Category Archives: political

REVIEW: “DOWNSIZING” (2017) Paramount Pictures

Welp. we’ve got a strike three for Matt Damon on his 2017 films with “DOWNSIZING”. This movie takes an interesting premise, “What if we could make ourselves smaller to use up fewer resources and save the planet?” and really just does nothing with it. Having heard little about the film aside from its concept, I went into the screening fairly cold. Sadly, the film doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer than its brilliant concept and exceptional first act. I must admit that I left feeling disappointed, thinking they could’ve made this a better movie in many ways. When a film has so much promise and doesn’t exactly deliver on much of it, I feel as though many people would be let down by that.

In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple Paul (Matt Damon) & Audrey (Kristen Wiig) Safranek, who believe their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, as let’s face it, smaller people need much fewer resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper but doesn’t exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn’t wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to take over and it started to go very sloooowww. And it’s sad as this is a movie that could’ve done so much more with its premise.

Without giving anything away, there are many characters such as Niecy Nash playing a Leisureworld salesperson, or that of Dusan Mirkovic (Christof Waltz), The Lonowski’s, Jeff (Neil Patrick Harris) & Laura (Laura Dern) or Paul’s good friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis), that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Director Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it’s hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.

As soon as you’re brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how lackluster the comedy is, but what you don’t expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don’t think it really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.

In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn’t make a film great. It’s the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn’t do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn’t expect it to, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it.

This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it’s just not the product that you’ll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing might be worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up on it being a favorite.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
DOWNSIZING is now playing in theaters nationwide. To be released Worldwide in January 2018

FINAL DAY: COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ “BEST PICTURE”

WE ARE HERE!!! The final day of my Oscar Countdown and I’ve saved the biggest and best for last. While this is a very good slate of films, and most of them deserve to be here, for the first time ever, I don’t have a picture that I truly ‘LOVED’ this year in this category as Nocturnal Animals wasn’t nominated. I liked them all, again, some more than others, and while I still have a pick – there is no one clear choice for me. That and my pick has no chance of winning whatsoever. So with that being said…I always hope for a few fun upsets!

BEST PICTURE

Arrival
While I really enjoyed this film, one of the best Sci-Fi movies I’ve seen, but can I roll with it for best picture? nah, but it is worth a watch, especially if you like this genre. It also has a very relevent message for this day and age of politics that we now live in. It shows that hate for something or someone different, really doesn’t need to be. Truthfully right now, I would trust an alien more than the circus clown act we have in charge at the moment.

Fences
While I liked this film at points, on other points it just lagged or went to fast as they literally took every single word from the play and put it into the film. I get it, you don’t want to mess with the original sometimes, but in this case, trimming it down some would have been beneficial and the movie suffered as a result of not doing so.

Hacksaw Ridge
Let’s face it, the first 45 minutes of this was an absolute cheese-fest. The remainder – sort of a gore-fest. And while it did good at the points of making you flip-flop on what you wanted that main character to do, it also gave us some Brits & Aussies doing terrible attempts at southern accents.

Hell or High Water
While it’s good to see a film be remembered from earlier in the year, and I liked the film, it just really never struck a chord with me as award material when watching.

Hidden Figures
I enjoyed this film a lot and it was about time something was done and made about these three fantastic women and what they contributed to our NASA space program in the 60’s. It had some big ups and a few downs with the tone of it all.

La La LandWINNER
With an opening scene that I just loved and so well done, you would think the rest of the film was going to be just as good. It’s not. Mind you it’s a good watch, but far from a great one and just a little to far-fetched, cutsey perfect for me. But hey, WHIPLASH was so damn good and was what a jazz story could be, that well, I guess I’ll give a groan when this wins, but I can’t hate on it completely.

