Posts Tagged ‘HER

02
Mar
14

Favorite Films of 2013

"You can't repeat the past." "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can old sport."

“You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can old sport.”

Whatever films the Academy chooses to award honor tonight, at the end of the day their decision is simply that–their decision. Like any art form, how people interpret and perceive a film is a personal experience unique to them. We all have our likes and dislikes so no matter what one group of people decide, know that the only person who’s opinion truly matters is your own.

We often throw the word ‘Best’ around like we’re some kind of authority on something, “this place has the BEST loco moco.” Or “that was the BEST movie.” And granted, I’ve been guilty of it myself (see the titling for yesterday’s post). With that in mind and in an effort to be better representative of talking about decisions, lists, and preferences that are personal to one particular person (myself) . . .

I give you my favorite films from 2013:

10. This Is The End

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I knew that when I first saw This Is The End, one of the very first opinions I formed about it was that it wasn’t just a funny movie–it was a smart one as well. It could have been the fact that at the very end of the movie there’s a cameo that I thought was just totally off the wall hilarious. After a second viewing though, the film only grew on me. Part of the fun of it definitely is the self referential humor that the guys bring–while I don’t think that’s actually how they are in real life, they are definitely playing off their personas somewhat. Another aspect of the film I love is just how smart the comedy and story actually are. From the practicalness of their reasoning, to how they react to certain situations, to how they intermingle with one another; there are some very smart decisions going on that make the film really fun, and elevates it above a lot of comedies that we get these days.

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9. Her

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What I like about Her is that aside from the whole technology aspect of it, I think it’s a great vision of how our society is and where it’s heading. What I like even better than that are the questions about technology and relationships that the film asks us to look at. Can a human have a personal and intimate (a “real”) relationship with a piece of technology? While watching the film the answer isn’t as easy as you might think and I love that director and writer Spike Jonze is asking us the question. Joaquin Phoenix is just wonderful as the quiet and introverted human while Scarlett Johannson’s voice work is pretty soulful.

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8. Pacific Rim

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I wasn’t having all that much fun last summer until I saw Pacific Rim. I was just gobsmacked by the creativity, action, and spectacle that was in the film. The movie is pure fun to watch and classic summer blockbuster fare. Seeing these huge metal robots go up against even larger sea monsters made me feel like a little kid again. Guillermo del Toro has a great sense of imagination and you can feel that seeing the Jaeger’s and Kaiju battle it out on screen.

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7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Part of it is the sci-fi aspect of the dystopian society, part of it is the story itself, yet still another part of it is that Jennifer Lawrence anchors a pretty solid cast in a film that further develops a potentially great series. While I liked The Hunger Games well enough, Catching Fire takes things to another level. This second outing isn’t encumbered by setting up the story and world building that the first film had to go through and you definitely get a sense that the cast is more comfortable this time around with the story a little more epic in scope. Throw in the fact that Lionsgate kicked in extra budget for the sequel (you know I love my production value), and Catching Fire is not only an exciting sequel, but one of those occasions where the second one is better than the first.

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6. The Croods

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From the first time I saw it, I utterly fell in love with The Croods. For starters I think the animation is on par if not better than Dreamworks Animation’s beloved film from a few years ago, How to Train Your Dragon. But more so than that, I was really into the story of family and change that The Croods presented, and I’m not going to lie, my heartstrings got pulled a litte towards the end. While the film features a wonderful voice work from the likes of Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Nicholas Cage; it’s the characters they embody that really made me laugh and enjoy the film.

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5. American Hustle

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Hypothetically speaking, even if American Hustle didn’t have a plot to speak of, I would still watch this film just to see this group of actors perform. It’s no wonder that the film won the Best Ensemble acting award from the Screen Actor’s Guild as it truly is an acting showcase and great to see actors at this high of a caliber working with one another in the same film. Everyone in the film really gets into their roles and gives rich and nuanced performances. While the story was a little muddled at times, having this cast kept me in it the entire time, making me want to see what would happen next.

