Saturday, January 31, 2015

Resolution Review

It's such an exciting feeling, when a film is announced that you know without a doubt you will be seeing with high expectations the moment it is released. A director is chosen and it inspires a reaction inside me, good or bad. Casting news, who will be composing the score, which top of the line cinematographer is selected to dazzle the audience with their keen eye. The first teaser trailer, a second one unveiling far more detail, and various clips to quench the cinematic thirst until the picture is finally released and I can take my seat, overflowing with anticipation, counting on the finished product being everything I could have hoped for and more.

This is the progression that many films take with me, as I am following the news and checking for updates on a regular basis, so when literally 30 some hours ago a friend of mine gave me a recommendation of a movie that I had never even heard of, I took notice. I did absolutely no homework after he told me the title as I decided to enter the experience as fresh as I possibly could, with an untainted mind and with the definition of zero expectations. I just clicked over the Netflix streaming, located Resolution and hit play. I was handed the gift of a fresh movie experience and I couldn't wait to unwrap it from the beginning. 

Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Resolution is a deceiving, completely surprisingly experience and I mean that as a very, very big compliment. During the first half of the picture, perhaps even beyond that, I watched it assuming it was merely a well made but relatively routine supernatural horror film. I admired it throughout because it was very well made and clearly an example of making the most of a low production budget, but I just kept waiting for the obvious and expected to occur. However, as the conclusion drew near it became apparent that this was a bold, unique and original work that was headed in a far different direction than I has assumed, and a huge smile literally spread across my face. I am reminded of when I screened the Gareth Edwards film Monsters last year, one that crept up on me and knocked my socks off by the time the final frame left the screen. Resolution is so damn good.

The premise is basic and extremely minimalist in nature. Michael and Chris were best friends but are headed in very different directions, Michael a married man with a baby on the way, Chris literally hiding out in a cabin in the woods, addicted to crack and headed down a path that can only result in an early death. Michael decides to take one more chance at saving Chris and cleaning up his life, but this won't be a simple intervention or a heartfelt conversation while hoping for the best. Michael has a taser and a pair of handcuffs, and he is willing to use both to ensure that Chris can neither leave this cabin nor smoke the rest of his stash.

Early on it is established that this won't be simply a story of two friends working out their personal demons and trying to shake the power of an addiction to hardcore drugs. Something supernatural is taking place here, as an entity is making itself known through cryptic messages to Michael and its obvious that it is not happy. Now, this is a difficult part of the film to discuss without spoiling the experience, but the supernatural aspect was initially suspect and probably leading towards predictability, yet by the end it was absolutely the soul of the film, the piece that I loved the most and admire so deeply because of what it is really trying to say beneath the surface. In the end you may not comprehend what the message was, and this is understandable. The closing moments are rather ambiguous and confounding, but pay close attention to the dialogue during this film as they discuss that the entity is looking for a story and needed the right ending to it. Then the final words uttered of the film made it all click, and I wanted to stand up and give an ovation to whomever was smart enough to write this extremely self aware and clever screenplay. 

While far, far less comedic than the film Cabin in the Woods, I was reminded very much of that here with Resolution because bubbling beneath the surface of this story is a look at horror films and what we, the audience, demand of them. If you decide to pull up Netflix streaming and give this one a spin (and you absolutely should), think about the title and what it might mean: Resolution. The main characters here, Michael and Chris, come to one in the end and it certainly isn't what I could have ever expected, but would the supernatural force that threatens them allow it to happen? 

In the end this isn't a film about Michael or Chris or drugs or drug dealers or even the lurking dangers of a supernatural force at all. It is a film about expectations and the workings of the human mind, and in the end it asks us a question: do we want a warm and uplifting resolution in which Chris chooses to go to rehab, turning his life around and becoming close with his former best friend again? Or do we want exactly what we were expecting all along? 


Friday, January 30, 2015

Mortdecai Review

Comedy [Kom-i-dee], noun - professional entertainment consisting of jokes and satirical sketches, intended to make an audience laugh.

The genres listed atop the IMDB page for the new film Mortdecai: Action/Comedy

Something doesn't quite add up here.

Now, it would be easy to call me out right off the bat here and say that even if I didn't find the film funny, the definition of comedy involves the intention of making an audience laugh, not actually achieving it. I get that, but I still feel calling Mortdecai a comedy is misleading despite this. Why? Because I refuse to believe a human being could write this screenplay and truly believe it would elicit laughter. 

When I was 14 years old I wrote a short story titled "Don't Press Stop or John Stamos Will Shoot" and the premise involved actor John Stamos using his neighbors VCR (a machine that plays tapes, for those younger readers out there) and somehow being transported inside it, and thus he is forced to play a role in every single tape put in going forward while he searches for a means to escape. Why do I bring this up? Because I was a fat, weird 14 year old who was probably eating his own boogers while I walked home from school, and I can promise you what I wrote was far and away more successfully comedic than the film Mortdecai.

I'm not bragging or patting myself on the back, my writing was likely shit and I'm sure multiple attempts at humor in my story missed the mark. That's precisely my point, that even still, compared to this screenplay my story would have probably gotten a standing ovation. So no, Mortdecai isn't a comedy. It doesn't even deserve to be referred to as a comedy, even if you put the word "bad" or "awful" in front of it.

Can someone explain to me what Johnny Depp is even doing anymore? What in god's name is happening? I mean, I never loved the guy, but this has to be rock bottom. If you have seen the Judd Apatow picture Funny People, you may recall that the character played by Adam Sandler, George Simmons, had been in many clearly terrible films that by merely looking at the posters they created for them you had to laugh, not because they were actually worthy of it but because you couldn't believe how awful they were. One of them was called Re-Do and the image is of Sandler but as a giant baby in a diaper. Another is titled MerMan and it features Sandler flying in the air, half human being, half mermaid. The implication here is that George Sanders was once a promising presence in comedy, and his career turned into total shit and he phoned it in for the money.

So now that you know what I am referring to, just take a look at the poster for Mortdecai. Essentially, Johnny Depp is the fictional George Sanders.

I laughed at multiple times during this film, but not because the material worked or the completely outlandish and unfunny lead performance achieved anything worth while. I laughed because I couldn't believe what I was watching. I couldn't make sense of seeing all these recognizable movie stars in the same frame, saying these words and this being a cinematic release that a studio thought was a good idea, even if it was relegated to the wastelands of January. 

