Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Friday, August 8, 2014
Guest post by Ian Lueck, a good friend of Movie Matrimony and a regular patron of the Trylon Microcinema, the best little theater that could in the Twin Cities.
Hi, Ian Lueck again! Dave and Chelsea have graciously allowed me to use this lonely blog space once again for another review round-up of movies I’ve watched at The Trylon and The Heights theaters. This post will consist of roughly the first half of 2014. There was a period when I wasn’t going to either theater very much, but lately I’ve been making up for that (“Just when I think I’m out, they PULL ME BACK IN!”). There was a lot of great programming and interesting viewing to be had, so without further ado, here are my thoughts on what I’ve watched so far:
|A stronger, non-singing musical moment.|
devised during February and March 2014 was showing pre-code films at The Heights. For those that don’t know, this is referring to the Hays Code, a pre-cursor to the MPAA, which prevented films from getting TOO racy or violent. So this run of films was meant to show what Hollywood films were like before its widespread adoption in 1934. Of course, it goes without saying that the execution of the subject matter in these films is positively tame compared to today, but if you watch these movies in the context of when they were made, it’s fascinating what the Hays Code cracked down on. For instance, the topic of sex outside of marriage was frowned upon, which is pretty much the entire plot point to “Baby Face”. A young woman, Lily, played by Barbara Stanwyck, is stuck in a dead-end job for her father until he’s killed in an explosion. She decides to use this opportunity to move to the city and make a name for herself, and she finds that the easiest way to climb the corporate ladder is to, um, be easy. It’s difficult to make this subject matter funny, but somehow they found a way. Speaking of funny: When I saw this in theater, a few in the audience cheered when Stanwyck’s name first appeared in the opening credits, and hissed when one of the antagonist’s names appeared. It felt like what I assume seeing a movie in the ‘30s was, when hissing was more common.
|Also features an all-time movie hairdo.|
audience members were audibly surprised how abrupt the ending was, and one was even dissatisfied. For those who haven’t seen it: The movie ends right in the middle of Popeye searching for a drug dealer in an abandoned building, a gunshot goes off, and suddenly we get “where are they now?” info on the criminals, most of whom got off scot-free or had their sentences reduced. Now I’d be lying if I said the ending wasn’t unsatisfying from the perspective of “the good guy catches the crooks”. But I think a nice neat little ending where Popeye succeeds would undermine the gritty realism that the movie presents. In real life, criminals DO get away with things (sad, but true), whether it be legal loopholes or plea bargains or insufficient evidence or easily-swayed juries. It’s a downer, but it’s honest.
|Alec Guiness, in all eight of his roles. Respect.|
|Pretty much sums up the movie.|
|So much running.|
Run Lola Run (1998): An exciting, fast-paced vehicle where the titular character desperately tries to get enough money for her boyfriend to pay back his boss, in less than half an hour. Talk about pressure. What separates this movie from a standard “race against time” plot is how the movie “resets” twice, to show how differently the same scenario went if Lola made other choices. We even see how inconsequential background characters’ lives are altered by the slightest changes in execution of this twenty minutes, shown in rapid-fire, “blink and you’ll miss it” fashion. So which “version” is the real one? More importantly, does it really matter? If you’re going into this expecting to see one true ending, you’re missing the point. This isn’t really a movie in the traditional sense, but a narrative experiment to show how slight variances can produce vastly different results. Some have even likened the movie to a video game, since Lola has three lives and each scenario gets a little better as the player learns more each time, and I can definitely agree with that.
|Now, grab some friends and head over to the Trylon!|
Sunday, March 2, 2014
10. All is Lost – J.C. Chandor
A raw display of man vs. nature that taps into our most basic survival instincts. Thematically simple, but visceral and truly affecting.
9. Stories We Tell – Sarah Polley
A candid family portrait that is honest, funny, insightful, and ingenious. Sarah Polley establishes herself as a unique cinematic voice.
8. Nebraska – Alexander Payne
Payne's opus and lament of small-town American family life; a bittersweet, quirky, and poignant depiction of senility, purpose, and aging.
7. 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
An unflinching and intensely involving glimpse into the chief injustice of American history; directed with resolve and acted with sincerity.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese
Frenzied and manic, this cautionary epic of sensory excess succeeds through both titillation and nauseation. Daring work from all involved.
5. Frances Ha – Noah Baumbach
A perceptive and convicting study of adult adolescence; captures American delusions of grandeur and exceptionalism as felt by my generation.
4. Upstream Color – Shane Carruth
Sci-Fi for grown-ups, this engaging mystery plumbs the human psyche, speaking through montage as purely cinematic as anything you could see.
3. Before Midnight – Richard Linklater
Relationships are hard work, and this beautiful film shows how this inevitable, frustrating work is vital to bring true humility and growth.
