Monday, March 31, 2014

March Movie Status

I saw 17 new movies in the month of March, I had 1 re-watch, and I rewatched a TV season.  I finished off the last of the movies that appeared for the first time on the 2013 year end IMDB Top 250 list, so I am once again complete on the 16 year consolidated list.

I am semi-actively working on the following lists: Oscar Best Picture Nominees, the six 101 [Genre] Films You Must See Before You Die lists, and They Shoot Pictures Don’t They.  Some of these overlap, but I am showing films under only one list’s count in the details below. 

All of these different lists can be seen by clicking on the names of them.  They link to my Lists from Chip posts on them.

Here are the 17 new movies, 1 old one, and the TV season I saw in March.  Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

IMDB (3): Before Midnight (2013), Rush (2013), Prisoners (2013)

Oscar Nominees (0):

101 Genre (0):

TSPDT (2): Claire’s Knee (1970), They Live By Night (1948)

Other Movies (12): The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Stoker (2013), Reaching for the Moon (2013), The Lego Movie (2014), Turbo (2013), 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), Austenland (2013), In a World… (2013), Blue Jasmine (2013), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), The Spectacular Now (2013), The Great Beauty (2013)

Re-watches (1): Thor 2: The Dark World (2013), TV – Game of Thrones Season 3

I saw so few films this month that I will just write a bit about each.

Before Midnight (2013) – Worthy third film in what has now become a series.  What happens when you’ve ended up with your destined love?  Real life intrudes.  3.5 stars

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Better than the first film in one important area: you can actually see what is happening onscreen.  There’s very little shakycam on display.  Movie watchers rejoice!  4 stars

Rush (2013) – Better than I expected.  Does a good job of recreating the 1970s Formula 1 racing circuit.  3.5 stars

Stoker (2013) – Highly recommended.  You can read my four star review by clicking on the movie name.

Reaching for the Moon (2013) – Period lesbian tragic romance.  Some great architecture (one is an architect), but I don’t have much else good to say about it.  2 stars

Claire’s Knee (1970) – Really slow, talky movie where unfortunately the subjects being discussed were all so banal that they were completely uninteresting.  I’m probably being generous with this rating.  2 stars

The Lego Movie (2014) – A fun movie, although never having played with Legos I’m sure I missed some of the jokes.  3.5 stars

Turbo (2013) – Nowhere near as horrible as I heard it was.  My low expectations helped me like this.  3 stars

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) – Not a brilliant documentary for an Oscar winner.  It does a great job revisiting a lot of old music from a different perspective, but unfortunately takes a wrong turn into racial politics and loses its way.  3.5 stars

Austenland (2013) – Even Jane Austen fans will probably be let down by this.  2 stars

In a World… (2013) – I really wanted to like this more than I did.  It had a great trailer, which unfortunately showed most of the best parts of the movie.  3 stars

Blue Jasmine (2013) – A thoroughly dislikable main character sinks the movie.  All I wanted was for the film to end so I didn’t have to put up with her anymore.  2 stars

Prisoners (2013) – I was expecting a gripping thriller and instead the movie reveals what is going on about 45 minutes into its 2.5 hour runtime (if you’re paying attention).  It then felt like it took forever to get to where I already knew it was going to go.  2 stars

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – a lesser Coen Brothers movie.  They tried to recapture the magic of O Brother Where Art Thou – this time with folk music instead of bluegrass – but it’s just missing that special something that would make it memorable.  2.5 stars

The Spectacular Now (2013) – interesting teen romance film in that it is mostly realistic.  Shailene Woodley does another good job.  3 stars

The Great Beauty (2013) – a lot of pretty images in search of a plot.  Style triumphs over substance (The Hunt) at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language film.  2 stars

They Live By Night (1948) – Good film that everyone seems to place into the Noir genre, but which has little to do with it other than a crime gets committed.  The movie is actually about a young, doomed romance.  It has some great camera shots in it.  3 stars

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Movie – Stoker (2013)

Stoker was one of my most pleasant surprises when I was working my way through a bunch of 2013 films I had heard good things about.  It’s the most recent movie I saw that made my Top 10 for the year.  It features a mess with your head plotline, a couple of mysteries, and some truly outstanding visuals.  Best of all for me, though, was that part way through the film I realized I had no idea whatsoever what direction the film was going to take.  Would it stay a drama?  Would it turn into a thriller?  Would it go places that it seemed to be hinting?  Would an element of the supernatural creep in?  Is what we are seeing 100% real, or is some of it only in the head of a character?  It did end in a way that I thought it might, but that was only one possibility out of several that came to my mind while I was watching it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ten Best Films of 2013

Here is my list of the ten best 2013 movies.  I believe I’ve seen all the big mainstream movies and critically acclaimed films of the year that I felt I might like, including all four Oscar winning films (Picture, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, and Documentary).  If you are curious, a complete list of the 77 2013 films that I saw can be found at the bottom of this post.  That’s down from 101 films for 2012 when I did last year’s Top 10, so this year’s may be missing a great one I just haven’t seen yet.