LionMY PICK
While far far from a perfect film, the first half delivers big and is terrific, but it’s second half drags a lot until you get to the last 10 minutes or so. Again, I’m not in love with it. Having a great post Q & A with Dev Patel and first time director Garth Davis probably helped me some, but it did move me as a wonderful story of hope. And with that, I picked it even though I know it has absolutely no chance of winning.

Manchester by the Sea
For me, the film isn’t terrible – but honestly, I had no idea what as happening in the first 20-30 minutes. You just knew the guy was angry, but no clue as to why. It took 2 hrs. to get to the point and those 2 hrs. seemed like many more at times.

Moonlight
While watching this film, I couldn’t help thinking I’ve seen this story before..and I have – noting the fact it was done much better on the ‘The Wire’ and I think I would have liked to see three episodes of that again vs. this film. It was more than a tad inconsistent, with the first two thirds much better than the last third, and I was distracted by having characters played by multiple actors who looked nothing alike. That being said, it’s a good film considering the shoe-string budget it was made on.

@pegsatthemovies
Thanks all for taking the time to give this a read. Let me know your thoughts on if you agree or disagree with my picks. Don’t forget to give this page a follow or a follow on twitter as well @pegsatthemovies. Cheers!

DAY 4: COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ “BEST ACTRESS”

It’s the 4th day of the Countdown and we are at none other than Best Actress..

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Isabelle Huppert, ElleMY PICK
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance as bold as this one. Huppert simply blew me away in one of the probably the oddest roles I think I’ve ever seen portrayed. I’ve never seen anything like it and probably never will again. Sadly, she won’t win for this piece of brillance.

Ruth Negga, Loving
While she was fairly one-note, but engaging enough here, I really only started to like this performance so much once she started speaking and really putting forth as the first 30+ min she just really never said anything. I just can’t put forth an award pick for that.

Natalie Portman, Jackie
While I think I enjoyed this film more than some did as it just got to me a little emotionally than I thought it would, she did go ‘caricature’ at times with it. While she was a front-runner for some time, I don’t think she even comes close to Huppert.

Emma Stone, La La LandWINNER
Yeah – I like Emma but this is really just another cutsey performance to me. Let’s face it, her singing/dancing parts aren’t all that good, but the ‘auditions’ parts were really good. That’s really all there is to it.

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Am I’m surprised Meryl Streep even got a nomination, no even though it’s almost annoying at this point, because even though the whole movie was a huge let-down, we all really do love her. And yes, I think she solidified her nomination when she gave that speech at the Golden Globes which was quite epic, but this award isn’t about best speeches.

@pegsatthemovies
Thanks all for taking the time to give this a read. Let me know your thoughts on if you agree or disagree with my picks. Don’t forget to give this page a follow or a follow on twitter as well @pegsatthemovies. Cheers!

REVIEW: “JACKIE” (2016) Fox Searchlight

Jacqueline Bouvier. Jackie Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie O. Jackie. There are many ways to refer to this iconic woman – and many ways to remember her. That breathy voice. That educated and sophisticated demeanor. Her sense of style… including that pink suit stained with the blood of her husband. Holding her own as she watched the Vice President Lyndon B. Johnon (John Carroll Lynch) be sworn in merely hours after the President’s assasination.