2. Her – Spike Jonze
Prophetic and deeply emotional, Her is both a lament of modern disconnect and an instructive recognition of our need for human connection.
1. Inside Lleywn Davis – Joel and Ethan Coen
Addresses life's biggest questions in periphery, where they dwell most often. Smartly explores grief's paralysis with compassion and care.
Best Non-2013 Film Consumed in 2013: The Up Series, by Michael Apted
I have never seen films as thoughtful, living, or absorbing as Michael Apted's masterful cinematic experiment with his Up films – a series of documentaries that revisits in reflective interviews a group of fourteen individuals every seven years from the age of 7 to what is now 56. I truly felt that I knew these people more intimately that I know many of my friends in reality – documentary has a way of doing this by asking questions we rarely have opportunities or courage to ask in reality. The films examine purpose, faith, class, gender, family, professional pursuits, and the very fragmented nature of documentary filmmaking itself with humility, patience, and an unmistakable passion for finding what it means to be human. They are living documents also, as Apted’s focus seems to change over time. With age, he becomes less concerned with questions of class politics and more concerned with questions of meaning and personal worth. In this way, the films not only examine human life explicitly, but implicitly through their changing structure and focus. As a whole, they are a masterpiece of the finest order and their place in film history should be accorded high status.
10. The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer
A look at Indonesia's awful past and corrupt present. Maybe the most important film of 2013 - unflinching and chilling. Watch the credits.
9. Before Midnight – Richard Linklater
Long term relationships are work and this chapter turns the romanticism of the first two films on its head. Honest and raw fights included.
8. Frances Ha – Noah Baumbach
Painfully and poignantly follows a lost millenial who struggles in career, romance, and friendship. Gerwig is not to be missed.
7. The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese
Scorsese continues to push buttons in this overwhelming and exhausting experience that indicts excess. DiCaprio gives his career best.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel and Ethan Coen
Masterfully scripted and shot, this film allows us to sit in melancholy while also listening to the melodies abounding. Plus, OUTER SPACE!
5. Upstream Color – Shane Carruth
The pieces all fit together in Shane Carruth's visionary puzzle. Worms, pigs, and soundscapes help examine the essence of identity.
4. 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
McQueen examines this remarkable man who experiences the whole of our nation's atrocious past; allows us to star unblinking at the horror.
3. Nebraska – Alexander Payne
Payne appears to have grown up in my family once again as he poignantly and lovingly deals with aging, dignity, and relationships.
2. Short Term 12 – Destin Daniel Cretton
A young caregiver at a group home also deals with her own distressing past. What could have been trite is honest and penetrates the heart.
1. Her – Spike Jonze
Jonze pulls together each element: performances, music and cinematography to elevate this fatidic script to a deeply felt and resonant film.
Best Non-2013 Film I saw in 2013: Holy Motors by Leo Carax
*Intriguing 2013 Movies We Didn’t Have a Chance to See (Ordered Alphabetically):
20 Feet from Stardom, A Band Called Death, A Hijacking, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Anchorman 2, At Berkeley, Berberian Sound Studio, Beyond the Hills, Blue Caprice, Broken Circle Breakdown, Dirty Wars, Don Jon, Europa Report, First Cousin Once Removed, Frozen, Go For Sisters, God Loves Uganda, In a World…, In the House, It’s a Disaster, Labor Day, Like Someone In Love, Lone Survivor, Museum Hours, No, Only God Forgives, Out of the Furnace, Pain and Gain, Pieta, Saving Mr. Banks, Something in the Air, Stoker, Sun Don’t Shine, The Angel’s Share, The Counselor, The Great Beauty, The Heat, The Past, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Selfish Giant, The Wind Rises, Wadjda, War Witch, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet
Friday, February 28, 2014
|The Academy missed out on this nomination for Song.|
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Christian Bale in American Hustle
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
This is an all-in performance for the ages. As with the script, DiCaprio’s performance presents someone so driven by his ego that they do not stop to recognize or process their flaws. This role simply looks exhausting, and DiCaprio never lets his energy flag in the least. It would be easy to say this kind of performance lacks nuance, but I actually found it most impressive that he ads grades of emotion while playing it all turned up to 11. This is a high-impact performance, but it certainly isn’t one note. Better yet, it isn’t a performance that seemed to be reaching for an Oscar. No one would play someone as off-putting as Jordan Belfort to get awards recognition. Coupled with the fact he has yet to take home his own Oscar, this all makes me want him to win even more.
