Ida [REVIEW] Nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2015

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My wife is Polish, so this was a very talked about film in our household. I really try to not write negative reviews, but this movie plodded horribly and was mostly predictable. The plot was deep, but deep in a way that has been done over and over again. I feel bad for Polish filmmakers nothing from Poland gets recognized unless it has some connection to World War II.

The plot was basic and boring. Many scenes plodded and went on too long. Those are the most important things. But there were things that were beautiful in this film. The cinematography was wonderful. It had the standard European still shot with people moving in and out, many of these shots were from interesting angles and created their own sort of beauty. The choice to go black and white was also compelling and gave the film a more rustic feel. The watcher got a real feel and idea for what Poland felt and looked like in the 20 years after the war. This just isn’t enough to make a two hour film interesting.

2014 List Still Has a Ton of Unwatched Films

We are almost never able to complete these lists. Sometimes the documentaries and the foreign films are especially hard to find. The bold films are what we’ve seen to this point and the rest are waiting in the wings.

We still haven’t watched Nebraska on the Best Picture nominated list.

Perhaps I should just start making purchases of these movies.

12 Years a Slave 
American Hustle 
Captain Phillips 
Dallas Buyers Club 
Gravity 
Her 
Philomena 
The Wolf of Wall Street 
Frozen 
The Croods 

Nebraska 
The Great Beauty (Italy) in Italian 
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium) in Dutch 
The Hunt (Denmark) in Danish 
The Missing Picture (Cambodia) in French 
Omar (Palestine) in Arabic 
20 Feet from Stardom 
The Act of Killing 
Cutie and the Boxer 
Dirty Wars 
The Square 
Despicable Me 2 
Ernest & Celestine 
The Wind Rises 

The Imitation Game [REVIEW]

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I am behind on my Oscar/Golden Globe film watching. I’ve normally seen at least half of them by now and I’m pretty sure Imitation Game is one of the few on the I’ve actually watched.

The film and the performances were great. For people who are fans of historical films then this is another reason to make sure it’s on your list to watch. Though I count myself as a history buff, historical films are sort of like defensive lineman in American Football, because of their categorization they can never become the best of an overall group for me. The reason for this is because my nature is to spend the whole of the film wondering if what is being shown on screen is historically accurate. I watch the film and I start thinking about googling articles like Slate’s How Accurate Is The Imitation Game?

The positive effect of these films is that they inspire me to learn more about subjects I either knew about passively, which is the case with the Imitation Game, or knew nothing about at all.

Books like these get added to my wishlist:

Alan Turing: The Enigma
Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma
The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park
Enigma: The Battle for the Code
Enigma: How the Poles Broke the Nazi Code (Polish Histories)

I’ve noticed this inefficiency in my movie watching and I adjust to watching it for what it really is, a story. From that point of view the film is a must see. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a wonderful character based on Alan Turning and is much better than I felt he was in Star Trek. It also gives me an positive introduction to him as the actor most likely to play Dr. Strange.

There isn’t a bad character in this film. All were developed sufficiently and the pacing and action of the film delivered. It received its well deserved nomination at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

2015 Movie List Based on Golden Globes and Oscars

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My wife and I do this thing every year. After getting sick of wasting our time watch crappy movies we make a list of the Oscar nominated films and start checking them off, adding certain snubbed films and never forgetting our corny comic book and sci-fi roots (yes we love the Marvel movies and crapfests like Jupiter Ascending).

We normally get a decent start on this list but not this year, we have plenty to watch, write, talk and think about.

American Sniper 
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) 
Boyhood 
The Grand Budapest Hotel 
The Imitation Game 
Selma 
The Theory of Everything 
Whiplash 

Foxcatcher
Two Days, One Night
Still Alice
Gone Girl
Wild
Ida Poland
Leviathan Russia
Tangerines Estonia
Timbuktu Mauritania
Wild Tales Argentina
Citizenfour -Documentary
Finding Vivian Maier -Documentary
Last Days in Vietnam -Documentary
The Salt of the Earth -Documentary
Virunga -Documentary
Big Hero 6 
The Boxtrolls 
How to Train Your Dragon 2 
Song of the Sea 
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya 
Into the Woods
Pride
St. Vincent
Force Majeure (Sweden)
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel)

The films in bold we put a slightly stronger emphasis on since we skew towards the Academy Award nominees. I personally love the foreign films, but they are often difficult to find, haven’t watched all of the 2014 nominees yet.

Her Film Review

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Her directed by Spike Jonze and staring Joaquin Phoenix is one the less talked about Oscar nominees of the 2013 season. Despite the fact that it had no shot to win the Oscar it is still a great film, with all the subtle weirdness you’d expect from a Spike Jonze picture.

The film tells the story of a near future relationship between a bodyless artificial intelligence and a lonely recent divorcee. Much of the beginning of the movie is getting the strangeness of the situation forced on you in a way that keeps the watcher interested.

I liked it a bit better than 12 Years a Slave, but it was still a standard character study film similar to The Wrestler and Lincoln from years prior. The difference being that the study was on a relationship between a computer and a human where the other two films were more traditional studies on an individual character. Same as Lincoln and The Wrestler, Her is dependent on the performance of the lead, which Joaquin Phoenix handles masterfully, Scarlett Johansson’s disembodied voice is also wonderful form.

It didn’t win best picture and that’s okay. Lincoln shouldn’t have won either, but the acting achievements should definitely be recognized.