“JACKIE” is about all of this. Though the film fills the span of only short perod in time – the day of and the few days following then President John F. Kennedy’s (Caspar Phillipson) assasination in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. The story is told in the narrative of Jacqueline Kennedy herself (Natalie Portman) to “Life” Magazine writer Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup), who arrives at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to interview her just one week after the assassination. Mrs. Kennedy is concerned that her husband may be forgotten – or misunderstood by history. White is deferential, firm but professional. He finds a woman who is clearly still grieving her horrible loss, but who is also very much in control of herself – and very much in control of what she wants regarding her husband’s legacy – even to the point of making sure she edits White’s notes during the interview.
jackie-1
While returning periodically to the scenes of the interview, most of Jackie’s story is told in flashback scenes of her as First Lady – especially on that fateful day in November of 1963 – and the four days that followed. With a lot of the story being told in this fashion, the film is trying to paint us a picture of who Jackie really was while First Lady. We get the famous televised tour of the White House that she did, the first ever of it’s kind. And while some parts of this come off as sometimes portraying her as a caricature at times, it’s also giving us a glimpse into something never seen before by the American public at the time.
We get insight into her strengths and weakness in the days following. How she interacts and stands up for what she wants for the funeral to Special Assistant Jack Valenti (Max Casella) but yet, sleeping pills, chain smoking and alcohol are also playing a big role in her coping mechanisms.
jackie-2
“Jackie” is fascinating and compelling. The script and direction shed a lot of light on what happened (and might have happened) during the private moments of this very public national nightmare, while painting a very personal portrait of Jackie Kennedy. At times the editing and the chronology of events, while not very difficult to follow, simply jump around too much. Portman is really good here and it was great to see Crudup back in a strong supporting, even if he looks completely different and Greta Gerwig as Jackie’s long time assistant, Nancy Tuckerman and Peter Sarsgaard does well as Robert Kennedy even though he looks really nothing like the real RFK, which also was quite noticable with other actors also.
The films score also ‘scored’ with me as it seemly was a life of Camelot to all of those looking in from the outside.

All in all, this film moved me. I rarely get emotional or cry during a film, yet the tragedy of it all got to me more than once. This film might have it’s misses, but all in all, it’s very special and should be seen.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Friday, November 18, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

REVIEW “PAWN SACRIFICE” Q & A w/TOBEY MAGUIRE – Bleeker Street Media

pawn sacrifice
The story of chess great Bobby Fisher is definitely a complex one as we watch Bobby as a young child (Young actors Aiden Lovekamp and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, who play Fischer as a boy and teenager, are respectively completely convincing) growing up in the Washington Square area of Brooklyn already showing chess greatness but also showing how his paranoia builds with his mother Regina Fisher (Robin Weigert) holding secret communist party get togethers in their small apartment.

Director Ed Zwick does well making this tense and gripping story which is for the most part set during the Cold War era between the U.S. & U.S.S.R. (aka Russia), Pawn Sacrifice is a very well acted and quite accurate portrayal of the oft demanding, arrogant, completely unstable and preening chess player Bobby Fisher, as it puts Tobey Maguire in the main role of Fisher when he was in his twenties. pawn sacrifice 2

The film opens on Fischer in a state of disarray, panting and pacing around a hotel room, ripping open telephones to check if there are microphones inside. He is going slightly mad, and Fischer will not leave his room. He is paranoid from what is happening outside as the Cold War paranoia that is getting to the American chess grandmaster will be his downfall from life as we know it.
As you watch his crazy decline of mental cognizance with Maguire truly inhabiting and embodying this character showing how he had a mind both incredible and dangerous as on the one hand he loved gloating to the public, on the other was a nuisance and nut in private.
pawn-sacrifice 3
With the aid of two companions, lawyer Paul Marshall (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Father William Lombardy (Peter Sarsgaard), Fischer plans a trip to Iceland to play against the Soviets.
pawn-sacrifice 4
Out of fear and apparent madness, Fischer does not show up for a world title match against his Russian foe, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), who is effortlessly cool in his portrayal here mostly just with looks as he doesn’t have much dialogue.
The fact that this film is quite historically accurate and with spectacular locations perfectly welded together, the scenes in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills being some of my favourite as they got the essence of the era down perfectly and beautifully, showing how these two guys were somewhat the rock stars of their respective countries in such a time of turmoil between the two countries.. along with the fact they make chess almost exciting makes the title perfectly fit with the reference to the sacrifice Bobby Fischer had to make, but because of his almost sheer genius, had the game going and ending how he wanted.
pawn-sacrifice 1
Although the physical resemblance with the real chess players isn’t spot on, that fact proves to be almost a moot point and unnoticable with these hands down enveloping performances and truly, once the movie gets a hold of you, just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

