This week, Blaise and I had the chance to go see Keira Knightley’s new film, Laggies, which also starred Sam Rockwell and Chloe Grace Moretz. Check out our review of Laggies right here and let us know if you want to see it, or if you have already seen it, what you thought about it!
Chiwetel Ejiofor | 12 Years A Slave
Let’s start this off by saying Joaquin Phoenix should have been nominated for his performance in Her. Is it too late to switch Joaquin Phoenix with Bruce Dern? Seriously Nebraska wasn’t that good. I think the actors just showed up on set and then cameras rolled for awhile and then a black and white movie came out that critics just ate up. Bruce Dern plays an old and confused man. How stunning. We can also go ahead and write off Christian Bale. While nothing is terrible about his performance, it seems the general consensus is “Well… He wasn’t as good as he was in The Dark Knight.” His performance is simply overshadowed by the three other nominees. The real contenders here are Ejiofor for 12 Years, Dicaprio for Wolf, and McConaughey for Dallas Buyers.
Dicaprio: Wolf was extremely entertaining and I enjoyed Dicaprio’s performance thoroughly but something was lacking from his character. Perhaps it was the emotional depth. His greed and self-centeredness is hard to get behind. I guess that means he played Belfort well though. The role of an obnoxious billionaire isn’t as challenging a slave or AIDS patient but Dicaprio delivers a performance that puts it in consideration with the others. I wouldn’t hate to see Dicaprio win.
McConaughey: Just as the Supporting Actor competition came down to Leto versus Fassbender the Lead Actor competition comes down to 12 Years A Slave vs. Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey’s performance is Oscar worthy, there is no doubt about it. Everything is there from the emotional depth to the body language. Come to think of it, I can’t really find a fault in McConaughey’s performance. I couldn’t believe he was the same actor from Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. McConaughey absolutely deserves an Oscar for his performance. But so does Ejiofor.
Ejiofor: He was perfect. Its hard to be perfect throughout an entire movie. There was no wasted breath, movement, or syllable. His control of intonation ranging from heartbreaking anguish to rebellious power swung the mood of the film with it. He hit every syllable exactly the way it needed to be it. Acting shouldn’t be about glitz, makeup, or popularity it should be about pursuit of an unattainable perfection. Ejiofor gets about as close as you can get. His acting is poetry in motion.
Frozen | Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck
I’ve been severely slacking in my animated features over the past few years, I’m still stuck in the Golden Age (the 90’s). I’ve only seen two of the animated features up for this year’s award. As far as I can tell, the two I’ve seen, Frozen (Lee & Buck) and Despicable Me 2 (Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud) seem to be the fan favorites. The Croods seemed like another undistinguished animated film. My judgement is completely unfounded but no one was urging me to go see The Croods in the way they were for Frozen. Ernest & Celestine and The Wind Rises seem to me to be those two really well made artsy animations that have a decent shot at winning but the ones practically no one knows anything about. They seem worthwhile if you’re into animation but they’re not my cup of tea.
Dealing with the two animated movies I saw this year, one really impressed me, the other disappointed. I was super excited to see Despicable Me 2 because of how much I enjoyed the first movie but I left the theater underwhelmed. The jokes felt recycled and while the sequel retained some of its endearing elements from the first, it was definitely a downgrade.
I think all but the contrarian and militant hipster crowd is in agreement on this one, Frozen is the best animated feature of the year. Sure, you have all your quintessential Disney cliches but as a society I think we’ve come to love and accept them. The visuals were stunning and took advantage of animation’s unlimited possibilities. When Elsa puts up her walls, you feel the chill of isolation close you off from the rest of the characters. One of the two changes I think would have made the movie better would be to have more time devoted to Elsa’s character and her quandary. I realize the story is predominantly Anna’s but I think there are a lot of interesting aspects of Elsa’s self-imposed isolation and self-sacrifice to explore. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the fun scenes spent with Kristoff and Sven, but the introvert in me really connected with Elsa. The second change (SPOILER ALERT) would have been to end the movie when Anna sacrifices herself to protect Elsa. Leaving Anna frozen would have been a shrine to sisterly love and the sacrifices made for family. Plus, the “true love’s first kiss” spiel is so 1930’s. My two ideas notwithstanding, the movie is phenomenal. The music is great. The characters are lovable. And the movie is relatable to everyone from a preschooler to a college student.
