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Monthly Archives: February 2013

My Score Card on the Oscars

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By Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Oscars are over and now everyone is talking about who was the best and worst dressed and their opinions of the host, Seth MacFarlane.

Of the six major categories, I correctly predicted four. I missed on Supporting Actor and Director. I predicted Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook would win for Supporting Actor and Steven Spielberg Best Director for Lincoln; however Christoph Waltz won Supporting Actor for Django Unchained and Ang Lee won Best Director for Life of Pi. I was not the only who did not foresee this as the Los Angeles Times ran a headline saying, “Oscars 2013: Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz among night’s surprises.”

I correctly predicted Argo would win Best Picture; Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Actor; Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress; and Anne Hathaway Best Supporting Actress.

On a personal note, when I reviewed Argo last October I said then to expect a lot of award nominations to come out of this movie, including Best Picture. I think I should get extra credit for being ahead of the curve.

The only big controversy of this award season was that Ben Affleck was not nominated for Best Director for Argo, however the picture won a number of other awards including Best Picture which should make up for the snub. Also, some thought Kathryn Bigelow should have been nominated for Best Director but Zero Dark Thirty also won a number of awards including an Academy Award for Best Sound Directing and a Golden Globe for Jessica Chastain for Best Actress.

There has been a lot of buzz over the host, Seth MacFarlane, who was hired to appeal to the younger demographics. Some thought he went over the line and others thought he wasn’t edgy enough. But in the words of someone (I don’t remember who), “What do you expect when you hire the creator of Family Guy?” For those who don’t know, Family Guy is an off-color, irreverent, adult, cartoon show.

I am a little older than the targeted demographic and I don’t watch Family Guy; however, I thought he was laugh out loud funny in places. The show moved along at a snappy pace and he injected a little humor, song and dance to spice it up. Some thought he was crass, racist, and politically incorrect; but I say lighten up people and laugh. The producers wanted edgy and that is what they got. However, I do agree with the critics who criticized him for his jokes about women and sexual abuse. Abuse of any kind is not a laughing matter.

This show was ten times better than a few years ago when Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted—again to appeal to the younger generation. Hathaway had to work overtime while Franco seemed to sleep-walk through the whole show. It was safe but not entertaining.

Now the award season is over and we can start a new score card anticipating next year’s movies and which will come out on top. Did any of you correctly predict all of the major categories?

 

 

 

Here come the Oscars

 

 Oscar

If you are a movie fan then this coming Sunday is the night of all nights, the super bowl of talent, the parade of fashion, the Academy Awards!

There were many good movies this year but unfortunately most of them came at the end of the year. Those nominated for best picture are: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.

Although any of the nominated movies are good enough to win, I think Argo will win the prize. I think the Academy voters will award Argo to make up for the snub by the Academy of not nominating Ben Affleck for best director. In addition it has already won many of the other awards leading up to the Oscars.

For Best Actor I think Daniel Day-Lewis will win for Lincoln.  He doesn’t just portray Lincoln, he is Lincoln.  He is one of the most remarkable actors of our time and his portrayal of Lincoln is a jewel in his crown of achievements.

Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook seems to have the edge in the Best Actress category but I think Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty also has a very good chance. Also, Quvenzhane Wallis in The Beasts of the Southern Wild is the youngest actress to be nominated. She was six when she did the role and is very mature for her young years. I don’t think she will win but the movie is worth seeing just to witness her performance. However, I think Jennifer Lawrence will win for her great on-screen chemistry with Bradley Cooper and for her funny, quirky, touching, and sad portrayal of a young widowed psychiatric patient. She captures a range of emotions.

In the Supporting Actor category it is a toss-up between five excellent actors. Alan Arkin is snappy and funny in Argo, Robert DeNiro is tough and a little touched in the head struggling with his OCD son in Silver Linings Playbook, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is fiery and dynamic in The Master. I think DeNiro will win for the sensitive and vulnerable side he shows in Silver Linings Playbook.

We also have four outstanding actresses vying for Best Supporting Actress. Amy Adams is a steadying force in The Master and Sally Field holds her own against Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln; however, I think Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables will walk away with the honors. She gives a heart-wrenching portrayal of Fantine, a single mother working hard to provide for her daughter.

For Best Director I think it is between: Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) who coaxed amazing performances from two novices—a six year old girl and a baker; David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) who told a touching story about a taboo subject (mental illness) with dignity, pathos and humor; and Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) who managed to keep the audience intrigued with a subject that is not only controversial but also one that could be stuffy and academic and one which everyone already knows the outcome. My vote is for Spielberg because his attention to detail made the viewer feel as if he is sitting in Washington watching the events unfold in current time.

