Anyway, without further ado, let's quote my new favorite person Billy Eichner: "And away...we...go!"
Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL, which is not as cute as a regular seal, unless you are played by Bradley Cooper, but even then it’s a bit too grimy. Kyle was responsible for the most kills in U.S. military history. After four tours in Iraq, in which he killed 160 people from a far distance, he wrote a book about his rampages and was considered a hero. Back in Texas, he tried to help a fellow veteran who also suffered from PTSD (who DOESN’T suffer from PTSD after being in war? Nobody doesn’t (like Sara Lee)), but who struggled more with living with it. Kyle and his friend decided to take this fellow veteran who was suffering from a severe mental illness to a shooting range for shits and giggles. Whoever thought that was a good idea? Whose idea was it? Sarah Palin’s? The guy shot Kyle and his friend, probably with the gun they put in his hands or something, and that’s that. Idiots.
So. This movie may in fact be responsible for more anti-Muslim sentiment than any other in history. That is unsubstantiated by facts other than Twitter, which exploded with “Yeah kill those mofos!” in various forms as people saw the movie and contributed to its ridiculous grosses. I don’t know who thought it was necessary to celebrate the work of a mass murderer of men, women, and children. No one, seriously no one, guessed that it would make this amount of money, not in a million years, so I guess it was a good decision for the studio, bad decision for all of mankind. You can probably guess that I don’t think this movie deserves its Best Picture nomination. I mean. This gets in and not “Into the Woods”? What is life?? While Bradley is a phuh nom actor, I would have voted in Jake Gyllenhaal or David Oyelowo over him in this. The most glaring Oscar nom mistake made with regard to this movie, actually, is that Sienna Miller is not up for Supporting Actress. Okay, that’s not as bad as the movie being in Best Picture but it’s prettayyy prettayyy close.
Remember how upset I got about all the acclaim “American Hustle” got last year? This is my “Hustle” of this year. It is so The Emperor’s New Clothes all over again. While enjoyable to watch, it made no sense and was almost ridiculous. If this just came out independent of all the hubbub, it would have been a cute and interesting movie, and that’s enough for it. But to be the frontrunner for the Oscars?! That shit cray!
“Birdman” is about Michael Keaton playing pretty much himself, a former movie superhero who is trying to resurrect his career by doing something artsy; here, a play on Broadway. The character is producing, directing, and starring in the show, making it already the least realistic production of all time. Meanwhile, he constantly hears criticism from his superhero alter-ego with a creepy deep voice (like Christian Bale’s Batman), and he also has Birdman’s powers of flight and telekinesis. Do people see him fly? Do they just accept it? Is it all supposed to be in his head? If so, then what is the point? Having an active imagination doesn’t automatically make someone interesting. I imagine flying and doing all KINDS of crap with my mind all day long, but no one wants to see a movie about that unless I’m actually doing that stuff, correct? The movie opens with him meditating four feet in the air, and Zach Galifianakis walks in and throws papers at him. Did Zach notice that he was floating? At the end, Emma Stone looks up and smiles after he has ‘flown’ out the window. Does she actually see him flying? Did he die? Did he ever exist? What is happening throughout this entire movie? Why is Edward Norton such a prick? I have so many questions but none of them would actually lead to information that would lift this movie above mere entertaining nonsense.
Aside from all the metaphysical intrigue that might impress the kind of people who think detoxing is a thing, the real problem I had was that it shoved its themes down your throat. How can a movie that tells you so bluntly and obviously what it is trying to say be getting any sort of acclaim? Every scene, image, line states the idea that fame is hard and it really sucks to be afraid of being forgotten and showbiz is ridiculous. This is all seen most clearly in Emma Stone’s big scene when she yells at her father and gets an Oscar nomination for her loud scary yelling and repeating the movie’s lame thesis. It’s not a children’s book; you are supposed to give the audience credit to draw the conclusions themselves. I don’t understand how this movie can be considered sophisticated or even important if it says instead of shows. Maybe people are distracted by the camera work and the fact that it’s pretty much an uncut take. That’s cool, but it doesn’t make a movie good.
My biggest peeve is that at no point during the movie’s production did any of the hundreds of people involved say, “Hey, um, the characters keep repeating that the play is in previews and so the audience is only paying half price for tickets. That’s not true anymore; hasn’t been true on Broadway for, like, decades. Maybe we should fix that since we are trying to trick people into giving us legitimate awards?” Nope never happened.
This is just an actual conversation that happened: Me: “What did you think about “Birdman”?” Husband: “I thought it was a movie that we saw.” This is the only thing that matters right now.
Why am I always the only person who sees that the damn emperor is naked!
The only movie on this list that I’ll be okay with being remembered as the best picture of the year, "Boyhood" is notable because it was filmed over 12 years. Of course, as I think some comedian said this year but I can’t remember who (I want to say Chelsea Peretti), “It’s not impressive that you made a good movie when you had 12 years. My grandmother could make an Oscar-winning movie if you gave her 12 years!” But following the same actors really did make for an impressive film, even if they weren’t playing the most winning characters. It was incredible to see little Ellar Coltrane, adorable blue-eyed child, turn into a moody, emo, drinking, drugging, depressive young man. It was cool to see Patricia Arquette go from a caring, wonderful mother who has terrible judgment in men to a wonderful, caring mother who has terrible judgment in men. And apparently Ethan Hawke didn’t sign on to the whole 12-years-of-your-life (12 Years A Slave!) contract because he was the same age the entire time. Maybe all that time he spent sitting on his Chelsea front stoop kept him from aging.
One really well done aspect of the film may have been unintentional but I’m going to give the creators the benefit of the doubt. Mason has an older sister in the beginning of the movie, and she’s very headstrong, individualistic, trying to find her voice by pushing limits of annoyingness and cleverness as all children do. And then as she grows, she takes more than a backseat to her male sibling, whose search for himself is applauded while hers is quashed. And it’s not because it’s Mason’s movie; even as a supporting character you can tell that Sam has lost her voice. I never thought I would say the Wall Street Journal covered something well, but their view is worth a read oh my gosh so many things I never thought I’d say.
Anyway, it was a lovely little story that critics adored and that grew into this giant Oscary behemoth for a while, and then somehow it rebecame the underdog after ‘Birdman’ got some weird sounding thunder (see above). When I first saw it last summer, I thought it was great but not ‘best movie of the year’ quality. But it’s grown on me. And no one has said why better than Ellar Coltrane himself at the BAFTAs: “The fact that a movie like this, that is most interested in just the simplicity of human interaction, is being recognized alongside such grand pieces of art to me means that life itself without anything explosive or tragic must be more exciting than we let on.” Freaking perfect. A movie just about regular life that we all can relate to shows that that regular everyday life is worthwhile. Now that I’ve seen everything else, I am rooting for it to win. That’s not so much a testament to its greatness (although it is great) as a comment on how weak the rest of this lineup is, but still, it’s an A- (in a year when I wish we had an A++).
I really cannot believe how much better this movie was than I expected. Everyone said it was crap, Oscar-bait, not worth the time, but I feel the opposite. Except for maybe the Oscar-bait bit; it definitely is that.