Alright, that's enough. I can't waste any more time on this "movie" Do me a favor: if you feel even the slightest urge to see Mortdecai while standing in line at the box office this weekend, go ahead and purchase a ticket but don't walk away after it is handed to you. Just look the teenager behind the glass in the eye and punch yourself in the face really, really hard, shake it off and collect yourself, and then pass the ticket back to him and ask for a refund. Now, go see ANYTHING else. You will thank me later.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Best Picture Nominees - Ranked

After watching Selma the other day, I have now officially seen the eight films nominated for Best Picture. Here is how I rank them with links to my reviews of each and a few thoughts on why they either worked or didn't.

8. The Imitation Game

The good news is that I wouldn't call any of the Best Picture nominees a bad film. The Imitation Game was perfectly fine in many respects, but that is precisely the problem: perfectly fine isn't good enough when talking about the elite pictures from any given year. Essentially just a recycled set of biopic tropes with good performances to carry them, I was bored throughout most of the movie and have already forgotten a majority of what occurred. Except, of course, for Alexandre Desplat's score. As usual that was brilliant.

7. American Sniper

My Review of American Sniper

Clint Eastwood directs the hell out of this pretty darn good film, but it just isn't great. At times perfectly measured and compelling, but at other times it felt very much like propaganda rather than fair and balanced, especially during a sequence in which the opposing sniper plays like an evil villain while Chris Kyle wears the hat of hero. Also, a bit too much action and not enough focus on the PTSD side of his experience. It was there, I just wanted more.

6. The Theory of Everything

My Review of The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything suffers from many of the same problems I have with The Imitation Game except it was just a more engaging film to follow, and that is mostly due to the absolutely breathtaking lead performance from Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and the perfect turn from Felicity Jones as the first real love of his life, Jane Wilde. I could watch them on screen together all day, which is what makes this a much better work than the previously listed biopic.

5. Selma

Powerful and important, Selma is a great film but a near miss in terms of reaching its full potential. Roughly an entire into it and it absolutely had me by the throat and wasn't willing to let go...until it did, and the experience cooled off with it. Regardless, a must see featuring an amazing lead performance from David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. 

4. Birdman

Being #4 on a list of 8 total films may not seem that impressive, but the fact that Birdman rests at my #7 film of 2014 as of now tells you just how highly I regard the top half of this list. Featuring brilliantly clever writing, technical wizardry from one of the modern geniuses of film photography Emmanuel Lubezki, and amazing performances from the entire ensemble, most notably the man in the lead Michael Keaton, this is a special, stunning movie.

3. Whiplash

A film practically glowing with electricity, pulsing with intensity and dripping with enough sweat that you feel like the pressure is on no matter how comfortable of a seat you have while watching, Whiplash is absolutely dynamite. If it weren't for the soon to be Oscar winning turn by J.K. Simmons in this one, a bigger focus would be on the star making performance from Miles Teller. My heart was still racing a good half hour after this one was over, don't miss it.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

I have long been a fan of the work of Wes Anderson, but I always felt his films were a note or two short of being the masterpiece I knew he was capable of crafting. Earlier in 2014 when I got a chance to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, I realized it had finally happened. The aesthetic, the performances, the amazing screenplay, the level of artistry on display to make everything about the film feeling wonderfully nostalgic and full of life, even at it's darkest moments. A recent revisit elevated this even higher than I originally ranked it, pushing it all the way up to the number two spot.

1. Boyhood

Boyhood is a film that seems to have a different effect on every single person who sees it, and some may not understand the widespread appreciation it gets. For me, it is a profound and beautiful experience, one that feels so much like reality, one that makes me look at my daughter and wonder where the time has gone already and worry about how fast it will continue to move. A joyous, remarkable piece of cinema, not only my favorite of the Best Picture nominees but my clear cut favorite of 2014 overall.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Review

I admit that up until a couple of years ago, I wrongly assumed that anything masterful released by the legendary Studio Ghibli must have been the work of the genius of animation, Hayao Miyazaki. I had carried with me a love for two films in particular, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, and sure enough they were both works crafted by Miyazaki himself, thus I would refer to anything similar as a "Miyazaki film". It wasn't until I fell madly in love with their recent effort The Secret World of Arrietty and I saw that it was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi that I recognized that the studio was bigger than a single piece, no matter how spectacular and influential that piece is. 

Isao Takahata was the co-founder of Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki, yet shamefully as of only a few hours ago his entire filmography was a total blind spot for me. Yes, that includes the supposedly masterful Grave of the Fireflies, a film many consider to be one of the finest achievements in the history of animation, a work I promise to sit down and admire sooner rather than later. Takahata is now 78 years old and his most recent effort, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, has been nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. It was time for me to lose my Takahata virginity. 

My god, it felt so good.

Magical. Mystical. Gorgeous. Devastating. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is an absolute work of art, and it is not only the finest animated film of 2014, it belongs in the conversation regarding the best movie of any kind from last year. 

Initially I would imagine the style of animation can be a bit off-putting , as it is a far different pill to swallow than the vivid eye candy pumped out by the computers of the major studios each year, but as I have always preferred the hand drawn artistry of a Studio Ghibli film I had no problem quickly adjusting. The film begins in a bamboo forest as a man is cutting down shoots until one that is glowing stands out for obvious reasons. Inside it he discovers a miniature girl, and considering the bizarre circumstances he believes she has to be a divine miracle, one that he must bring straight home to share with his wife. What becomes quickly apparent is that she certainly is no ordinary child, as she grows far more rapidly than normal, and the two decide to raise her as their own. They decide to call her "Princess".

The beauty of a Ghibli film shines through again here, which is the fact that there is no correct singular way to appreciate the movie presented to you. One can simply sit back and be swept away by the magic of the experience, choosing to write off any portion of the narrative that might otherwise confound as merely being that way due to the fairy tale nature of it all. Others can dig deeper and really allow the prevalent themes of the work to wash over them, as Takahata clearly has so much more to say with this story than what is presented on the surface. This is why I often use the word "genius" when referring to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli as a whole: when you are smart enough to know exactly how to make a film that can appeal to absolutely anyone regardless of how they choose to approach it, you have accomplished something worthy of massive admiration.