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
But alas, this does not seem to be in the cards. Momentum for McConaughey has picked up since his win at the Golden Globes, and it seems inevitable he will take home the little gold man. To be fair, his turn as Ron Woodruff is more than an Academy-rousing physical transformation, and is actually very solid and daring. Yet, while there isn’t a whole lot bad I can say about his performance, I found nearly every other performance in this category more impressive. Really, all but…
Weakest Nominee: Christian Bale
Best Non-Nominee: Joaquin Phoenix in Her
On the one hand, it is a shame Phoenix doesn’t play along with the Hollywood publicity game, for if he did, he would probably get an Oscar nod for pretty much everything. On the other hand, it is nice to see someone working for the love of his craft rather than accolades. Phoenix occupies nearly all the screen-time inHer and is solely entrusted with communicating much of the emotional depth in Spike Jonze’s script. He succeeds by relaying an impressive range of emotion, from grief, to excitement, to disappointment, to confusion, to guilt, to contentment, to self-loathing, to… You get the idea – this film is an emotional rollercoaster, and Phoenix never feels anything but believable. This is especially impressive considering the plot involves mainly interaction with an off-screen voice.
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
much of my family, in both good and bad ways, and Dern’s Woody is no exception. Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant with a level of fragility and nuance that allows someone that could easily have become a caricature to breathe and live. It truly feels as though Dern inhabits his role – every tick, every move feels honest and real. He has no trouble getting ugly or showing the senility, while still managing to maintain Woody’s humanity. And that’s no small feat for a role in which a prideful old man stubbornly refuses to believe the people around him when they are telling him the truth. Again, fantastic work from a veteran actor who has rarely seen the spotlight. I would love to explore more of his filmography, largely due to his great presence in this lovely film.
Also, I'm going to give a little P.S. and mention that we watched The Hunt last night, and we were completely bowled over by Mads Mikkelson's performance. He plays a man wrongly accused of pedophilia in a small town who is quickly turned on by his friends and family. He plays all the right notes here, managing to convey a range of emotions - confusion, frustration, anger, fear, and deep sadness that the people he loves would so easily believe him to be a monster. It's a fantastic performance that carries the film. If Joaquin Phoenix was nominated in Bale's spot, Mikkelson would would have occupied my Best Non-Nominee slot.
Amy Adams in American Hustle
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Judi Dench in Philomena
Meryl Streep in August: Osage County
Should Win: Cate Blanchett
I always appreciate when actresses play ugly. I don’t necessarily mean something like Charlize Theron in Monster, where there is a stark physical transformation, but rather when performances delve deep into the ugliness of the human psyche (Chelsea: like Charlize Theron in Young Adult). Blanchett’s performance captures the ugliness of vanity and pride, as well as an uglier desire to think others less valuable. Her performance captures perfectly the confusion of having your pride shattered in a country where appearances are king, and her portrayal of a desperate grasping to the past is eminently believable. As an actress who is known for her elegance, this is pretty daring, impressive stuff.
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
There is some talk about how this film’s association with director Woody Allen and recent accusations against him will harm Blanchett’s chances, but I think the Academy will follow suit with the rest of the awards season and reward Blanchett. This is particularly true because none of the other performances have garnered nearly as much acclaim.
Weakest Nominee: Meryl Streep
Best Non-Nominee: Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha
Greta Gerwig’s portrayal of prolonged adolescence and professional confusion will resonate with any millennial – us who were told we were special and could be anything we wanted with enough determination. This film is not an angry response to this lie, but rather a bittersweet meditation on the emotional response to realizing this lie. As such, it relies heavily on Gerwig’s captivating performance to communicate its themes. With her turn as Frances, Gerwig captures both a playful optimism and a stubborn resentment of reality, while also building a genuine portrait of an awkward and flawed, but fun and likeable person. This is not a character battling huge dramatic problems, but rather is someone battling the problems of identity and meaning we all face at some point in our lives. With both charisma and subtlety, Gerwig epitomizes the film’s messy and insightful themes – what more could you ask for?
Once again, you make this super difficult for me. I agree with your should and will win and weakest nominee, although I have one caveat that it’s possible that Amy Adams pulls the win here, largely because she’s the only nominee who has not yet won an Oscar, her body of work is impressive, and because of the controversy currently surrounding Woody Allen. In addition, I don’t think Bullock is particularly impressive. Yes, it’s probably the best performance of her career, but it’s not the same level as Blanchett, Adams, or Dench. Although, I have heard that the physical preparation of this role was grueling, and for that, I applaud her.
Best Non-Nominee: Brie Larson in Short Term 12
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper in American Hustle
Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Michael Fassbender
Will Win: Jared Leto
Leto will win for a few reasons – one, he is very good in this role, two, the Academy loves actor transformations, and three, he plays a character many Academy voters wish to give a louder voice. What is odd about all this is that while Leto does provide believable emotion to the role, I never got the sense that his portrayal of the transgender martyr Rayon was anything more than a broad stereotype meant to draw out sympathy. When you take a step back, the writers of this film didn’t give the character enough nuance for any actor to really add much depth. So, while Leto dutifully and boldly provides an all-in performance, it is kind of a one-note act from beginning to end, and unlike Fassbender, he doesn’t really add much to the role that wasn’t already in the script.
