The Revenant

Up next on our look at the Best Picture films is The Revenant. Directed by reigning Best Director winner Alejandro G Iñarittu, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson, it is rated R for violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

From IMDB: After an attack that occurred in a fur trappers bivouac, across a river, in American wilderness, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), his son, and his remaining companions, are going back to the nearest outpost. Glass is left in weak condition after being mauled by a bear forcing some men from the team to be his caretakers. One of the caretakers, John Fitzgerald (Hardy), chooses to betray Glass, and leave him to die. Relying on his insurmountable anger and powerful motivation for his family, Hugh survives and attempts to find John Fitzgerald, and make him pay for his terrible decision.

9 out of 10

If Leo does not finally seize that oh-so-elusive Best Actor trophy, I will protest. I will write several strongly worded letters to the Academy. I will make a thousand picket signs and with Leo’s thousand biggest fans, march through Los Angeles, pitchforks in hand. If it wasn’t clear before, If Leonardo DiCaprio does not win Best Actor for his turn as legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass, I will have lost all hope in humanity.

As it stands, I would probably put The Revenant as my third favorite film from the past year (after Star Wars and Spotlight), though there’s no doubt that it was the most intriguing. The premise is perfectly concocted, showing off the perfect mix of revenge, love, and spiritualism. The ensemble cast is spectacular, from the experienced DiCaprio to the younger Will Poulter, previously of We’re the Millers fame. The production design and costumes are spot on, providing this world with realism… albeit a grotesque one.

revenant 5

The Revenant starts out with an emphatic bang, a battle scene with thrashing, nauseating violence— think Saving Private Ryan, only 150 years prior and with Native Americans and pioneers rather than soldiers and Nazis. The opening scene of the 1998 classic is known for its shockingly violent nature, highlighted by stray body parts and gushing intestines; The opening battle of The Revenant is almost on par. However that violence does not hinder; rather it helps in establishing the setting of the film in a place of conflict and disarray.

 

One of the stars of that battle is of course, Hugh Glass, who is, in the only way I can appropriately put it, an absolutely savage. Obviously this intensity has to be attributed to DiCaprio, who plays Glass with a determination and motivation that makes him a force of nature. From gutting a horse to use its carcass for warmth to eating raw buffalo liver (Leo actually did this! And he’s a vegetarian!), Glass goes to the most extreme lengths to stay alive— something that is evident through DiCaprio’s commitment to the character. He is the shining star of the movie, absolutely controlling the big screen for the entirety of the two and a half hours.

He is of course supported by Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson, the former snagging a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for his extraordinary efforts as the selfish, ruthless Fitzgerald. Gleeson is spectacular in the role of Andrew Henry, captain of the party, following up his solid performance in Star Wars with this great effort. Side note: Gleeson has had just a spectacular year, with starring roles in Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars, and now The Revenant. Bravo!

revenant 4

If you saw Birdman, it might be clear to you that Iñarittu carried over his affinity for stretched out camera shots, the most memorable being the bear attack scene, shot in one continuous take. The extended shot puts emphasis on the brutality of the assault: the audience does not get a break from it because the camera does not cut away. This effect is prominent throughout the movie, underscoring the barbarity that Glass faces, which only strengthens his character every time he is able to overcome it.

My only criticism was the importance given to the storyline regarding the Indians and the French— all I really wanted to see was Leo, so each scene that was solely about this conflict felt like an interruption. Though this B plot ultimately served a purpose, I think it was given too much screen time, ruining the pacing of an otherwise great film.

revenant 1

There are a lot of fantastic things in this movie. This movie is nearly flawless, impressing me in almost all aspects of film making (acting, cinematography, screenwriting, production design), with my only grievance being minor pacing issues. It is an emotional journey, with visceral effects that make it as realistic as possible. The Revenant can be considered nothing less than a successful follow up to Birdman for Alejandro G Iñarittu, one that could thrust him into Oscar glory for the second consecutive year, and finally give Leo that Oscar he deserves.
~Vig