tobey maguire
POST Q & A WITH TOBEY MAGUIRE & PRODUCER GAIL KATZ:
Tobey noted what interested him most and attracted him to the role was seeing what Fisher’s childhood had been about.. Noting that by age 15 he was already at the top of his game, but mentally, what he was doing was telling people his hotel room wasn’t perfect or making crazy demands for quiet. It was mostly this that attracted him to the role.
He & Gail delved into many long and lengthy stories about how the film got to be made most notably that they first had director David Fincher attached when they first started putting the picture together 9 yrs. ago and then when it became clear he wouldn’t be able to do it when Tobey was ready to do it, he had a conversation with Ed Zwick who stepped in and did a fine job. He noted that it is somewhat a sports story but more a life story time capsule of what was going on in the world at the time.

Screening: Landmark Theatre Westside ~ Thursday, September 10, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media and Producers Guild of America
Nationwide release: Wednesday, September 16, 2015

REVIEW ~ “THE GUNMAN” (2015)

The-Gunman

So does Sean Penn want to be Liam Neeson… or does Liam Neeson wish he was Sean Penn.. either way, this film is the sadly the first one. “The Gunman” is from the same Director as ‘Taken’ & ‘From Paris With Love’(Pierre Morel) could easily have almost been called “Taken in Barcelona via the Congo” or “From Barcelona With Love.” Clearly the guy has a certain directing style. Too bad it didn’t work here with this stellar cast that puts Sean Penn as “Martin Terrier” a sniper on a mercenary assassination team in the Congo pretending to work for an NGO, who is forced to go into hiding after a successful kill shot puts him on a hit list.
THE GUNMAN

Though Sean Penn does a really capable job of doing the action hero thingy here as his physicality is dammed impressive and he’s definitely believable in the part. It also helps that he’s in absolutely amazing shape for a man his age and definitely seems like he has skills built up over his career which works for him here. His story is somewhat convoluted though..told in that tortured soul way that sometimes just doesn’t make sense even though he’s somewhat straight to the point kinda guy, which I liked. There is also a decent enough subplot going on a medical condition Terrier has which plays off in a pretty cool way throughout the film, most especially at the end but all in all, this is not a particularly good film or even an entertaining one.
the gunman 2
While I am a huge fan of some of the co-stars here..though none of them with the exception of Jasmine Trinca as the love interest “Annie” of first Terrier, then with Javier Bardem’s character of “Felix”, have much to do. Felix, whom I guess we could say is a ‘co-worker’ of Terrier, is really wasted in this role as he plays it in such a manner you just want to cringe and not in a good way. The one final scene between the characters is almost flat out silly.
the gunman 3

Both Mark Rylance “Cox” & Ray Winstone “Stanley” are satisfying enough in their respective roles as they interact well with Penn and hold their own – though I would have liked a bit more of a back story on their characters and when it does come, it’s almost as if it’s too late in the game for it. And let’s be truthful, no one does that bad-assed, grizzled, no BS English tough guy like Ray Winstone does.. It’s just never wrong. Sadly Idris Elba as “DuPont” an Interpol agent who wants Terrier to do a tell-all, is just basically a if-you-blink-you-miss-him character at the very end.

Though Annie is Penn’s AND Bardem’s love interest here.. Terrier had to leave her behind when he had to go into hiding per the ‘rules’ of the assassin’s creed they had. But truly, she has very little to her character and only seems to exist to be one of those helpless way-to-young for either guy, woman characters with a pretty face. She and Penn don’t really have all that great chemistry and I doubt the film would change much or you would even notice if her character wasn’t in it. the gunman 4

Structurally the film was a little strange and again as noted, convoluted. For the longest time it seemed like it was going to be a thriller but then turned into an action film about halfway through. The two halves of the film don’t really seem to add up or connect together so any scenes not building up to an action sequence feel a little like they are just killing time for the sake of the films run time. At times the plot seemed lost and overly complicated for what ultimately amounts to just a series of shoot outs.

