Tag Archives: J.K. Simmons

DAY 2 ~ COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ “BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR”

Day 2 of the countdown ~ And remember, this is a category known for going to the most random of choices, except this year I think we have a ‘given’
Reminder: I’m giving who I think the winner will be and what would be my pick. And the nominees are:

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

CIARÁN HINDS – Belfast

Ciaran Hinds is just one of those actors – the kind that holds the screen with everything he does – and he’s always wonderful at it. No less so in Belfast here – he was wonderful.

TROY KOTSUR – CODA WINNER/MY PICK

What can you say about Troy Kotsur that hasn’t already been said? Nothing, that’s what. It’s not just a spectacular performance – it’s also that he’s just so darn nice and the pure joy and seeing him win awards makes your entire day.

JESSE PLEMONS – The Power of the Dog

When The Power of the Dog first came out and people were over looking the brilliance of Jesse’s performance, I was right there calling it out for what it was – wonderful. The understated brilliance of it is exactly what makes. Plemmons most definitely deserves to be here.

J.K. SIMMONS – Being the Ricardos

You’d be hard pressed to find a bad J.K. Simmons performance – and there is a reason for that. He gives it his all every time.

KODI SMIT-MCPHEE – The Power of the Dog

While I might not love The Power of the Dog as a whole, I do like it, and the reason I liked it a lot was because of this guy right here: Kodi Smit-McPhee. He was incredible, subtly making you think one thing of his character, all the while making you pay attention to what he was really doing. The ending scene sealed the deal for me – you can’t be mad if wins this one.

REVIEW: “NATIONAL CHAMPIONS” (2021) STX FILMS

The first sports movie I’ve ever watched that didn’t involve the actual playing of sports scenes that usually would fill up a movie like this one. Instead, it’s a completely different type of sports story. Essentially, it’s a fictionalized version with it’s main topic being the college football scene and shows what a boycott against the NCAA would look like 72 hours before the National Championship game. Two students, LeMarcus James (Stephan James), the star quarterback who will be one of the top draft picks and a pretty much guaranteed contract for millions of dollars playing in the NFL – and fellow player and friend Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig), not a draft pick and destined to be one of the thousands who don’t go on to the NFL. It’s an interesting concept that I believe was a huge subject a few years back of how they make billions of these guys, and then whether due to injury or just the fact there are more college teams/players than their are professional ones, they end up with nothing.

With a little backstory involving that centers around Kristen Chenoweth, cast against type as head Coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons), wife Bailey Lazor, who is sleeping with of all people, the labor law professor Elliott Schmidt (Timothy Olyphant), who is actually the one who inspired James to make his stand. The first good thing about this movie is the cast, especially J. K. Simmons as the old, broken college football coach with the desire of winning the national championship with his team, while dealing with his rebellious players, has his wife walk out on him. He again brought passion and energy to his role. His dialogues were powerful, and can be emotional too and then flip a switch and he can be both fearsome and convincing. As well, Uzo Aduba as Katharine Poe, a ruthless NCAA attorney who has a backstory of her own, which comes out in a stand up monologue near the end.

To sum it up simply, the movie it isn’t about “a” game, but it’s about “the” game, that’s being played by all the ‘executives’ involved in college level football. And to be fair, it might take sides here and there, but it also presents both sides fairly well. All in all, this is a decent watch and definitely scores a touchdown, though it does lack the extra oompha to give it the extra point.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment

“NATIONAL CHAMPIONS” is now playing in theaters – coming to VOD on Tuesday, December 27, 2021.

REVIEW: “BEING THE RICARDOS” (2021) Amazon Studios

“Luuuuuucy… I’m Home.”

Probably one of the most timeless, classic lines that is still uttered today. But behind the scenes of not only the “I Love Lucy” show itself, but the marriage between Lucy and Desi itself, was a very tumultuous relationship. This is the story of one week in the lives of these two larger than life characters known worldwide then, and still today.