Weakest Nominee: Barkhad Abdi
Best Non-Nominee: Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners
There are literally thousands of movies with this character – a skilled and professional policeman
investigating a mystery abduction, tasked with both keeping victims calm and digging for the truth. It is a role Gyllenhaal could have easily phoned in, and no one would have said much else about it good or bad. The script for this film is well crafted, so the film overall would likely not disappoint anyway. What is great about Gyllenhaal’s performance, though, is that he adds tics and fidgets to his character that communicate his policing profession simultaneously propels and annoys him. In other words, while he understands the importance of his position, he also wishes someone else could take on this burden for him. This subtlety adds volumes to the film, and makes every interaction deeper and more interesting. In other words, Gyllenhaal does what all great performances do – he elevates the material.
Should Win: Michael Fassbender
This is an astonishing performance in a film filled to the brim with them. Fassbender is excellent in nearly everything he does, but when he works with McQueen, he manages to elevate already great material. The work he does as Epps is entirely menacing, frightening, and a look into our dark past.
Will Win: Jared Leto
Like David said, Leto is very good, but this role doesn’t offer him much to do outside of being a heartbreaking portrait into the life of a traditionally marginalized person. He serves as the main bridge between the lead character and the new culture in which he now must enter, and in that way, is the main reason the lead learns to soften and care about those surrounding him.
Weakest Nominee: Barkhad Abdi
I agree. I think he’s really very good, and he was plucked out of obscurity here in Minneapolis, but he doesn’t reach the level of the performers he shares this category with. Still, considering he is a non-actor, it’s extraordinarily impressive.
Because we agreed again on the above three categories, I would like to use this space to highlight two additional male supporting performances that I thought were particularly excellent.
The film itself is exhausting, graphic, brutal, and disturbing, and Franco embodies the spirit of the film with his performance as Alien, a rapper/drug dealer who bails the four main characters out of jail and shows them a life of “spring break forever”. Franco is balls-to-the-wall crazy in the role, making himself ugly, unlikeable, and yet charismatic and magnetic. So many of his scenes inhabit an off-putting, deranged quality, and it’s simply amazing that Franco just went for it, plain and simple. This could be one that continues to be talked about for a long time.
Keith Stanfield in Short Term 12
Never before seen outside of his role in the short on which this film is based, Stanfield absolutely breaks your heart as a troubled teenager who lives in the titular group home, but is nearing a birthday that will remove him from this place. With his tough exterior and caring heart, Marcus could have been a bland, cliché character in other hands, but he shows us early on in a one-on-one interaction with a supervisor, that this character is bigger than the cliché. It’s a wrenching, human performance, and his character is the only one this year that made me cry real tears. I’m looking forward to watching his career progress.
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts in August: Osage County
June Squibb in Nebraska
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o
|Give her all the awards!|
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
The other possibility here is Jennifer Lawrence, mainly because she has become Hollywood’s darling and won the Golden Globe. And while Lawrence gives a thoroughly enjoyable caricature of dim-wittedness in American Hustle, it is ultimately a glorified sketch comedy character. Luckily, Nyong’o won the SAG and several other major awards for her performance, so I think she will also win here.
Weakest Nominee: Julia Roberts
The thing about this performance is that it simply isn’t that memorable or interesting. While Roberts certainly isn’t bad, and hits high emotional notes in a believable way, the role really only allows her to explore three emotions – annoyance, anger, and stubborn pride. In a year with so many great performances, three emotions ain’t enough to justify a nomination.
Best Non-Nominee: Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o
She is heartbreaking
in this role. She is absolute perfection in every frame she inhabits. Beautiful, brilliant work. I don’t know what else to say but she should absolutely win everything she can for her work here.
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Look, she’s the best thing in American Hustle. Funny, brash, naïve, and Lawrence shows us again why she’s America’s sweetheart, but she isn’t as good as Nyong’o, and she herself has apparently all but said she wants Nyong’o to get this award.
Weakest Nominee: Julia Roberts
I think you’re a little too hard on her above, and I think she shows a few more than three emotions (depression, some semblance of caring). But you’re probably right that this is the weakest of the five. Squibb, also, is good, but shows less range in her performance than the others and even the rest of the actors in Nebraska.
I feel like a broken record. We once again agree totally in the above three categories, so I’m going to talk about the many fantastic female supporting performances in Her. First, Rooney Mara, who plays lead character Theodore’s estranged wife. She’s only in a few scenes, but managers to communicate the depth of love and the private moments inherent in a long-term relationship like a marriage. She also beautifully captures the now broken relationship that they have. Second, Amy Adams, who plays