Aniston plays a rude, callous, obviously depressed woman dealing with chronic pain. She relies on intense prescription drugs and the constant assistance of what I’m going to call her hired abuela Silvana to get by. Her support group’s leader (Felicity Huffman) asks her to leave because of her anger and tendency to upset the other members, mostly regarding the suicide of one of the group members (Anna Kendrick), which intrigues Claire. Kendrick’s ghost starts visiting Claire in regular Oxy-induced hallucinations, and it’s the only time rational thoughts, through her subconscious and spoken by the ghost, get through to her. Claire visits the family that the young woman left behind and strikes up a friendship with her widower (Sam Worthington). We also meet Claire’s ex-husband played by Chris Messina, my favorite, and he is touching even in his mere five minutes of screen time. He obviously wants to take care of her but she won’t let him, and you can see on her face that she wishes she could let herself be happy. We learn that Claire’s physical and mental pain is the result of a tragic accident that killed her young son, and she understandably can’t handle either. She tries to contain her emotions with drugs and apathy, but of course the point of the movie is to show how she starts to come around. Her reluctant friendship with Silvana (Adriana Barraza) is subtly portrayed and fantastic to watch, as without Silvana’s care Claire could more easily stop fighting. The ending bit with actual cake and this random girl seemed unnecessary, but the final scene with Messina’s gift to Claire is very moving.
Nothing much really happens; the impact of the film comes from seeing Claire’s everyday struggles. The story is nothing revelatory or even new, and a lot of critics say the same old sad story is not worth telling. But even if it only says what we already know, this movie is worthwhile because it says it so well. Aniston’s performance is off the charts, somehow convincing us that every time she moves she is in unbelievable pain. We can see it in her face, her body language, her breathing. She’s harsh and mean and you sometimes think ‘couldn’t this character be nicer to this person’, but then you realize she’s doing the best she can. It’s like witnessing a short period in the life of an actual person who is suffering and insufferable. Aniston is underestimated as a dramatic actor. The movie may be trite and predictable, maybe boring according to some, but it believably showcases the hardship of dealing with physical disability and with mental illness better than most things I’ve seen attempt it, so for that reason this movie deserves acclaim.
This was very Irish. And very upsetting. Brendan Gleeson was nice and lovely as a tiny village’s minister who seemed to have a nice and lovely head on his shoulders. One day in confession, the confession-giver on the other side of the wall says that he is going to kill Gleeson, not because he’s a bad priest (I don’t know the difference between the kinds of religion-spouters you can be; if anyone wants to explain that would be okay otherwise I am going to just use whatever words I want) but because he’s a good priest and a good man, and so he doesn’t have it coming, so murdering him would do more damage, or something like that. Whoever’s in the confessional is mad cray, but we won’t know who it is until the end, when he actually does kill Gleeson. I know that we were told that this would happen, but I still couldn’t believe he actually killed the reverend. Like, that’s nuts and sad and it really sucks when good people die in real life so why make a movie where the only thing that happens is that we wait for a good person to die? That’s mean! I guess I can’t rightly complain since the very beginning of the movie told us that this was going to happen, but I thought the two hour interlude of the movie happening meant that something could change and he could be saved and the killer might realize how awful he was being. But nope, it was just a long delayed single sentence. Also the killer was the guy I liked from ‘Bridesmaids’ and stuff so I didn’t want him to be bad but of course it was going to be him because he was the most famous actor in the supporting cast. Le sigh. He was abused by priests as a child, so you really feel bad for him, because that’s terrible, but it doesn’t help anyone to harm a good person. So ugh it made me sad just all around. The film was well made and acted and stuff but just not my thing. Also no one at any point in the film said they were on a never-ending road to the title so wtf.
One of the most flawless films of the year was the movie version of one of the best, most beloved books in recent history. It’s probably the most loved book since Harry Potter. TFIOS as the cool kids call it was simply perfect as a book and as a movie, which is pretty hard to accomplish considering it’s a love story between two teens with terminal cancer. Hazel Grace, one of the most believable narrators I can recall, tells of her ‘little piece of infinity’, her first and probably only love story. So easily it could have veered into TV-movie territory, but it never did, due to the strong writing and the stellar acting, primarily from Shailene Woodley, who began her career as a pregnant teenager on ABC Family but now is legit. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell are fantastic and cryfacy as her parents, and Willem Dafoe is well cast as the villain, though he’s not as egg-shaped as the book’s version.
Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters had a very difficult task, playing a role that readers probably had more and stronger opinions about than for Christian Grey, but he was excellent. Augustus is the very best if not the very first ‘manic-pixie-dream-boy’ of literature. Even though Ansel and Shailene play siblings in the ‘Divergent’ series and that’s kind of gross, their chemistry in TFIOS was some of the year’s strongest. It was just UGH SO GOOD. Nat Wolff, and not the guy who played McLovin despite my initial thoughts, played their equally-cancer-stricken blind friend whose girlfriend dumps him. The scene where the three of these poor kids egg the girlfriend’s car while her mother gives tacit permission is just everything. Despite TFIOS being considered a teen movie, or a girls’ movie (bullshit), or any other kind of non-white-male-Academy-member movie, it deserves to be on this list. With a more cohesive vision and by far a more successful finished product that most of the awardsy movies this year, TFIOS would have gotten my vote, at least for something. It at least will get the last laugh as I’m sure its DVD sales will top the rest.
Who knew Steve Carell could so effectively play so deranged? He was petrifying. Between Carell’s faux nose and his mouth-breathing, Channing Tatum’s Neanderthalic jutting-out jaw (and Oscar-worthy makeup making him nigh unattractive), and Mark Ruffalo’s trademark smiling-but-out-of-serious-concern-not-happiness face, the impressive physicality on display almost outshone the unbelievably horrifying mind games and lack of mental stability at the heart of the story. Carell as unloved, irrational, totally unhinged billionaire John E. Du Pont, or ‘the golden eagle’, as his friends call him (as he says in the funniest bit), will haunt my nightmares for a while. He fully earned an Oscar nomination if not a win, and I don’t see how he isn’t the frontrunner with Redmayne instead of Keaton. Just his mouth-breathing alone made a huge impact on the perception of the character.
The acting of all three main men – all three, not just Carell and Ruffalo who get all the attention to the exclusion of poor Channing Tatum who is left all alone with his jaw and his dance moves reminding himself that everyone thinks he’s beautiful just not in this movie and maybe that’s why he didn’t get nominated for anything – is the reason to see this movie. The parts are greater than the sum of them here, or however you would say that dumb line but backwards. What I mean is that the movie isn’t that great. It’s very well done and sharp and interesting, but not best of the year. Kind of boring. A little too long. I don’t want to see it again.
The best was that Vanessa Redgrave as the Du Pont matriarch had maybe one line and 3 minutes of screen time yet owned the entire movie. Her looks alone with those dagger eyes told us everything we needed to know about why and how John got so dramatically screwed up. If Judi Dench won an Oscar for being merely queen-like and saucy in ‘Shakespeare in Love’, this performance could have bought a country or whatever is better than winning an Oscar.
As Andy Torres rightly says, “Bitches be loco!” He would probably need to come up with a unique exclamation about Amy Dunne because she’s unmatched in her cinematic crazy, at least in recent times. I was a huge fan of the book “Gone Girl”, and was wary of its transfer to the big screen, but holy moly it’s even better, scarier, and more gripping.
