Five Reviews for Best Pictures

Some rated Oscar Noms for Best Picture

First Up:

THE WOLF OF WALL STREETWWS

I walked into this movie with high expectations and was not let down. The theme of this movie gets driven home, driven into the ground, all the way through to China, and then some. More. More. MORE. You think that what happens within the first ten minutes is a really good opening that’s gonna stick with you, and then the movie keeps going, and going, and going. The three hour length is merely an illusion. The ridiculousness turns up and up and up until you’re wondering how the main characters haven’t died yet. It would be suspension of disbelief if I wasn’t so sure that a less dramatic version did actually happen to Jordan Belfort.

Now Scorsese presents us with another one of his usual subject matters in the rise and fall of a money-making and power-taking badass, where the creed to greed sets up for a deadly addiction. However, I have to say that stylistically, this one of the least Scorsese movies I have seen, obviously exempting Hugo. Now I’m not a Scorsese expert, I’ve seen most of the essentials and that’s it, but through the entire project, the only thing that was really reminding me that this was Scorsese’s influence was Leo’s performance, the  narration style, and the rise-and-fall motif. Maybe that’s more than some of the others, but I just never got that feeling in them. I’ve heard people make the same comments about The Departed, Shutter Island, and the Aviator. The only one you might be able to convince me on is Shutter Island, but I still got the sense that I was watching a movie Scorsese created during Shutter Island where as, in the case of Wolf of Wall Street, I felt more like I was watching a movie that Scorsese bought.

Even though it seemed to have a different style, it was not a bad style by any means. The pacing, the editing, the perfectly place comedy, and the wacky twists and turns are all executed with great finesse and flare. This is a movie that you sit down to, and you start to realize that what you’re watching is art. The performances are great coming from every which direction. I can’t say that Jonah Hill stole the whole show, but if you can take attention away from an incomparable actor like Leo, then you’ve already got more than any other man on the face of the Earth. Too dramatic?

             But if I did have to pick one person to be responsible for the movie, then look no further than the class act we have here.

WWS

A++ Leo. Knocked it right out of the park.

WWS (1)

The only matter of issue is of course about the lifestyle of Jordan Belfort himself. I have listened to countless people drone on and on about how Wolf of Wall Street is idealizing greedy,abusive, villainous bastards. And what didn’t you get from the title exactly? First, let me just say, welcome all to America. That smiling prick of a character is what its all about. Our fore-fathers were no different, in their own, ancient free-mason ways. Plus, I’ve heard people getting accusatory towards Marty like he did something out of the ordinary, like their wagging their fingers at him or something. Let’s just get something straight….he makes movies about assholes ALL the time, and that’s exactly what Wolf is. The performances are great and they are so good because these lovable people give the grey shades that are present to everyone period. Some other’s complained about Belfort coming out looking like the victim of an addiction to money, and they didn’t like a crook/wolf like him getting to be played up as a victim. Not to be rude, but I am trying to be blunt–the only people who will walk away from this movie feeling sorry for him, are..well…stupid. Sure the characters are hilarious, and lovable at moments, but trust me, when you finish the film you will feel like they didn’t get what they deserved in a negative way, and that’s what the movie wants. I also don’t think its outlandish for Hollywood to want to romanticize greedy bastards, I mean, do you not see the comparison?

With all pros and cons accounted for, The Wolf of Wall Street hits the target with

WWS (2)

starstarstarstar 4 stars.

AH

Went into this one with pretty high expectations. David O. Russel just recently made bank with Silver Linings Playbook . The Fighter came out pretty successful as well, though I haven’t seen it. I wasn’t really thinking about Three Kings when I saw this or Silver Linings, but it was great as well, though different. Basically, what I was looking for from American Hustle was great dialogue, intimate cinematography, and mind-blowing character development. That’s exactly what I got, and then some. The dialogue was even better than I anticipated. O. Russel’s vision came across clear and cool. The style, the references, the music all blended into a rare fashion, the likes of which I haven’t seen in awhile.

  This story, above all else, is about characters. Much in the same fashion that Silver Linings, you get to feel for the characters instantly and in one way or another you start to want things for them all, despite the flaws. Its no real surprise that the movie’s strongest asset is its cast. However, my favorite part about this movie is the extra lengths it went into to be worthy of a Crime Drama/Heist Movie, and the 70’s flare and con artist craze is a setting with no equal.

Christian Bale’s performance is definitely the highlight as his changeling acting surprises once again.AH2I am fully convinced that he would do anything for a role he believes in.

