Monday, February 27, 2017

1024. 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave
Directed by Steve McQueen

I didn't watch the Oscars, but I did see that Casey Affleck won Best Actor.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the current political situation, but it is still depressing how powerful men can pretty much do whatever the hell they want with no impact on their careers.  Sad! That was my imitation of He Who Must Not Be Named, if you didn't pick up on it.

Ahem.  Moving on.  12 Years a Slave.  Solomon Northup is a free man working as a violinist in New York and supporting his wife and children.  Two white men persuade Northup to travel with them to Washington D.C. and work as a musician.  Once they arrive, they drug him and ship him to New Orleans, where he is sold to William Ford, who then sells him to the sadistic slave owner Edwin Epps.  Um...things get worse.

Well, there is not a whole lot of tension in this film, as we basically know the entire outline of the plot before we even get started.  It was an uncomfortable experience, but an experience that I think was quite necessary.  I even liked (well, perhaps the wrong word to use here) that Northup was a free man in the beginning, as I felt like the audience could connect more with his plight and imagine what they would do in that scenario.  I do have to complain a little that, once again, the white men kind of had to save the day.  I would prefer a more Django-y ending.  However, I realize this was based on a true story so I'm not too perturbed about it.

Anyway, this was brilliantly acted, particularly by Lupita Nyong'o.  I'm in awe that this was her first film.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Michael Fassbender had his make up artist paint alcohol on his mustache so the other actors would react naturally to the smell.

Solomon Northup disappeared four years after being freed.  His disappearance remains a mystery.

Monday, February 20, 2017

1023. Argo

Directed by Ben Affleck

I want to start by saying that I understand that artists can take some creative license with their work.  Still, the way the filmmakers totally minimize Canada's role in this operation irritates me. Not to mention the fact that Ben Affleck plays someone of Mexican descent. No wonder the rest of the world hates us.

On November 4, 1979 Iranian activists stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in retaliation for President Carter's giving the shah asylum during the Iranian Revolution.  Six of the staff managed to avoid capture by hiding in the home of Ken Taylor, a Canadian ambassador.  The United States' government attempts to come up with a plan to get the escapees out.  They bring in Tony Mendez, a CIA exfiltration specialist, for consultation.  He develops an audacious plan: pretend that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers who are scouting locations in Iran for a sci fi movie.

I have never been overly impressed with Affleck's acting abilities, but fortunately, he was perfectly acceptable here.  He shone more as a director; I was impressed by the 70s vibe I got from this film.  I felt like I was watching All the President's Men (with less sexy leads of course).

So overall, a decent film and the best we have seen on this blog in awhile.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First film in 23 years to win Best Picture and not be nominated for Best Director.

Features 120 speaking parts.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

1022. The Artist

The Artist
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

I want to preface this review by saying that I actually did enjoy this film.  But really, how out of touch are the Oscars that they would crown a silent black and white movie Best Picture?  Most people I know refuse to watch black and white films, let alone silent ones.  I'm not saying we should mindlessly cater to the masses, but this is a little bit ridiculous.

George Valentin, a popular silent film star, meets Peppy, a beautiful young dancer, in an insanely adorable way.  Valentin helps to make Peppy a star, but his own career begins to fall apart with the emergence of talkies.

I don't usually describe films as cute, but this was undeniably cute.  Also undeniably relevant, as the film industry continues to change; I keep reading scary online articles about how Hollywood as we know it is dead.

Still, I don't think this would attract the interest of the average movie goer, but I'm a huge snob so I'm fine with it.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Shot in color then converted to black and white.

Takes place from 1927 to 1932.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

1021. The King's Speech

The King's Speech
Directed by Tom Hooper

Well, I can certainly relate to this one, as public speaking has always been a source of terror for me.  I don't stutter, but I do turn bright red and start shaking.  I also don't have Colin Firth's raw animal magnetism to get me through.  It pleased me that the main character seemed more warier of public speaking than going to war.  He's clearly my British patronus.

Basically, Colin Firth plays George VI/Albert (because England is strange).  Albert has a terrible stammer, so his wife persuades him to see Lionel Logue, an unconventional Australian speech therapist.  When his brother abdicates the throne, it becomes essential for Albert to be molded into a strong leader.

I know that was kind of vague, but I am not sure what constitutes as spoilers with biographical dramas.  I will say that the entire time I was wishing I was watching a movie about Edward VIII's abdication, as that seemed far more interesting to me.  I mean, this guy gave up his throne for a woman.  I can't even get guys to open doors for me.

Regardless, this was a pretty great film.  Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter were both incredible, of course, although I didn't find their chemistry completely believable.  It certainly wasn't the most gripping movie I've seen but it was fairly inspirational.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The speech the King delivers in the movie is only 2/3rds of the original.