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4. Gravity

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While the film is a technological achievement in cinema, I prefer to focus on what was presented to me in the theater when I saw Gravity–an intense roller coaster ride of a film that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Through the magic of a dark theater, 3D, and surround sound (yes, despite the fact that there is no actual sound in space because there’s no air); Gravity is an awe-inspiring theatrical experience. If you didn’t tell me that this was done in a studio with lots of green screens, it’s exactly what I imagine space to be. The entire time Sandra Bullock’s character is struggling to make it home, I was hoping she would make it to the next station, grab on to some handhold, or magically understand Chinese because the film had me so immersed in her experience of fighting for her life in vastness of space.

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3. The Wolf of Wall Street

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Though I’m always down for Scorsese, nothing could have prepared me for the joyride that is The Wolf of Wall Street. Played charismatically and ferociously by Leonardo DiCaprio, film gives us a look into Wall Street that we all suspected to be true during our economic downfall six/seven years ago, but couldn’t be sure about until this film. Yes, while I’m sure the film does take artistic license into Jordan Belfort’s life, it’s still nonetheless intriguing and entertaining. It’s like watching a spectacular train wreck with all the debauchery and criminality going on–I couldn’t look away yet I was enthralled and entertained by the disaster of it all.

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2. Captain Phillips

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“I’m the captain now.” With those words Barkhad Abdi’s haunting portrayal as the Somali pirate Muse sets up much of the tension in Captain Phillips that doesn’t let up until the climatic rescue at the end of the film. While Gravity was a roller coaster of a ride itself, I think Captain Phillips ups the degree of difficulty (and suspense) since we know what the outcome of the film is before we see it. Paul Greengrass puts together a taut film that places you in the same claustrophobic and nerve-racking confines that Captain Phillips and his crew are in and doesn’t let you go.

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1. Short Term 12

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What can I say other than that I was utterly enchanted with Short Term 12. The film felt so authentically real and personal that I just couldn’t help falling for it. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. are just superb as two counselors at a halfway house who day in and day out are trying to all they can to make sure the kids they look over get a second chance. Broken themselves and coming from the same world of which they also work in, Short Term 12’s sublimeness comes from the relationship between the two leads, and the heartfelt emotion they get from working at Short Term 12. No other film touched me more last year than this one did.

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So that’ll about do it for 2013. Here’s to hoping we get as many good films in 2014 that we got in 2013.

Did you enjoy any of these films from 2013? Let us know or tell us what your favorite films of 2013 were in the comments.

28
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Best Picture

With the Victory Tour all but over; in our final Oscar Watch before we give you our selection for the Best Picture winner of the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

With the Victory Tour all but over; in our final Oscar Watch we give you our selection for the Best Picture winner of the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

Well this is it, the big enchilada. Academy member votes were due this past Tuesday so while voting is done, all we can do now is wait with bated breath for the statues to be awarded on Sunday.

How does one go about choosing a Best Picture winner? And the end of the day, it basically comes down to people. Not people like you or me, but a select group of people–members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS aka The Academy). We’re not talking about what you think the Best Picture of the year is, we’re trying to guess what they deem the Best Picture of the year. With that in mind, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Demographics: In a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times two years ago, they determined that a large majority of Academy members are white males over the age of 50.
  • Voting Blocks (Yes & No): The Academy is broken up into 17 different branches. A new twist to this year’s awards will be the fact that for the first time, any Academy member (regardless of which branch they belong to) can vote on any or all awards–not just Best Picture and those limited to their branch. Previously you could look at guild awards as a predictor on how the Academy might vote in certain categoes; with everyone being able to vote for everything, this is no longer the case.
  • Storylines: This is where Oscar races get real interesting–trying to figure out which storylines will carry films across the finish line. In the voting process, almost everything about a film comes in to play, even its baggage. From performances to how the films are crafted, to stories of how producers got funding or how long it took a director to finally make a film; any storyline about how a film came into being can be the thing that Academy members latch onto when they vote.
  • History: While it’s easy to look back on how the Academy has voted in the past and use that to predict the future–you can’t always go by history. However, this is something you still need to consider and can’t dismiss. A good prognosticator knows when to let history guide you, and when to discard it.

And now, without any more fanfare, and no ado whatsoever . . .

What Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Out of all the nominees for Best Picture, The Wolf of Wall Street has everything that I would want in a Best Picture winner. It’s got some of the finest acting of the year with Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Leonardo DiCaprio (and in my humble opinion a Best Actor winning performance). It also presents subject matter that I think this compelling and thought provoking (Jordan Belfort–does the film glamorize his lifestyle or is it indifferent?). And it’s also got a lot of humor. It’s not a perfect film, but the movie as a whole is greater than the sum of its part and I think it’s Scorsese’s best film in years (even better than his 2006 Best Picture winner The Departed).

On everyone else . . .

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  • American Hustle: With a number of great performances from the ensemble cast, American Hustle has garnered a lot of love from the actor’s branch perfectly illustrated by its Screen Actors Guild award (SAG) for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (the actor’s guild equivalent of the Academy’s Best Picture). With seemingly a large branch behind them can American Hustle pull off a victory? It’s definitely in the mix with Gravity and 12 Years a Slave with a lion’s share 10 nominations. Alas, acting aside, while the film is a huge crowd pleaser that the general public can relate to, I don’t think Hustle carries the same type of “prestiege” that the Academy thinks a Best Picture winner usual has. Also, it doesn’t have a lot of tech branch (visual effects, sound, etc) support like Gravity does so I just don’t see it making the cut. Granted it’s a period piece which the Academy loves and sure it’s got weaves and combovers, but bad hairstyling does not a Best Picture winner make.
  • Captain Phillips: As much as I love Captain Phillips (more so than Gravity), it’s fate was sealed when Tom Hanks’s name failed to nab a best actor nomination. Surprising to some, but ultimately a casualty of a really good and really crowded field this year (Robert Redford, Oscar Issac, and Michael B. Jordan are keeping Hanks company off the ballot), Phillips does not carry the actor’s branch support that 12 Years and American Hustle do. No actor love, no award.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: The McConaissance and Leto’s larger than life Rayon are the two things that this film has going for it and the Academy should be rewarding them accordingly (maybe even throw in an award for Makeup & Hairstyling as well). After that there’s not that much more to talk about here. Dallas Buyers Club has some phenomenal acting, but it doesn’t have anything else to carry it into Best Picture territory.
  • Gravity: Let’s be real here, Gravity is one of three, maybe even two films that are vying for the Best Picture award. With it’s ten nominations in tow (a majority in the tech categories) it’s right up there in nomination count along with American Hustle (10) and 12 Years a Slave (9). Out of all the Best Picture nominees it has the highest box office gross out of all of them (over $269 million to date) which gives it mass appeal like American Hustle. With the giant undertaking of the film as a whole and it’s long road to the screen, director Alfonso Cuaron is a shoo-in for Best Director and has the potential for taking home the most awards of the night (due to the love from the aforementioned tech branches). Gravity is definitely in the driver’s seat and I won’t be surprised if it wins on Sunday.

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  • Her: Ah Her, such a good little movie. I really wish we had more films like this being recognized. Sadly, I think the real honor for this film will be if it wins Original Screenplay. While personal and emotional, it just does not have the scope that the Academy looks for in Best Picture winners. I mean, they certainly aren’t going to award a film where the lead is basically just talking to himself. No, what I’d really like to see, is Scarlett Johansson win for best actress for Her. Is it too late to resurrect that campaign?
  • Nebraska: Like Philomena and in a more general sense like Her, Nebraska biggest hurdle is that it suffers from small picture syndrome. While you’ve got a great storyline in Bruce Dern’s journeyman like record from solid role player to meteoric leading man with a nomination, a surprising turn in drama by Will Forte, and a supporting actress nod for June Squibb, all of that can’t elevate Nebraska to much talked about “prestige” level that the Academy has for its Best Picture winners.
  • Philomena: Many people wonder how Philomena even snuck into the awards race. I’ll tell you how: old people. Like Nebraska, Philomena has a small, but personal and emotionally charged story backed by a great lead performance–that’s it. With the Academy’s older demographic and with a dame like Judi Dench in the film, it’s easy Oscar bait for the Academy to vote into contention, but not necessarily for a win.
  • 12 Years a Slave: With it’s dark subject matter and stellar performances, 12 Years is the other serious front runner to win Best Picture. Nominated in nine categories, this film certainly does have a lot of boxes that the Academy like to check off for Best Picture winners. Is it a period piece? Check. Is it based on a real life person? Check. Does it have solid acting performances? Check. Does it have scope and range? Check (it covers 12 years doesn’t it?). Is the director recognized? Check (McQueen may not be an Oscar winner, but all his films are critically acclaimed). However, the biggest hurdle for this film will definitely be it’s mass appeal. There have been many rumors that Academy members have not watched or find it hard to watch the film due to the unflinching look at slavery that it presents. Will that have a large enough effect on its awards chances? We’ll find out.

