And The 2014 Oscars Go To….

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2013 was a pretty damn good year for movies! And this year, there are 9 of them that have been chosen to represent for the right to be name the “Best Motion Picture Of The Year!” I can’t say that I have seen ALL of the films that have been nominated, but I have seen my share so I thought I would take a stab at who I think will be the big winners this year and which film I would pick to represent as the best of 2013. So…without further adieu…

Let’s just skip to what I think is gonna be a sweep in several of the smaller categories, shall we? Because I have a feeling, the sci-fi blockbuster “Gravity” is gonna clean house in several of them. So…”Gravity” takes BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS, SOUND EDITING, SOUND MIXING, ORIGINAL SCORE, EDITING & CINEMATOGRAPHY. So, right out of the box, that puts “Gravity” with 6 golden statues!

Okay…now with the rest…

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Although I WANT to give it to U2 for their song “Ordinary Love” from the soundtrack of “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom,” I think the film “Frozen” might sweep in and take this one with “Let It Go.” So…I’ll go with “Let It Go” and root for U2. And I won’t be upset if I got this one wrong!

COSTUME DESIGN: “American Hustle.” I mean…here you have 4 of the most recognizable actors in the business and I never once thought to myself, “Huh…Christian Bale looks ridiculous in a combover.”

PRODUCTION DESIGN: “The Great Gatsby.” I didn’t really care much for it overall as a film, but the production design on it is outstanding and possibly the only reason (other than Leonardo DiCaprio) to sit through its 2+ hour runtime.

ANIMATED FILM: “Frozen.” I haven’t seen it but the word of mouth (which is mostly from my daughter and her friends) is outstanding!

BEST WRITING, SCREENPLAY BASED ON PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED MATERIAL: “12 Years A Slave.” Despite being an outstanding film, I don’t think it will win in many of the other categories and I see the Academy wanting to recognize it in some capacity so….here it is!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “American Hustle.” Who is hustling who in this film? It’s a great script that carries through to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did everyone else. Other than possibly “Blue Jasmine,” I don’t think this one could be topped in this category.

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity.” Hands down. No question. It’s a done deal.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Having only seen 3 of the 5, I’ll go with who I would pick and that would be Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine.” But I have to imagine Jennifer Lawrence will get serious consideration also.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: I’ve heard Jared Leto is outstanding in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” but I haven’t seen it. So, until I do, I’m going with Michael Fassbender for his role as a plantation owner in “12 Years A Slave.” He’s also been a so many other films where he’s excellent that I think it’s time the guy got one…don’t you think?

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: THIS is a tough one! Here’s the deal…I HATED “Blue Jasmine.” And when I say HATE, I mean it in one of the nicest ways possible. Cate Blanchett is spectacular as a wealthy woman who is brought down to earth when her husband is indicted and sent to jail. Blanchett chews up the entire movie and I absolutely abhorred her character throughout the film. Then…you get to the end…and I found myself sympathizing with her and THAT is the sign of either A) a great actress or B) writing so amazing that the actor or actress can’t screw it up. So…which do I go with? Amy Adams’ character in “American Hustle” was dead on also (I even predicted her to win in my review of the movie) and I hear Judi Dench is also a possibility for “Philomena.” Well…I haven’t seen “Philomena” and “Blue Jasmine” was written & directed by Woody Allen. So…I’m going to go with my original first choice…Amy Adams wins for “American Hustle.” She is ultimately the absolute best in a role that I don’t think anyone else could have taken and made it what she did. Her performance is, quite frankly, the heartbeat of the movie and she deserves it!

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: I have to tell ya…Matthew McConaughey has had a pretty good year. And he’s nominated for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” So…I can see where he might end up taking this one. But I haven’t seen this film (but I DID see “Mud” and he was excellent in it!) so I can’t say if he should win or not. I also have not seen “Nebraska” and I hear Bruce Dern is extremely good and has also been a noted high-tier actor in Hollywood for years. So HE could also be in the running. But for MY money, of the 3 actors that I HAVE seen this year, Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf Of Wall Street” is probably the best. He is almost gleeful in the way he takes this reprehensible character and gives him life. Plus…we all know Hollywood loves DiCaprio and would love to see him win his first statue so…there ya go.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR: When voting for the best film, I would have to ask myself…”In 15 years, which movie would I WANT to see again?” In this case, it’s an easy answer. For me, there is only one movie that I HAD to see again. It was everything I enjoy about the movies and it was everything I could ask for in a 90 minute package. “Gravity” may not be the most thought provoking film of the past year, but it was definitely the reason I love to go sit in a dark room with strangers, munching on popped corn kernels and drinking soda. It was exhilarating, breathtaking and as entertaining as any film I’ve seen in years. So, despite the fact that there are so many great films in this list of hopefuls, my vote is for “GRAVITY.” I’ve seen it 4 times already and it is, in so many ways, perfect. It’s an A+ in a year full of A’s…and so it gets MY vote as the best of 2013!