8.5 out of 10

Much has been made of the great feat of endurance that was making Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant. And despite a comfy chair and a snack of Swedish, and firmly dead, fish coming out I felt that I could empathize somewhat with Leo and co.’s struggle. This sounds harsh but is not necessarily a criticism. Much like a long camping trip into the woods, The Revenant will be divine for some. But for others, The Revenant will be gorgeous, occasionally profound but at the end of the day all a bit much.

revenant 2

Even the first scene, an attack on the fur trappers’ camp by natives, goes on ever so slightly too long. It is a minor sin but portentous nevertheless. From that scene onwards, the movie is a breathless assault on the senses. DiCaprio’s character, the abandoned fur trapper Hugh Glass, suffers trial after trial at the hands of the brutal land and its inhabitants, emerging bloodied and panting from each. Watching DiCaprio endure the first few is entertaining but as the film enters its third hour, they become tiresome and, as the watcher becomes ever more desensitized to the violence, Inarittu seems determined to keep the crowd gasping through escalating gore.

One possible solution to the problem of length might have been to shorten the film to a more digestible 90 minutes. This is an interesting suggestion but fundamentally flawed. A film titled The Revenant, as infantile as this may sound, has to be an epic. Although its raging 156 minutes may turn some off, in so many other ways the pure mass of the film is the film’s greatest strength. One cannot please everyone when making a film as grand as Glass’ story necessitates, and Inarritu deserves kudos for the pure conviction he displayed in making this beast of a film.

revenant 5

And to be fair, there are some moments of repose. We are treated to occasional expository glimpses of burning camps and ethereal women on the wind. DiCaprio does well to imbue these scenes with emotion, even if at points one can almost hear the yearning for an Oscar in his breath.

On the more general topic of the acting in the film, it is all about the two men: Tom Hardy and DiCaprio. Both are such well-respected actors and in this film they earn their reputation with two great examples of physical acting. There is a strong stress on the physical there as both talk little and a decent portion of it is largely incomprehensible. In fact, DiCaprio’s most powerful line of the film, a laconic mutter about his son, is in the trailer. In the end, however, it hardly matters. DiCaprio and Hardy are both such immense presences on the screen, not only physically but emotionally too, that the dearth of dialogue becomes irrelevant.

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But as much as the film is really all about DiCaprio’s relentless hunt for those who forsook him, many will find that the most intriguing narrative to The Revenant is that of the Indians who weave in and out of the film’s forests and storyline. The film will certainly not be remembered for its portrayal of Indians and DiCaprio’s brief meeting with a wise healer/mentor at the darkest point of his journey is almost painfully cliché but the film’s portrayal of the plight of the displaced and disillusioned natives is nevertheless a thoroughly interesting piece of The Revenant’s epic puzzle.

In short, The Revenant may be one of the most divisive Best Picture frontrunners in recent history, and there’s a very good chance anyone who will enjoy it has already seen it. But if you like a good vista, and don’t mind a touch of blood, it’s a glorious ride.
~Nic

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Thoughts on… Golden Globes 2016

And here we are, post-Golden Globes, trying to digest the night. Ricky Gervais hosted again, and was “tastefully controversial’ as Zach put it and The Revenant stole the show. There’s a lot to talk about, so we’re just going to jump right into it.

Lady Gaga: Actor?

Yes, she is an actor, and apparently she is pretty good at it. I did not watch this season of American Horror Story (I stopped after the third season), but I personally find it pretty cool she was able to transition to the silver screen so faultlessly. Well done, Gaga.

The Martian: Mission Accomplished

Matt Damon won Best Actor, and the film won Best Picture: Musical or Comedy (though I don’t really agree with it being categorized as a comedy). Ridley Scott did not get Best Director, which would have only sweetened the pot, but regardless, fans of the film cannot help be anything but thrilled. You can check out our review of the film here.

Yo Adrian! I won a Golden Globe!

The surprise of the night for me was Sylvester Stallone winning Best Supporting Actor for Creed. Stallone keeps up the “tough guy” demeanor yet shines most when he flexes his character’s vulnerabilities, making this victory well deserved, but still surprising since I pegged Mark Rylance to win. This could make for a very interesting Oscar race.