As strange as this may sound, considering how incredibly different the two films are, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya resonated with me for similar reasons as Richard Linklater's Boyhood did. I watched Princess grow up, and while it was joyous she grew far too fast. The progression of Princess felt like a true coming-of-age story, and as she got older she faced issues that are meaningful to any adolescent: depression, romance and the desire to follow your own path rather than the one expected of you. In the end, the idea of having to say goodbye, the idea of letting go of that child you raised, the one you love with every fiber of your being is beyond heartbreaking. It's a feeling that I cannot pretend to comprehend until I face it myself one day down the road with my own daughter. Right now she looks to me to be her everything, to life her up when she falls, to make her smile when she's down, to literally rub her back when she has trouble falling asleep. Eventually she will not need me in those ways anymore. It's inevitable, yet knowing this doesn't make it carry any less emotional weight. 

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya feels like a fable I want to experience on repeat and yet in part a reality I want to delay for as long as possible. The film features sequences that are so breathtaking and refreshingly unique, I couldn't stop myself from smiling and literally saying "wow" aloud to myself as I watched. 

I doubt this is a work that will lose its power on a revisit, yet I can't help but wish I could go back and do it again for the first time, experience some of the more remarkable moments with fresh eyes and without anticipation.

My god, it felt so good.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Selma Review

Quiet when it's appropriate and yet fierce when it wants to hurt, and it does hurt. I felt the pain as I watched human beings fall in the streets, beaten under a shroud of darkness, shot dead for no apparent reason beyond the color of their skin. Selma is a film that will effectively resonate with me for those moments that brought tears to my eyes, as if I was transported back to the time when such atrocities really took place rather than watching a modern day cinematic re-creation.

At certain times throughout Selma, the film flat out had me. It had it's powerful narrative wrapped around my soul and was shaking me, refusing to loosen it's grip...and then suddenly it would let go, which is unfortunate. A victim of uneven pacing, just when I thought the film's director Ava DuVernay had a pitch perfect handle on exactly what to do with the material, she would temporarily fall back into the familiar biopic tropes and thus let the foot off the gas pedal. At it's best though, Selma is a film that makes you want to stand up immediately and march right along side the characters on screen, ignoring the hatred and the danger tossed in your direction because you know it's right and you know it is a cause that absolutely means something to humanity.

I can't confidently say that I feel DuVernay was deserving of an Oscar nomination for her direction of Selma, mostly because I think her weaknesses were occasionally evident, but it's undeniable that at times she knew exactly how to make an audience feel the power and importance of this picture, whether it be through framing or brilliant camera angles like when we feel as if we are marching behind Martin Luther King Jr. Granted, if we are comparing her work here with an actual nominee, say the by the numbers, bland and completely underwhelming craft of Morten Tyldum on The Imitation Game, then DuVernay absolutely was snubbed, but dare I say Fincher anyone?

Yes, I felt compelled to take a side swipe shot at Tyldum here. I still can't get over that nomination. But I digress.

What is apparent is the glaring oversight of David Oyelowo in the lead role of Martin Luther King Jr., an absolutely brilliant and measured performance that captivated with every word, every look, every mannerism no matter how seemingly slight. Without a doubt one of the finest efforts of 2014, and it is difficult to discern how he didn't find his name mentioned among the five most elite performances of the year. I can fault various aspects of the film for letting me down because they were glaring due to the rest of the work feeling so faultless, but across the board the acting was rock solid, with Oyelowo leading the way with complete perfection.

At the end of the film Selma, it feels as if a victory had been won and of course it absolutely had been. The events depicted showcase a major moment for the Civil Rights Movement, and it is worthy of a joyous and optimistic tone, but I feel saddened and ashamed that a racial divide still exists in America in 2015.  Is it as tense and hostile as the 1960's and earlier? Of course not, but nevertheless I still occasionally see a proudly waved confederate flag or hear some disgusting rhetoric about "what's wrong with this country" with a finger pointed at a specific race, and it's unsettling to say the least.

The optimistic part of me thinks its possible that my now seven year old daughter will see a world sooner rather than later in which we see far less hatred expressed for such ludicrous things like skin color or religious beliefs, but unfortunately I worry that is far fetched. All I can do is teach her to avoid stereotypes and bias and bigotry, an understanding that all people deserve equal rights and equal treatment. Martin Luther King Jr. marched us down the right path, but we must continue on because the work is not yet done.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Hunt Review

It's so easy to take something as simple as the power of words for granted. On one end of the spectrum, certain combinations of words can bring warmth to an entire existence and enrich a soul, especially the loving thoughts of a child. What seems impossible to comprehend is that one untruthful set of words, a single lie derived from a mind too young and innocent to understand their ramifications, could lead to the devastating downfall of a man.

The Hunt tells the story of Lucas, a Kindergarten teacher living a lonely life with his beloved dog, hoping to gain more time with his son Marcus whom he sees far too little due to his divorce. Things begin to look up for Lucas after his wish for custody of Marcus is granted and he enters into a romantic relationship with a young woman he works with, but in an instant his world is torn apart because of one bewildering, graphic lie told by the young daughter of his best friend. The fact that such a thing would exist in the mind of such a small child leads those who heard it to believe in it, and everything Lucas loved and lived for is taken away from him.

In the role of Lucas, Mads Mikkelsen is so brilliant it actually made me feel a little sick to my stomach a few times. I would imagine this is quite the compliment to an actor as long as it is meant in the right context, a performance so riveting, so painful that it elicited a literal churn of my insides. The Hunt is beautifully written and directed, a nuanced masterpiece of dramatic filmmaking that forced me to sit through the duration of the entire credits before I even considered pressing the stop button on the remote. It's haunting, watching the will to live be sucked out of a human being due to something they are accused of that never happened.

While The Hunt is a work of fiction, it felt like anything but because the scenario presented is far too real. When a person is charged with a crime and the court of public opinion comes to the conclusion that guilt is the only plausible possibility, even when a name is technically cleared the stigma remains. Behind the smiles that surround Lucas are the painful reminders that an entire community will always look at him in a different light, as it is impossible to completely undo such a wrong that was done.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Like Father, Like Son Review

Typically when I am writing rave reviews, I mention the unique and fresh premise or the stylish cinematography, and yet here we have Like Father, Like Son, a Japanese drama about a switched at birth scenario, a premise that has been featured in previous films and a current television series. Absolutely nothing about the aesthetic of this film is flashy or seemingly inventive. At first glance, this is a work that feels ordinary, familiar, nothing that will blow your mind or dazzle your technical sensitivities.

So is the end result an ordinary, familiar, nothing with will blow your mind film? Not even close. Like Father, Like Son is one of the best movies of 2014.