It’s amazing that a movie can pull together so many famous faces and have them all do their part without and show stealing or drowning. I doubt that the Academy would pick it up as their Best Picture, but it instantly became one of my favorites for the year.

American Hustle swindles its way into

starstarstarstarhalf-star—4.5 stars. 

HerHer

I’m not sure what I was expecting going into this. I didn’t think it could be bad, but I didn’t anticipate how much it would hit me, and I knew they were going to try. The realness of the movie is whats startling. This will probably now lead the forefront of Science Fiction Romances, with an emphasis on the Science over the Fiction because this could one day be true. And I mean in a mere matter of a few years. The movie looks great, it feels real, and there’s art in all of it.

The only issue is that Romance fans might actually turn away from this one for various reasons. First off, the main audiences of the Romance genre and the main audiences of Sci-Fi do not mix too well. That’s why this cross-breed is so rare, because you could hit that middle ground where everyone will want to watch or you could hit that dead zone where you lose both versions of your anticipated crowds. Her not only succeeded, but I would say they have redesigned the crossbreed. Upside Down was another feature in the same vein that released in America this year, and while it was great too, it’s poor and cheesy character development mixed with bad attempts at natural dialogue are the stereotypical problems of Romances that some feel they actually need as a token to the genre. Her makes other Romances that I probably would have said were great before look terrible. A movie about a man’s relationship to his A.I./OS has made other movies with two real people look like the phony ones. The best part of all, it isn’t forced. Her doesn’t try too hard to make you love its characters like Romances do all to often. It just is.

If I had to pick one person to be responsible for movie’s greatness, it would have to be Joaquin Phoenix. Scarlet does a great job of making you forget that her part is just technology. But Joaquin makes the movie. He gives it the human perspective, the heart, and all of your love is really focused on him. Love being the most important part in a love story.

Her (2)

I do have an issue with the ending, not that it doesn’t make sense but it doesn’t seem to add to the theme either and comes across quite randomly. The OS’s were evolving the whole movie, sure, but their last action seemingly comes from nowhere with no logic. And my biggest criticism about Romances is that their fights are usually not wholly resolved, and it often seems like their just sticking with each other to make the movie last. That’s not the whole truth with Her, but the element of it is there.

Despite all of that Her eternally wanders through space to

starstarstarstar—4stars.

DBC1

So here it is. The ol’ DBC. The movie that took forever to make, and they never miss a minute to tell you so. So if you think you know what the story is, then you think you’re walking into another heartwarming, yet emotion tearing, feel-good flick that will provide many opportunities for you to cry silently to yourself. Well, not exactly. They didn’t completely walk away from that setting, but its kind of impossible for them to not to isn’t it? I mean the story was already there. Yet they do separate themselves from your expectations enough to stand out for the year. Now, I always go into the saddening life-story films, ready to take everything with a grain of salt, as every practical person should. They’re probably going to do things, and abuse some facts to get your heart out of its shell just a little bit more. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s art. But inspirational true-story films tend to carry people away with the nature of what they are. I’m not against them, I’m not immune to their techniques, I’m not a scrooge, but I DO think that they cause an imbalance in the film world because its easier to get caught up with real-world legends because of just that, they’re real. I would also like to emphasize that I’m not attacking these types of movies, they earn their place. All I’m saying is how boring would it be if ALL of our heroes were real?

Now, in saying that, Dallas Buyers Club stands out from the movies I just described. Where it took them so long to get the project going, I would have thought that they revised several times to make it more sell-able. For example, we live in a time that might later be declared the age of the homosexual rights movement. And even though not all homosexuals are cross-dressers, I assume a community that speaks for those rights would have no problem with Jared Leto’s character being a nice little emphasis. In fact, I full on expected them to address our modern day situations and attempt to drag in an even bigger audience based on that, but it didn’t. It seems that the truth is, since it took them so long to move the project for war they became even more determined to make the movie exactly what it was and cater to nobody and no modern day politics. That’s not to say that society couldn’t still use them as such, but I truly believe that they didn’t want a political stake in this, at least in that respect. It does seem that their main concern was with the story that existed then, and if anything was to transcend to modern day problems, its that big business domination can still ruin anybody’s life that they want to. Well, there’s a tale as old as time, but what’re you gonna do?

