My Collected Reviews Of The Oscar Nominees Of 2014
For my full predictions, click here
American Hustle - Click here
"David O. Russell is not one of our “great” filmmakers, and that’s ok. His ‘American Hustle' is, like the best moments in his filmography, a great pleasure to sit through, but his films have now settled into that sloppy ramshackle method of storytelling that highlights actors and downplays escalation or stakes-raising in any real way, even when the script demands it. He’s something of a serious David Wain, in that respect, though with greater empathy for human beings.”
Captain Phillips - Click here
"And yeah, it’s tense and suspenseful and Greengrass knows how to tell a story through this action-chaos method that he’s perfected, but so what? How many movies can Greengrass make where the white American has to battle the dark-skinned foreigner? He would be Hollywood’s red-state secret weapon if he hadn’t blown $140 million on ‘Green Zone,’ which pretended that the general public would care that we went to war in the Middle East under false pretense. When he makes ‘United 93,’ it’s interesting. When he gives the defense department a freebie with the glamorous, politically-cynical ‘Bourne’ films, its understandable escapism. What do we call it now, where Phillips leads a primarily white crew (black crew members have no dialogue) against the blackest men of any mainstream Hollywood release this year? What am I saying? I’m just saying that you start to wonder about this Greengrass character. That’s all. For now."
Gravity - Click here
Her - Click here
"There’s something funereal about this, as if he’s keeping alive the memory of two people long gone. The argument seems to be that society doesn’t miss the loss of sincerity and affection, because we’ve learned to re-create it so well already. Of course, that’s because of people like Theodore, the star of the office, who excels because he still knows what it’s like to be wounded, to feel. You know immediately where Jonze stands on the issue of whether we bleed makes us human or not."
Nebraska - Click here
"As much as it pains this member of the Will Forte Fan Club to say this, he seems genial but out of his depth alongside Dern, who seems too bright but is otherwise fairly convincing as a bitter old man. Were the picture only about these two, it would carry similar (not equal) weight as David Lynch’s “The Straight Story.” Unfortunately, Payne loads the picture with several dopey bumpkin stereotypes just itching to get a taste of the money (including a literal Tweetledum-Tweetledee pair of brothers), artificially stretching the narrative to the breaking point. June Squibb brings considerable pluck and resolve to the role of Dern’s put-upon wife, but soon the movie finds itself leaning too hard on her aw-shucks plainspokeness. By the time she’s flashing the grave of a former suitor, you get the sense Payne’s lost the story a bit."
Philomena - Click here
The Wolf Of Wall Street - Click here
"Ultimately, there’s something very American, nakedly so, about The Wolf Of Wall Street, which will keep allowing the film to be debated years from now. If it’s out there, you can take it, even if others suffer. The Academy isn’t a goodwill organization. They have no need to be polite, or to reflect the ideal status of the world. This is Best Picture, not Nicest Picture. By the way, 42 years ago, another film with a central criminal figure won the Best Picture award, even though it committed the sin of depicting terrible, selfish, bloodthirsty acts on film, almost as a tacit endorsement of them. That movie was The Godfather.”
Blue Jasmine - Click here
August: Osage County - Click here
The Wind Rises - Click here
"Perhaps it’s fatalistic that Miyazaki feels humans destroying other humans is inevitable. Making the decision to do better, and to establish bonds from within seems to be the mission statement."
The Grandmaster - Click here
Inside Llewyn Davis - Click here
Prisoners - Click here
"What I wouldn’t give for another version of this film told from the perspective of the less-driven parents of the other child, played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis, possibly called, “These Crazy White People.” There’s a patronizing point to be made about an ongoing system of abuse here, but one that’s trapped underneath so many heavy-breathing suspense-thriller revelations that you thank the gods that director Denis Villenueve got his hands on the material, and not someone like rumored first choice Antoine Fuqua, who surely would have made an actioner where executive producer Mark Wahlberg busted down doors everywhere screaming, ‘Doo youz guys know what happened to my dawtah?’"
The Great Gatsby - Click here
The Act of Killing - Click here
“‘The Act Of Killing’ is a mesmerizing doc, one that will haunt you long after you’ve left the theater, and most assuredly a must-see, a tonic to this year’s onslaught of blockbusters that have consistently trivialized the idea of death.”
The Broken Circle Breakdown - Click here
"A wonderful cocktail of European sexiness, bluegrass music and unexpectedly pointed politics. An exhausting, affecting film, there was nothing quite like it at the movies this year."
Omar - Click here
"Ultimately, ‘Omar’ gambles too hard on the side of propulsive action setups. The logic of the film starts to slip in favor of thriller tropes where everyone and no one is a suspect at the same time. And a late-film love triangle seems like a cruel complication for a film that otherwise reveals compassion in its characters for the tough choices that must be made. By the film’s third act, alliances are made and broken, but the film doesn’t even properly establish a time frame for these actions, particularly given Omar’s under-developed, under-explained home life. You can feel the film slipping away as certain characters begin to fondle the triggers on their guns, and as the picture stretches what could be a taut, involving short into feature length."
Saving Mr. Banks - Click here
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom - Click here
All Is Lost - Click here
"The film is always darting around the ship, but Redford often stops, and we’re allowed to watch him think. It’s impossible for a film buff to look at that face under siege and not think this is a legend in crisis mode, that it’s the industry that threatens to push Mr. Sundance to the margins. Ultimately it’s a sea change, and there isn’t much one of the godfathers of contemporary independent cinema can do but survive."
Lone Survivor - Click here
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Click here
Iron Man 3 - Click here
"In spite of that snoozer of a finale, I deeply appreciated how this film subverted the politics of the previous two films to make a point about the fearmongering of the military-industrial complex. Also, maybe the funniest of these silly superhero films thus far."
Star Trek Into Darkness - Click here
"And reinvent he has. Abrams has jettisoned any sort of intellectual curiosity and spirit of adventure from this title, one he’s treated as a brand name ready to be stuffed with used parts from other films. What’s more, this is a film that emphasizes plot points and secret twists as if they advance the story: given that none of the characters know the name “Khan,” the reveal that “John Harrison” is a fake is a surprise that doesn’t move the story along and it doesn’t deepen the narrative. Instead, it flatters the audience for The Wrath Of Khan as if it was a secret society who still remembers that thirty year old film. Star Trek used to challenge the audience to think differently, to engage with the world with a new, more welcoming spirit. This new Trek only seems interested in providing a service, one that involves mimicking the biggest films of the last twenty years, specifically the ones with the biggest massacres. You wonder what Abrams, a sentimental anti-intellectual who has never directed a single memorable frame in his entire career, has planned for the less-rigorous fantasy world of Star Wars, and how it will inevitably lead Hollywood full steam ahead into a creative Darkness.”