If you don’t know what it’s about, you need to see it now because I don’t really feel like going through it all. Ben Affleck was perfectly cast as a sometimes good, sometimes bad, and mostly totally flawed guy who didn’t do the wrong thing everyone thinks he did but is still guilty of all kinds of bad stuff. He’s super charming and creepy at the same time. Rosamund Pike was petrifying and f-ing incredible as a psycho who works really hard and plans really meticulously a way to frame her cheating jerk of a husband for her fake murder. The casting was perfection all around, from the detectives Patrick Fugit and Kim Dickens to Nick’s sister Carrie Coon (who I saw on Broadway in her Tony-nominated performance in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” so she’s excellent) to the sleazy attorney for murderous husbands played by freaking Tyler Perry – all perfection. The best thing in the “Honest Trailer” for this movie is that Tyler Perry is credited as “Madea Good Movie For Once”. Even Nick’s girlfriend who only appears to show her boobs for a second they got from the ‘Blurred Lines’ video, which was a very appropriate audition tape apparently. Casey Wilson, whom I adore, was annoying clingy neighbor Noelle; I even pictured her when I was reading the book. And holy crap Neil Patrick Harris. For this and “Hedwig” I thought, really? That’s weird casting, but no, he was perfect in both. Poor NPH. That scene is now legend. It’s such a compelling story, how these two awful people who despise each other are sort of forced to stay together and you just feel bad for them but then remember that they are both terrible and sort of deserve each other, but then you remember again that one of them is much much worse, so then you feel bad again. It’s a roller coaster of emotions.
Wes Anderson’s second best movie ever (behind “Moonrise Kingdom”) was his most visually enjoyable, concerning an old lobby boy (lobby man? lobbyist) looking back on his days as a young lobby boy (did Wes Anderson coin this phrase because I’ve never heard it before) in this beautiful secluded grand hotel in a far-reaching land (not Budapest) when he had this kooky awesome mentor who went to prison, broke out of prison, ran away from Ed Norton and other royal mounties, and fell in love with a baker who had a very interesting scar (Tina Fey taught me you are never supposed to ask people about their scars), and like I don’t really understand what it’s about. But every single scene is perfectly shot, like a painting, and every image is beautiful. I don’t know how Wes does it on his bicycle made of vintage tuba parts.
The movie was so much fun, except when someone’s pet is thrown out a window (I hope they cut that out on the DVD). Also now that I think about it there were a few murders I was not okay with. Like that man. I really don’t remember what this was about; it came out a full year ago. But that shows how great this movie actually is – to last in the voters’ memories for so long is quite the achievement. Movies shooting for Oscar glory usually come out after November, not in March or whenever this did, because everyone forgets by the time the crunch starts. Well, this was so good that it’s still getting deservedly recognized, so that’s awesome. I remember I actually paid for this movie, $14 in Chelsea, NYC. Jesus H. The only movie I paid for on this list, with money I actually earned (as opposed to money I stole off of royal children). So that counts for something. I’d like to think it’s not my bias (at having paid from my own pocket) speaking, but this was my favorite movie of the year, in that I can predict watching and enjoying it again and again. I think. I don’t really remember. But I think I’d be super glad if this won Best Picture. Since it won’t, and something else with a B-word will, it sure as hell better win cinematography or something.
How much fun was this movie? The only thing better than watching silly dumb Andy Dwyer become a box office hero was the amazing ‘80s soundtrack. I forget what kind of planet-jumping bounty hunting was happening in this, and why they had that stone thinger from the ‘Avengers’ movies that contains all that power, but whatever. So fun.
THE IMITATION GAME
What bad luck Bandersnatch has with this movie’s timing! Both he and Eddie Redmayne are beloved Brits, starring in very strong movies about other beloved Brits in history, but Eddie’s getting more attention. While I think Eddie’s performance deserves to win the Oscar more, “The Imitation Game” is a much better film than “The Theory of Everything”. Despite knowing most of the details portrayed about Alan Turing’s life, I was still hooked in the story and tense with anticipation. I can’t imagine how people who didn’t know anything about him felt!
Bandersnatch plays super genius but antisocial Alan Turing, a mathematician who is determined to break Germany’s Enigma machine during World War Two. He recruits Keira Knightley, who is also brilliant and determined but knows how to be social, so she helps him make friends, sort of. She helps him not get beaten up a lot, how about that. Matthew Goode is in this too so that is lovely. While all the secret workers at Bletchley Park slave away trying to decipher current enemy messages, Turing is trying to construct an actual machine that will solve all of the messages. No one believes him, and it’s frustrating because we know he succeeds, but then he does and everyone’s happy and he saves the world, pretty much. They don’t really show him saving the world like Superman but you get the point.
What happens after the war is the real awful history. Turing was gay, and he was discovered in a time when homosexual behavior was illegal. So even though he was a hero responsible for saving the world, he was convicted of this crime and forced to take hormone therapy that totally messed up his brain. No one knew that he was a hero, because the entire operation at Bletchley was classified for many many years. It’s one of the saddest, most infuriating true stories of all time and there’s no excuse for it. The Queen gave Turing a posthumous pardon recently, but only because he’s now famous with a movie about him. She didn’t say anything about the other 40,000+ people convicted of the same bullshit. COME ON QUEEN GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. Ugh.
This movie is thus very compelling and well done, despite some over-dramatized details that were unnecessary because, well, did you hear how dramatic and compelling the truth is?? Embellishment was superfluous. Yet a film about this subject matter should be an Oscar frontrunner, a classic for the ages, and I don’t think it is. It’s a great movie, but it’s not as great as it should have been. It’s not Bandersnatch’s fault, though; he was wonderful.
I did NOT want to see this movie. I really did not. It’s three hours, did you know that? With no intermission. I cannot go three hours without a bathroom break, and RunPee is now paid only and I refuse to pay for services that were once free on the internet. Screw them. Anyway, I finally saw “Interstellar” a few months after it came out and it was freaking amazing. I was shocked at how great I thought it was, how successfully epic and how little I was annoyed by made-up science. Who wants to see movies based on real science anyway? Made-up science leads to greater entertainment possibilities!
In “Interstellar”, the man from the really creepy and hilarious Lincoln car commercials (Matthew McConaughey) is named Cooper and lives in the near future, in which the planet is running out of food and turning into a dust bowl. He lives with his father-in-law and two kids, who grow up to be Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck. Books in his daughter Murphy’s room start falling off her shelf in patterns that she tracks. It’s like the beginning of a ghost story. They try to decipher the pattern and one of the results is a set of coordinates. They drive to these coordinates because that’s not how teenagers in movies get murdered or anything, but they find a super top secret government operation run by Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, and other people. It’s NASA! Poor NASA lost all their funding because people thought it was more important to grow food than to explore space. But exploring space is their only option, they tell Cooper and Murph, because humans need to leave Earth. They tell him there’s a wormhole that was made apparent to them via unknown alien intelligence, and it leads to other planets that might be habitable.