The action scenes were impressive enough and had some good diversity to them in terms of location. The ending action scene in a bullfighting arena is pretty damn awesome if not a bit gruesome. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before and might be the films only redeeming point to make it worth a watch…on VOD or DVD that is..

Grade: C-
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(See grading scale)

“HOMELAND” ~ Paleyfest Panel (2015)

paleyfest 2015

Paleyfest Panel “Homeland” ~ Friday, March 6th, 2015

NOTE: This review does contain 3 teasers/spoilers for the new season of “Homeland” as given by producer Alex Gansa.

With an unusually heavy panel of Producers/Director/Writer (Alex Gansa, Chip Johannessen, Alex Carey, Leslie Linka Glatter, Patrick Harbinson, Meredith Stiehm, Composer:Sean Callery) and only 2 of the shows cast members, Claire Danes & Maury Sterling, showing up to the Dolby Theater last night for the opening of Paleyfest for the spectacular hit show “Homeland” I don’t know about you, but I am a HUGE fan and think it’s possibly one of the best shows to ever hit the small screen medium of TV.

Season 1 blew us all away..come Season 2 we didn’t know what hit us.. Season 3, while mixed, had us with an ending that made us all not sure where it was going to go next..but we really shouldn’t have worried as Season 4 took us to a whole new world with a whole new kick-ass leader in Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend).

They took us along the journey that has been Homeland and the process of making this show happen is truly grand.

Starting off with some insight into the “Dar Adal/Saul” (F.Murray Abraham/Mandy Patinkin) duo – his motive for making a deal with Haqqani was because he does not want the new director to be a political appointee i.e, another Lockheart. Dar wants someone who has spent a career in the CIA. We don’t know if Saul will accept Dar’s offer. Guess we will find out in Season 5. Gansa said something like this is what America does – our enemies often become our friends. It’s how business is done, even if its a hard pill to swallow.
Claire Danes HL
Claire Danes on “Carrie” – she felt there aren’t a lot of controversial portralys of mothers on TV and was excited to start a different conversation on what that looks like. They discuss how they shot the controversial “drowning scene” from the insight of looking up at Carrie through the water.

Second controversy was Carrie/Ayan scenes – is she going to low in this form of recruiting? Meredith Stiehm was a defender of it all as she felt it was part of Carrie’s job and Ayan was not a “child.” She felt if it were a man seducing a younger woman no one would have as much as a reaction. Which is a good point and many tactics like this are used in that everyday world.

And the big Brody flashback – which I loved by the way. Done perfectly as the writers wanted to explore Carrie in such a state where she struggles with the idea of Brody but it was important for her emotional state. As we all know, Brody was supposed to be gone in Season 1..but was such a fan favourite they kept him on and needed a way to really close it up once & for all for Carrie also. So the hallucination scene gave her and the writers closure on this fantastic character who no matter what, we still miss. 🙂

The scene on the airport tarmac of the prisoner exchange was a difficult shoot. The day was a very hot one, Claire had been sick with a stomach flu. The first few takes of Saul/Carrie on the tarmac were not working. They needed something more..somewhere Mandy Patinkin just flipped a switch and was able to go to another place and it worked. That was the take we saw.
maury sterliung HL

They discussed James Rebhorn beautifully. How they weren’t sure if they wanted to just continue as if his character, Carrie’s father “Frank” was still alive but just not there anymore. Finally decided they wanted to make his passing a tribute and part of the story so they did in the finale.

