker won three in four years for Sex in the City.

Movies

Moving on to the movie portion of The Golden Globes, there was some competition but not much since the awards are divided into Drama and Musical/Comedy categories.

The Best Drama went to the very-deserving The Descendants, which I still have in the number 2 rank for Best Picture. Hugo was really the only competition for The Descendants, but those who are keeping score know this is a bad omen for the film. In the past 8 years, The Golden Globes Best Drama has only matched up with The Academy Award’s Best Picture ONCE (Slumdog Millionaire). Although I would love to see The Descendants win Best Picture, they have a long way to go.

The Best Musical/Comedy went to The Artist, and to be quite honest I was surprised about the selection. I know The Artist is insanely acclaimed and it’s definitely the front-runner for Best Picture, but these are the Globes for crying out loud. This category has been won by films such as The Hangover, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Sweeney Todd. I wasn’t alone when I thought Bridesmaids had this award locked.

The only category that really mattered in the movie portion was Best Director, which went to Martin Scorsese (Hugo). I really shouldn’t have been surprised about this, because after this year’s win, Scorsese has won the Golden Globe’s Best Director three times in the past decade (but has only won Best Director once in his entire career at The Academy Awards). What can I say? The HFPA loves them some Scorsese.

For acting, George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) won for their categories, which does nothing for us bloggers to speculate who has the lead in the Best Actor race. Also, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) won the Best Actresses awards.

Overall, this was just another typical Golden Globes ceremony. It’s good in the way that it gets the public interested in awards shows and the prestige of excellent film and television. But really, the Golden Globes and the HFPA cannot compare to the merit The Academy Awards has, and it never will. It’s only the lead-in entertainment to the big show. If the Globes wanted to be taken more seriously, eliminate the separate Drama and Musical/Comedy categories and combine them into one. But for now, we all know it’s just a ploy to have the most celebrities packed into one room as possible.


Movie Review: The Ides of March

October 23, 2011

The Ides of March (2011)
101 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by George Clooney
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood

Grade:  B

Did you get the memo? 2011 is the year of Ryan Gosling. With Crazy, Stupid, Love and Drive already on his resume for the year, The Ides of March stands as his third film and arguably his best. Supplied with an outstanding supporting cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood, and Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March is a power-house film.

Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) is making his bid for the White House with a campaign team of Paul Philip (Hoffman) and Stephen Meyers (Gosling). Philip has been around the block plenty of times while Meyers is still young and very optimistic about what kind of change Morris can do for the United States and the rest of the world. What we witness throughout the film is that brightness and spunk quickly fade away from the scandals and corruption of politics.

There is nothing new with the way The Ides of March presents itself. A political film about greed, sex, and ethics? Yes, you’ve seen this movie before, but what those other films don’t have is Ryan Gosling in his prime. Of course, surrounding him with an all-star cast only makes him better, but this is truly Gosling’s film from the first scene to the very end. His Stephen Meyers starts with the grand idea that he could change the world through the man he trusts the most. He wants to play this game and believes he is an important player, but he finds out that the game is a lot bigger than he expected.

Even though The Ides of March has an incredibly simple plot, it takes this simplicity and enhances it with some remarkable performances all around. Outside of politics, the film stresses that the world is a harsh and deeply problematic place where naivete is truly bliss. There are those who share the innocence of believing that change is on the horizon and good will prevail, and then there are those who have seen the evil that exists on a daily basis. The Ides of March takes us through Meyers’ conversion.

Compared with the rest of Ryan Gosling’s work, I’d have to say his Stephen Meyers is one of the best performances to date. It’s more vulnerable than his role in Drive and contains a lot more depth than his roles in Blue Valentine. I still love his performance in Lars and the Real Girl the most, but the way he controls every one of his scenes in The Ides of March is worthy of praise. He’s been touted as the actor with a bright future. Well, the future has finally arrived.