In case you think it’s a little strange to be doing a top 10 for a year that ended more than two months ago, I’d rather take the time to see as many movies as possible before compiling my list.  This means waiting for some of them to become available on DVD.  In fact, I was waiting for the Foreign Language Film winner The Great Beauty to become available so I could see it before making this list.  It came out yesterday.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Movie – Rang De Basanti (2006)

Among the handful of films that appeared for the first time on IMDB’s 2013 year end Top 250 list was Rang De Basanti.  Along with Incendies (2010) and Departures (2008) this year brought to my attention three fantastic foreign films.  While Incendies is a heavy drama wrapped in a mystery and Departures is a comedy/drama, Rang De Basanti starts out as almost a pure comedy, but at a certain point it not only transitions into a drama, but a deadly serious drama.  The comedy is hit or miss, but the drama is very effective.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Movie – Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Sullivan’s Travels was written and directed by Preston Sturges, a man known for his comedy (The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.)  In the case of Sullivan’s Travels, the comedy it contains is more satire than slapstick.  A Hollywood director known for his light comedies wants to make a “real” film about the downtrodden in order to be socially relevant.  He learns a lot more about real life than he ever bargained for.  Sullivan’s Travels turns serious in the last act when he gets into big trouble.  The combination of the satire and drama worked for me.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Movie – The Big Parade (1925)

The Big Parade may be the oldest film I’ve seen that shows the horrors of war rather than the “glories” of it.  It was released only seven years after the end of World War I, which many people consider to be the worst war ever fought because of the chemical weapons, especially mustard gas, which foot soldiers had to deal with.  Add in the trench warfare and the introduction of attacks from the sky because of the airplane and combatants were faced with a host of horrible things that their ancestors had not had to endure.  The film itself doesn’t start out showing wartime, though.  In fact, it starts out as a light hearted comedy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Movie – The Blue Angel (1930)

After the triumph that was 1928’s The Last Command, which helped garner Emil Jannings the first Best Actor Oscar in history, he and director Josef von Sternberg re-teamed for The Blue Angel.  Joining them this time around was an actress in her first major role who would go on to great fame in the 1930s – Marlene Dietrich.  Because this was the early days of sound the film was shot simultaneously in both German and English.  Because of the heavy accents of most of the performers the English version is considered the lesser of the two.  I watched the German version and that’s what I am reviewing and rating.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Comedies That Become Dramas

“And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
‘Tis that I may not weep.” – Don Juan, Lord Byron

“Some things are of that nature as to make
One’s fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache.” – Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

I still have some key 2013 films to see before I can post my Top 10 Films of 2013, so I will do a new category in the meantime.

When I say “comedies that become dramas” I don’t mean the films that mix comedy and drama together (i.e. “dramadies” or “comedy/dramas”.)  No, I mean films that start out pretty much as straight comedies with lot of laughs then take a turn somewhere in the middle and become dramas with little, if any, humor.  This can be a difficult transition to make without losing the audience.  The films that do manage to achieve this are well worth recommending.

And I am not referring to films that simply tack a sad ending onto a comedy.  I can’t think of any film off the top of my head that was able to make that work without feeling manipulative.  No, this category is for films that spend extensive parts of their run time as first a comedy, then as a drama, with little mixing of the two.

As I review the films I will come back and add the links for them here.

Defendor (2009) – posted February 23, 2011
Pleasantville (1998) – posted September 17, 2012
Something Wild (1986) – posted July 5, 2013
On to the reviews…

Monday, March 3, 2014

Some Observations on the Oscar Results and How I Did With My Picks

I mentioned in my Picks post that I hadn’t had the time this year to really dig into the nominees, but that the prior two years when I had done my homework my total number correct had actually gone down.  I wondered if my number would go up this year having not seen many of them.  It did.  I got 17 out of 24 correct – the best I’ve done in the four years I’ve been making picks.  More on this below.

First, some observations:

The big winner was Gravity with seven wins out of ten nominations.  It didn’t win Best Picture, though.  Gravity almost tied the record for most Oscar wins without winning the top award.  Cabaret holds the record with eight.

On the other end of the spectrum, American Hustle had ten nominations, but did not win a single Oscar.  This almost tied the record for most nominations without a single win.  The Turning Point and The Color Purple hold the record with eleven.  Three years ago True Grit also had ten nominations and no wins.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My (Last Minute) 2014 Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards ceremony is tonight on ABC.  Check your local listings. 

I first tried to pick the Oscar winners three years ago.  I got a respectable 16 out of 24 correct.  The last two years I’ve tried to really do my homework and see as many nominees as possible.  The result?  I dropped to 14 out of 24 then 12 out of 24.

This year I simply haven’t had the time to do the same amount of homework.  I’m making these picks with about a much overall knowledge of them as I did the first year.  I’m curious to see if my number goes up again.  Good or bad I will do a follow-up post on how I did.

Here is the complete list of nominations in all twenty-four categories.  What I would pick is highlighted in yellow.  No highlight means I have not seen any of the choices.  What I think will win is in bold.  I will also say if I think my choice is a lock, likely, educated guess, or wild-ass guess.