Man Of Steel

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It was my most anticipated movie of this summer, with a kickass trailer that has been in theaters since last summer! It has a guy who LOOKS just LIKE Superman! It has a star-studded cast! It has the director who directed “300” and “Dawn Of The Dead!” It has Christopher Nolan writing the script! It has EVERYTHING in place! So it HAS to be awesome…right? RIGHT?!?!?!

With THIS much anticipation, obviously nothing can stand the weight put on it…except maybe a super-strong alien from another planet. With his flowing red cape and his incredibly good looks (yeah…he IS good lookin’ ladies), the Super dude is ready for a rewrite. But what happens when there is SO much baggage BEFORE Supes can rev his engine and get rolling? Obviously, with Christopher Nolan in tow, it’s going to have some drama. And in the case of DC Comics’ biggest hero, he almost drowns him in it. Not that Superman isn’t worthy of some drama because, quite frankly, he has been called boring by many in comparison to the likes of Batman. So, unlike all the other Superman movies, let’s give him a little brooding, a little confusion, a little sadness and THEN he will be more like us, right? So that’s what Nolan and crew do. And, unfortunately, they almost make him downright catatonic. Here you have the world’s most powerful man, he’s an alien from another solar system and…then what? How do you make him more human? And how do we make the story MORE INTERESTING?

In Nolan’s case, you tell the story out of order. And this, in effect, almost kills the entire first half of “Man Of Steel.” I’m not gonna rail against the machine here because, quite frankly, Nolan’s use of juxtaposing narrative is his calling card. He LOVES to tell a story out of order and make it as confusing as possible then put it back together again at the end. And normally I don’t begrudge him that. Hell…in “Memento” he writes the entire story in reverse, for crying out loud, so you just KNOW he’s gonna do something to make this movie more “interesting.” Unfortunately, it’s not. The story of Superman doesn’t HAVE to be told out of order. We already KNOW his story. In the case of “Man Of Steel,” they could have easily skipped the entire opening scene when baby Kal El is rocketed from Krypton and sent to Earth because we already know that story. It’s been told countless times! So really, later in the movie, when Kal El is retold the story by his holographic father (played by Russell Crowe), that could have easily been our retelling of the prelude of his story. Nevertheless, we are forced to rewatch ANOTHER version of how Supes is jetted across the universe to Earth and then raised by Ma & Pa Kent. However it can’t be told in order. No….we have to piece it all together while a grown Clark Kent wanders the north, working odd jobs and saving people along the way. It’s not that the scenes aren’t good, because they are. I just don’t understand why they had to be out of order. Just tell the story in order and be done with it! Okay…that is my negative rant about “Man Of Steel” because, quite frankly, this IS a very good action movie! So let’s talk about that instead, shall I?

Ok…so we know the opening. Baby Kal El is shipped to Earth. What is different from this version though is that his launch is almost stopped by a group of Kryptonians who believe that sending him to Earth is a form of heresy. Despite their arguments, Jor El launches the ship anyway and is killed by General Zod (Michael Shannon), the leader of the group. Zod is then arrested by the government, tried and then sent to a “Black Zone” where he and his soldiers are left for a life in captivity. Obviously, Krypton’s core blows up and everyone on the planet dies and the explosion reopens the door from the Dark Zone, allowing Zod and his army freedom. And thus a bad guy is born.

Meanwhile, down on our planet, Kal El is learning how to deal with his “special gifts,” which include X-ray vision, heat rays in his eyes, super strength and super speed. He grows up under the tutelage of Jonathan and Martha Kent and after reaching an age where he is ready to do good, he sets out on his own to see what our country is all about. Obviously he saves lots of people and is soon followed by an ace reporter on the hunt for a good story (Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams). At some point (and this point gets a little muddled), he is working on a military base that is investigating an object that has been found in the ice of the Antarctic. Kal enters the ship and it is there he Kal meets his “holographic” father and is told the story of his background. It is also where Lois meets Superman for the first time and is hellbent on telling the world that an alien is in our presence. Okay…blah blah blah…let’s speed forward. Eventually Zod and his cronies make it to Earth and demand that we give him Superman. However no one even knows about him except Lois and no one believes her…until now. Superman comes forward and that’s when the ass-kicking happens.