They need Cooper to pilot the spaceship to these other planets because from those Lincoln commercials it looks like he’s an excellent driver who can multitask. He agrees because it’s either try to save humanity or doom all of humanity sooo it’s not really up for debate. His daughter is pissed though and he leaves for space while she’s mad at him, which sucks because he’s gone for a looong time. The first planet they visit is near the famous black hole Gargantua, which screws up gravity and time and stuff, so one hour on this planet is 7 years on Earth. Cooper and Anne Hathaway and Wes Bentley (poor guy is the new Sean Bean of movie fate) arrive and leave this ocean-covered, dangerous planet as quickly as possibly, but they still find their co-astronaut back on the ship having aged 23 years. Yikes. So now Murph is Chastain and the really angry son is Affleck. He’s so angry still because David Oyelowo told him he could be a farmer in those clothes.
The search for a new home planet continues with a trip to a really scary mess of icy cliffs that Matt Damon found. It looks like the earth in “Snowpiercer”, actually. Maybe it’s the same set. After all these years alone, Damon went superrrrr crazy but they don’t find out until too late that he’s totally homicidal and out of his mind so that sets the plan back. They lose their other shipmate, and the ship. Cooper decides to sacrifice himself into Gargantua so Anne Hathaway can make it to the final planet, and this is my favorite part of the movie. The black hole becomes a visual representation of space and time and stuff and he sees one moment from his past shown as scenes capturing every single instant. He’s just like standing around holding on to stuff while in a black hole. He realizes he is in Murphy’s room, before the books fall with the coordinates. And he realizes that it was HIM in the past/future/time is nonsense that was communicating via gravity with his daughter, so he pushes the right books through. Ahhh it’s so hurty on the braaaaain. Then the infinite room scenes start to peel away and he soars through blackness as we expect to happen in a black hole. But then he wakes up in a hospital. He was ‘FOUND’ floating through space near the new Earth, which was found and made our new home while he was gone but is all due to his findings, and Murph is like their god because she’s responsible for making it happen too and for sciencing and stuff. She’s also 100 years old and dying now. It’s completely nuts but it’s so well done. Great movie.
Why is this on the list? Because it’s the most famous movie of the year. Maybe not everyone in the world has seen it, but a helluva lot of them have heard about it because of all the controversy. So I watched it, and you know what? It was funny! And then it got crazy, because Seth Rogen doesn’t know how to end his movies.
The opening scene is the best cold open since everyone thought Chandler already had glasses. James Franco plays a TV host who is interviewing Eminem, and it’s his best interview ever. Eminem mentions how he’s gay, and Franco’s like what?? Did Eminem just come out on TV? And Em’s like, duh, it’s so obvious from my music, how did people not get it? What a good sport in this one sense and not in anything related to women!
It turns out that Kim-Jong Un is a big fan of Franco’s (I’m going with real names here) and so the CIA recruits him to assassinate the leader during an interview in Pyongyang. The only thing less believable than this plot is that they wouldn’t train him more rigorously before this mission. He’s so dumb. Like so dumb. But the scene when the agents first visit Seth and James at home is amazing. Seth opens the door to Lizzy Caplan and some other human, and in the back ground Franco is waking up and realizing that his private parts smell horrid. He yells to Seth, who is standing motionless in front of the CIA agents, continuing to talk about his ‘dickstank’. It’s AMAZING. When he finally realizes that they have guests, he offers them some of Seth’s cocaine. And the best part is when stupid idiot Franco tells reporters before the interview that he’s going to do a little hand stuff to KJU. He meant the way he was going to kill him, but like, still. In every way, so dumb. They are comic idiot geniuses.
They go to North Korea and everything goes wrong, of course, and Seth Rogen ends up losing fingers, James gets shot and we think killed but he was wearing a vest, and they blow up KJU with a rocket when he’s trying to escape in his helicopter. It’s ludicrous. But it’s a lot of fun.
Going into this movie, I wanted it to be my favorite of the year so I could yell about its omission from the Best Picture race. I may have put a little too much pressure on it, because I loved it, but I didn’t leave the theatre screaming I HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF PERFECTION IN FILM or something. I cried but no more than 3 times. So, while it was great, it wasn’t the best movie of the year. But who cares? It’s ‘Into The Woods’ on the big screen so it’s the best movie everrrrr!
“Into The Woods” a wonderful, important, depressing, exhilarating story that everyone needs to see, if they can’t see the play performed live. Written by genius Stephen Sondheim, it tells our favorite fairy tales at first, but then twists them around and together into pretty serious cautionary tales against…wishing? wanting to have children? not thinking your actions through to their kind of unexpected aftermath? I mean, it’s the latter, really, and also just a slap in the face to happiness.
So the Baker, played by the insanely lovable James Corden, and his wife, played by the impeccable Emily Blunt, want to have a baby. Like real bad. It’s the generic Olden Times that were Once Upon A Time, so why they couldn’t just wait for one of the many babies left on doorsteps who grow up to be important central characters in other literary works is beyond me. The crazy bat of a witch Meryl Streep, who deservedly is nominated for an Oscar for being wonderfully batty and terrifying, explains that oh she cursed the Baker and his family, because his dad was a thief who stole her greens. She sings a really wonderful song about all kinds of green vegetables and it’s really a wonder why vegans don’t use that more often. So, naturally, she responds to vegetable thievery with a bloodline curse, because that seems appropriate. Poor Emily Blunt can’t handle the idea of not being a mother to a baby that came out of her, so the Bakers make a pact with the devil/witch, in which they need to fetch four items from the woods. This is where everyone’s stories collide: The cow as white as milk is Jack’s cow, of Jack & the Beanstalk. They trade Jack, aka Gavroche from the Les Mis movie, aka the worst fairytale character of all time, 5 magic beans (that came from the witch via the Baker’s thief dad who left them in his coat, for like 30 years? Beans just lasted in that coat? Never fell out?) in exchange for the cow. Despite the fact that most characters have family members who die and like the entire kingdom gets ruined by giants, this is the saddest part: watching Jack part with his best friend, the cow. I mean. That’s tragic. ANIMALS HAVE FEELINGS.
Next, they need to collect the cape as red as blood – Little Red Riding Hood’s cape. LRRH (Little Red Riding Hood but also I want to say Long Island Railroad) is played by Broadway’s latest greatest ‘Annie’, Lilla Crawford. This girl can saaaang. Perfect casting. I’m really glad the producers changed their minds about their original LRRH casting, whichever is the dark-haired one of Sophia Grace & Rosie, the little British girls that Ellen seems to find hilarious. It’s a good change! It’s a goooood change. So the Baker tries to steal the cape from her, then realizes that is prettayyy mean, so he gives it back, then of course she and her Granny get eaten by the Big Bad Wolf – creepily beyond creepily played by lecherous Johnny Depp in pretty perfect casting – but the Baker hears the screams and saves them by killing the Wolf and cutting open his stomach, so LRRH and Granny can…just leave, not having been injured. They aren’t even wet with intestiney stuff. Sure sure. So Long Island Railroad gives the Baker her cape as thanks for saving her life.
The third item is hair as yellow as corn, or Rapunzel’s hair. Rapunzel happens to be the baby sister of the Baker that the Witch stole from his parents as punishment for stealing her vegetables. And the Baker never learns that this is his sister, which is REAL sad. Rapunzel is the only one who kind of gets a happy ending, maybe because she never is shown wishing for anything. Be happy in your secluded tower with nothing to do your entire life, says Sondheim, and ye shall be rewarded with Billy Magnussen as your prince and you two will be pretty much unaffected by a kingdom-wide shitstorm and ride off into the sunset without grave lessons to drag you down. Got it.