So let’s get the elephant out of the room right off. Nicole Kidman does not look like Lucille Ball. Javier Bardem does not look like Desi Arnaz. Whether you choose to overlook this and instead concentrate on the performances and story itself, is up to each individual watching Being the Ricardos”. As well, it was nothing as I thought it would be, hence Being the Ricardos is not a funny comedy like the show was, and while yes, it’s hard to fathom a film about Ball that isn’t at least accidentally a bit funny, Sorkin’s biopic instead, focuses his lens on the couple through one particular tumultuous week in their lives as a married couple, their very well known marital problems, as well as being co-TV superstars. And we can also be honest enough to say “should seen it coming” as comedy is not really Sorkin’s bag.

As for Lucy herself – well she was at the time, Hollywood’s most bankable comic genius. Ball was the biggest TV star on earth, a massive moneymaking machine whose eye for physical comedy was like no other. Those working on the then biggest soundstage at the infamous Desilu Studios, in the writers room around her — Co-stars Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda), William Frawley (J.K. Simmons), Jess Oppenheimer (Tony Hale), Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat) and a bland Bob Carroll (Jake Lacy), who contribute to a fractured work dynamic that is on the verge of collapse due to a leaked news story about Lucy being a member of the Communist Party. On top of that, pictures of Desi appeared front page of the biggest of all tabloids at the time, the Confidential, with another woman. And to add the icing to the cake, Lucy is pregnant and both her and Desi want to televise her pregnancy as part of the show – something that just wasn’t done in those times. These were the days when married couples still had separate beds on TV. So a very big deal indeed.

JAVIER BARDEM, J.K. SIMMONS, NINA ARIANDA, and NICOLE KDIMAN star in BEING THE RICARDOS Photo: GLEN WILSON © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

While writer-director Aaron Sorkin places three different events in the same week – but did they take all actually take place during the same week? Not really knowing much about all the events of the time, doing a little research paid off in droves to find out the following points of fact:

Point #1. The Walter Winchell accusation about Lucille Ball being a Communist took place on September 6, 1953. This accusation is what kicks off the events in the film.

Point #2. Lucille’s second pregnancy with her and Desi’s son, Desi Arnaz Jr. who was actually born on January 19, 1953. This would make the pregnancy announcement actually being made at some point around July of 1952.

Point #3. Desi’s cheating scandal plastered on the front of Confidential tabloid as the magazine was considered to be THE gossip magazine of the 1950’s – well, yes, they did run an article about Desi cheating on Lucy. The film implies the photo was from six months before, but the truth is that the affair had happened many years before. The article also ran as the cover story of the January 1955 issue versus the same week as everything above was listed.

JAVIER BARDEM and NICOLE KIDMAN star in BEING THE RICARDOS Photo: GLEN WILSON © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

So all this has of course been taken the liberty of making it all more intense of a week than what probably really happened. Look, there’s no denial that Lucy and Desi had their marital problems, nor is there any doubt about the complex (to put it nicely) relationship between the two in their private and professional lives. However, Sorkin just tries to combines too many incidents in telling this story and while we all love going behind the scenes of TV and film stories, Being the Ricardos just goes about this the wrong way.

The performances though are all quite on par. Kidman actually really comes through as Ball, even doing one of the most favourited Lucy shows of all time, the stomping of the grapes. Bardem as well, let’s you know that while Lucy is always front and center, he is the true head of the show. Nina Arianda really comes through as Vivian Vance showing how things really were for her as being the side-kick of the show and her resentment of being so much younger than her ‘show husband’. As well, when does J.K. Simmons not come through with a character performance and he does so here on point.

With good performances like these they could have left the taking of liberties with the timeline of the story itself seem unnecessary and might have been better served if staying a little more to the actual true timeline it really was, rather than trying to push making a tense drama of it all happening at once. In essence a more cohesive biographical telling of the story of such icons would have been enough.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

BEING THE RICARDOS opens in theaters Friday, December 10th and debuts on Amazon Prime Video December 21, 2021.

REVIEW: “PALM SPRINGS” (2020) HULU

It’s no surprise that an Andy Samberg comedy is relentlessly funny here with “PALM SPRINGS” –but what was pleasantly unexpected was a deep examination of humanity in general. The film is a really funny, heartfelt romantic comedy that drew me in right from the start.