Believe me when I tell you…you ain’t never SEEN so much destruction in one film! Zach Snyder takes such glee in destroying Smallville & Metropolis that you wonder if any of the inhabitants will survive! Buildings collapse, trains and cars and trucks are sprayed everywhere, fighter planes are launched out of the sky! It’s complete bedlam and it…is…AWESOME! I thought “The Avengers” ending was one of the most action packed things I had ever seen but this takes the cake! I dunno how long it is, but Superman, Zod and his cronies tear it up in a way that I could never imagine! It’s a tour de force of destruction and if seeing cities getting leveled is your thing, you’ll be in heaven! Is it too long? Yeah…maybe a little bit. But watching Superman take on his own kind on our soil is exactly what summertime moviegoing should be. It’s non-stop action for a good 45 minutes and it never lets up. And it saves the movie from becoming a dramatic chick flick. Not that I’m against chick flicks, but it would have been a shame if this Superman movie got as bogged down in drama as “Batman Begins” did. THIS ending is a spectacle! Needless to say, you probably aren’t gonna see anything like this until “Pacific Rim” comes out later this summer.

To wrap up this review, I’m gonna give this one a a thumbs up…but with a warning. The NEXT one better dispense with all the quirky narrative mumbo jumbo and just give us Superman straight up. Henry Cavill is a perfect choice for the man in the cape. He has now been accepted by society and he’s living his life in Metropolis. Let’s get down to getting him a story that is fun and exciting and as dramatic as “The Dark Knight.” Who is gonna be the next villain to take on Supes? Who knows? But I can tell you this…when the next one hits the theater, I’m gonna be waiting at the door to see it!

Overall Rating First Half: B- Second Half: A

The Fighter


Based on a true story, Mickey Ward was a boxer in the early 80’s. He was the half-brother of Dicky Eklund, his mentor and trainer, who eventually drifted into a life of drugs and sorrow. This “documentary-style” film is nominated for 7 Oscars and includes some outstanding performances by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Mark Wahlberg and an entire cast of mostly unknowns.

When we are first introduced to Mickey (Wahlberg), he is really a background character, a man who is overshadowed by the older Dicky (Bale). HBO is filming a documentary of Dicky’s now infamous knockdown of Sugar Ray Leonard early in his career and they are following him as he helps train Mickey for an upcoming fight. As the movie unfolds, Dicky’s life spirals out of control as his drug addiction leads him into crime. Meanwhile, Mickey is left trying to figure out his life and future and with a family that is relying on him. With his life in limbo, he meets Charlene (Adams) and she helps him see that his family is dragging him down.

This movie is an excellent case study of how 2 different performers can excel on totally different levels. Bale is excellent as the drug addicted Dicky. He relishes the limelight and his moment that has been so well documented is the only thing he has to lean on. Meanwhile Wahlberg gives a very understated performance as the quiet yet dedicated Mickey, struggling to find his own way when so many riding on his coattails. The only problem I have with Wahlberg’s performance (and as I have said many times, I’m not a big fan) is that Wahlberg is almost TOO good looking for this role. Where everyone else in the film are very “small town” looking, Wahlberg looks out of place with his good looks and muscles. Where Bale excels and looks almost gaunt, Wahlberg is too pretty for this movie. And then there’s Amy Adams who SHOULD look out of place but is perfect for her role as Mickey’s new girlfriend. Adams nails the right amount of strength and sympathy of this character and breaths life into what could have been a somewhat generic role.

With Bale & Adams leading the charge, the real strength of this movie are the bit players that make it seem almost too real. Melissa Leo is the mother who refuses to believe either of her sons can do any wrong. A pivotal scene in this film happens between her and Bale and it’s heartbreaking. Also Jack McGee as the father is spot on and then there are several actresses who play the Eklund daughters who are also perfect in their roles as the protective sisters. I actually thought they hired real people to play these roles, that’s how good they are!

This film is an excellent case study of 2 lives going in separate directions and the directing and editing is very good. But as far as its Oscar chances? I’d say it’s not gonna win Best Picture but I predict  Bale & Leo should take an Oscar home. I imagine there will be many people supporting it come Oscar time, but I don’t think it’s strong enough to beat several of the other Best Picture nominees, even if it IS the dark horse in the mix.

Overall Rating: A-