I am painfully unfamiliar with the work of esteemed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, as the closest I have come to seeing one of his movies prior to this was when I checked a copy of After Life out of the library and then the disc didn't function. I have heard so much praise heaved in his direction and I finally got to experience why this is, and if Like Father, Like Son is an indication of his overall filmography, I understand it all now. So much nuance, so much heartbreak, so much feeling seeps out of this picture, but the brilliance of it is that it doesn't have to try very hard to achieve its excellence. Everything about this feels natural and real, and as a result I believed in the story and these characters.

The story of Like Father, Like Son revolves around the Nonomiya family, and the lead role is the father Ryota, a man driven by his financial success in life rather than spending time with his wife and young son. The normalcy of their routine of life goes off the rails when they find out one day that the son they have loved and raised for six years is not actually their own, that the hospital switched out their child with another newborn boy. When they meet up with the other family involved in the swap, complex emotions rattle these parents to their core and they are forced to ask themselves, continue raising the child that owns their hearts but doesn't share their blood? Or correct the original mistake and begin anew with the child they were always supposed to spend their lives with?

For me the answer is simple, as I could never say goodbye to the beautiful little girl I have shared so many memories with over the past seven plus years regardless of whether she turned out to be literally my own or not, and yet despite this I still found a way to be conflicted while watching this film. For me, family and love stretch far beyond anything a blood test could prove, but at the same time I can't wrap my mind around how surreal it would be to see the child you actually created being raised by someone else.

Koreeda had such a focused hand when crafting this movie, a picture that on paper is screaming to be melodramatic yet it never is, not for a moment. This is also a credit to the perfect performances throughout, as we can see the pain and love they feel in them even during silent moments, as their eyes and mannerisms do plenty of talking. Like Father, Like Son is quite simply a beautiful, heart felt film, and if you have Netflix streaming I suggest you look it up and give it a spin. You will not regret it.


Citizenfour Review

I recently watched Jason Reitman's most recent work, Men, Women & Children, which seemed to be attempting a meaningful story that sold technology as scary and I laughed it off the screen. Sarcastic jokes came from these lips, telling my wife that the toaster was watching us or a colleague that the computer room would tell us what to do any day now. It wasn't the goal of such a narrative I mocked, as I am a believer that certain social aspects of life are being diminished thanks to sites like Facebook and that human intelligence is in danger of slipping thanks to a reliance on technology over learning. No, I mocked that film because the way it approached its thematic goal was unintentionally hysterical and about as well crafted as a Saturday evening Lifetime Network original feature. 

After screening the new Oscar nominated documentary Citizenfour, I think the toaster might actually be watching me.

All joking aside, I am going to get the aspects of the film that didn't work for me out of the way first, because I don't think it is fair for me to focus too much on the negatives. Why? Well, because I am not sure it is even fair to classify them as negatives. See, my problem with Citizenfour is that I didn't actually learn anything watching it, as I have followed the story of Edward Snowden closely enough that I knew most of what was unveiled, and I didn't learn anything about him personally either perhaps because I anticipated his personality to be, well, exactly what it is. I already knew about his journalistic relationship with Glenn Greenwald and the complicated implications this has had on Greenwald himself, a man simply doing his job and yet he was afraid of returning to American soil because of his first hand knowledge of Snowden (although he also cites marriage inequality as a reason for living in Brazil, and what it may actually have something to do with is unpaid taxes here in the United States). 

I think the only thing I learned while watching Citizenfour is the fact that they were making this documentary all along, filming these secretive private moments as Snowden was in hiding. I had no idea this type of film would ever exist, so that in itself was eye opening. The content, however, didn't feel very revealing and thus I had a difficult time being "entertained" by what was happening, although I am not sure that word is very appropriate anyways. The goal of a work like this isn't to entertain, it is to pull back the curtain and let us in on something that feels exciting in its illegality and unique in its importance, and without a doubt in that sense Citizenfour works in every conceivable way. 

Hence why I asked if my issues can really be considered negatives. I only encountered these bumps along the way because I had already done so much reading on the Snowden situation, but to a person who had remained mostly in the dark this whole time I imagine a film like this would be almost terrifying and unnerving, to learn what the most powerful government on the planet not only was capable of doing, but in fact they are still doing it right now: listening to our calls, reading our emails, and following where we go and who we are with while we are going. In a post 9/11 world where almost everything can be labeled as an anti-terrorism measure, privacy simply does not exist. 

Citizenfour is the result of bold and brave filmmaking by Laura Poitras as she was willing to put her own entire situation in jeopardy in order to document the Edward Snowden saga in real time. While not my favorite or even second favorite documentary of 2014, if they do happen to announce this as the Oscar winner on February 22nd I won't be disappointed by the decision. It is important to keep a film like this on the radar for as long as possible, as anyone who didn't appreciate the depth and big picture meaning of what Snowden was unveiling to the world should see Citizenfour and try to understand what it all really means. No, the government is likely not literally reading your emails as I am sure they have better things to do with their time, especially if you lead as boring of a life as I do, but the point is they CAN, even if you have done nothing wrong. If that isn't unsettling, I don't know what is.

While American Sniper dominates the box office and the debate over whether Chris Kyle was an American hero or just a pretty shitty human being rages on, a much better film that invokes a very similar debate will fly under the radar and be mostly ignored by the public. Not only a better film, a more important one as well, as the wealth of knowledge Snowden has about the scary modern reality of our lack of privacy is far more powerful than the capabilities of a man holding a gun. Find a way to see Citizenfour as soon as you can.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Wedding Ringer Review

My cinematic calendar didn't officially start anew in 2014 until early February when I saw The LEGO Movie in the theater and my goodness, what a way to kick off a fresh slate of films. So clever, so unique, so fresh and so funny, I have now watched that movie three times and up until about a week ago it held firm in my top 10 of 2014. I have seen roughly 110 releases from last year now, and the one that started it all, The LEGO Movie, sits at #11, and this early success felt like an omen for what proved to be a fantastic year in film.

My first film of 2015 was The Wedding Ringer. Uh oh.

I learned last year that it isn't fair to assume the worst prior to actually seeing a movie, because honestly I expected very little from The LEGO Movie based on the trailers and advertisements blaring on my television every few minutes and I was shocked to find a hilarious, heartwarming and quite brilliant work when I actually saw it. So while I obviously didn't expect much from The Wedding Ringer, you never know, right?

Terrible. It's just a terrible movie.