Regarding Quinn/Carrie relationship/romance seemed to be divided along ‘party’ lines 😉 with the men not really wanting it, and the women pushing for it. I’m truly in the middle on this one though leaning towards not a complete romance. Seems both Rupert & Claire were a bit ‘jumpy’ about it because the characters are both so similar in that they both repel and yet attract one another which is fun to play. The tension between the 2 characters was great.. now that they’ve kissed, it might be less so even though as we saw Quinn leaving to another mission in the finale to parts unknown and have no idea what happens. Maybe for me, a quickie kiss was enough because as we all know, 99.5% of the time, work relationships do not turn out well. And do you really want to see Carrie & Quinn ride off into the sunset together in a house with a white picket fence & 2.2 kids & a dog?? no.. no.. no… I want them out there kicking ass and taking names. Sorry..more fun.

Regarding the ‘villains’ of the show..For me, a show or film is truly only as good as it’s villains and sometimes that’s not understood correctly. Here, they noted trying to humanize them in some way as they did the scene with Haqqani & Saul having a ‘family’ dinner. What was his viewpoint. Of how they feel it’s “us” invading his country etc.. When the panel was asked about ISIS, Gansa replied that it is impossible at this point to try to humanize that group. So I think this is saying that ISIS will not be the “villains” of Season 5.

As always, the best questions come from the audience and anyone worth their salt in watching this show knows that Carrie’s ‘cry-face’ is the best thing to hit the small screen.. and possibly has the most GIFS made of it than anything else. When asked by an audience member what she’s thinking when she makes the ‘cry-face’ was possibly the best question of the evening and even Claire Danes herself loved it and had a good laugh. Noting that she’s done the face since “My So-Called Life” and that’s just how she looks when she cries.. but doesn’t have a true real thought process behind it, made it all the better. So yes, everyone, if you’re wondering, it’s her real-life ‘cry-face’ 🙂

Noting two of the main writers (Chip Johannessen & Alex Carey) are leaving, both of whom wrote some good episodes, didn’t state why, but it seems to be on a good note as they were there..ha!
The three teasers for Season 5 are: (drum roll please)
1. The show will pick up 2 1-2 years later
2. Season 5 will take place in Germany
3. Carrie is no longer a CIA operative (Claire Danes joked she will be making beer in Germany)

Nothing discussed if Rupert Friend aka “Quinn” would be back..but it gives me hope he will be as if it’s 2 1/2 years later, then he should be done with his mission..Right??!! 😀

Lastly, as an end note, Julie Chen was not a good moderator. I’ve seen some great moderators doing these panels, she was not one of them. She called Claire ‘Carrie’ almost every single time..and while trying to play it off, came off worse. If you can’t call your main guest and lead of the show their correct name, please step off the podium. Her questions were bland and while she tried to come off as a big fan, not sure she succeeded as it truly didn’t seem that way.

OSCAR COUNTDOWN: BEST ACTOR

oscars 2015 3

We’re coming to the end of my Countdown to the Oscars…

BEST ACTOR:
best actor 1
Michael Keaton
“Birdman”
From the first time I saw this movie to the third time I saw this movie..I loved Keaton’s performance wholeheartedly. And yes, I love a comeback and this was a damn good one and yep..he’s my pick.

Eddie Redmayne
“The Theory of Everything”
Eddie Redmayne’s performance in this film is what awards are made for. Enough said. I won’t be mad if he wins and honestly, I think he just might pull it off..

Benedict Cumberbatch
“The Imitation Game”
I’m a fan of Cumberbatch’s for some time now. Before Sherlock even he did some fantastic work..anyone ever see him & Tom Hardy in Stuart: A Life Backwards??!! Wonderful film and the message he brought forth about Alan Turing needed to be told.. is it enough to win..no I don’t think it is.
best actor

Bradley Cooper
“American Sniper”
Whomever says Bradley Cooper can’t act really needs to see this film. He really embodies this role but I’m guessing political controversy will make it so he is not taking home a little golden man this year.. Though I think it will happen eventually in another role.

Steve Carell
“Foxcatcher”
Was Steve Carell so creepy good in this film? yes he was.. Did he play so against type you wondered at times if it was really him? yes you did. Will he win.. probably not.