Denzel wins the night

Denzel Washington was honored for his life long work with the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award. He’s won two Golden Globes and been nominated for seven, making this is award very well deserved. Denzel is a boss and don’t you forget it.

Jamie Foxx throws shade…

…when he announced Straight Out of Compton as the winner for Best Original Score (someone’s obviously mad it wasn’t nominated) and then apologized for pulling a Steve Harvey. Oof. It was pretty funny though.

The Revenant takes home the gold

Winning Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture: Drama, The Revenant absolutely dominated this year and deservedly so. It was a fantastic film, an absolutely visceral experience if you will. That being said, I was very surprised at what happened, largely due to…

The spotlight being stolen from Spotlight

This was the movie everyone was expecting to take control of the evening. I thought it would win Best Director (Tom McCarthy), Best Screenplay (McCarthy), and Best Picture, but ended up losing to Iñarritu, Aaron Sorkin for Jobs, and The Revenant, respectively. This was my favorite movie of the year, so hopefully it can pick up momentum going into the Oscars.

 

Thoughts on… 2015!

Hey readers!

2014 was a great year for movies, both in action blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and indie dramas like Nightcrawler, and in less than two months the Oscars will crown Hollywood’s best. Some of Screenwars favorite movies of the year include Whiplash, Nightcrawler, Captain America 2, Gone Girl, and Birdman. But as we ring in the new year, it’s time to look ahead and check Vig and Will’s seven most anticipated films of 2015. (because five wasn’t enough for Will)

Number 7

St. James Place
First, I’d like to briefly acknowledge the films that didn’t make it. Joy, Spectre, Mockingjay Part 2. All are movies I will definitely see, but just didn’t make the list. St. James Place, on the other hand, did make the list. With Tom Hanks leading, Stephen Spielberg directing, The Coen Brothers writing, and an incredibly interesting premise about a Cold War spy, what isn’t there to like about the film? It should definitely be in the running for the top awards in 2015.
Joy
Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a struggling housewife turned entrepreneur, in this upcoming film from golden director David O. Russell. In recent years Russell has helmed such films as The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, all character driven dramas with fantastic casts. And with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro joining Lawrence here, Joy should prove to be one of 2015’s rousing successes.

Number 6

Ant-Man
Honestly, anticipation for Ant-Man may be a bit of a strong word. Nervous may be the better word. If Marvel is going to slip up anytime soon, it will probably be with Ant-Man. With creative differences endangering the film early on, it looked as though the film would be a disaster. Nevertheless, it recovered, and Paul Rudd, Michael Douglass, and Evangeline Lilly headline the hopefully successful final sequence of Marvel’s phase two.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
Though Mockingjay Part 1 was a critical disappointment due largely to its dearth of action and tension, the second part of the Hunger Games’ final installment will hopefully be the action-packed finale we are all hoping for. Harry Potter arguably reached its greatest heights with the concluding Deathly Hallows Part 2 and given the unbelievable cast assembled for this new Hunger Games film, here’s to hoping we will see the same thing mirrored in Mockingjay. At the very least, teens will come out in droves for this one.

Number 5

Jurassic World
We have been witness to three Jurassic Park films, with only one of them being remotely good. Luckily for the series, the first one is a classic and its legacy is, for the most part, still in tact, still making 2015’s Jurassic World so heavily anticipated. Chris Pratt stars, hot off his breakout year with starring roles in The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, and will be sure to give this film the star power and comedic touch it needs. He will be supported by Bryce Dallas Howard and Jake Johnson in a movie that looks to bring relevance back to the Jurassic universe after two straight duds in the series. 
Inside Out
There were some fantastic animated films this year – most notably The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and How to Train Your Dragon 2—but we were robbed of the yearly Pixar feature. In Inside Out, we get a look at the inner working of the mind of a teenage girl and the emotions that battle for control of her head. Featuring the vocal talents of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black, all comedy stars, Inside Out will surely be a massive hit for all ages and a film that will contend for Academy Awards next year. We should expect nothing less from the creator of Monsters Inc. and Up.