Lastly, they need the slipper as gold as…the golden slipper. I forget the fairytale words. By the way, how often am I fixing my automatic typing of ‘farty-tale’ hahaha. Anyway, the slipper is obviously Cinderella’s, who is played by a weirdly cast Anna Kendrick. She was great, mind you, but still, doesn’t seem right for Cinderella. Her voice is too chesty and strong in the belt to really sing some of the soprano Cinderella parts. It was good though. So she wishes to go to the royal festival so she can meet the Prince (played to perfection by a hilariously cheesy and sleazy Chris Pine) but every night for three nights she runs away after having danced with him. I don’t really get it. She tries to explain to Emily Blunt, who keeps interrupting her flight and trying to steal her shoe, that it wasn’t all what she expected. I don’t buy it. Cinderella be dumb. She can realize that the Prince isn’t all that and royalty is kind of lame without running down stone steps in high heels like a friggin moron. I ran down stone steps in really comfy Ugg boots once and I still fell about 30 feet and landed on my skull so why she keeps testing fate in those shoes on those steps is beyond me. What an idiot. Yes so she runs away scared all the time, but then she MARRIES the prince? And after a few hours is like nahhh brah, it’s been real, can’t do it though, but I’ma help this Baker man raise 3 children. What. She makes the least sense.
Oh so the Baker and the Blunt find all the things, and the Witch gets beautiful again (side effect), and Blunt is instantly 9 months preggers, which kind of sucks, because if she wanted to skip the whole pregnancy part why didn’t she just take a doorstep baby???
More shit falls apart. See Jack is the worst character of all time because after those magic beans grow into the famous beanstalk, he climbs it, discovers the land of the Giants, STEALS from the Giants, and then KILLS them when they try to reclaim their property. And he never seems to learn any lesson, he just gets away with killing innocent people however large they may be. His mother dies, which is obviously severe punishment and super upsetting, but he kills another Giant AFTER he learns this! Stop killing people you Jack wagon! Anyway the Giant is terrorizing the kingdom looking for Jack, and most people die as a result, including the poor Baker’s Wife, leaving a fragile James Corden to care for the infant while also trying to protect Jack, care for poor LRRH who can’t find any of her relatives after the Giant destroys their village, and find some kind of purpose for Cinderella (who kindly offers up her cleaning services for his house that now has 3 children). It’s f-ing depressing. The music is sublime, though. Everyone sounds pretty great, and Sondheim’s words cut real deep, Shrek. The most intriguing bit is when all the surviving characters try to figure out who to blame. It shows so much of humanity so quickly, how before they can move on and/or grieve, people need to know who’s at fault for what happened to them. And it’s a hard question to answer. Everyone’s at fault, and no one is. I’m pretty sure the moral of the story was to not have children…but that if you do, they will listen. Five stars. Out of how many, I haven’t decided, but five stars nonetheless.
If I were in charge of things, there would still be only five movies nominated for Best Picture, and I would definitely include “The Judge”. With Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall and wow I just realized they are both named Robert, this film covers so much emotional ground while feeling funny and gripping and well paced, a most impressive feat. It’s better than “Birdman”, I’ll tell you that, but then what isn’t. Why Robert #2 (Downey (#1 is my dad)) doesn’t get recognized anymore for how wonderful an actor he is, I’ll never understand. I mean I do understand; it’s because he’s always good so people just think he’s playing himself, but that’s taking his talent for granted and that’s bullshit. He is GREAT in this. His struggle to be as good a son as he is a lawyer while he still has a chance made me want to be as good a lawyer as he is at fast talking and making lawyering look fun and swanky. He plays the kind of character who can say sentences like the latter, look at your utterly confused face as you try to parse it, and go “Boom! Lawyered!” and leave you in his dust. He’s pretty cool.
Robert #3 (Duvall) would be entirely deserving of an Oscar this year if it weren’t for J.K. Simmons. It’s too bad no one’s gonna be like, JK, you’re the winner! Like just kidding, get it? No but anyway Duvall is beyond great. He’s so crotchety and miserable but he really gets you on his side, somehow. You feel for all the characters in this, including RDJ’s two brothers whom he left behind in his small hometown to care for the father he never got along with. The story gets a bit nuts, with a bit of murder and a bit of judicial nonethics and a whole lot of repressed familial resentment that finally boils to the surface for some dramaz, but it never feels as cartoonish as it could in less capable hands. ‘The Judge’ is one of the greatest movies on this list.
Oh my gosh. Julianne Moore, who will win an Oscar for “Still Alice” (below), should also win a Razzie, as well as a ‘What on Earth Were You Smoking’ award, for this movie. Everyone involved in making this monstrosity of a moving picture should be forced to take an unpaid sabbatical not only from acting and Hollywood but from living among other life forms until the dust settles. This was the worst piece of bulldoods I have Ever. Seen. In. My. Life. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that while I like to have fun with the boundaries of grammar and modern language usage, I have never once succumbed to the overuse of periods between single capitalized words. Until now. Until this heart-hurting mess of a thing.
I can’t even describe what it’s about without getting overheated and blinky. This Justin Bieber-sort of child star is making money and movies and stuff, and his dad is John Cusack, who is a therapist/motivational speaker/crazy person whose wife is actually his sister, but they didn’t know they were siblings until after they were together, so they say to their children, and decided, eh what the hell, it can’t hurt to stay married and have children, let’s just assume they won’t be supremely f-ed up in the head. Obviously their kids are as f-ed up as the parents are, and the older one, Mia Wazitspelledlike, was put in the loony bin for having burnt their house down and almost killing her brother and herself, but she’s free now because she’s 18, so she comes back to haunt their family in LA. She gets a job – through her friend Carrie Fisher whom she formed a relationship with on Twitter, like where did that detail come from you crazy crazy writers – working for Julianne Moore’s unhinged grimy actress as her assistant. Julianne takes therapy with Cusack where he screams at her about her more famous more talented deceased mother while she’s naked?? OH Julianne’s mother was a famous actress who starred in this ‘great movie of our time’ that every character in the movie quotes and watches all the time, and it’s really disturbing even in this movie. Meanwhile, Bieber kid is losing it, and he kills his friend’s dog, and then he kills one of his costars, or almost kills him, because he is haunted by the ghost of a little girl fan of his who died of cancer, and he thought the little boy costar was the little girl ghost so he strangled him to purge the ghost or something. Then Mia kills Julianne with one of her awards, like bashes in her head and stuff. And then she marries her Bieber brother because they learned that from their parents, and then their mother/Cusack’s sister-wife is found near a pool COMPLETELY on fire and just burns in a huge ball of flame obviously on purpose because she was BY THE WATER and no one ever explains how the f that shit happened or why and just omg why did anyone make this movie?? It’s HORRIBLE. It’s really the most offensive movie I have ever seen, offensive to the audience’s intellect, to other moviemakers who actually give a shit, to the world. Also Robert Pattinson is in it.