I was searching for laughs and yet I came up empty. I was hoping for some charm and yet I felt so cold. The Wedding Ringer is just recycled, lifeless material, a misguided pile of tropes that have already been done to death before, assembled together here in a way that makes it seem like they are selling the audience something fresh and clever.

At the very least I would have hoped that perhaps some entertaining performances could have elevated the screenplay, but no such luck. Kevin Hart has mastered the art of playing Kevin Hart, but perhaps he should try something different for a change. I show more range as an actor when I call in sick to work. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is listed as an "actress" when you Google her, but I think that may be a stretch. Her performance in The Wedding Ringer makes her about as much of an actress as I am an astrophysicist. It was painful to watch her force facial expressions and deliver lines with absolutely no charisma. I assume her being offered this role had a lot more to do with the fact that she is recognizable from the most popular television show on the planet and not because of any sort of captivating audition. I feel as if they could have found someone better for the challenging role of "hot girl who is surprisingly marrying Josh Gad", but I guess a lesser known face might effect ticket sales.

Speaking of Josh Gad, he was the one I was hopeful of the most here because I like the guy and I think he can be funny, but alas he missed the mark as well. Although I will say, of the three he certainly came the closest to bringing some semblance of joy during the film, but really that's like winning a game of "How many fingers am I holding up?" against two blind people.

The Wedding Ringer is the first release of 2015 I have seen and it has a legitimate shot at making my list of worst of the year when all is said and done. Not a great way to start.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

John Wick Review

An important lesson I have learned during the last few years since I began exploring far more cinema than I ever had before is that there is no such thing as a bad genre. It doesn't exist. Men can say they don't like "chick flicks" all they want, but when they say those words they picture a really uninspired and predictable movie that would feature Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. The truth is, a romantic comedy can be a wonderful and brilliant thing when it is crafted by people with actual talent, when it features a remarkable screenplay and the right actors playing roles perfectly suited to their abilities. Woody Allen films like Annie Hall and Manhattan file under the category of romantic comedies, as does Rob Reiner's fantastic When Harry Met Sally and the classic The Apartment by Billy Wilder. None of these amazing works deserve to be lumped into a single group classified as "chick flicks" and ignored by an entire gender, thus the reality is, I never truly dislike a genre but rather specific poorly made films.

The interesting this is, I didn't have this revelation due to the examples above as I have always had a soft spot for a well made romantic comedy. As odd as it seems as I am a 30 year old, the genre I was unfairly claiming to hate as a whole was actually action, as I had grown so damn weary of simply watching people with guns shoot at each other for two hours with no real story or substance to back it up. 

That all changed when I was told to watch the Indonesian action film The Raid: Redemption back in 2012. I likely rolled my eyes and dismissed the recommendation initially, but eventually I gave in expecting to see nothing special, a seen it all before display of bullets and bodies that would have me checking my watch more often than the screen in front of me. What director Gareth Evans did in that film nearly literally blew my mind and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, and that's when it hit me: I didn't hate action films, I hated bad action films. When a project is placed into the right hands, even a display of bullets and bodies can be spellbinding stuff. 

Early in 2014 I went to the cinema to catch the sequel of that film, The Raid 2, and I fell even more in love with the bloodbaths created by Evans as I felt that the second installment was actually a step up from a first, an action crime drama masterpiece that managed to pull me in with dialogue and then kick my ass back out of the room with its incredible set pieces and choreography. The thing is, even as I was back into the idea of a great action film, I sort of relegated the possibility to those specific works and didn't consider something else entirely could do it for me in a similar fashion. Enter John Wick.

A film I dismissed at first glance, John Wick is just plain awesome. I could try to be verbose and eloquent about why I loved this movie, but truthfully it just kicks so much ass and it was made so expertly with such confidence and gorgeous cinematography that I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The premise is incredibly simple: when we meet John Wick, he has just lost his wife to an undisclosed illness, but we quickly grasp it was an anticipated death and not a total surprise when John receives a gift from his wife posthumously, one last way to say I love you, an adorable puppy named Daisy as a companion in hopes to cure his loneliness. 

Three men enter John's home one night in hopes of stealing his car. They kill his puppy. It is totally, painfully heartbreaking. Yet soon after it was impossible not to smile watching this film. You know why?

You don't fuck with John Wick.

These men have taken all that John had left in the world, and thus he will make them pay. It's a beautiful and exciting thing, watching the hyper-violence unfold in such aesthetically appealing locations like a neon lit night club or the peaceful glow of a church. This is the difference between a film like this and one like American Sniper, as it might seem hypocritical for me to judge one for not valuing human life enough and on the other side be celebrating strewn out bodies and pools of blood. When you make a biopic based on real events and a real person, a certain sensitivity to morality and humanity must be conveyed to strike the perfect emotional balance of the narrative. When you make a film like John Wick, just kill every last piece of shit in the room and I will cheer like an idiot. 

It isn't as if I am some sort of monster, in fact I am anything but. In reality the concept of a gun being near me makes me beyond uncomfortable, and I wish people nothing but peace and harmony and happiness and safety. If I were to watch the news one morning and they happened to report on a story about a guy killing hundreds of people as an act of vengeance over a slain dog, I would think well shit, that's a tad overboard. Could anything so awful really be a just response to the death of a single pet?

In this world, the stylish, super cool and most importantly, fictional one occupied by John Wick? It not only felt just, it felt so god damn right. 

Keanu Reeves is awesome, Michael Nyqvist is ridiculous (in a good way), Theon Greyjoy is a friggin' creep and I am officially scared of the Baba Yaga. Watch John Wick as soon as possible.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Imitation Game Review

I feel like I would have enjoyed a film like The Imitation Game more ten years ago than I do now, as strange as that may sound. It isn't an issue with mental maturity or personal growth that makes me believe this, it's more a form of cinematic fatigue that I only began to notice relatively recently. I used to complain that critics were too negative, that they couldn't have fun with films, but in recent years as I screen more and more of the releases each year I finally get it: when you watch everything, the fact that something is bland and painfully familiar is impossible to ignore.

It isn't that The Imitation Game is a bad film, it isn't. In fact, I can't really put my finger on what was technically wrong with it except that it just felt so mundane and uninspired, which is a shame considering the story it was trying to tell is so damn potentially fascinating. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the brilliant genius inventor of the modern computer, and the focal point of the film revolves around his attempts to build a machine capable of cracking the German code called Enigma. Unfortunately my focal point wasn't allowing the remarkable true story to pull me in and captivate me for two hours, but rather to make sure I kept my eyes open throughout. This film is ripe for becoming an ideal source of background noise while I nap.