Number 4

The Hateful Eight
This is tentatively put on here because after Tarantino’s outburst about the script leaking, who knows if this will actually come out this year. Regardless, this film looks to be great. Samuel Jackson and Quentin Tarantino always produce gold, from Pulp Fiction to Django Unchained. Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, and Tim Roth join Jackson to give this film a superb cast, one that will give Tarantino plenty of talent to work with. The Hateful Eight, at least in concept, will continue Tarantino’s string of great films and perhaps be a contender for Best Picture. 
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Avengers is the third-highest grossing film of all time, and I fully expect Age of Ultron to gross even higher, given the seemingly ever-increasing desire for superhero tent poles. Marvel studios has had a string of massive financial and critical successes, including Captain American: The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy and with Joss Whedon directing Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth, look for Age of Ultron to be a critical success and the highest grossing film of the year, the decade, and maybe of all time.

Number 3

The Revenant
Could Leo finally get that Oscar? It looks possibly with The Revenant. The film is about fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is robbed and abandoned by his companions after being mauled by a bear. Surviving and out for vengeance, the film follows Glass, played by Dicaprio, on his quest for vengeance against his companions who left him to die. Directed by Alejandro Inarritu, coming off a hit in Birdman and starring DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domnhall Gleeson, this film certainly has the star power to be great. Supported by an extremely interesting premise, watch for The Revenant in best picture discussions next year.
Spectre 
Spectre will be the 24th Bond movie and will ostensibly begin the exploration of the criminal organization that dominated the first – and the consensus best – Bond movies that starred Sean Connery. My major complaint with Skyfall was that it felt too much like a typical action film rather than the suave Bond films that we’ve been accustomed to, but with the throwback to the original films that we saw at the end of Skyfall, Spectre has the potential to be one of the best Bonds yet. Oh, and joining Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes will be Blue is the Warmest Color lead Lea Seydoux and Quentin Tarantino-favorite 2-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz.

Number 2

Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
Of course this is on here, it was just a matter of whether it was first or not. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fanatic in the world, but the original trilogy is arguably the best series of all time. I wholeheartedly trust JJ Abrams with this film, who has directed two great Star Trek films and definitely has a great grasp on the sci-fi genre (he also built a replica of Millennium Falcon, so yay practical effects!). By the looks of the first trailer, Episode VII will not follow the path of prequels and disappoint us all.
The Hateful Eight 
Quentin Tarantino will make his return to the big screen with 2015’s The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s story will feature two bounty hunters, betrayal, deception, and, knowing Tarantino, a massive amount of violence. Featuring Tarantino regulars Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth, the legendary Bruce Dern, and global superstar Channing Tatum, who just found his first fantastic dramatic role in Foxcatcher, The Hateful Eight will undoubtedly be one of the finest movies of the year and an almost definite Best Picture contender.

Number 1

Avengers: Age of Ulton
Drumroll please! The new Avengers is a hands down number 1 on this list. You all know my affection for superhero films, and with the Marvel Cinematic Universe rolling at full force, Age of Ultron looks to be one of the best Marvel films yet. Following perhaps Marvel’s best year yet, one that featured Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers 2 heralds a star-studded cast that adds Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen to the mix. Joss Whedon is also back at the helm directing what looks to be Marvel’s biggest film yet. The first trailer was sick, and the leaked details about storylines (CIVIL WAR!!!) regarding Marvel’s phase three only make this movie all the better, making it my most anticipated film of 2015.
Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
Words can’t describe just how excited I am for this movie. Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite films of all time, featuring fantastic characters, a compelling story, and groundbreaking visual effects. Despite the trilogy of prequels that did all they could to ruin the Star Wars legacy, with JJ. Abrams at the helm and Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, and Andy Serkis joining the original cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, I’m confident The Force Awakens will be more reminiscent of the original trilogy rather than the prequels. In a year full of sequels to blockbuster franchises, three of which are on this list, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is by far the most anticipated movie of 2015.

 

What movies are you most excited for in 2015? Let us know in the comment section below. Happy New Year!

Gangs of New York

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we will take a look at Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Daniel Day-Lewis. It is rated R for  strong violence, sexuality, and language.