Is it bad how attractive I find them?
A Few Thoughts on The Spectacular Now
Young adult fiction, in literature and film, has seen a considerable rise in attention over the past several years. Movies like The Hunger Games and books like The Fault in Our Stars have followed on the heels of the likes of The Perks of Being a Wall Flower to fuel the teenage expression fire. The expansion of the genre can be likened to the late 80’s with its Pretty in Pinks and Saint Elmo’s Fires. The proliferation has given rise to a variety of relatable stories and teenage characters. The pinnacle of young adult fiction has been realized in The Spectacular Now.
Focusing on the tumultuous closing months of high school, the story centers on the charismatic Sutter (Miles Teller). A self-proclaimed king of his high school, Sutter is satisfied and complacent with his sleepy suburban lifestyle. Sutter is filled to the brim with idiosyncratic quirks, rendering his character a polarizing concoction of class clown, drama king, and big man on campus, mixed with a heavy handed dash of teenage angst for good measure. Sutter is fast talking and self-absorbed. One of the truly beautiful aspects of the movie is its visually arresting depiction of selfishness. The camera work surpasses subtle but falls the perfect distance short of too on-the-nose. The focus shifts, zoning in on Sutter, in the foreground, and blurring whomever is in the background, forcing you to become complicit in Sutter’s egotism induced blindness.
The movie takes place in third person but the sound mixing and cinematography take you inside Sutter’s head, allowing you to fill it with your own inner monologue, building a connection and creating sympathy. Sutter’s irrational and absurd reactions to the situations he is embroiled in are undercut by the audiences’ rationality and foresight of the impending dramatic irony. Sutter’s inability to comprehend the consequences of his actions is infuriating, the film engrosses the audience in Sutter’s self-indulgence only to rip us out into the destructive reality he inflicts. His ineptitude for sympathy and empathy is nowhere more evident than in the relationships with the female characters around him, his mother, sister, and Aimee. When his mother confronts Sutter in the kitchen, reprimanding him once again for wrinkling the uniform she is forced to wear to a job she hates, the mother goes completely out of focus. A droning machinery sound drowns her whining voice in the audiences’ ears. Sutter, eating a bowl of cereal, tunes her out with practiced ease. The mother returns to focus as she finishes her tirade. The camera work is similar in scenes with his sister and love interests. The cinematography isolates the audience further into Sutter’s loneliness.
The beauty of the characters in The Spectacular Now is in their depth and complexity, no character, save for one, is pure good or pure evil. Sutter presents himself as superficial and content but his delusion into self-assuredness is hallmark of almost every teenager. Aimee (Shailene Woodley), on the surface, appears as the quintessential nerd, lost in a defense mechanism world of sci-fi and art. Each scene spent with Aimee adds another dimension to the flask wielding ambitious dreamer. As neither of the characters are one-dimensionally shoved into a single pigeonholed teenage archetype, a subtle dichotomy takes life between them. Sutter and Aimee, fall into the classic nerd versus popular kid playful antagonism but breakdown the barriers of banality with alarming quickness. Topically, Sutter is shallow and abrasive, within, he is compassionate and loving. Topically, Aimee is compassionate and loving, within, she is rambunctious and passionate. Their topical personas reflect off the others subsurface personalities, bringing out the best in both. Sutter realizes the deeper parts of himself in Aimee and Aimee realizes the value in spontaneity and need to chase her aspirations in Sutter. They tip each other’s scales by balancing each other out. They complete each other.
The movie is a breath of fresh air. It is rewarding, in the sense that it gives you, not want you want, but the truth. It is also one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the book.