If I could cast an Oscar ballot for this year’s Best Picture nominees, I would go with:
10. “Dark Knight Rises.” When I first saw this movie in the theater, I had a lot of issues with it. For example, Bruce Wayne’s money is stolen via a fraudulent option trade. Now given the fact that Bane went in and shot up Wall Street, wouldn’t all trades for that day have been immediately cancelled (at a minimum, any unusual trades)? And why was Bruce Wayne so nonchalant about losing his fortune? Did Selina’s comments get to him? And even if her comments did, he could assume that either a Wall Street bank or the evil Bane made off with his money in this fraudulent trade. Why would he let Bane walk away with his money? I decided to re-watch this movie recently on Blu-ray. I thought that perhaps the theater shooting in Colorado may have made me more critical of this movie than I should have been. I saw it again, I loved it. It is making the list.
9. “Lincoln.” This movie makes you think and reflect. I also loved the political strategy and negotiations.
8. “Argo.” The CIA probably gets it wrong more often than right, but when they get it right it makes for an entertaining movie decades later.
One article I read was making it personal, essentially calling director Kathryn Bigelow a two-bit hack. This is an important debate to have (torture, not the two-bit hack issue). Since it isn’t like the ending is a surprise – unless you’ve had your head in the sand – I think it is worthwhile to read these various articles before seeing the movie. Also to keep in mind (and it might seem callous to do so considering the serious topic of torture) regarding this debate, but we also have to realize that this movie is a strong contender for Oscar’s Best Picture award and so there is nothing more Hollywood than knocking down a front runner. (more…)
Silver Linings Playbook. The film opens with Pat (Bradley Cooper) in a mental health facility. When his mother, Dolores (Jackie Weaver), picks him up to take him back home we learn that he was sent there by the court for 8 months and that his wife has a restraining order out on him.
Pat’s life is a mess and to some degree so are the lives of those back in his hometown. His father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), has recently lost his job and is working as a bookmaker (bookie); attempting to make enough money to open a restaurant. His best friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), tries to keep a positive attitude on life, but is stressed out about his work and marriage.
Shortly after returning home (more…)
“Flight” is about an alcoholic/drug addicted pilot named Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington). From one point of view, Whip is a hero. A commercial jet he is flying suffers a serious mechanical failure. Due to his piloting skills, he saves nearly everyone onboard. From another point of view, he shouldn’t even be allowed to pilot a crop duster.
The movie opens up with Whip in an Orlando hotel room with a flight attendant, Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velazquez). They are lovers who share a love of alcohol and cocaine. They need to rush to their Atlanta flight. Just before they leave the room, Whip does some cocaine. Around the same time in Atlanta, Nicole (Kelly Reilly) is trying to kick her drug habit, but just needs another hit. She heads over to a porn production where she knows a porn star friend that has some drugs.
Totally high on cocaine and drunk on alcohol, Whip flies the plane. There is a rough patch as they take off, but they make it through. Whip hands controls over to his co-pilot and takes a quick nap. As they’re about to land, the plane has a mechanical problem. Knowing that they might all die, Whip instructs a flight attendant to talk into the black box and tell her son that she loves him. At the same time on the ground in Atlanta, Nicole looks like she has died from a drug overdose.
Both Whip and Nicole survive and form a friendship while smoking cigarettes in the hospital stairwell. For Nicole, this near death experience is a second chance (or perhaps third, fourth, fifth) to try and get her life straightened out. As for Whip, he also sees this as a second chance. The movie shows Nicole succeeding and Whip failing.
This is a movie that drove me crazy. I loved it and hated it all at the same time and the reason comes down to Denzel Washington’s character. What is up with this guy? Everyone knows he was drunk and high while flying the plane. His union rep Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) beg him to stay sober during the investigation. He succeeds at this for a handful of hours before descending back into his addictions – which, I suppose, is why he’s an addict. Being a good lawyer, Hugh Lang is able to get the toxicology report tossed out. This, of course, drove me mad: mad that the system is being manipulated and mad that a guy who is getting this free pass doesn’t at least get his life straightened out because some day he could be the cause of a major catastrophe. And you can’t help compare Nicole to Whip.
It is stated clearly in the movie that Whip’s intoxicated condition had no impact on why the plane crashed. What drove me crazy on top of my above stated craziness is that in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but consider the thought that Whip’s intoxicated condition may have helped create the outcome. Being high on drugs and drunk on alcohol may very well have given him the boldness to do the near impossible. The movie points out that a number of pilots were put into a simulator to try and save the plane that had the same failure and they all crashed the plane.
Themes are layered into this movie, which adds complexity. As can be implied from above; addiction, sex and death are major themes. Also, tossed into the mix of this movie is the subtle theme of misunderstanding the role of God. It appeared that many felt that God had saved the plane and in some sense God is falsely used as Whip’s enabler.
John Goodman (Harling Mays) has one of the better supporting roles I’ve seen in a movie this year as Whip’s close friend and non-God enabler. (His role in Argo was really good, as well.)
Noted: Whip escapes to an abandoned family farm after his release from the hospital. I couldn’t help but notice a VHS tape of “Top Gun” in the living room.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is starting his freshman year in high school. He comes from a solid middle class, two parent family. His older brother Chris (Zane Holtz) is on a college football scholarship. His older sister Candace (Nina Dobrey) is an environmentalist-hottie. As for Charlie? He’s not athletic. He’s not necessarily attractive. Instead, he has a number of strikes against him. He is an introvert and a bookworm. He is also suffering psychological trauma associated with two deaths: his aunt when he was a child and his best friend during the summer. His friend’s suicide sent him into a mental downturn. This isn’t exactly a great way to start out at a new school.