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What Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

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In a race this close, picking either Gravity or 12 Years is essentially splitting hairs. Both are worthy, but since the Academy has already stated there will be no ties in the Best Picture race this year, I’ll tell you why I think 12 Years a Slave will be your Best Picture winner for 2013.

It starts with the other awards of the night: The boys from Dallas Buyers Club will beat out Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in the actor categories, Cuaron will beat out McQueen for director, and The Great Gatsby looks real good to take the awards in the two tech categories that it shares with 12 Years (Costume Design & Production Design). This leaves potentially Lupita Nyong’o to take the film’s lone acting award (maybe) and an adapted screenplay award for the film (again maybe). With Gravity taking home a lion’s share of tech awards, that only leaves potentially two for 12 Years. In a year so strong, I can see the Academy spreading the wealth around and giving Gravity tech awards and director, but giving Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave. That’s been the case thus far with it’s win for best picture at the Golden Globes and BAFTA’s.

Also working in 12 Year‘s favor, you know all that “prestige” talk I’ve mentioned previously? That is the exact sort of weight 12 Years a Slave can give to the Academy’s Best Picture win category. It is the type of film people automatically look at and say, “Yes, this is a Best Picture winner.” It’s not showy, it doesn’t have special effects, it just has really good acting, a compelling story, was well put together, and carries an important message.”

And as for all that talk of Academy members not being able to watch or sit through 12 Years a Slave; just because they can’t sit through a film doesn’t mean they won’t vote for it. Like I said, with the whole prestige thing in play and potentially tons of peers telling them that a film is deserving, what’s stopping them from voting for a film that’s more of an artful and socially conscious choice?

Besides, you remember the last time a studio sci-fi space film took on a smaller independent picture . . . Avatar ended up losing.

Did we get it right? Or are we totally off base? Give us your thoughts on our picks and yours in the comments.

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Check out the rest of our 2014 Oscar Watch posts for this year:

Actor in a Leading Role
Actress in a Leading Role
Actor in a Supporting Role
Actress in a Supporting Role
The Academy Hustle
The Nominations

07
Jan
14

It’s 2014–But Wait, There’s More (of 2013)

2013. 2013. 2013 fo'ever y'all.

2013. 2013. 2013 fo’ever y’all.

So here we are the beginning of a new year, with new hope, new possibilities, and new movies to see! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. We here in Hawaii have yet to experience some of the best films of 2013. Yes, even now while we are in the future–2014, some films that were “released” last year have yet to unspool on our shores.This is a problem I’ve lamented over somewhat in the past (here & here) and it’s something we just can’t help. While movie critics and bloggers have been trumpeting their ‘Best of 2013’ lists and are looking towards this year with their ‘Most Anticipated of 2014’ lists, we here in Hawaii are basically stuck with the Hollywood release slate as is and will be playing catch up for the rest of this month.

With a complex and sometimes even convoluted logic, a number of different factors go into when movies are released. The two biggest factors that affect Hawaii are our market size (Honolulu is currently 54th in population) and the crowded release slate in December (six major releases in the two weeks leading up to Christmas with another six opening on Christmas Day alone). Due to these factors, films that have been making a lot of ‘Best of’ lists we have yet to see.

So what have we been missing out on? Well, listed here are major releases or films that have been getting critical acclaim that have yet to be released in Hawaii. Since everyone in the movie world likes making lists; call it the ‘Best Films of 2013, That Haven’t Come Out Yet’ list.