The premise here is a familiar one, think ‘Groundhog Day’, but then give it an entirely unique twist with new events throughout the story and a you are left with a remarkably fresh perspective.  When Sarah (Cristin Milioti) meets Nyles (Andy Samberg) at a Palm Springs wedding, she unexpectedly joins him in a time loop that sees them reliving the same day repeatedly.  J.K. Simmons is also part of the cast, taking a run at a comical character Roy who is also experiences the Groundhog Day effect, but uses his time to torture Samberg’s character Nyles. It all comes together and wraps up with a fun theory on Quantam Physics giving us a play here in a refreshingly unique story that takes a familiar idea and makes it its own.

While there are laughs throughout, the peak of the humour comes from a typical hijinx montage where instead of the typical cheap gags, there was a familiarization of the two lead characters adding to their chemistry. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are so good together. They were fun when they were supposed to be and when they were supposed to show a romantic energy, they did just that. Samberg not only relying typical his typical humour and charm here as he also brings a much understood darkness to the performance that managed to draw you in. Milioti also managed to show a large amount of pain and conflict in her character while successfully portraying her discovering the world around her. J.K. Simmons is always good and in this movie he goes through an incredible transformation and makes the absolute most of a criminally small role and the smattering of other supporting, Peter Gallagher, Jacqueline Obradors, Jena Friedman, June Squibb and Tyler Hoechlin all add oodles of fun to the all around plot of the film.

The best part about this comedy is it doesn’t overplay it’s hand. It brings laugh out loud comedy to tangible levels where your place in life is examined and how such difficulties can be handled. Besides the silly little comedic jokes which were still enjoyable, there was an underlying depth and intelligence to the humour itself, handling how we may deal with our own decision regardless of the consequences. Slower moments aside, Palm Springs is a complete blast – and if you don’t get the ending, that’s on you.

Grade: A-

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“PALM SPRINGS” IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH NOW ON HULU

REVIEW: “21 BRIDGES” (2019) STX Entertainment

“21 BRIDGES” opens with a young Andre Davis (Christian Isaiah) at the funeral of his police officer father who was killed by some drug dealers and the clear effect it has on him. Scroll ten years forward to an adult Andre (Chadwick Boseman) who has grown up to be a cop himself, but one with a notable tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.  This leads to him being called up in front of Bureau of Internal Affairs.  As this is happening to him, what is supposed to be a small time drug heist, goes down and several police officers are coldly gunned down by the two criminals who blundered into this unexpected disaster, Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephan James), both war veterans and extremely loyal to one another. Ray is the typical villain while Michael, although loyal to him, has more sense and compassion and wanted to walk away once things were clearly not going to plan.

Police Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) now has a bunch of cops out for revenge for their fallen officers. In a rare move on this mission-almost-impossible, he decides to pair up Andre with narcotics officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), a tough as nails undercover with a mind of her own – though you get the sense there is more to her than meets the eye.  As the two criminals take to the streets of Manhattan on the run, and with the FBI breathing down their back to take over, Andre makes the decision to shut the entire city of Manhattan down all exit/entries closed hence all 21 bridges leading in and out of the city. Shaken by the loss of eight of his officers, Capt. McKenna continues to hint to Davis to live up to his reputation and take no prisoners.  But Davis’ intuition kicks in as very early on, it becomes clear that dirty cops are involved with all the incidents seemingly pointing to a conspiracy of sorts, and Andre doesn’t know whom to trust. With that, Andre has just one night to solve the case and catch the killers before they escape the city of Manhattan.

Not going into full detail of the entire plot which, needless to say, has many twists and turns sort of running parallel are a police procedural and a crime story from the POV of the criminals. Yet the twists are obvious and predictable with the dialogue being somewhat routine. With a decent character development ’21 Bridges’ should be Boseman’s vehicle, yet it’s Stephen James who is the stand out here. Not only does his character feel like the one with the most to lose, but he’s got a story behind him that conflicts with his actions and he plays it well enough to the point of actually wanting to see him to get away with it all at times.