His first few days are awful as he ends up being the kid who eats by himself and has to deal with hazing. Taking some initiative, he goes it alone to a high school football game, starting up a conversation with misfit senior, Patrick (Ezra Miller). He is quickly embraced by a cadre of creative-type high school seniors who like to claim that they’re an island of misfit toys. The main circle includes Patrick along with his beautiful half-sister, Sam (Emma Watson), Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) and Alice (Erin Wilbelmi). Charlie immediately develops a crush on Sam and who can blame him.
Now rather or not they really are an island of misfit toys is debatable. They aren’t considered the “in crowd,” but they definitely aren’t high school rejects. Making a judgment call based on the houses they live in, three of the high school seniors come from an upper middle class upbringing while Alice comes from a straight up wealthy family. (As for the all-important pickup truck, I suspect that’s just a nice little anti-class statement.) Sam and Mary Elizabeth both have Ivy League aspirations. Perhaps I missed it, but I think one can conclude that Alice is also heading off to an Ivy League education. Their cultural awareness already puts them in the rarified realm of Ivy League graduates.
There is one additional fact that needs to be added here. Charlie is probably one of the smartest kids in the school. He’s great at English and somehow statistics, which if I recall correctly is a junior/senior level course.
This should lead you to one conclusion: this film falls into the genre of pretentious high school movies where the kids are way smarter, far more insightful and privileged than most of us watching the movie.
I’m sure that it has something to do with my own psyche, but I do love a well-made pretentious high school movie and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a well-made movie. It is hard to pinpoint why I love this movie. I can’t fully identify with Charlie. I didn’t experience the lost that he did. I wasn’t able to absorb literature like he can –seriously, how can someone read so many books by Christmas break? And I can’t identify with the upper income upbringing of his senior friends. Maybe the reason I love this movie is driven by one word: aspiration. Yes, even though I’m far removed from high school, I do admire certain qualities that these high school kids have and wish I had those qualities back then. And one honestly can’t help but want to take on some of those qualities now, in an adult measured way, of course.
And perhaps aspiration is the driving force for Charlie as he wants to overcome his emotional pain, a fact which is highlighted in the final chapter of the movie.
This movie intertwines high school anxieties, individual demons and pretentiousness into one beautifully packaged joy that includes many emotional highs and lows.
Side note: what gives this movie extra bonus points are the portrayal of the adults. Charlie’s parents (Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh) are involved parents who want the best for their children. The English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd), and the brief appearance of Dr. Burton (Joan Cusack) are portrayed as individuals who honestly care about teenage angst. All are characters that could easily have been written in a more unflattering light and since they weren’t, cheers to the filmmakers.
“The Intouchables” is a French movie. At this point, it is the only non-US made film in the top 20 worldwide box office totals for 2012, currently holding #12 with over 95% of its box office coming from outside the U.S. – essentially a movie unseen in the U.S.
The movie is based on a true story about a paralyzed French millionaire, Philippe (Francois Cluzet) and his immigrant caretaker, Driss (Omar Sy).
Besides a quick flash forward into a future event, the movie starts with Driss waiting to get interviewed for a job as Philippe’s caretaker. As Philippe is paralyzed from the neck down, such care giving is intensive and the job has a high turnover rate. Driss actually doesn’t even believe he will get the job. He’s not properly trained for this job and is instead there to get a third signature on his government card so that he can qualify for benefits.
Philippe sees something unusual in Driss, a person who won’t show pity like so many of the other applicants and prior caregivers. Philippe hires Driss and we see their friendship develop as well as their own personal growth. Driss starts to learn necessary work skills and Philippe starts to learn how to escape his emotional prison that he set up for himself after the twin losses of his wife and the control of his physical body. We also witness how both are introduced to and eventually learn to enjoy their cultural differences.
Though this movie deals with a very depressing subject matter, it provides a light touch that will have you laughing. The opening flash-forward scene gives you plenty to laugh at as Driss and Philippe speed through the streets of Paris. The cops corner them and then you get to witness the two of them dancing in their car seats, knowing that they’ve just pulled a fast one on the Paris cops.
One could argue that the movie’s light touch ignores some of the more negative issues that underlie this movie. Philippe’s daughter is a very troubled individual, no doubt driven by the fact that her father is emotionally unavailable to her. There is a scene in the movie where one could easily interpret as a suicide attempt, but it is played as a joke by Driss. And one could also point to some of the duties that are required of Driss (the unappetizing requirement to help Philippe with his bowel movements, for example) as being played for laughs when in reality it could highlight the depressing nature of Philippe’s injury. Admittedly, not everything is played for laughs, as the movie does turn serious in those brief moments where it delves into the world of Paris poverty.
Of course, this movie is meant as a comedy versus a drama and is made with such a loving touch that you can’t help but laugh throughout – even at scenes that if this was made as a drama would leave you emotionally drained or perhaps physically sick.
The movie is in subtitles, which is one reason why the box office take is so low in the U.S. At the time of this write-up, I could only find this movie in one Los Angeles theatre. If you find that this review perks your interest, I’d definitely recommend renting it when it becomes available.
Note: It should be mentioned that in the movie Philippe is white and Driss is black (from Senegal). In the US, many movies that portray such relationships can be viewed through the lens of race and if you do a quick Internet search, you’ll find critics who argue that “The Intouchables” is a racist movie. Also, an important fact or not should you decide to consider this criticism is that the real life Driss is from Algeria and not Senegal.