Everything that has grown tiresome about the playing it safe biopic was present here. The unlikable genius lead who rubs people the wrong way with their social awkwardness. The group of men he surrounds himself with who initially can't stand to be near him, but after time they become friends. The female character who is drawn to his genius even though his social awkwardness makes him a tough nut to crack. Hell, the tone and overall vibe of The Imitation Game feels as if it was literally lifted from films like A Beautiful Mind and the other very similar work from 2014, The Theory of Everything.

The Imitation Game is well made, it is performed beautifully, and it features a musical score by the amazing Alexandre Desplat that rivals anything else I have heard from last year. In fact, I would have had a beautiful experience had I merely closed my eyes, laid back and listened to the magical score by itself. Despite everything it does right, I am left feeling so underwhelmed by the picture as a whole. Considering the critical acclaim and award recognition, The Imitation Game might be my biggest disappointment of 2014.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Boyhood Review

When you flip through a photo album, typically you get a glimpse into the "important" moments from the past. The moment two lives become one through marriage. The birth of their child. The magic of a first birthday. The first day of school. Sure, you may also see images of random days here and there, like a trip to the zoo or a family vacation, but for the most part these pages are reserved for the stuff that is deemed "special", a limited number of landmark moments that feel worthy of remembrance while hundreds of days each year simply came and went.  

Boyhood covers a few of these type of moments, those that would find their way into a photo album, like a birthday and a graduation, but for the most part it is a film that is meant to fill in the blanks, the empty spaces between each photograph that never seem to garner the attention they deserve. It's a picture that is profoundly powerful in its simplicity, one that deserves recognition for every scene that feels inconsequential because those moments are precisely why the movie feels so damn real. Truthfully, no scene should feel inconsequential because nothing about life is.

I know some claim that the only reason Boyhood is such a beloved film is because of the 12 year "gimmick", the fact that it was made over such a long span of time and thus is admired for its ambitions rather than it actual achievements, but this concept is baffling to me. Such a thought is totally irrelevant because without the 12 year shooting schedule, the film Boyhood doesn't exist. Sure, Richard Linklater could have made this picture over a normal shooting schedule and simply cast different aged actors to play the role of Mason Jr., but then the authentic beauty of the narrative doesn't translate. So, yeah, this will probably win Best Picture because of the fact that it was made over the course of 12 years, but that is no gimmick. That IS the reason Boyhood is such an achievement. This unique cinematic vision resulted in one of the most fluid, gorgeous, and real movie experiences I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

This was not my first viewing of Boyhood nor is it my first gushing, glowing review, but a Blu-ray revisit demanded another write up from me because the impact this film has on me is profound. As my wife and I enjoyed the perfect pacing, seamless editing and fresh and exciting approach to storytelling today on our couch, the type of lazy Sunday afternoon I day dream about when life gets hectic or times get tough, my seven year old daughter walked in and out of the room, and it is impossible not to connect to this Linklater work when you see her adorable face and wonder where the time has gone. She may be only seven, but at the same time she is already seven. One day a child is born, and when you blink your eyes they are in first grade, reading books and giving you attitude and complaining about dinner and not listening to a word you say...and it's totally amazing.

I think the best thing about Boyhood, which is easily one of the greatest films of recent memory if not ever, is when you consider the idea of how it will age along with us. Right now, at the age of thirty with a child who is seven, I connect to the concept of the passage of time being relentless on a meaningful, emotional level, but what will it be like ten years from now?

I will be forty, and my daughter will be seventeen years old, embarrassed of how I act around her friends, keeping me up at night when I worry of why she has missed curfew, and preparing to leave our home for college. If Boyhood is this amazing now, I can't even imagine the tears I will shed in the future as Mason drives away, down that beautiful open road with the song "Hero" playing, perfectly suited for the moment. 

Boyhood isn't just a gimmick or just a well executed interesting premise. Boyhood is perfect.


American Sniper Review

"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."

The above quote doesn't come from the film I am reviewing but rather the 1993 Best Picture winner Unforgiven, my favorite western of all time and coincidentally a work directed by Clint Eastwood, the man who crafted American Sniper which is nominated for 6 Oscars. Seems strange to quote an entirely different film, one that was released 22 years ago, but given the subject matter of this new Eastwood effort it seems appropriate.

American Sniper tells the true(ish) story of infamous U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a man who is credited for having the most kills by a sniper in history. To be clear, I didn't include the (ish) as some sort of insult to this film as, to be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea what is true and what isn't. I have never read the details of the story of Kyle's life and frankly, I don't really care to. I don't need to understand the man Kyle was when he was at home with his family and I don't need to understand what Kyle did while leaving his indelible mark on american history. All I want to judge is the film itself.

At the age of 84, Clint Eastwood is at the top of his game here as he directs American Sniper with grace and confidence and a leveled sense of brutality when the story demands it, and it certainly does at times. How could you tell the story of a man who took so many lives without shedding a fair share of blood? It is a necessity of course, but I also find it amusing when I read so many say that a single film does a good job of showcasing the ugliness of war. Do we still need a single piece of cinema to teach us that war is messy and awful and traumatic? Shouldn't this be common knowledge with or without a look at a bearded Bradley Cooper?

Speaking of Cooper, his turn as Kyle marks yet another fantastic performance from an actor that I never envisioned could be so gifted back when I was introduced to him as a supporting one note character in Wedding Crashers. He plays the role of American meathead perfectly here when that aspect of the character is called for, a man who refers to his enemies as savages when moments later he could be using his own weapon to end so many lives in a manner of minutes, yet I was glad that Eastwood didn't merely craft a picture dripping in jingoism because at times it did feel like the narrative might be headed in that direction. It is clear that the intense negative impact of war is portrayed with some realism through other characters as well as the PTSD suffered by Chris Kyle.

However, I must now toss in a little bit of criticism to sour the delicious dish I was serving up until now, and the irony is the aspect I just complimented will be the focus. I admire that Eastwood attempted to portray the trauma caused by war, specifically in this case the misguided efforts in Iraq (I don't think this even qualifies as opinion anymore, it seems to be fact that the Iraq proved to be a troubling cluster fuck failure), but I feel as if he didn't go far enough in this regard. Sure, I got the whole after effects of combat thing, but that seemed to be heavily outweighed by the bro-tastic fist bumping of american pride and the idea that Kyle was a hero for saving lives rather than a villain for taking so many.

