Having seen over 75 new movies that were released in 2013, it is a little bit crazy to admit that I didn’t get a chance to see all of the Academy Award’s Best Picture Nominees. Movies that received a lot of attention like Gravity and Captain Phillips somehow managed to never make it on to my “watched-list”. And then there were the other movies that seemed to slip through some of the cracks like Nebraska and Philomena. I have heard and read some really great things about those movies and promise to try to watch them one day.
With all of that being said, I did get to see 5 of the nominees, so let’s talk about those.
First up—The Wolf of Wall Street.
We’ll start here because out of these movies I saw it first (and maybe also because it was fantastic, I mean come on.) The Wolf of Wall Street is a too-exciting, overly-energetic, and slightly (only slightly?) ridiculous portrayal of Jordan Belfort’s real-life story. Under my main man Marty—ahem, Mr. Martin Scorsese’s—direction, the brilliancy of Leonardo DiCaprio being, well, a terrifically fun, somewhat insane Leo, is brilliant indeed.
Now, I’m not sure if this would be a real review if we didn’t at least touch on the Lemmon Quaaludes scene… The hilarity and craziness this entire scene captures is top-notch material, and that camera work on the stairs—perfection.
Aside from the always-lovely Leo and always-surprising Jonah Hill, there’s Margot Robbie, and if Margot Robbie didn’t accomplish what she was casted to accomplish, then I don’t think any female ever will.
While the story isn’t all that different from other Wall Street tales, the truth is—no one asked it to be.
I should say that I walked into this movie with already very high expectations, which can sometimes make or break a movie watching experience. In this case, my mostly met expectations turned out to be a big positive.
The Wolf of Wall Street gets 4 bright and shining Leo stars from me.
I’m going to start off here by saying that I did not have the highest of expectations for American Hustle, mostly because everything I saw and heard about it was almost exclusively about Jennifer Lawrence, and don’t get me wrong, I love Jennifer Lawrence, but I am not a fan of marketing a movie solely on the pretty female character. BUT! Fortunately I was very surprised and ended up being pretty happy with this movie.
So, it’s no secret that what makes this movie so exciting is the cast. With Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and yes, Jennifer Lawrence (and who could forget about Robert De Niro and Louis C.K.), it would be pretty hard to make anything but a good movie. Christian Bale manages to soar above pretty much everyone else here, with his beer-belly and hair piece, and makes the whole experience something you kind of just want to revel in. I mean really, how often do you see Batman sporting a style like that? He proves, as always, that he’s right where he needs to be. There’s also Amy Adams, who really surprised me here. After seeing her in Man of Steel earlier in the year (in which I really wasn’t impressed with her), it was nice to see her trying a little bit harder. And it was just that little bit of try that bumped her up into one of my favorite female spots of the year.
Aside from the brilliant cast, we also get a refreshingly original and amazingly well-written script, as well as a pretty picture. You get to follow along on this exciting scandal, while also just enjoying the dialogue and scenery. Really, A+ work David O Russell.
And to top it all off, the ending. You can call me a little bit of a sucker for good, unexpected endings, and this one really got me.
American Hustle gets 4.5 stars. You go David O Russell.
Moving on to—Her.
Her was undeniably the movie I was most skeptical about going in to it. I wasn’t really convinced that a love story between a man and Siri (for the most part) was something I could believe in or even enjoy watching. And I’m not going to lie, I was not a fan of The Master, and that was the last thing I had associated with Joaquin Pheonix. So you could easily say that I went into this movie with fairly low expectations.
Spike Jonze made me a believer (for the movie’s sake, at least). I don’t think it would be normal or acceptable by any means for someone to have a relationship like Theodore and Samantha’s, but this movie made me believe in theirs. Between Joaquin’s impressive acting and Scarlett’s lovely voice, I was captured. I wanted to know what was going to happen, I felt invested in their relationship. It was the most perfect love story set in the most unusual circumstances.
And if all of that lovey-doveyness wasn’t enough, this movie also successfully made me excited for the future in technology. The ear piece that reads you all of your messages, the virtual video games, and a Siri that would actually be able to help you do things… Of course those “things” should strictly be contained to handling computer and phone type jobs, but still. Any movie that can touch on my love of technology is a good movie indeed.
4 stars for Her.
And then—Dallas Buyers Club.
This one had a fairly clean slate for me going in because, I’m going to be honest here, I had no idea who Ron Woodroof was or what this movie was even really about. All I knew was that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (one of my favorites) was in it, and that Jared had recently been posting pictures of himself dressed as a girl. But it turns out that that ignorance that I had is exactly what this movie was striving to clear up, and clear it up it did.
Even from the very first opening (pretty ridiculous) scene, Matthew McConaughey kills it as this sex-addicted, drunk and drugged, homophobic loon. Though that sounds like a person you probably shouldn’t care much for, you somehow do. He makes you believe in his cause and in his character transformation throughout the movie. And that is coming from someone who has never been a huge fan of Mr. Alright, Alright, Alright. He somehow manages to take you away from his McConaugheyness for just enough time to see the Ron Woodroof within, and that is a pretty freakin’ big deal for him. Good job, man.
And you literally can not talk about acting in this movie without bringing up how incredible Jared Leto was in this. I have watched countless interviews from Jared, and have even seen him live twice, but I have most definitely never seen him like this. Not only is he… well… Rayon, he’s also just emotionally and creatively on point the whole time. Never once do you stop and question “is this really happening? Is he really doing this?” because you just believe it. This was, no doubt, a perfect role and a perfect execution to come back to acting with.
The movie successfully did what it sought out to do and managed to instill in every single viewer a deeper enlightenment on AIDS, medicinal drugs, and life. I have to say, personally I was pleasantly surprised and most certainly impressed with this movie.
Dallas Buyers Club gets and most definitely deserves a beautiful bunch of 4 stars.
And last but most certainly by no means whatsoever least—12 Years a Slave.
This is a great place to end because honestly it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. The cinematography, the sound, the script, and the acting were all unquestionably outstanding. The story takes you through a normal, free life in New York, to a highly emotional and raw slave life in the south in 1853.
Chiwotel Ejiofor brings Solomon Northrup’s wrenching memoir to life in the most alive way. I felt his anger as he was abducted, I felt his pain as he was hanging from that tree, and I felt his hope as it was finally restored to him. And dammit I felt Michael Fassbender’s villainy, which is a big deal for a huge Michael Fassbender fan like myself because it’s pretty tough to see someone you adore be that cruel. But he did it, and he did it well.
Steve McQueen somehow managed to get a huge, amazing group of actors and actresses to work together in the most cohesive and complimentary way. Chiwotel, Michael, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti– all brilliant, and they all fit together like beautiful little pieces falling into place along with the screenplay, together building a captivatingly inspiring movie.
The raw unglamorized scenes are enough to make you want to look away, but I found myself completely unable to. I watched every bit of it, every bit of suffering. It all told the story of a man that needed his story to be told, and it did it with every single ounce of respect and sorrow that it deserved.
And 12 Years a Slave gets all the stars from me. Bravo.