Well you could just live life Ron Woodroof, and McConaughey’s performance perfectly captures the ideals of his last days and the pure defiance that he lived in, down to the point that he refused to be miserable. That charisma would almost make you forget the disease that’s turning his world upside down except for the condition that he clearly looked like he was in. Everybody knew it was an element that they needed and it’s accented in his moments of sickness with great(a bittersweet great) techniques and color.  I mean his size his frightening, not to mention that his portrayal makes the movie. I don’t know how spot on it was, and I don’t know anyone else who knows either, but that’s not even the point. The point is that three performances basically create the entire movie, they were all great. Even better, they were all believable and sucked you up into the feature. And to think, if you went back in time and warned the public about McConaughey’s days of being a believable, and quite fantastic actor, you would probably be put in the corner with the dunce hat.

DBC (2)

No, Thank YOU, sir.

And they executed the story in such a way and such a pace that I think anyone should be able to enjoy it, as well as defying the expectations for gimmicks you think they would pull to gain a bigger following. Instead, its real and its dark at the moments it should be. I won’t give away the ending, but we all know that life isn’t always a happy-happy and sometimes its a bitter-happy. Well they don’t even color history to try and tug at your strings. It is what it is, and that’s pretty damn good.

Dallas Buyers Club sneaks across the border with

starstarstarstar–4stars. 

12 years a slave 1 title card

And we end here with another inspirational, true story. Period Dramas are another area that tend to receive more favor in overall opinions, and that’s probably because, for whatever reason, they attract the classiest of people. You may say that’s a bold statement, but my reaction would be: Look It Up. That, however, is probably not the most relevant realization in this particular piece, as we have to slightly unknowns in two of the major roles. Ejiofor has a decent track record, but it doesn’t seem like anyone ever gave him much of a chance to prove he could handle a role like this. Well, I guess this was his chance and he nailed it. And the Nyong’o, a complete unknown(other than some mini-series), did a fabulous job in her film debut. The list goes on as they stick some great actors in the little nooks and crannies of the project and the other main roles prove to be form people whose success has been mild or recent, with Brad Pitt being the only exception. Cumberbatch, though now famed is pretty recent in his success. I get Sherlock’s underground cult following, but they just now returned it, see that’s proof of what I’m saying. And, of course, believe Michael Fassbender to possibly be the greatest actor of our time, and he has been working for awhile, his real popularity seems to have begun in just these past few years. The list goes own with talents like these.  Point being, 12 years has put forth an unexpected cast that simply killed it(good kill). I don’t even know what hypothetical thing could be done to make it better, if could be better. Can it be better? I don’t think so.12-years-a-slave-2

Now it’s good, it’s sad, it speaks dark truths about America, it makes you question psychology, the fabric of emotion, the nature of man, yada yada yada yada. That’s all done greatly here, it is, but that’s in every civil war/slave era movie because those ideas and questions existed within that time. They were a big deal. This movie employs those themes in every artistic way, sure. But the hungry movie watchers are looking for the rare meat. As I said, they can be found in the performances. Other strong points are the production design, probably the biggest factor to a period drama. The big competition is took like there was a magical time-traveling camera that filmed back then, not that your a movie trying to look like that. This is, of course, done flawlessly. Others are things that you wouldn’t think would be high point for movies like these, and that’s what makes it so good. The sound design is great as its done with purpose, symbolism, and with aesthetic executions. Its the sound design that I would probably say best summed up 12 years. The editing pretty much pairs to it nicely and though you realize the length and depressing desperation to which things have escalated, you aren’t tired of it yet due to that combo. The entire pacing of the film just feels right. You’re looking for all those moments, and that’s not a bad thing, in fact its very good. No one wants to be disappointed.

12yearstopten

Except maybe this moment. I knew it would happen, but dang if he didn’t jump on right out at the worst(best) possible time. It all just adds to the severity of the situation and Michael Fassbender, along with the whole crew, has redefined antagonist. You forget about the entire issue of slavery, and man’s cruelty, and all that nonsense, only because of one thing. He defines it, he encompasses it and becomes it incarnate into a sadistic alcoholic spawn of evil. The best part of course is that it’s not fantastical, its not hokey at all, its just a misguided basterd.(Ha). But as I was saying, he becomes the issue. He becomes the obstacle to jump over. He takes precedence over all the problems in the entire story, and I don’t think I’ve seen an antagonist like that it quite some time.

All that accounted for, 12 Years has earned its place as a Best Picture Nom. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took home the gold, and it gets one of the best ratings from me out of the bunch with

starstarstarstarhalf-star—4.5 stars. 

Well, there you have it. That’s what I thought of some of the best films I saw last year. Feel free to tell me what you think and what you think should/will win best picture for 2014 Oscars.

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