All the Acting Categories are LOCKS

February 13, 2010

One year ago, there was an extremely compelling race at The Academy Awards for Best Leading Actor.  While all the nominees gave great performances, the award was up for grabs between Sean Penn (Milk) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler).  Rourke walked away with the BAFTA, Golden Globes, and Spirit awards.  Penn walked away with the NSFC and the SAG award.  Both racked up a number of Critics awards from around the nation.  So it was basically a coin-flip during the moment the envelope was being opened.

Sean Penn’s name was announced as the winner.  Some considered it an upset because of Rourke’s incredible comeback performance, plus the fact that Penn already won an Oscar (Mystic River).  But it was Penn standing at the podium giving his acceptance speech for his fearless performance in Milk.  In my opinion, The Academy got it right.

Last year also awarded Kate Winslet for her long-overdue acting Oscar.  And it handed out a posthumous Oscar to Heath Ledger for his iconic performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. It was a fantastic year for the acting categories.

Unfortunately, this year is shaping up to be a snoozefest when it comes down to the acting categories.  Of course, no awards have been given out and won’t for another few weeks, but the way things are shaping up, everyone’s going to go four-for-four in their Oscar pools this year.

Let’s start with the Best Supporting Acting categories.  Throughout the entire year, Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz have been winning their respective supporting categories.  It’s a little disappointing when you simply know that no other actor has a chance at winning besides these two.  I wonder how that must feel as a nominee.  To be happy for the nomination but that’s it?  To be sitting content in the auditorium as your name is announced along with the four other nominees, knowing exactly which name is going to be written in that envelope?

I’m not saying that Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz do not deserve their awards, because they definitely do.  Just as a follower and a fan of the Oscars, it’s a little disappointing knowing there’s no competition.

Which brings us to the leading acting categories.  In the beginning of the Best Leading Actor category when things were shaping up, I made a note about how competitive it seemed.  When you have a strong group of actors like this year does, it almost seems like anyone can win.  George Clooney (Up in the Air) seemed like a front-runner in the beginning, but has lost his marking to Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).  And when there’s an actor who will win the Best Lead Acting category over nominees like Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (in the Best Picture favorite The Hurt Locker), and Colin Firth (A Single Man)… that’s saying a lot.  But all impressions aside, this creates for no suspense.

The Best Leading Actress might be the closest acting category of the bunch, but it seems like Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) is a lock to win it.  I didn’t think she really had a legitimate shot at winning the Oscar.  It was fitting for her to win the Golden Globes, but the Oscar?  Against the legend Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)  and one of the finest young actresses right now Carey Mulligan (whom, imo, gave the best performance by an actress this year in An Education)… does Bullock really deserve this award?  It doesn’t matter.  After the Oscar nominations were announced and The Blind Side sneaked in as a nominee, that sealed the deal for Bullock.  It showed how much love The Blind Side has inside the Academy.  And once again, it killed all the suspense leading up to the ceremony.

So what does all of this mean?  Well the Academy wants ratings.  Sandra Bullock is a very famous actress and the public will most likely praise her recognition.  But what it comes down to is that most people aren’t tuning into the Oscars going to watch the acting categories.  They want to know what film will win Best Picture.  I’ll break that down within the next few weeks.


Review: Up in the Air (2009)

December 16, 2009

Up in the Air (2009)
109 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring:  George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman

Grade:  A

In his third feature film as a director, Jason Reitman really hits his stride in the not-too-light, not-too-heavy, Up in the Air.  This movie simply is ‘just right.’

The movie opens up with a number of business employees that have just been let go by their company.  Some are real people and some are actors.  I couldn’t tell the difference.  They were all distraught and on the verge of tears as their world was falling right in front of them.

And that’s when we meet Ryan Bingham (Clooney).  He’s a corporate hit man who informs people that they’ve been let go when managers and executives are too afraid to do so themselves.  This also means that Bingham has to travel around the country… a lot.  We are shown the daily routine of his life as he nonchalantly walks through the airport while others are running.  He checks in with ease and knows all the tricks to save time.  That’s what happens when you spend 322 days on the road a year.