HER – In Theaters This Friday, January 10

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Directed by Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich), this film has made a number of Top 10’s and been voted Best picture by a number of critics groups, most notably the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer who develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system. While the setup may sound silly, in a post-Siri world it definitely seems possible. I’ve heard the relationship that develops and everything that revolves around it makes the film emotional and affective. Oh, did I mention that Scarlett Johansson lends her voice to the Siri-like operating system and has even emboldened some critics to say that she should be Oscar nominated for her role in the film (even though she herself doesn’t appear in the film at all)?

Lone Survivor – In Theaters This Friday, January 10

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In interviews Peter Berg has stated that the main reason he directed Battleship was so that he would have a deal for a film that he wanted to make. That film is Lone Survivor. If we had to sit through Battleship (though some of you didn’t) to get Lone Survivor–I’m totally ok with that. Based on the real life Navy Seal mission to capture or kill a Taliban leader, the film provides a cinematic version of what transpired from the account of the mission’s (spoiler alert!) Lone Survivor. Contemporary military films always hit a sweet spot with me so I’m definitely making sure I see this before I compile my list.

August: Osage County – Expanding to more theaters This Friday, January 10

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Based off of the stage play of the same name, August: Osage County was on everyone’s radar at the beginning of last year just off of the names of the cast alone: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a whole host of supporting players. Critics didn’t seem to like it too much however after it came out because I haven’t heard nary a peep about this film since it played the festival circuit in the fall. However, it could probably be worth the price of admission just from said star power.

Labor Day – In Theaters January 31, 2014

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If you’re not familiar with director Jason Reitman, you may remember two of his earlier films: Juno and Up in the Air. Relationships seem to be at the core of a lot of his films and Labor Day is no different. It stars Kate Winslet as a depressed single mother who, along with her son, take in a wounded convict whose story isn’t what it seems. As with August: Osage County there was a lot of early buzz about Labor Day being potential Oscar-bait being helmed by an Oscar nominated director and starring two solid actors. Why I think this didn’t get as much attention as originally anticipated might have been due to a crowded 2013 slate. Be that as it may, I’m still interested to see the film and it looks every bit as smoldering as the trailer leads us to believe.

There are also a number of foreign language films and documentaries in the awards hunt that probably won’t play here until after The Academy announces their nominees next week on January 16. Again, size matters, and with these films garnering such a niche audience, we simply have to hope and pray that a few of them will get a theatrical release here.

With all that said, here in Hawaii I always feel like creating a ‘Best of’ list for films can’t be realistically done till mid to late January–and even then, there could be a few releases yet to come. There’s only one person that I know of in Hawaii that may have seen everything, Hawaii News Now’s Terry Hunter (he’s part of the Broadcast Film Critics Association a group that gets studio screeners). Unless you’re getting screeners like he does, the rest of us just have to wait till these things come out theatrically in theaters.

Solomon Northup stares blankly at the bleak movie offerings for us in January.

Solomon Northup stares blankly at the bleak movie offerings for us in January.

Besides, has anyone really looked at the release slate for January? It’s usually a dumping ground anyway, but this year seems more so. There’s only two January releases that I’m interested in seeing: Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit and That Awkward Moment. Since there’s not that much going on, that not only gives you time to see 2013 releases that are coming out this month, but it also gives you time to catch up on 2013 films that are on DVD/Blu-Ray/streaming. My list of catch up includes:

  • Ain’t Them Body Saints
  • The Bling Ring
  • Francis Ha
  • Mud
  • Prince Avalanche
  • Stories We Tell

Whether or not I’ll have time to catch up with them is another story, but at least I’ll have something worthwhile to fill my January with.

In many ways coming up with a top 10 list for the year is somewhat of a chore if you’re trying to be diligent about seeing films, but I prefer to have seen a breath of films rather than post my list before I’ve seen all I want to see. Granted, seeing EVERYTHING is impossible, but that’s not the point. I’m looking for my favorite film of 2013 and it’s not a title I bestow very lightly. I want to be informed before I make a decision. To become the best in my book, you have to consider the rest.

Is there anything from 2013 that you’re still looking forward to? Let us know!




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