Former title: A Most Boring Movie. I could not really get into this or care for the main character because he, Oscar Isaac as an up-and-coming oil tycoon, was so severely unlikable. He wears this yellowish wool trench coat and just does stupid stuff all the time. So oil tycoons in NYC are attacking their competition’s trucks and workers, and Oscar Isaac (also from the equally boring “Inside Llewyn Davis”) as the head of the company being heavily attacked, does nothing. He chooses not to protect his drivers, whose lives are being destroyed physically and mentally, in any way. His people tell him to at least give the drivers guns to fight against the attackers, but he says no. He just sits back and literally does nothing except talk to his badass wife, Jessica Chastain, who deserved an Oscar nomination for this or anything she’s done this year over most of the supporting actresses nominated for stuff.
Wait so what happens….Oh boring man tries to chase one of the attackers, who is that guy I like from ‘Girls’ and ‘Hello I Must Be Going’, to find out which rival company is behind these attacks, but guy I like who looks real dirty in this says he wasn’t working for anyone; he was just stealing oil and selling it freelance or something. And like that’s the truth or something really dumb. Then Oscar Isaac actually gets to buy this great big property by the river that he really wants and that will really help his business grow, and everything works out for him, while all these other lives are ruined because he was a punk ass. Who wrote this movie. It was so dumb. ‘Hello I Must Be Going’ was wonderful though, did you see that? With Melanie Lynskey, from ‘Two and a Half Men’? She plays a young divorcee who is trying to get back on her feet and stuff. We have the same birthday. It’s a really good movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s omission from the Best Actor race is in my fact-based opinion the most egregious snub of this entire awards season. You can argue that some movies were better than others, you can debate whose direction really shone, but you cannot disagree with Jake’s performance being above and beyond most others. He was phenomenal, riveting and petrifying beyond belief as a sort of crime-scene paparazzo. After witnessing a horrific accident on the LA freeway, he sees Bill Paxton and other cameramen arrive immediately on the scene, filming the graphic scene to sell to the local news, Paxton explains. So Jake’s Lou Bloom, a petty thief, thinks oh I am completely deranged and psychopathic, I could totally do that! And he does, and he is indeed really good at it. A complete inability to empathize apparently helps a person spend all his time listening to police blotters and chasing the goriest of crimes and accidents.
Lou’s craziness begins to extend to actually manipulating the footage he obtains. He even causes an accident so Paxton is removed as his competition and then he sells the footage of that accident! He is freaking insane. Rene Russo is awesomely scary and badass as the news manager of a local channel who buys most of Lou’s footage, and is probably equally unhinged. It’s unbelievably disturbing to watch her and Lou in the newsroom looking at Lou’s footage of a triple murder like they were watching freaking ‘Mary Poppins’, oohing and ahhing and grinning at the horror. Then Lou lies to investigators about information he had about the murderers just so he could orchestrate and film their capture, which is of course bloody and horrific, and he’s just the scariest person ever and then he becomes really successful as this crime scene filmer and forms a big business. It’s the most disturbing movie in a long time, and Jake is unbelievable in it.
I should have known never to doubt Oprah. She was right to back this necessary movie. ‘Selma’ tells a small but crucial story in the Civil Rights movement, when Martin Luther King, Jr. led an enormous march from Selma to Montgomery to protest against white leaders’ refusal to allow black citizens to register to vote, among other serious problems in the region. The movie was really well done, although at times it felt dangerously close to dull for a history that is the exact opposite. David Oyelowo was great as MLK but the script didn’t teach me anything new about him, nor did we see any personal aspects of MLK that a movie focusing on a single event could have brought out, which is disappointing. Still, this is the sort of film that should be and probably will be required viewing in school history classes.
The cast was excellent; I especially enjoyed seeing Tony nominee Colman Domingo as one of MLK’s entourage. I also liked seeing Vee from ‘Orange Is The New Black’ as a nice lady and not a crazy assed murderous beeyotch. I want to say it deserves to be an Oscar nominee, and this year I think it does. But if we were down to 5 nominees (as I wish we still were), then I don’t know. It didn’t feel as ‘big’ and important as the story it told. The invigorating ending was the greatest part, and where Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay shone the brightest. I am SO glad they didn’t pull a ‘Lincoln’ and jump quickly from the big important historical event the movie focuses on to his assassination for no reason other than it happened. That ruined ‘Lincoln’ for me, the way unnecessary pull to include the assassination like it was an afterthought tacked onto the almost-final cut. ‘Selma’ showed much more maturity of thought and a much more cohesive vision in leaving that out and focusing on the core story it had to tell. For this and the entire faultless production, I believe Ava DuVernay’s lack of nomination was an egregious snub. It’s like the very white, very old-manned Academy said well last year we had a black movie and we gave it sooo many nominations, can’t we just give this one a Best Picture nod and leave it at that? No, you can’t. Best Director would have been greatly deserved, and Oyelowo would have been a shoo-in for a nom in a year where everything wasn’t all over the place. At least we can trust that my Penn-mate John Legend and the somehow lovable Common will win for their incredible song, ‘Glory’. I heard the song and liked it, but when you actually hear it at the end of the film, it freaking blows your mind. It’s so well done and it calls out Ferguson, an ongoing racial fight, so they have to win. Common was really good in the movie too, as a preacher in MLK’s group of friends. I feel like we would get along.
This movie went off the rails so many times and then it just pretended that the rails never existed. That’s how crazy it was. ALSO, I made a train joke, get it?
This butt-crazy-in-love-with-Josh movie is about the end of humanity. Global warming is destroying the planet and the human race, and the world decides that the only plan of action is to inject a new chemical into the atmosphere to help it cool off. Like 70 countries send rockets with the chemical up into space as a Hail Mary to save the planet. Of course, it doesn’t work, and it instead freezes the entire planet to death. The only survivors are those who were on board this crazy long train at the time, and 17 years later we see that it has just gone around and around the frozen wasteland that was once Earth. The people who had first class tickets run the train/world, economy tickets are middle class I guess, and the poor people who fought to hop the train as stowaways are the downtrodden, tortured masses with no rights.
It is a pretty fantastic premise, and an effective if obvious reflection of current societal structures, but dayyyum did they waste the potential. This movie quickly goes, like I said, just absolutely NANNERS. Chris Evans stars as a leader of sorts of the Tail People, as I am calling them, the poor and dirty and hungry and really sad people at the end of the train who regularly get beaten, tortured, and, if you are a child, stolen by the Nose People of the front. He and his brotherly friend played by Jamie Bell are itching to start a revolution to end the awful Pakistani prison-like conditions. The lead the Tail People in an attack on the guards who regularly check on them by betting that their guns are empty, which luckily they were, and escaping into the next car. But then guards get axes and stuff so shit gets brutal. Jamie Bell dies, p.s. Billy Elliot should never die. Lots of people die. It’s really gory and we see wayyyyy too many close-ups of eyes going blank in characters’ final moments. That shit is just gratuitous. Next, the TPs get to the car where their only source of sustenance, Protein Blocks, is manufactured. In the worst moment of maybe any movie, we see that the only food the TPs have been given for 17 years is made of millions of bugs and spiders and general awfulness. Gagggg. Oh Chris unlocks a morgue-style drawer and out pops a totally drugged out Asian man. This room of drawered people is either a jail or the room for drug addicts. Asian man designed all the gates between cars on this train, so Chris obviously needs him. He in turn demands that Asian girl in the drawer next door comes along too. We think they are lovers or something, maybe, but in the final scene of the movie Girl screams ‘Papa’ so he’s her dad yeah didn’t see that coming and also it’s didn’t make any difference in impact.
