In light of the upcoming Oscars I’ve been attempting a review marathon of each “Best Picture” nominee, ’cause no one’s doing that right now!?, as well as a couple on the side that took my interest. Sadly due to my own heroic levels of procrastination, mainly centered around angry birds and googling my own name, along with having the typing skills of a hook handed OAP it looks like I’m going to fail in my endeavors to produce full length reviews of each of the nine films up for the award. But never one to miss a band wagon jumping opportunity heres a speed round up of the nominees with some predications thrown in because why the fuck not! Let’s jump right in, shall we.
Twelve Years a Slave
I’ve been waiting to review a movie considered one of the greatest cinematic projects of recent times, if not of all times, for a while now. A pinnacle of filmic achievement and the collective career highpoint of all those involved. Sadly, Grown Ups 2 is long gone, and After Earth was inexplicably snubbed. But believe me when I say, without a trace of sarcasm, all of the above and more is true in the case of 12 Years A Slave, a film that is so much more than the mother of all colour based guilt trips.
It is an hypnotic, nightmarish ride with moments that could only have been more traumatizing if the audience themselves had been tied to a log and whipped by Michael Fassbender for half an hour, although I dare say that’s many a female movie goers fantasy. I joke, I joke. But while we’re on the subject of Fassbender he is phenomenal as Solomon’s second slave master Epps, a tornado of self-loathing, drunken, ginger bearded rage being at moments unsettlingly friendly and at others explosively violent, all the while terrifying to behold. The acting of the rest of the cast is uniformly great, Lupita Nyong’o is another standout, as the object of Epp’s affections, as is of course the silently suffering man at the movie’s heart Chiwetel Ejiofor. Steve McQueen has crafted a brave, unflinching movie on a subject all too avoided and it is near flawless, deserving of every award it’s received and been nominated for so far. 9/10 stars
Thank the lord Paul Greengrass left Rush for Captain Phillips as it’s difficult to imagine another film-maker handling the non-stop action, gritty realism and crucial, modern day message as well as the former Bourne director and while the camera work did occasionally approach twerking washing machine levels of shake it never made me feel nauseous or confused like it has in some of his previous films.
Tom Hanks convinces in another “most likable man on the planet” role and his scenes with the pirate captain Muse played by the electrifying Barkhad Abdi are the films nail-biting highlights. The pace is non-stop with the extended pirates vs Navy stand-off, especially, tenser than an inmates butt cheeks during shower hour. Captain Phillips is an adrenalin fueled thriller prioritizing brains over brawn, giving both perspectives on a conflict more complex than it appears and delivering a crucial message more than simply ‘Murica! F**k yeah! as is the case with so many actions movies involving the US military. 7/10stars.
Dallas Buyers Club
There’s an old proverb “Actors win their weight lost in gold” and while this cynical saying (completely made up by me just now – my grasp on what I proverb is, is loose at best) may hold some truth it is not simply the ridiculous number of pounds shed by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, one looking like a vulture with insomnia the other a strangely attractive human spoon, that should earn them Oscar glory but the performances beneath their spindly frames.
All loquacious bullshit aside both McConaughey and Leto, the most sickeningly talented man on the planet, are incredible to watch in their respective roles as the aggressively homophobic redneck with a heart and hard on for money and his drug addicted, transsexual partner – hey, not that kinda “partner” as Woodruff is quick to assure everyone. It is a stunning, subtly developed, emotional movie throughout and while it may seem at times a little implausible or filmed through a Hollywood tinted lens, here’s looking at you Jennifer Gardner’s eye candy, entirely fictitious doctor character, there’s no denying the power of Dallas Buyers Clubs. 8/10 stars.
Alfonso Cuaron step forward and take a bow. The Mexico born silver fox has created something that is entirely unique; a spectacle unlike anything you’ll see all year or any year for that matter. Gravity is a phenomenal achievement of technical brilliance, like playing Mozart on half a violin or recreating the Taj Mahal out of celebrations.
It’s so stunningly beautiful, when the action returns to earth there’s almost nothing to distinguish the real world from it’s CGI space counterpart, that the clumsy character development, subplots that feel entirely pointless and the at times face chewingly irritating dialogue, don’t even matter. But sadly this is a film, and those things do matter. However despite a number of fundamental drawbacks in character and story Gravity for the most part is a gripping, sensory assault and bold experiment in film making that marks a new level of cinematic possibility. Christ I’m a knob. 7/10 stars.
It took me a while to get into Spike Jonze’s latest movie but once I had gotten over my initial fury at Pheonix’s failure to let me live vicariously through him by getting it on with Olivia Wilde I began to appreciate how great a film “Her” really is. It is a funny, poignant, thought provoking movie that leaves you with dozens of questions by the time the perfectly judged ending arrives: Is this really what the future holds? Is a human-machine relationship ethically right and even possible? And most puzzling of all, how did Joaquin Pheonix get so many beautiful woman despite sporting the kind of mustache only seen on serial sex offenders and cops from the 80’s?
Poorly chosen facial hair aside Pheonix is fantastic as ever as the depressed, self-absorbed but highly relatable Theodore Thrombley as is the rest of the supporting cast. However it is Scarlett Johansson who steals the show as the AI woman of his dreams managing to be the sexiest actor in the movie without actually being in the movie. Jonze has created a film for our times set an unspecified number of years in the future in which the ever increasing dependency of man on machine is epitomized in a single relationship that is depicted in a far more tender and realistic way than almost any film before it. 8/10 stars
The clear underdog of the nine films entered in the “best picture” race, and by far my personal favorite. Yes the acting is sometimes wooden enough to give you eye splinters, an odd line of dialogue surfaces here and there and the occasional unnecessary exposition dumps are undeniably present. But it is also an utterly charming, beautifully shot work of genius with some of the funniest characters in any film this year.
It focuses on Woody, a booze addled pensioner with unspecified levels of dementia on the fruitless trail of a million dollar hoax. If you think it sounds like just another black and white, art house depress fest you’d be seriously wrong. Nebraska is wryly comical throughout and genuinely hilarious at points thanks in part to the fantastically judged direction and brilliantly observed characters, a personal favorite being the two hillbilly brothers with the size of their white trash BS matched only by their gargantuan bellies. Will Forte is hugely likable as the reluctant but kind hearted son helping his abusive father on his quest for treasure while Jane Squibb as Woody’s wife is a belligerent, monstrous joy to watch whose the subject of some truly brilliant character development.
Nebraska is more perfectly formed than Jessica Ennis’ beh-urdling technique. Yes that – and should be seen by all/win every award it’s nominated for. 8/10 stars.
I’m afraid to say I’ve yet to see Philomen what with its short stay in British cinemas and my unrivaled incompetence but from the trailer I can deduce that it’s almost certainly an emotional, life affirming tale of love and the power of family with some desert dry Coogan humor and Judi Dench sex jokes thrown in. So really, what’s there not to love?
It’s a fantastic crop of Oscar movies this year and as I’m sure you can tell I was running seriously low on superlatives to describe them towards the end, so apologies for any repetition.
Please feel free to give your own thoughts and feelings on the upcoming Oscars i.e. predictions, hopes, weird Ellen fantasies or really anything that springs to mind, in the comments.