In this Scorsese classic, we follow the Irish mobster Amsterdam Vallon as he navigates his way through the turbulent mid-1800’s. Amsterdam, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, attempts to avenge his father’s old Irish gang, The Dead Rabbits, by getting close to his father’s killer, Bill Cutting (Daniel Day Lewis). Amsterdam is soon forced to keep up a false identity and hold back his own feelings for Cutting’s lover, Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz). Along the way, Amsterdam becomes acquainted with New York’s seedy underground and the corrupted political figures who are run by it.

6.5 out of 10

I just wasn’t really feeling this film. I guess it was good, but then again I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that Gangs of New York really isn’t my type. But then again, I’m a fan of gang movies. So what is it that makes me feel so lukewarm towards this movie?

Hate to say it, but I wasn’t too impressed with Leonardo DiCaprio in this one. I can’t place the blame entirely on him though. Amsterdam Vallon is not very well written, as he’s got only two emotions: angry and angrier. The entire film he’s just annoyed, even when he’s getting it on with Cameron Diaz. He’s very one-sided, which hurts the film significantly since he’s the heart of the film. Cameron Diaz played her character rather blandly as well. She was a formidable female lead, but not one that I would fall in love with.

I would have been totally bored of the acting if not for Daniel Day-Lewis, who was electrifying. The first movie I had ever seen him in was Lincoln, and I wasn’t sure I could imagine him as anyone else. He just got so into his role, so much that he was permanently associated in my mind with Abraham Lincoln. So much for that. Daniel Day-Lewis is equally as immersed in his role as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. He is as brutal, evil and as cold blooded as any movie character I’ve ever seen in a while. It’s not quite Javier Barden as Anton Chigurgh or Heath Ledger as The Joker, but it’s still pretty damn impressive. He’s vocal and charismatic, while maintaining his detestable persona. He really drove this film. Fun fact of the day; He refused to take medication or wear a warmer coat after he caught pneumonia while filming. His reasoning: it didn’t fit the period. Jesus Christ.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis

I don’t have many more positive things to say, really. I thought the plot was skewed and out of focus. The movie was 2 hours and 40 minutes, and I can tell you that this was excessive. It’s not even like the typical Scorsese film, where it’s 3 hours long and has no plot. It had a plot, one that couldn’t decide when to end, and it just ended up building to an anticlimactic ending that we all expected. It couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be an estranged love story or a story about revenge, or both, and it struggled to find the happy medium. It was boring, confusing, and hard to follow, to keep it simple. It was just so unappealing.

I really felt shades of Goodfellas throughout this flick. The opening fight scene was infused with an upbeat hip-hop kinda thing, a bold music choice, but one that I didn’t think fit the period. I know it’s a pretty Scorseseish thing to do, but with the way the rest of the movie was scored, it just didn’t work for me. It was filled with traditional Irish tunes, so the upbeat hip hop was out of place and messed up the tone of the film.

Overall, I was not the biggest fan of this film. It was uninteresting and excessive, plot-wise and character-wise, which is obviously something you never want to see. Watch this movie for Daniel Day-Lewis but that’s it. Otherwise, you’ll just be disappointed.

9.5 out of 10

Why must Italians get all of the infamy?

Believe it or not, every ethnicity has its turn on the “dangerous minority” merry go round. And for, the majority of the back-half of the First Immigration Wave, Irish people got a long turn in the gangster seat.

Because immigration was no quick-fix as some make it out to be. It was a gruelling process that occurred concurrently with the rise of our nation that the Irish (Among many others) lagged in. In the race to prop up an American Way, people were soon labelled as “winners” and “losers”. The losers (Often poor immigrants who resorted to working as violent enforcers) were promptly forgotten or cartoonized (I must ask, which do you think is worse?).

Well, Marty Scorsese had a look in the history books and eventually entered that nihilistic Irish kick that began with Gangs of New York and ended with The Departed. Two very appropriate movies for the holiday. So stop drinking, actually look up from your beer and learn about my people through the culture of bloodshed and lawbreaking, darnit!