This isn’t a job for most people, but for Bingham this is his ideal situation.  He enjoys being on the move constantly.  He’s comfortable without allowing anyone else close to him.  In addition to his care-free lifestyle, he’s a motivational speaker famous for his “What’s in Your Backpack” speech, where he expresses carrying the minimum amount of baggage possible by avoiding commitment and leaving everything behind while constantly moving forward.  It’s the life he lives and he’s more than content with it.

That is until he meets two women.  First he meets the female version of himself in Alex (Farmiga).  Their frequent flying lifestyle and the exhilaration of a casual relationship keeps them marking their calendars for the next one-night stand.  As Alex puts it, “Just think of me as yourself, but with a vagina.”  This, in all ways, intrigues Bingham further than anyone has before.

The other woman who affects Bingham is a 23-year-old whipper-snapper, Natalie Keener (Kendrick).  Natalie has an idea to cut the costs of air-travel and room expenses by taking everyone off the road and have the firings be done via video conferencing.  Bingham and Natalie’s boss (Bateman) loves the idea.  To get her acquainted with the procedure, Bingham is forced to take Natalie on the road with him to ‘show her the ropes.’  The clash between the uptight and professional Natalie with the smooth, ‘go with the flow’ Bingham serves up many laughs along the way.

It’s a splendid showcase of talent in front of and behind the camera throughout the movie.  What is and will make this film an absolute success with critics and the public is how timely and personal the issues and situations are.  From the rough economic times resulting in lay-offs to the inner struggle we have to cure loneliness and to commit to another person… Up in the Air has it all (and remarkably in under two hours).

George Clooney is pitch perfect as Ryan Bingham.  He’s convincing as the loose businessman who goes through a revelation of self-improvement when he allows true feelings to interfere with his preaching.  Vera Farmiga is lovely and playful as Alex.  She reels you in with her smile and then you get lost in her web of excitement.  And last but not least is Anna Kendrick who is just as outstanding as she is hilarious when she opposes Clooney’s every step.  She is his disapproving shadow that argues with all his morals, or lack there of.

There are a lot of plot points that constantly change the tone of the film.  Whether they crash a party, attend a wedding, fire employees, or share personal experiences, the emotional roller-coaster is always fluctuating.  The genius of Reitman is how he combines the elements of intelligence and reality into mainstream films while avoiding sappy Hollywood endings.  That is not easily done.  Expect many more great films from this young director.


‘Up in the Air’ is NBR’s Best Film

December 3, 2009

And so the awards season has begun!  To no big surprise, ‘Up in the Air‘ has taken the lead this early December as an extremely strong Best Picture contender, snagging the National Board of Review Best Film of 2009.  Written and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno) and starring George Clooney, this film has a lot of momentum going into its limited opening weekend.

The rest of the Best 10 films of the year in alphabetical include:
– An Education
– 500 Days of Summer
– The Hurt Locker
– Inglourious Basterds
– Invictus
– The Messenger
– A Serious Man
– Star Trek
– Up
– Where the Wild Things Are

I admit, I’m a bit surprise at a few of the Top 10 such as Star Trek, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Messenger.  Picking those films over movies like: Precious, Nine, Avatar, and The Lovely Bones… well I’m not sure what that’s quite saying about the snubbed films.  Since most of them haven’t been released to the public yet, I guess I’ll just have to wait.

As for the other awards, Best Actor went to George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Morgan Freeman (Invictus).  This is going to be a head-to-head race up to when they open the envelope in March.
Best Actress went to Carey Mulligan (An Education).  Supporting Actor went to Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) and Supporting Actress went to Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air).

All we can take from this is that Up in the Air is a force to be reckon with.  On top of it receiving raving reviews, critics are predicting it will be a hit with the public as well.  Isn’t that what the Academy wants?


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