War Horse [Film Review]

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Took awhile to get to this film. It was nominated way back in the 2012 Oscars. There are those movies which are good, but you can tell they ended up on the awards lists because of who directed them. Steven Spielberg has a much easier road to getting something nominated than a lot of other directors. I also had a tough time with all the foreign characters speaking English to each other in their particular accents.

Warhorse isn’t going to go down as one of his classics, but it doesn’t make it a bad film. The film was entertaining and somewhat original. Instead of following a man into war you mostly follow a horse’s life into World War I. The people it meets, the other horses it meets and its adventure were genuinely interesting. There are a couple relationships in hindsight that I wish were fleshed out better, like the main horse’s horse companion and the French girl. The movie was a good time, it was equally harrowing and poignant. Looking back it felt like a set of interconnected short stories the were very entertaining if not deep.

12 Years a Slave [Film Review]

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Films like these are needed in our culture. It’s important not to forget. I’ll have more to say about the idea of not forgetting and films like 12 Years a Slave hopefully in a more long form fashion.

From the perspective of a film review the film was great. In particular Chiwetel Ejiofor performance was great. Some people are calling this a Best Picture favorite and I can’t comment on whether or not that’s deserved quite yet but if he doesn’t win for leading actor then the other nominees must have had game changing performances.

The film is a heart wrencher just as anybody with a heart or brain would have expected, and the plot, based on a true story, is amazing in itself. I’ll always lean positively towards the focus on the individual and the facing of problems special to circumstance. This why true stories often make such good stories, writers in film and literature often paint too broad of a stroke.

I won’t get into detail here but if this wasn’t a true story then some of the ideas and scenes would have definitely not been written in the way the were.

Silver Linings Playbook [REVIEW]

Years ago when I was a young sexually charged 14 year old I was tricked by a movie trailer for a film called Coyote Ugly. This trailer made the movie look like the exact kind of movie a, pre-internet is everywhere, 14 year old boy would want to see. Later on in life I happened past the movie and found out how I was fooled. This wasn’t movie filled with sex bar dancing and stripping! It was a chick flick! Tricked!

Same thing happened with George Clooney’s The American. That trailer made it look like we were going to get a high charged action movie, instead we got a film that did well to perpetrate all negative stereotypes for an overly artsy European movie.

The opposite happened with Silver Linings Playbook. The trailer made it seem like some run of the mill chick flick with a crazy person twist. That threw me off, thank goodness it was at least nominated for an Oscar or I may have never gotten around to watching it.

The film balances all the areas necessary to make a great drama. The director, David O. Russell, knew when to lighten the mood and paced the dramatic parts well. Bradley Cooper also showed his acting chops by playing a person with mental problems as well as anyone else could have, and his character wasn’t the easy psycho lunatic to play. Lots of actors would find success playing the Joker from Batman. Cooper excelled at the subtleties of the part.

Everyone else was great too. DeNiro like always played a roll that made you believe his character was real person and Jennifer Lawrence played a different kind of crazy that contrasted perfectly with Bradley Cooper’s character.

The film is memorable. It’s not just a “chick flick”. It’s an entertaining and enlightening film all the way around.

The Wolverine [#Film Review]

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I love me some super hero movies. My wife and I do the movie watching two ways, we try to catch all the relevant Oscar and Golden Globe nominees for best picture, best foreign film and best documentary and then we also suck up all the stupid action that comes along 2-3 times a year with super hero films.

These kind of movies only have to do one thing for me to like them, they just have to be as exciting or more exciting than the stories I’d make up for myself when I was child with my Wolverine and Iron Man toys. There is no excuse for the first fifty minutes of this movie to have essentially one action scene (I’m counting the wedding and the train as the same scene since they were two minutes between each other). I give a wide birth to these movies, I really like them and I allow myself to like them and The Wolverine was good, but Wolverine needs to be fighting more a lot more. He wasn’t rated the highest level in fighting in Overpower to have hardly actually fought in his movies. He’s an eight for godsake!!
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Les Misérables [REVIEW]

People love to start their conversations about Les Misérables with how much they hate musicals. Then if they’ve seen Les Misérables they qualify their first statement with a “but I loved Les Misérables”.

I doubt these people have seen many musicals and I’ll have to admit I don’t have a ton of experience with them either. So Les Misérables is somewhat new to me. I haven’t watched enough musicals or even thought about it enough to really know how I feel about them yet. I tend to lean towards them being not a favorite genre.

I think the singing most of the time got in the way of the story, a story which one can tell is much deeper and personal than the musical allows it to be. Something in me thinks that Victor Hugo would believe the stage sort of missed the point.

What this film did do for me was at least give me a respect for musicals. Some parts of this film were very moving and I don’t think they would’ve been that way in a normal dialogue drama. The music at times did out do the type of dramatic film I’m used to. The choruses were wonderful and most of the time out did the solo singers.

The film also made me interested in exploring this genre from the stage. So my Les Misérables review is I liked it but I didn’t love it but I’m admitting I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about either.

  • Watching Reading Listening Doing

    READING
    Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Anthony Beevor

    Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by
    Brian Tracy

    Sandman by Neil Gaiman

    LISTENING

    Colored Sands by Gorguts

    Run the Jewels II by Killer Mike and El-P

    Concerto in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 129 written by Robert Schumann performed by Yo-Yo Ma

    WATCHING
    Futurama

    Star Trek Original Series Season 1

    DOING

    Studying for Chartered Professional Analyst Level II Exam

    Trying to organize a writing and working out schedule

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