My Pick: Michael Keaton
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Possible Win: it’s anyone’s guess at this time.

OSCAR PICKS COUNTDOWN! ~ BEST DOCUMENTARY/BEST FOREIGN FILM

Oscars-New-Logo-300-H(7)
Note: I owe a debt of gratitude here to a high school friend, Michelle Iansiti, whose dad always insisted on seeing all the nominated movies and is the person who instilled this in me to do this and I have almost every year since. I saw Mr. Iansiti a few years back after many many years..and thanked him for this. 🙂
Usually I do a countdown each year starting about 5 days before “Oscar Sunday” aka “My Superbowl of Movies Sunday” and I basically stick with the top categories; Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture. I’m adding 2 categories this year as I did see almost all of them for Best Foreign Film & Best Documentary, and starting early since I will be gone later this week and unable to post – I’m setting up timed postings and will be hoping they work!! My listing will be what’s nominated in the category, my pick of whom I’d like to win, and what probably will win – which are not always one and the same ~ and a possible winner.
So let’s get started!!!

87th Oscar Awards 2015 Best Documentary Feature - Nominations
BEST DOCUMENTARY:

“Virunga”
Orlando von Einsiedel, Joanna Natasegara
Strong contender for the win. I loved this doc. It was well filmed and well done.

“Citizenfour”
Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky
My least favourite documentary of the list. Couldn’t stand Edward Snowden as I got the feeling he did this as he thought he was going to be a celebrity of sorts and be famous for all the wrong reasons. Clearly it didn’t work out so well for you did it Eddie.

“Last Days in Vietnam”
Rory Kennedy, Keven McAlester
This was an interesting watch of the end days of this horrible war. Not my choice for winner but still a good film.

“The Salt of the Earth”
Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier
Did not see this one.

“Finding Vivian Maier”
John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
LOVED this doc. You almost just can’t believe what an amazing eye this woman had who never showed her work to anyone. Her photography is stunning and somehow I think it was meant to be that it was found and is being shown.

My Pick: Finding Vivian Maier
Will Win: Citizenfour
Possible Win: Virunga

87th Oscar Awards 2015 Best Foreign Language Film - Nominations
BEST FOREIGN FILM:
Why is it that it’s almost a requirement for all foreign films to be depressing..I’ve always wondered this as so few aren’t. That being said, my favourite Foreign Film of the year, “Force Majeure” didn’t get nominated though it was expected to.. With that being said…

“Timbuktu”
Abderrahmane Sissako
Interesting and well filmed. Liked it..didn’t love it.

“Wild Tales”
Damián Szifrón
Didn’t see this one.

“Tangerines”
Zaza Urushadze
Good human nature story.. liked this one.

“Ida”
Paweł Pawlikowski
Such a completely different story and I’m not religious in the slightest but it left a lasting impression on me.

“Leviathan”
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Visually, I thought this film was great.. But an odd odd story-line at points.

My Pick: Ida
Will Win: Leviathan
Possible Win: Timbuktu

“SELMA” (2014) Q & A w/Ava DuVernay,Common, Carmen Ejojo

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Yes, I should have done this review ages ago as it’s been a month since I attended an Oscar screening of this film along with an after-screening Q & A with Director: Ava DuVernay; Cast members Common, Carmen Ejojo, and Henry G. Sanders. Not even sure why I waited so long, but I will say I’ve thought some about it since then. Maybe it’s because the movie, while I’m not even going to pretend it isn’t a strong, powerful film, just missed a few things for me. And historical inaccuracies aside, as let’s be real, many prestigious movies take dramatic license with historical events and pretty much all bio-pics have them, I think I’ve just been trying to put my finger on what it was. Could be the slower pace of it or the fact that, some needlessly added small odd scenes, at times I thought I was watching a MLK biopic instead of a Selma one, or for me the too strong religious aspect of it. Yes I am fully aware and know MLK was REVEREND Martin Luther King..I am aware of the fact he was a religious man, but since they are taking liberties with some things, including re-writing the “I Have a Dream” speech, this would have been what I would have chosen to tone down some as some of it comes off unnecessary in parts. But whatever it was, I think a lot of it has to do with everything going on from Ferguson to New York to Paris, maybe I’ve been trying to come to terms with man’s atrocities against each other in every way and this film started that for me as it couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Selma 1