Anyway, there’s lots of fighting and lots of improvement in the seemingly endless number of train cars. We enter the greenhouse car, beautiful and overflowing with lush trees and plants, followed by the aquarium car, with a 360° tank full of oceanic life that somehow made it on the train. There’s also a sushi bar and chef on this car, which is RIDICULOUS. We see cars that are just raves, full of young people who look straight out of the Capital of “The Hunger Games”, with weird clothes and crazy hair. There’s a beauty salon car too. And a tanning room. Like seriously wtf.
The main reason I wanted to see this movie was for Tilda Swinton, who plays the crazy, Kim Jong-Il inspired leader of the train. Well, there’s another leader, Wilford, the creator of the engine who is revered (and taught to rich children in the school car) as god but Tilda is like the president. She’s nuts and unrecognizable, but it’s not as good a part as I hoped. I wanted to be able to rail against her omission from the supporting actress category but nah not for this. Should have been crazier and better. The movie, on the other hand, should have been less crazy and more better. MORE BETTER.
If for some reason you weren’t previously constantly plagued with the fear of developing Alzheimer’s in your old age, you are after seeing “Still Alice”, except ‘old age’ is replaced with just simply ‘age’. Julianne Moore plays a well-known, well-respected linguistics professor (that’s just extra evil) who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s soon after her 50th birthday, in the prime of her professional life. Every time a doctor talked to her, I expected her to Maggie Smith their asses (“I’m in my prime!”). To add insult to injury, doctors say that the more educated and intelligent one is, the more rapidly they decline. That’s really unfair. Moore more than earns her first Oscar (I mean she better) by bringing so much emotion, fragility and strength all at once to this character. It’s heartbreaking and it’s hard to watch but you can’t look away. You instantly care so much for Alice and you need to see how it turns out even thought you already know.
How can someone so young develop the disease, everyone asks? Well, she happens to have the genetic kind, which hits you young and – spoiler – is 100% guaranteed in your children. One incredibly tough scene is when Alice and her husband (Alec Baldwin, who is kind of an ass but you also kind of understand how hard this is for him, even though he’s an ass) tell their three grown children not only that their mother’s brain is deteriorating, but that it’s due to a form of the disease that they can all probably look forward to! It’s like, congrats Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Kristin Stewart; you’ve been good, but you have a good 20-30 years before this is you. The scene is so unbelievably fraught with tension and fear even though no one is saying much. I never gave Kate Bosworth much credit as being anything more than a lollipop head, but what her face conveys in the split second when she goes from caring about losing her mother to realizing that soon this will be her convinced me that she’s actually an actress/human person.
I was lucky enough to see this movie with Julianne Moore in the building, and it was followed by a Q&A with her. She was lovely and funny and, if it’s possible, her shared details about the filming process made her performance even more impressive. The film evidences a slow decline of her functions, her speech, a subtle change in her physicality. When watching it, you don’t remember that movies are never filmed chronologically unless your director is M. Night Shyamalan. He’s not the director of ‘Still Alice’. So you realize that Moore had to jump around to film different scenes and precisely portray the correct stage of her decline. That is insanely difficult and really impressive (similar to Eddie Redmayne’s incredible performance in ‘Theory’). All of the acting in this is stunning, even from Kristin Stewart. A wannabe actress who can’t catch a real break, she becomes her mother’s caretaker when Alec can’t deal with it any longer. Their scenes, though brief in length and limited in number, are beautiful and touching and they do so much to show how important it is for the person suffering to be surrounded by love, even when you think they are unaware of it. I was actually prepared to weep for the entire two hours, but Alice’s strength and the love around her made the story sad and heartbreaking but not miserable.
How Bill Murray is not in the current awards season position that Michael Keaton’s in is the biggest mystery since everything Geoffrey Rush thought was a mystery 17 years ago (oh my god it was 17 years ago ahhh what is the world???). Murray’s performance in ‘St. Vincent’, this beautiful, sweet, hilarious little movie about a curmudgeon’s bonding with his young neighbor, was the best I’ve ever seen him and one of the most touching of the year. I was so happy watching this movie.
The rest of the cast is equally great, though Melissa McCarthy is playing the straight man in it, which is a huge waste of her ability. Like, she’s Sookie again. Which is great for her young son but not for me. Anyway, that young son, Oliver (played by fantastic newcomer Jaeden Lieberher whose parents are apparently not as cool as McCarthy), has a tough time adjusting to the new school and neighborhood he and his hard-working single mom have just moved to in order to flee the cheating jerk of a husband/father. His mom works late hours at the hospital, and so they turn to their crotchety as hell new neighbor Vincent to watch Oliver after school. Vincent begrudgingly agrees but for a strict hourly wage, and ends up taking the kid to the race track, teaching him how to gamble, how to fight, and all kinds of hilariously inappropriate things. Vincent also spends most of his time with a Russian prostitute (Naomi Watts), pregnant with someone’s, maybe Vincent’s, baby.
The relationship between Vincent and Oliver grows subtly and strangely but so well. You easily see how they are positively influencing each other even though it’s not obvious thrown at you. Oliver beats up the bully at school who has been torturing him, but then he shows even greater maturity when he actually befriends him, recognizing that people’s outward behavior isn’t always all there is to them. Likewise, he mentions to his mother that it’s okay that his father wins joint custody even though he’s a jerk because he’s still his father. This little boy learns so much about the real world from Vincent. Meanwhile, Vincent softens a tiny bit, and he starts to care about the kid, one of his only friends. You expect his experience to be a cliché about how he had no heart and the kid teaches him how to love, but it’s not true. We see that Vincent already has an enormous capacity for love that the people who know him best are well aware of, but that requires new people to get to know him first. He has been caring for an old woman in a nursing home for eight years, visiting her regularly and doing her laundry, all while pretending to be her doctor (to avoid explaining who he really is so she doesn’t get spooked by having lost her memory). We learn later that this woman is his wife, who long ago forgot Vincent, yet he refuses to forget her. It’s really sad and it helps to soften the character.
The script makes you fear a bit that it’s doing too much, what with a hospitalization for Vincent, several scary interactions with Vincent’s bookie Terrence Howard, a custody battle between Oliver’s parents, Naomi Watts having the baby, Chris O’Dowd teaching his students seemingly about nothing but saints (it is Catholic school), etc. It all stays pretty contained though, and the ending ties everything together cleanly. Maybe a little too cleanly, but who cares. This movie is definitely one I’d be happy to watch again.