Nothing super new here story-wise, but the camera work and action scenes were marvelous. Although the plot is not original, the story was fine with good editing, however the script could have been better and acting was average at times. It’s still a decent bang for it’s buck.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment

“21 BRIDGES” IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

REVIEW: “THE ACCOUNTANT” (2016) Warner Bros.

Having not seen a film in over a month and a half or written a review for that matter, I was truly not knowing what to expect walking into the “THE ACCOUNTANT”. What I walked out with is still to be decided.

What I did like is how far ‘out of the box’ this film is. I mean it’s leaps and bounds out of the norm of any film I’ve seen yet this year, and as we all know, 2016 has not been a good year by any means for film.
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In this paint by numbers, crazy potboiler of a film, you’ve got Ben Affleck as Christian Wolff, who seems to be just another small-town number-cruncher, doing taxes for local farmers out of a non-descript strip-mall office called ZZZ Acounting. Reality is a much different place in this one though as Wolff is actually the man whom drug kingpins and the worst of the worst in the world turn to when they find a discrepancies in their books.

Wolff’s dealings with such men of notorious nature, captures the attention of Treasury director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons), who in turn blackmails his underling-with-a-past, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into tracking Wolff down. In an attempt to stay out of trouble, Wolff takes a seemingly innocent little gig trying to find a financial leak in the books of Lamar Black (John Lithgow) who runs a state of the art robotics firm, only to attract the attention of hired killer Braxton (Jon Bernthal). Add in the films truly only awkward ‘friendship’ with whistleblower Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), whom he unseemly decides he needs to protect and a mystery phone-voiced woman who changes Wolff’s identities on the drop of a dime – and yes, each identity does have a meaning behind them to be revealed.
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To try to explain this whole plot and all it’s flashbacks, would not only suck the fun out of your viewing, but would be almost impossible since so much is going on. Yes, there is loads of violence, most of it you didn’t see coming, along with a plot twist most don’t see coming. To sum it up clearly, there are no ‘brilliant’ performances, but all of them make do and seem to be having a good time doing so. The whole thing shouldn’t add up, but yet somehow it does and while not a ‘great’ movie by any means, it is entertaining as end all.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 14, 2016

COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS

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Continuing with the Oscar countdown ~ we are moving along to Best Supporting Actor/Actress.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Mark Ruffalo
“Foxcatcher”
One of my least favourite performances in this category

Edward Norton
“Birdman”
i won’t be mad if Norton wins this.. not in the slightest as this was my favourite performance and I would’ve called Norton the winner…until…

J.K. Simmons
“Whiplash”
Until..I saw this performance of Simmons. Long been a favourite of mine since the HBO series “OZ” – he blew us all away with this..

Robert Duvall
“The Judge”
How do you not like Duvall.. he’s truly an acting icon.

Ethan Hawke
“Boyhood”
Love Ethan.. not my fav. movie or performance.

My Pick: J.K. Simmons
Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Possible Win: Edward Norton

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
I will be upfront here.. none of these performances WOWED me. Jessica Chastain for ‘A Most Violent Year’ was whom I would’ve picked, but yeah..not nominated. So if I have to pick…

Emma Stone
“Birdman”
It’s not Emma for me.

Patricia Arquette
“Boyhood”
Truly not Patricia for me either though she’s been sweeping everything and walking up with her lengthy piece of tacky paper to read off of letting everyone know she knew she was winning.

Meryl Streep
“Into the Woods”
Love Meryl.. but I do think they ran short of people and put her in because she IS Meryl Streep.

Laura Dern
“Wild”
I didn’t love this movie.. but Dern moved me some with her performance here, she was definitely the best part of this movie.

Keira Knightley
“The Imitation Game”
While Knightley didn’t annoy the complete bejesus out of me this go round.. she usually does and she did Laggies & Begin Again, both awful films that she should just be punished for that and all the others.

