12 Years a Slave
Last year I finally accomplished my longstanding goal of watching and reviewing all nine Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards aired [review here]. It was a last-minute effort that ended up being an invaluable lesson in great filmmaking. Thus, I decided to repeat the effort this year.
To recap, these were the nine films nominated for Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards:
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
Do I agree that these were the nine best films of 2013? Absolutely not. Blue Jasmine deserved a nod, Rush should have received more recognition, and the inclusion of Philomena and Wolf of Wall Street is questionable. Regardless, we have a solid list of nominees that should make for a closer race than last year. The competition will most likely — as it usually does — come down to the visual masterpiece (Gravity) and the classic historical biopic (12 Years a Slave), with the latter edging out the former.
Many of you may have seen this green profile picture spreading across your Facebook news feed like a plague. If you’re wondering what it means, it’s a show of solidarity for the struggling visual effects industry that is populating among artists, people who work in Hollywood, and film fans.
The trend started a few days ago after the Oscars. During the ceremony, people from Rhythm & Hues, the VFX company that won Best Visual Effects for their work on Life of Pi, were unceremoniously cut off by the “Jaws” theme song while they were in the middle of giving their winning speech. They had been about to address the issues currently facing the VFX industry, so a lot of people saw the gesture as Hollywood’s attempt to sweep a growing problem under the rug and rose up in protest.
Ben Affleck in “Argo”
After failing to watch all but two of last year’s Best Picture nominees before the Oscars, I made a promise to myself to watch all of this year’s so I would have at least some idea of what was going on during the ceremony. It turned out that, when the nominations were announced in January, I hadn’t watched a single one of the films up for the Oscars’ highest distinction. So, with only a few weeks left until the ceremony, I set out to watch all nine.
Clearly it’s been a while since I’ve been on top of my movies, so it was a bit of a struggle to get through so much heavy material in such a short amount of time. At last, with a day to spare before the Oscars, I finally checked off the last title (Life of Pi) from my list.
Given that I went into all of these films without any preexisting biases or motives beyond preparing myself for the Oscars, I figured I would take a moment to review them from an objective standpoint.
BOTTOM LINE: Overstuffed, schizophrenic attempt at a dark fairytale — when will Hollywood abandon this insufferable trend?
It seems Hollywood still can’t get enough of fairytales. First there was last year’s atrocious Beastly, then came the mind-numbingly awful Red Riding Hood. Now, with Relativity’s lackluster Mirror Mirror in the process of being phased out of theatres, eyes turn to Universal’s more adult-oriented Snow White adaptation, Snow White and the Huntsman, with the expectation that it will finally salvage what’s left of the genre. Unfortunately, while the gothic take on the classic fairytale may enchant with its impressive special effects, not even the strongest spell can conceal the lifeless script, cheesy acting, and a storyline with more personalities than the seven dwarves.
BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly good acting, writing, dancing, and music — pure fun all around.
Let me just insert a disclaimer here before I launch into my review: Footloose is not my kind of film. Sure, I had my High School Musical phase like everyone else, but I’ve long since gotten over frivolous feel-good films.
BOTTOM LINE: Modern film noir breathes new life into the car chase genre and will leave fanboys salivating.
There’s been buzz surrounding Cannes darling Drive for months, and after watching it, I can confirm the standing ovation it received at the film festival was more than than well-deserved. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s modern film noir, led by indie star Ryan Gosling, fuses Hitchcock and Tarantino in a bloody, explosive machofest that somehow still captures the moody cynicism of old-time Hollywood’s black and white crime dramas. Adrenaline-fueled yet melancholy, Drive emphasises style over content, but still has enough meat on its bones for mainstream audiences to gnaw on.
BOTTOM LINE: A sweet, insightful multi-storyline romantic comedy that will make audiences want to fall in love again.
It’s always such a delight to see a well-acted multi-storyline romantic comedy that isn’t unreasonably cheesy. The last time we got one of those was when Love, Actually came out (was that really eight years ago?). Unfortunately, movies like Valentine’s Day, He’s Just Not That Into You, and New York, I Love You have since sullied the genre’s reputation.
Luckily, Crazy, Stupid, Love rights all the wrongs that have been committed. In fact, it may be one of the best adult romantic comedies in recent years. Buoyed by a fantastic cast, an honest script, and a finely tuned balance of comedy, romance, and drama, the film toes the line between indie and mainstream without losing the best qualities of either.