Saturday, March 1, 2014

Oscar Movie Reviews (and a few predictions)

My friend Heather and I were supposed to host our annual Oscar party tomorrow night.  But there is a bunch of (STUPID!) snow in the forecast, and we decided to cancel it.  I'm really sad about it, but it is a lot of work (and money) to throw a party.  It would really stink to go to all that trouble and then have no one show up because of the snow.  We are going to attempt a post-Oscar party instead at a later date with all the same food and activities...just without the Oscars!

I was on track to see all nine Oscar nominated movies this year, but I got a little derailed the past few weeks and only ended up seeing six.  Here are my thoughts on this year's nominees (and the order in which I would rank them):

1.  American Hustle:  I actually saw this one twice, and out of all the Oscar nominees, it was my favorite.  I am a fan of David O Russell's previous two movies (The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook), and American Hustle was just as good.  It's a fun movie that is based on a true story, but this version is an "over the top" telling of the true story.  It's a comedy, and while not laugh out loud funny, the humor is subtle and smart (very similar to the humor in Silver Linings Playbook).  Jennifer Lawrence was so good, and her character was by far my favorite part of the movie!  If I were picking Best Picture, this would be it.  But I don't think it will win.

2.  Twelve Years a Slave:  This was not an enjoyable movie, and it's hard to say that I liked it.  But it was extremely effective storytelling and an important story that needs to be heard.  Based on the true story of Solomon Northrup (and the book he wrote), it is about a free, highly educated black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.  The movie is not afraid of brutal violence.  Often some of those difficult scenes were purposely extended and dragged on beyond what was comfortable for viewing.  I kept wanting to say, "stop, I don't want to see this anymore!"  It was an effective reminder of the brutality that happened to helpless people who were not able to escape with the cutting of a camera.  I'd say this is a movie everyone should see once, and one you will never want to watch again.  (My friend Heather strongly disagrees with me on this movie, and she did not like it at all).  My guess is that this will be the Best Picture winner this year.

3.  Gravity:  The technology in this one is earning it rave reviews and for good reason; it's impressive.  Unlike 12 Years a Slave, Gravity is highly entertaining and fun to watch.  The camera work and the cinematography are amazing.  Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are good.  But the's pretty lame and not original at all.  It's like the writers just imagined every possible thing that could go wrong on this space mission and then put ALL of those things (and then some!) into the movie.  Again, it was fun to watch but not Best Picture worthy in my opinion.  I'm predicting this one to win for Best Director.

4.  Her:  This was a science fiction/romance movie set in the future.  It's about a man who falls in love with the voice in his computer operating system.  The concept was super interesting to me, although the pacing of the movie was slow at times.  I thought it might be a little like Lars and the Real Girl, a movie that I loved.  It's not quite as sweet and innocent as Lars, but I thought it was decent.  I loved the style of the movie; while set in the future, everything has a very retro feel to it, which makes sense since styles seem to recycle through the years.  And the message of the movie is thought-provoking:  how far will we as a society take our dependence on technology?  I wouldn't mind seeing this one win for Best Original was definitely an original concept!

5.  Captain Phillips:  I liked this movie.  It was fairly good (though a bit long).  The fact that it was based on a true story also makes it more interesting.  I don't really know that I would put it in the running for Best Picture though?  I did like the concept of looking at the relationship between the kidnappers and kidnappees.  There was a point at the end when I had a lot of compassion for one of the kidnappers, and I think that was effective storytelling. 

6.  Wolf of Wall Street:  This is the only movie that I did not like.  I should have read the reviews more closely before seeing this one.  And I should have known better because I generally do not like Martin Scorsese movies.  This movie was just too much.  Too LONG!  Too much foul language.  Too much sex.  Too much drugs.  I'm not one that is easily offended by content in movies, but this one was unnecessarily over the top.  And did I mention too long?  There were three (maybe four) scenes that were excellent and truly funny.  But the rest of the movie...ugh!  It doesn't help that the story itself is about an unlikeable guy who squanders and steals money and then he pretty much gets away with it all, seemingly learning nothing in the end.  There was nothing redeeming in this story or this movie.

Movies I Haven't Seen Yet

Nebraska:  I started to watch this last night, and I really wanted to watch it.   But I had the most horrible migraine, and I just could not even stand to open my eyes.  I only watched about the first 30 minutes before giving up and going to bed.  I was planning to finish it today, but Daniel returned it.  I liked what I saw, and if I were to guess my thoughts on the whole movie, I think it would be fall around number 3 or 4 on the above list.

Philomena: I have heard lots of good things about this movie, but the previews never really grabbed my attention.  I thought it looked a little boring, so I never made the effort to see it in the theater.  A lot of people liked it though, so I will probably rent it when it is available.

Dallas Buyer's Club:  I would like to see this as everyone is talking about Matthew McConaughey's and Jared Leto's performances, and it appears that they are a lock to win Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.  But after reading about some of the movie's content, I wasn't sure I really wanted to see the movie.  I got my fill of immoral content in The Wolf of Wall Street and couldn't stomach much more this movie season.

And I just want to mention my favorite movie of last year, which sadly failed to get nominated for anything this year:  Fruitvale Station.  You can read my review here, and then you should go rent it!


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