My Pick: Laura Dern
Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Possible Win: Emma Stone

Golden Globes – My picks for Film~Best Actor/Actress/Director/Supporting/Foreign

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My picks for these awards are just that..MY PICKS! 😀 This is my favourite award show as it’s both Film & TV..I mean how can you go wrong with the best of both genres drinking it up at one awards show with Tina Fey & Amy Pohler hosting. Well the answer is you can’t. I’ve seen almost all the films presented this year, even the foreign ones – though yes, I’ve missed a few as there is only so much one human-being can do! ha! You might agree or even better, you might dis-agree ~ it’s all good. I will warn you, I did pretty well last year with my picks and this year I think I’m going to do even better. So with that..I give you #peggyatthemovies 2014 Golden Globe picks! Cheers!

BEST PICTURE (DRAMA):
“Boyhood”
I loved the premise of this movie.. the movie itself was good..but not great for me.

“Foxcatcher”
I will say I was glad I went into this film not knowing to much about it. Performances were very good, but still not my pick here.

“The Imitation Game”WINNER
I loved everything about this movie. The story is so good~the much speculated and talked about inaccuracies and all. The acting even better, and alas it was the only movie to make me cry..both times I saw it.

“Selma”
Like it as it’s quite a powerful film with all it’s much talked about inaccuracies also…just didn’t love it.

“The Theory of Everything”
Really like the film..second viewing the other night was even better.. performance by both actors, especially Eddie Redmayne, is what awards are made for. Still not my top choice for best picture though.

BEST PICTURE (COMEDY/MUSICAL):
“Birdman”WINNER
From the 1st viewing to my 3rd viewing.. BRILLIANT!!

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
I enjoyed this movie as it was tons of fun and entertaining..though I might not think it’s best picture material, others might.

“Into The Woods”
Will admit to not having seen it yet..as it just wasn’t on the top of my to-see list. I will eventually get to it though.

“Pride”
This movie never came to a theatre near me as far as I know as it was on my list..if it did, it was in and out so fast I missed it. Too bad because it seems as it would be right up my alley.

“St. Vincent”
This was a fun, sweet film.. I mean how can you not like Bill Murray..and the kid was great..but still not a top film for moi.

BEST DIRECTOR:
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Wes Anderson has done some good films that I’ve really liked..and I did like this a lot, just not enough for it to be my pick in this category.

Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Good film..love the fact that a woman director got nominated and it was great hearing her speak about the film trials & tribulations after the screening, but alas, it’s not my pick.

David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
I mean who doesn’t love David Fincher..He;s done some brilliant stuff..and I liked this film a lot as it had a good creep/twisty factor but it’s not an award winner.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”WINNER
But there is only one “Birdman” and this film was stunning with it’s long one-shots and imagination. I loved loved loved it…all 3 times to be exact.

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Yes, I was stunned as I watched this film unfold as to the idea of it all..and that idea was Richard Linklater’s – but I just didn’t like the movie enough to make it my #1 .. though if Alejandro doesn’t win, he would be my 2nd choice based on just the fact it was done over a 12yr time period..that’s a huge commitment and undertaking.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA):
Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”
I wish I could say I’ve seen this film/performance as a lot of people are raving about it. But I blinked and missed it for the 1 week it was in like 2 theatres here.

Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Loved the film, loved the performance especially for her 1st major leading role and she was wonderful..my 2nd choice for sure.

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”WINNER
Can we not just give Julianne the damn award already??!!! She needs to finally win it for a lead role in a film dammit!!

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
While I’m not Rosamund Pike’s biggest fan, she was crazy creepy good in this role. But then she also did Simon Pegg’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” this year which was awful. Just for that reason alone she doesn’t deserve this. 🙂

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Yeah..everyone said I would be ‘WOWED’ by this film & her performance..I wasn’t. It was good..not great.

BEST ACTOR (DRAMA):
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Funny-man turned oh-so-serious and pulled it off..pretty well I might add.

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
2014 was definitely the year of the Brits. This performance is outstanding..it really is..but it’s also my 2nd choice. I know..I know..ALREADY!

Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nighcrawler”
Jake pulled off creepy-shitshow reporter here.. but he didn’t come close to my 2 top picks performance wise.

David Oyelowo, “Selma”
Good performance..fair movie..but like Jake, just didn’t come close to the top 2.

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”WINNER
Yes, I am giving my pick to Eddie Redmayne here..why..because simply put he was BRILLIANT BEYOND BELIEF. He embodied Stephen Hawking in every way, shape, form & speech. This performance is why awards are given. period.

BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY/MUSICAL):
Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”WINNER
Really good performance.. was it the ‘gold standard’ of American Hustle that I loved..no..but then neither was the film and sadly the actress roles were seriously lacking this year across the board. She was however good enough to win this.

Emily Blunt, “Into The Woods”
I’ve come to like Emily Blunt more & more..she was great as an action star with Tom Cruise in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ pulling this off is harder.

Helen Mirren, “The Hundred Foot Journey”
Didn’t see this film..again, I’ve read the movie itself is mediocre but how can you not love Helen Mirren is just about anything.

Julianne Moore, “Maps To The Stars”
Again, blinked and missed this one, but I hear Julianne did a bang-up job.

Quvenzhane Wallis, “Annie”
Let’s face it..we know the genre was lacking contenders so this is a ‘fill up the category’ nomination.

BEST ACTOR (COMEDY/MUSICAL):
Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
I’m a fan of this film and of the performance, as it was fun. But it’s not a win.

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”WINNER
Let’s face it..we ALL love a really good comeback. And Michael Keaton gives it to us lock, stock and barrel in this film. He’s a fantastic actor who deserves this big time.

Bill Murray, “St. Vincent”
I j’adore Bill Murray. From ‘Caddyshack’ to ‘Groundhog Day’ to this film. How can you not? But it just wasn’t a better performance than my pick for winner.

Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
Ridiculous film..ridiculous performance..and I love Joaquin. This shouldn’t even be up and I’m guessing was another ‘fill in the category’ nomination

Christoph Waltz, “Big Eyes”
Good performance and while some thought it over the top..I was lucky enough to see a screening with a Q & A afterwards with cast/director where they noted it was actually toned it down. I liked it, not enough for a win though.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
The part I loved most about this was when I finally realized that they were doing this over a 12yr period and having a giggle over ‘hey, that’s when she was doing “Medium” hair-style etc. She probably did the best work of her career here and stands a good chance of winning.

Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year” WINNER
Jessica just went against type here and really came out strong in this performance for me. Very different style & film.

Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
For once Keira Knightley did not annoy the bejesus out of me..She was actually decent in this role. Though she also did ‘Begin Again’ – where she was annoying and probably one of the 5 worst movies of the year ‘Laggies’ – so she can not not not possibly deserve this award.

Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Was one of my top 3 films of the year, but definitely not a favourite performance here. It grew on me a bit more by the 3rd viewing, but still, nope.

Meryl Streep, “Into The Woods”
It’s Meryl. What else is there to say? she’s always good.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
This was a fairly good movie, and a nice performance. Though sweetly done, not a winner for me.

Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
I remember when the screening started and I thought “how does Ethan look so damn young here” and it took me a good hour to finally realize what they did here. I’ve always liked Ethan, through the good and the bad..this was part of the good.

Edward Norton, “Birdman”
I’m so torn here as until I saw Whiplash, he had my vote. hands down. but now, uuuggghhh torn, torn, torn! But he’s my 2nd choice, and it actually hurts to say that.

Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
I thought Ruffalo was out of place in this film. He’s playing someone who is clearly supposed to be so much younger and it didn’t come off for me. I know a lot of people loved him in it. He was just okay for me.

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”WINNER
Damn this movie was good. Even better the 2nd time with a full screening and J.K. & Dir:Damien Chazelle speaking afterwards to fill it all in. I’ve been a J.K.Simmons fan since “OZ” and he blows you away in this film. He so deserves this award for everything he’s done in his career that has been so good, but most of all for bringing this character to life like no other.