Was Chris Kyle wrong for killing so many people while in combat? Honestly, and this is going to sound crazy, but no, at least in terms of what was asked of him. I personally could never take a life unless I absolutely had to. I just don't have it in me, and I think even if I were to gun down the worst of the worst terrorist, knowing full well I just did humanity a whole lot of good, I would still have trouble sleeping at night knowing that a person took their last breathe because of my pulling of a trigger. Like the quote from Unforgiven above, it's a hell of a thing, killing a man. I can only hope it's the type of thing I will never have to understand. That being said, as a sniper in the U.S. military Kyle was doing his job, and he often times accomplished the goal of saving the lives of those fighting on his side which is precisely what he should have done. 

My problem is this: if Chris Kyle is a hero, why is the other sniper fighting for the opposition the villain? The film doesn't really explore this concept, or if it does than it doesn't do it all that well, but much like Kyle, the sniper gunning down american soldiers was also just doing his job, and as messy and depressing and horrifying as it may be, it is what was asked of him and therefore he carried out his duties. The film seems to portray this opposing sniper as evil and it seems to ask us, the audience, to celebrate his death as a victory, but at the end of the day he was a man fighting for his beliefs, serving those he promised to serve, shooting targets that threatened him and the men around him. Were his kills any more evil than the record number of bodies left behind by Chris Kyle? If so, why?

American Sniper does so much right, it is impossible for me to not recommend it, but I just don't see it as a game changing, Best Picture worthy piece of cinema. It is a very well made and brilliantly performed film, worthy of plenty of recognition but perhaps not the top prize.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wild Review

I'm often times fascinated by the concept of decision making, no matter how inconsequential the choice may seem. Every single day of our lives we make decisions, and we must live with the results as time can never move backwards and moments can never be undone. As such we, and by we I mean everyone, are plagued by regret and we wish to have the ability to close our eyes and have the opportunity to do things differently.

I would be lying if I said I have somehow completely transcended letting something like regret bother me, as it is impossible to stop the mind from wandering back to a day long since passed, a day when a decision was made that proved to lead me down the wrong path. That being said, I am a firm believer that living with a constant feeling of regret, allowing such a thing to tarnish all of life's moments going forward, would be a shame and nothing more than a waste of time. Life is too short to waste time.

Cheryl begins a massive, daunting hike by choice, 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail all alone, and initially her reasons for taking on this behemoth quest are unknown to us. Through a series of flashbacks we are allowed to witness the past that haunts her and it becomes clear that she is out there in the wild as a means to escape, to get away from a painful existence that left her with so many emotional scars, but its also more than this. Every step that Cheryl takes is a small victory in hopes of finally achieving the big win, the chance to move forward with her life and leave the past behind. The chance to stop wasting so much time living with sadness and regrets.

Wild does suffer a bit due to the fact that it feels familiar, utilizing a similar tone and following similar beats as films like 127 Hours and Into the Wild, but it is able to rise above this thanks to a compelling structure that keeps you wondering just what fuels Cheryl on her journey and also a curiosity as to what caused that damaged look in her eyes as she scans through unwanted memories. Another key to this film being successful would be the magnificent lead performance from Reese Witherspoon, as her vulnerable, haunted, and emotionally wrecked character doesn't even need words to properly demonstrate her pain. It feels so real and honest throughout, and this story simply wouldn't fly without a brilliant lead. That Oscar nomination is well deserved.

By the time Wild ends, it's hard to not feel inspired to leave regrets and lingering pain behind you in hopes of moving forward. As I said before, list is too short to waste time, which is why I can recommend this film with confidence. Setting aside a couple of hours to admire a very good film featuring a great performance is absolutely time well spent.


Friday, January 16, 2015

The Skeleton Twins Review

A quick glance at a poster for the film The Skeleton Twins and you will likely have the wrong idea of what to expect from it. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live alum that almost certainly promise wacky laughs and silly comedy, are the two stars of the film so I would imagine that the opening sequence would prove to be a bit jarring for an audience looking for their typical material.

Bill Hader plays Milo, and we meet him at an inopportune moment, right at a time when he has decided to lie back in a bathtub and we see the once clear water turn red with blood. Kristen Wiig plays Maggie, a woman battling her demons and we don't need verbal confirmation of this as she stands in a bathroom, preparing to swallow a handful of pills. She doesn't though, as what stops her is a phone call informing her that her twin sibling Milo had attempted suicide, a brother that she had not seen in decade. 

The beauty of the screenplay of The Skeleton Twins is that it somehow finds a perfect balance for these actors, one that allows them to utilize their comedic chops yet it also proves to be a breakthrough for both of them on a dramatic level. The entire film isn't nearly as bleak as that first sequence makes it out to be, as it easily elicited laughter from me and also had moments that were warm and joyous and suited for a smile, but at the heart of the story was a focus on depression, one that felt authentic in this setting with these people.

I think the aspect that worked for me the most with this film was the way the characters are portrayed, as real people with real flaws and real issues. Neither Milo nor Maggie are perfect, far from it, but isn't that true to practically everyone? When an issue like adultery rears its ugly head, it isn't handled in a way that would make people hate the cheater and say things like "Why would she do that?!". It's simple, she would do that because she is human and humanity is riddled with flaws and poor decision making and guilt and mistakes and the ups and downs of existence. Hader and Wiig bring a shocking level of nuance to these roles that makes it easy to understand why they lead such troubled lives: because they are real, because people out there right now are just like these two characters and I am sure plenty more have enough similar traits to relate to their plight. 

Even when they are at their worst, when it seems as if the bottom has fallen out on Milo and Maggie, I found I could empathize with them because something as simple as a look in their eye demonstrated their conscious understanding that what they were doing was wrong and deep down they desired more out of life. They just want to be better.

Can't we all relate to that in some way?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Nominations 2015! Shameful Snubs! Reactions!

The Oscar nominations have been revealed, and all I can say is wow. So many surprised I never saw coming. Here they are, with the titles in bold being those that I correctly predicted, followed by my reactions to each category.

Warning: a couple of these categories are going to elicit emotional, angry responses from me.


