Any night that combines film and fashion is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to the Oscars, the finale of the award season, all year long. As we gear up for Oscar night, here’s a recap of mini reviews of this year’s films.
This may be due to my exceedingly high expectations for the film, but I was a bit disappointed by 12 Years A Slave. Although isolation is an important aspect of depicting the despicable cruelty of slavery, I wanted a stronger connection among the characters. I found I liked the idea of the film (and perhaps should read the book to find what I’m seeking) better than its somewhat cliched one-liners and delivery. However, 12 Years of Slave beautifully depicts the triumph of the human spirit under one of the most abhorrent times human history. The film boasts nomination-worthy acting performances (particularly that by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o) as well as a beautiful southern landscape accentuated by fabulous sound mixing.
If for nothing other than decedent 1970s and 80s sets, costume, and makeup, American Hustle is deserving of some Oscar love. An ensemble cast of the highest caliber led by writer/director David O. Russell delivered a captivating film and carried the somewhat clunky story and a script that needed another grooming or two to emphasize the plot and themes.
Blue Jasmine was unparalleled character film in which Kate Blanchett brought a tragic upperclass New York woman to brilliant light.
Jordan Letto is one of the Best Supporting Actors nominees I’m most excited about. In Dallas Buyers Club this multi-talented actor exposed a beautiful character who let Ron Woodroof’s (Matthew McConaughey) dramatic and desperate story unfold.
Gravity was a feat of filmmaking, unpacking emotional backstories and a dynamic relationship between the Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowlaski (George Clooney) as they float through space. Through inspiringly beautiful arial shots and an amazing use of limited dialogue, the movie was captivating and suspenseful.
I didn’t see Her, but I did love the intriguing, innovative screenplay, which seems perfectly cast in Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix.
Nebraska is deserving of awards in the acting, directing, writing, and cinematography categories. Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography of barren Nebraska landscapes set a tragically hopeful stage for the stunning performances by Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, and a host of locals from Hawthorne, NE. The movie tells a beautiful tale of an aging senile, alcoholic father who, on his way to claim $1,000,000 he believes he’s won from a magazine subscription sweepstakes, returns to his hometown with his grown sons and wife. He encounters ghosts, places, rivalries, jobs and most importantly people from his past, the latter of which are mostly aiming to get in on some of Frank’s not-so-hard-earned cash. The film breathes truth about the love and frustration that come with family and also to the small-town life so far distant and removed from the realties of those who live in big cities.
Though through no fault of the actors who brought to life the historical characters in Saving Mr. Banks, I couldn’t get past the film’s Disnification of P. L. Travers’ life and relationship with Walt Disney. The movie completely ignored salient facts about Travers’ including her estranged son, who she didn’t tell was adopted until he had a chance encounter with his twin at a bar, and her flirtatious and romantic encounters with both men and women. The final scene of the film, in which Travers’ weeps at the Mary Poppins premiere, was not caused by resolution with her long-deceased father brought on by the production of Marry Poppins as the film indicates, but rather, as Valerie Lawson states in her exhaustive biography, because “her name was in such small type, listed as a “consultant” at first, then in the line “Based on the stories by P. L. Travers.”
People have either loved or hated The Wolf of Wall Street, and I definitely side with the former. Through bacchanalian rituals devoted to the gods of money and power — in which drugs and prostitutes and anything money can buy serve as the sacrificial lambs — director Martin Scrosese leads his audience through the tragic life of Jordan Belfonte (Leonardo DiCaprio). His adaptation of the novel, written by Belfonte while serving his term in prison, is brought to life by performances by Di Caprio (who I’m hoping finally wins an Oscar tonight), Jonah Hill, newcomer Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, and a tremendous ensemble. Although I can understand why many people have condoned the glorification of Belfonte’s illegal, immoral, and criminal behavior in the film, for me the film’s over the top debauchery is testament to the wretched life Belfonte led and more of a warning than an invitation to try this at home.
I’m looking forward to seeing August: Osage County, Philomena, and Captain Phillips and a few others in post-award season.