BEST FOREIGN FILM:
“Force Majeure”WINNER
I was way behind on my foreign films because they were all screening at the same times and their English counterparts and I could only do so much. That being said, I saw this the other day..really good film..loved it.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”
Wasn’t able to see this yet

“Ida”
Caught this film this week, and while I know it’s the fav. I found my pick to be all-around better film.

“Leviathan”
This was an okay-good film. I know sometimes maybe a bit gets lost in translation, and while I thought visually it was beautiful, it story was scattered and lost.

“Tangerines”
Was not able to see it.

Review: “WHIPLASH” (2014)

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Before I saw this movie, someone said to me “Oh, it looks like a jazz version of “FAME”. A more mis-informed statement could not be ever spoken! A “Fame” remake this movie is not..If you love music, most especially jazz and have heard all those stories about the inner circle of the jazz greats..this is your movie.. With my basic knowledge of music and somewhat better at knowing those stories, I was able to follow along well. But “Whiplash” is a quite darkly, somewhat disturbing movie about 19 y/o “Andrew” played superbly here by Miles Teller, who eats, lives and breathes being a drummer, who wants so badly to be ‘remembered’ in this life as one of the world’s best he will do and put up with almost anything..again, almost..  His journey through what was at times, hard for me to watch as I’ve experienced people in my life like this, is what this movie is about..to be specific about a year of said journey at New York’s elite Conservatorium of Music, Shaffer Academy. And that is about the only thing that would hold a similarity to something like ‘Fame’ is both being held at a music academy schools.

This film begs the question of how far an artist should be pushed to achieve greatness. It’s a devastating portrait filled literally with blood, sweat and tears, leaving our hearts pounding as fast as the intense drumming. The music is quite extraordinary too. “Terence Fletcher” (J.K. Simmons) is the conservatorium’s god maker; we immediately sense how vital it is to Andrew that Fletcher notices him. What follows was for me the hard part of watching as It is the cruel, callous way Fletcher operates that gets under our skin as he offers some of the students words of encouragement, elicits some personal information only before using it against them with biting undercut. Simply said, he is a monster disguised as a teacher. Bullying and abuse come in many forms not just student to student, but teacher to student happens far more often than we realize and this is in large, what this movie is about. The humiliation, bullying, and violence towards all the students in his class are all part of the mix with chairs being hurled, faces slapped and students stripped down to size. Watching blood drip onto the drum kit from Andrew’s overtaxed fingers and hands, while close to exhaustion, is unsettling to say the least.  whiplash 1

Just as it seems as though Andrew’s fortunes are looking up, when he is singled out by Fletcher and simultaneously gets a date with the pretty student he’s had a crush on for sometime “Nicole” (Melissa Benoist) who sells popcorn at the movie theatre he frequents, though neither opportunity turns out as expected. In the background is Andrew’s father “Jim” (Paul Reiser), a disillusioned, failed writer who quietly supports his son but clearly doesn’t understand musical aspirations or what drives him.  Teller drums with the passion of a man literally possessed, the physicality of the performance is truly astounding. As for Simmons, his performance is breathtaking as we are captivated by every tiny expression on his distinctive features. The way he turns from violent abuser to a gentle man is truly quite impressive. Having been a fan of his since his turn in HBO’s ‘Oz’ ~ this is a role of a lifetime.  whiplash 2

It occurred to me during one devastatingly harder scenes to watch that this movie can truly be as tense as any psychological thriller, complete with it’s own type of terrifying moments.  But it also has the operatic highs that only music can bring. For instance that show-stopping sequence at the end of the film when the music wins, is the moment when our hearts can soar and think maybe..just maybe it was all worth it in the end as we applaud.

The performances by Teller and Simmons are the soul of this film and what truly make this movie what it is. I hope that they garner the attention they deserve come nomination time.

Grade: B+
After seeing this film a second time last night at an Oscar screening with Dir: Damien Chazelle & J.K.Simmons doing a fun, lively Q & A afterwards.. I gotta up the grade to an A ~ as this film and most definitely it’s performances are Oscar worthy. jk whiplash 1

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(See grading scale)