As the opening of the film opens with a heart-wrenching explosion we move along quickly to the man “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (David Oyelowo), pulling off a performance that seems true to the man without being a caricature or overly reverent. The film acknowledges that King was a man, with faults like any other, but in a way that makes him affecting. Oyelowo doesn’t look especially like King, but he does capture a good rendition of the heart & soul of the man. However, he’s only a piece of the puzzle, with this being a true ensemble film with at least a dozen good roles, from Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife Coretta, to pros like Wendell Pierce as “Rev. Hosea Williams”, musician/actor Common “James Bevel” and Martin Sheen “Frank Minis Johnson” as some of the allies King encountered along the way.
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The film does a great job portraying just how much the people in the march, from all walks of life, were risking their lives by participating, against a southern resistance ranging from ignorant yokels to devious politicians, to definitely more than a few sadists, who were so keen to inflict harm to the peaceful marchers that at times it’s painful to watch. There are scenes of people riding horses and brandishing whips, covering wood clubs with spoke-like wire to inflict as much damage as possible on the marchers. While some might think it’s puzzling as to where this hate comes from, but even more so in that the film tries to keep an even hand in showing both sides. Tim Roth as “Gov. George Wallace” could have easily played him as demonic, but he tries and somewhat succeeds to humanize him as much as he can, which is not easy when you’re playing one of history’s truly great evil bastards. Tom Wilkinson is very effective as “Lyndon Johnson“, who’s not above playing the good ol’boy card with Wallace, but also sympathizes with King, even if he’s reluctant to stir up trouble and makes a few horrible decisions along the way.
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In a cast of ‘names’ many of which I have been a fan of for a long long time, yes I’m looking at you Lorraine Toussaint “Amelia Boynton”, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi “Lee White”, Wendall Pierce, Tim Roth and yes, even Oprah Winfry as I wasn’t an ‘talkshow’ Oprah fan, but I am an ‘actress’ Oprah fan. My three standouts of this film that made me sit up and take notice are Stephen James as “John Lewis”, Trai Byers as “James Forman”, and lastly Alessandro Nivola as “John Doar”.

Hopefully the best thing about “Selma” that we can take away from it is that it’s not a movie about blame or hate. Rather, it’s hopeful in that it shows how people can come together and change things for the better in a non-violent manner ~ a message that should always be kept in mind when things get out of hand as they often do. Even with it’s faults,“Selma” is a strong film that sends a clear message to a new generation about what standing up against intimidation in any form is all about. It is a passionate work about a towering figure who left an enduring legacy, but one that, as recent events might indicate, is still short of completion. selma common 1

Additional note: I love Q & A’s after films with directors/producers/cast etc. They really give you insight sometimes into things about how the film got made or a fun antidote or two.. This Oscar screening was on Thursday, December 18th,2014 at The Landmark Theater with Dir. Ava DuVernay giving insight into that this project was really made because of David Oyelowo who took it and ran with it (which explains the large Brit casting also! 🙂 ) getting Oprah & her team including Brad Pitt & others involved, including picking her as the director, even though she didn’t have much experience and convincing everyone to get onboard. Also, reasoning behind not using the actual “I Have a Dream” speech..the rights to it are held by someone else who has never used them and they could not get them for this film so she ended up re-writing it herself. As for something I completely did not know, at the end of the film we see a shot of a bridge ~ it’s the “Edmund Pettus Bridge” ~ as DuVernay noted was named after the leader of the Klan back then..it’s name remains today.
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Grade: B-