Stephen Hawking is an incredible genius of a person who invented time or something awesome like that. This movie shows Hawking’s struggle with ALS, beginning with him as a young and healthy college student and ending with the Hawking we know today, wheelchair-bound, head tilted, speaking through a computer (in an American accent, a funny part of the movie). Eddie Redmayne as Hawking is wonderful, and definitely deserves the Oscar. Felicity Jones as his tough-as-nails wife Jane is also great. But the movie as a whole should have been better.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a worthwhile movie that you should see so you can cry a lot and yearn to give hugs to both Stephen Hawking and Eddie Redmayne. But a movie about such an important person, possibly the only important scientist of our time who’s actually celebrity-famous, could have and should have been superb, off the charts, one for the ages. Darn. But it is lovely, and the relationship between Stephen and Jane is remarkable. During a lull in the film, I googled Jane Hawking (it’s okay I was home) and yelled at the TV, ummm these people get divorced?? Why is this whole movie their love story then?! But their relationship is so special that even when it ends in some form it still continues beautifully in another. They’ve said they are still best friends and always in each other’s lives and that actually seems more special in a way. It’s heartbreaking to watch the early struggles as they manage Stephen’s rapidly deteriorating physical condition, but it also is heartwarming to see how determined they were and how emotionally and mentally strong they were. It’s a wonderful story that’s well told just, like many, many, many others on this list that I’m saying the same thing about, should have been better.
When you put a cast this incredible together, there’s always a big chance that it’ll backfire and you’ll have a mess of stars just being a big old mess together. Luckily, that didn’t happen here. The flawless, amazingly fun cast helped make this lovely, emotionally honest movie without veering into melodrama territory. Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Kathryn Hahn, Corey Stoll, Aaron Lazar, freaking Jane Fonda, I mean, this cast. The film had a really sad premise of four adult children going home for their father’s funeral, and of course all their drama and baggage and repressed feelings come out as they grieve.
There’s a lot of pent up aggression between the relatives, and any secrets they try to hide come out, of course. And it’s kind of predictable but it’s such a pleasure to watch.
My favorite part was that one of Tina’s toddlers kept bringing his potty into public rooms and just pooping wherever he pleased. I feel like he was a metaphor for everything great in the world.
I wanted this to be the best movie ever so I could rally behind Angelina in her sadness at the lack of nominations, but it was just okay. The direction was great, but for a movie about a poverty-stricken boy who grows up to be an Olympic runner and then fights in WWII only to be taken prisoner in Japan, it was kind of boring. Like, that’s HARD to accomplish. Also, you know the balance of life events is off if I wanted to see more running - I hate running. I don’t like people telling me that they ran today and I really don’t see the point of paying lots of money to run a certain number of miles outside with hundreds of other people when you could run the same amount on your own and give the money directly to a charity so it doesn’t get 90% wasted on setting up the event and other dumb shit. Just run on your own time and stop bragging about it.
Anyway, Jack O’Connell was really stunning as real person Louie Zamperini, who somehow survived being tortured and starved and regularly beaten as a Japanese prisoner of war, and this only after he was lost at sea for 47 days with two of his friends, only one of whom also survived. This guy could not catch a break. What an incredible man and an incredible life. But it felt like the whole second half of the movie focused too much on the blood-boiling awfulness of his main prison guard, who was played by a Japanese pop star almost to a cartoonish level of mean. It got weird, and I feel like the point got lost. Being imprisoned in a war camp in Japan, I mean, that shit’s as bad as it gets, I’m sure, but the audience knows that. We did not like being hit over the head with how many times Louis was hit over the head. The scene where the entire camp is forced to punch him in the face is like desperately wanting to be powerful but it mostly felt annoying. Argh. Zamperini’s life deserves a miniseries or something epic on HBO, not this movie that really tried to be epic but wasn’t.
What’s an effective, quick way to undo 10 years of yoga and all the benefits that the practice brings to calming your heart rate and your blood pressure and breathing and stuff? Why, seeing "Whiplash", of course! I didn’t realize until the end credits, when I finally exhaled, that I had been sweating and white-knuckling my armrest and freaking not blinking for nearly two hours. This movie was f-ing TENSE. I think this was the most stressful film I have ever seen, mostly because I never looked away and the aforementioned failure to blink. But aside from not blinking because my entire body was on red-alert, I also didn’t because I didn’t want to miss a single freaking beat.
I didn’t expect to love this movie as much as I did, especially when the people behind me were talking through the previews. (Didn’t they see my head slightly turn sidewards in the universal sign for ‘Shut up, people behind me’?) But man alive. This was an excellent film. It had no flaws. And I expected flaws because I have hated Miles Teller in pretty much every single thing he’s ever done except be born in Philadelphia. But he was GREAT. And in a less crowded year he would absolutely have deserved an Oscar nomination. I felt everything his character was supposed to feel, which probably accounts for why I needed to walk for a good hour in the cold afterwards just to calm down and get my brain back together. He goes through a shittonne of torture dispensed by J.K. Simmons as his petrifying, tough conductor in music school. I mean. I loved "The Judge" and I felt bad that Robert Duvall was losing all the awards to J.K., but man that shit is deserved. This was some role, and J.K. (what unfortunate initials I’M SERIOUS) saved it from being a caricature. He made this psycho scary chair-throwing lunatic human and at times I actually felt bad for him. And I felt really bad for Miles’s Andrew because I was him, at least I felt like I was experiencing everything he was, which is the sign of really damn effective acting and filmmaking and just UGH this movie. It should definitely win for editing because there was not one slow or unnecessary instant. And that drumming. I just ahhh my heart rate is rising again just thinking about it I need to go lie down for 45 minutes. No, AN HOUR. A GOOD HOUR.
Once you accept that every time Reese Witherspoon picks something up, they will cut to a flashback sex and/or drug scene, then you will be okay. "Wild" tells the story of a sort-of dumb, sort-of brave woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, from Tijuana to Seattle, I think, in order to rediscover her self and mourn the death of her mother. Nothing much happens aside from the walking, and yet the film is so affecting and moving because you feel like you are walking with Reese and feeling everything she goes through as Cheryl Strayed (interesting last name given her story). After her mother dies of cancer and the chance for a proper goodbye is stolen from her, Cheryl goes off the deep end, as we see in flashbacks. Lots of drugs, lots of casual sex, lots of bad stuff as she loses more and more of who she is. She takes on the very scary PCT trek, three months alone among the elements, to reclaim her life and prove she can.
The off-putting flashbacks are actually really effective at showing what Cheryl has suffered through and how she is dealing with her past while walking towards her future. It helps us sympathize with her and root for her to keep putting one foot in front of the other, especially when those feet are shorn of their ill-fitting hiking boots and somehow held together with duct tape and sandals, and when she has to camp in feet of snow that have dissuaded other hikers from continuing. It’s quite the journey she’s on, even though nothing much seems to happen. The movie is small, quiet, and it should be boring, but it’s not, mainly because of Reese’s performance, partly due to Laura Dern’s fantastic tiny role as her mother. It’s also because even though her actions are unusual, her reasons for the undertaking are completely understandable, and even though many of us would never want to do this hike, we recognize why she needs to finish. My favorite part was in the beginning, when she was leaving her motel room to begin the trek and tried to stand up with her ridiculously heavy backpack on and she fell over. I liked it because that happened to me at the airport last month when I returned to London with a backpack full of 75 Clif bars. So it was really relatable.
THAT'S ALL FOLKS. What do you think? Agree, disagree? Are you outraged at one of my opinions or omissions? Do tell. But not if it's too mean.