The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
American Sniper
The Theory of Everything

My first reaction? I cannot believe Gone Girl didn't even earn a nomination, which will prove to be a familiar theme as we continue on down the list. I read somewhere that there was a gut feeling that the average age and general nature of the typical Academy voter would mean they would find that film to be a hard pill to swallow. Looks like this thought was accurate.

I was hoping for a nomination for Nightcrawler as well, but I am not surprised it was excluded. Just not the type of film that normally would make the Best Picture cut with that crowd. The Theory of Everything better than those two films? Ridiculous.


Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Four of the five correctly predicted, with the only hiccup being that I really thought more love would be thrown in the direction of David Fincher and Gone Girl. Oh well, he will always be receiving bouquets coming from my direction.


Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

I can't say I am surprised to see Carell and Cooper nominated, and I won't talk ill of the choices since those are two films I am yet to see. Personally I was rooting for Ralph Fiennes and Jake Gyllenhaal as they are my two favorite performances of the year, and honestly I am surprised by the Fiennes omission given how much love The Grand Budapest Hotel received this year from the Academy.


Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

You know, had I picked these months ago I very well may have included Cotillard here because there was a time she was a pretty clear selection but then it seemed she went on a rather long stretch of being ignored, so I figured her potential had lost steam. Otherwise the choices were expected.


J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

I said I expected no surprises here, and sure enough, no surprises.


Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Laura Dern, Wild

I can't even claim Laura Dern as my alternate choice to Jessica Chastain, seeing as how I declared my alternate choice was Tilda Swinton for Snowpiercer.


Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

5/5 correct, boom! Love that Nightcrawler got recognition here.


Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Essentially, Anthony McCarten wrote a screenplay based on every single other biopic made in recent memory, a predictable trope by numbers type of work. So he earns a nomination over Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl. Sure, why not?


American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

This category was the specific one that made me realize, holy shit, The Grand Budapest Hotel really is in the running for Best Picture. Not that the nomination isn't deserved, but I never expected it...clearly, since I only predicted two of the five correctly.



The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner

A part of me is really quite annoyed that Interstellar didn't get a nomination here, but my complaint of this isn't directed towards a film like Ida, which actually puts a smile on my face that the Academy went in that direction. No, despite the fact that I predicted it AND I am a huge fan of Roger Deakins, if you gave me the option over the photography of Unbroken or Interstellar, there is no contest.


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner
The Imitation Game

When I did my predictions, I said "Interesting to see if Mr. Turner gets a nod here as I expect it will for cinematography, very much a possibility it knocks The Imitation Game out of that last spot."

One portion of that thought came true, but the surprise for me is that it knocked off Birdman, which I thought was a lock.


American Sniper

for sound mixing? All I remember was Zamperini getting punched over and over again.


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
American Sniper

for sound editing? See above.


Into the Woods
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Mr. Turner

As I said when I made the predictions, should be an interesting choice between Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest Hotel, as I would imagine those are the clear cut favorites.


Mr. Turner
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything
The Imitation Game

On the one hand, I am thrilled to see the score of The Grand Budapest Hotel nominated, as I was just thinking the other day when I revisited that film that the music was sorely under-appreciated, as I had not heard it linked to a potential nomination. On the other hand, seriously? No love for the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross? This category was the exclamation point of the obvious mass snubbing of Gone Girl by the academy. What a shame that such conventional, unremarkable work like the score of The Theory of Everything gets recognized over it.


Wild Tales

I can't complain because I have not seen it, but color me shocked that Force Majeure is not a part of this mix. I didn't think that was possible given the overwhelmingly positive reception and the fact that it was deemed a lock by anyone making predictions.


Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

When I did the nomination predictions, I declared that CitizenFour was the "major competition to Life Itself". Notice anything above? Life Itself is not nominated for Best Documentary? Remember that warning at the start of this about my angry and emotional reactions to a couple of categories? Here we are, with the other one being next up.

I cannot comprehend the exclusion of Life Itself, a truly brilliant and beautiful documentary by the incredible Steve James. It actually feels insulting, that such a powerful and life affirming look at a man who passionately loved the medium of film could be ignored like this. Now, I have seen Virunga and it is a solid doc, but the idea that it is more deserving of this honor than Life Itself is a joke.

Hopefully people will continue to seek out the stirring tribute to the life of Roger Ebert despite the Academy ignoring it, because it needs to be seen. Currently my favorite documentary of 2014 and in my top 15 films overall, I cannot believe this snub.


Song of the Sea
How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Tales of Princess Kaguya
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls

The LEGO Movie, which currently resides in my top 10 films of 2014, which happen to be the ten I have given a perfect score to, isn't even NOMINATED for best animated film?!?!

I actually slightly prefer the wonderful How to Train Your Dragon 2 to it, and I also enjoyed Big Hero 6 but the idea that it is more deserving than the genius work of Phil Lord and Chris Miller on The LEGO Movie is just awful.

I have a feeling my anger will only intensify when I see The Boxtrolls...


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
X-Men: Days of Future Past

A little surprised that Godzilla wasn't a part of these five, but nothing too upsetting or shocking here.


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

My first mistake here? Assuming there would be five nominees. Whoops.


"Glory", Selma

"Everything is Awesome", The LEGO Movie
"Grateful", Beyond the Lights
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You", Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me
"Lost Stars", Begin Again

I predicted that the same five nominees from the Golden Globes would carry over here. One of the five made the cut.

On the one hand, I am thrilled to see "Everything is Awesome" nominated, because if you actually listen to that whole song it is ridiculously clever and fun, and well, awesome. Part of me though finds this nomination to be even more frustrating for the snub of The LEGO Movie in the animated feature category. My only thought when I saw it was excluded was perhaps they forgot about the genius of the concept and execution of the whole thing because it was released all the way back in February of last year, but if they find the song worthy of recognition this cannot be the case.


The Dam Keeper
A Single Life
The Bigger Picture
Me and My Moulton

I didn't really expect to do well here, as I have no idea what most of the short films are. Feast is wonderful though, without seeing the others it will be the one I am rooting for.


Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
White Earth
The Reaper
Our Curse

Another category I can't really react to in any way as I have seen zero of them. Perhaps I will seek these all out before the ceremony though, understand what makes them great.


Butter Lamp
The Phone Call
Boogaloo and Graham

Without seeing anything, I am included to root for anything titled "Boogaloo".

So the nominations have been revealed and now it is weeks of wonderful who will win. I cannot shake some of these snubs but I will get over it.

Keep an eye out for my predictions of who will win in each category, coming at some point just before the Oscars take place on February 22nd!