 

The Nominees Are:

 

Best Picture:
  • Amour,
  • Argo,
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild,
  • Django Unchained,
  •  Les Misérables,
  • Life of Pi,
  • Lincoln,
  • Silver Linings Playbook,
  • Zero Dark Thirty
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
  • Denzel Washington, Flight
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Best Director:
  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Actor in a Supporting Role

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

 

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

This Playbook Produces a Winner

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What happens when two mental patients get together? Sounds like the beginning of an old joke but Silver Linings Playbook is no joke.

Silver Linings Playbook is a sometimes disturbing and sometimes comical look into bi-polar, OCD, and other mental illnesses. Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat Solatano, Jr., has lost his wife, job, and house and is now living with his parents after spending 8 months in a mental institution because of a bi-polar outbreak. He nearly beat a man to death after finding him in the shower with his wife having sex to their wedding song.

His parents want him to settle into their living pattern and participate in their obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles which is accompanied with many OCD rituals. His father, played by Robert DeNiro, has lost everything betting on the Eagles and puts pressure on Pat to carry on the traditions of the game. Pat Sr. then parlays his bet and bets all he has in order to open a restaurant.

In the mean time Pat Jr. is trying to establish a new life for himself. He is invited to a friend’s house for dinner where he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has her own problems. She is a young widow and a recovering sex addict. Both are a bit unconventional and lack the normal screening process most people have that prevents them from blurting out some inappropriate comments. And, speaking of inappropriate, Pat spends much of the movie dressed in a sweat suit and a trash bag.

The movie climaxes at a dance competition in which the novice couple, Pat and Tiffany, must win at least 5 out of 10 points in order to satisfy part of Pat Sr.’s bet.

This is a story of family and accepting one’s self and others no matter what life throws at us. It may not always go as planned but it usually has a silver lining.

The movie also has some powerfully emotional scenes played by Cooper, Lawrence, DeNiro, and Jacki Weaver as his mother. Silver Linings Playbook has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and nominations for all four of the major actors—Bradley Cooper (leading male actor), Jennifer Lawrence (leading actress), Robert DeNiro (supporting actor), Jacki Weaver (supporting actress).

After seeing the movie I can understand why it has received so many nominations. The chemistry developed between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and Cooper and DeNiro is amazing.

Silver Linings Playbook is a good look at mental illness done with a touching and sometimes humorous hand. I give it a B+

Movie Review: The Quartet Makes Sweet Music

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If you think a retirement home is populated only with stodgy old biddy bodies just waiting to die, you haven’t seen the movie The Quartet.

The setting is Beecham House, a charity retirement home for musicians in England. It is a beautiful place and could easily be a neighbor of Downton Abbey. The mansion is alive with all kinds of music as the residents prepare for their annual fund raising event, the celebration of Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday.

We see enthusiastic rehearsals peppered with artistic differences, temperamental musicians, and the ever-present diva. Then the biggest diva of all arrives; the operatic soprano who never had less than 12 curtain calls, Jean Horton, played by the regal Maggie Smith. Smith has become an expert at displaying haughty disdain with a look and a few well-chosen words.

Ms. Horton’s arrival completes a long-time famous quartet who has been living contentedly at the home. Reginald or “Reg” is Ms. Horton’s ex-husband which automatically creates tension. Then we have “Cissy” who walks a fine line between reality and the other world and Wilfred or “Wilf” played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Wilf is an aging playboy who says that, thankfully, he still has enough testosterone left to make life interesting.

Will the quartet get back together and reprise their roles? A lot more than the financial security of the home depends upon whether or not they will; they learn a lot about themselves along the way. You are never too old to live life and have a little fun.

This is actor Dustin Hoffman’s first directing effort and he nurtures his project into a flowering bouquet of colorful moments.

The Quartet is entertaining, beautiful, touching, poignant, and funny. It also has a few surprises at the end. I give it a B+

 

Movie Review on Video: Seven Psychopaths

You Do and You Die

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Seven Psychopaths is billed as a black comedy but the only thing comical about it is that it was ever made. The plot is confusing, complicated and convoluted and with more blood spilled and splattered than a butcher shop.

It is directed by Martin McDonagh and has its share of stardom in it including Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken. It is one of the bloodiest and most gory films I have seen. I can tolerate gore if it has a good story behind it; but, here, I found no story. It was so disgusting that it is one of the few films I have refused to sit through to the end. Usually I see some redeeming factors but I couldn’t find any in Seven Psychopaths.

Although some of the professional critics have given it good reviews, in my opinion don’t waste your time or money.

I give it an F.