Like plenty of Scorsese’s films, Gangs is very obsessed with the role of fathers. Not just the role of the father, actually, the role of prestigiousness. If you were to watch Scorsese’s filmography, you’d notice that the past acts as a supporting character to a lot of these guys’ actions. Its not a series of events, its a model they must live up to. Fathers are vessels for those models. Living relics of the times they must live up to. So its no wonder why most of Marty’s main characters are estranged or left behind by their parents.

The main character of Gangs, Amsterdam starts off in this exact template. Amsterdam is clearly somebody who’s trying to fill some sort of void. This is where Scorsese drags violence into play. Its something tangible that these orphans can throw out there to impress their father figures. In fact, I can’t really tell if Amsterdam is trying to impress his passed father or his father’s murderer, Cutting, in some twisted way.

amsterdam vallon

Leonardo DiCaprio

And in the background of it all is the rise of America. Our model. That bloody one which we discussed a few paragraphs ago. Marty loves him some American backdrop. If you missed it all (I wouldn’t blame you. Daniel Day Lewis had one of his best performances that distracted me here too), this idealized time which we tend to skim through is still viewed as a time that was rife with bloodshed. We get a couple of corrupt leaders strewn here and there too to remind us that we inhabit a nation that was built on a lot of guts (Figuratively and literally). There was plenty of struggle to be had and Scorsese isn’t going to let you forget about it any time soon.

But we already have. This is an arc that was lost in that Antebellumish time between the Revolution and the Civil War along with all of those other things we forgot. There were still people, like Amsterdam, there though. Immigrants whose battle has been lost in the shuffle. Whether that makes their warring more pointless or our’s has to be left up to you.

I did say it was nihilistic, didn’t I?

IMDB: 7.5
Metacritic: 72
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

Our 2014 Academy Award Predictions

And here we are, the Oscars only a day away. Here are our (mostly) expert predictions in every single category. We start with the ones we admittedly know the least about to the ones we know a good amount about. Enjoy!

Best Documentary- Short Subject
Cave Digger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Save My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of  Private Jack Hall

These first few categories, I’m honestly putting in researched/random guesses.

Winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Save My Life
Runner Up: Couldn’t tell you
Personal Favorite: N/A

The best documentaries are ones that take us to places where we never thought we’d learn anything. In this case, it takes us to the last days of an aging man in a prison hospital.

Winner: Prison Terminal

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Documentary- Feature
20 Feet from Stardom
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square

Act of Killing is a pretty enticing name, so I’ll go with it.

Winner: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: No idea
Personal Favorite: N/A

It’s not like documentaries are unfamiliar with war but it is still a great topic. Dirty Wars gives the audience some honest insight into some questionable motives behind the violence caused by the “civilized”.

Winner: Dirty Wars

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Live Action Short Film
Aquel no era yo
Avant que de tout perdre
Helium
Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa
The Voorman Problem

Voorman Problem is the only one in English, and it has Martin Freeman.

Winner: The Voorman Problem
Runner Up: idk.
Personal Favorite: N/A

Nothing like another prison film. Films that explore psychology often lead us to ourselves. The Voorman Problem is no different.

Winner: The Voorman Problem

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Animated Short Film

Feral
Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room on the Broom

Get a Horse!

Get a Horse!

I’ve actually seen Get a Horse! but that’s the only one. So… yeah. That’s all I got.

Winner: Get a Horse!
Runner Up: Still drawing a blank.
Personal Favorite: Get a Horse! (by default)

Talk about back to basics for Disney. “Get a Horse!” is a classic return to subject.

Winner: Get a Horse!

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

The Great Beauty won at the Golden Globe’s, so it has to have a good chance of winning. One comment I do have is that it is unfortunate and surprising that Blue is the Warmest Color wasn’t nominated.

Winner: The Great Beauty
Runner Up: Who knows? Not me.
Personal Favorite: N/A

The Middle-East provides a poignant environment that’s actually ideal for a tense set up like this.

Winner: Omar

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

 Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Frozen

Frozen

Here we go, finally getting into awards I know something about. Frozen has been super popular, and though I admit haven’t seen it, I’ve heard great things. It’s Disney and it’s critically acclaimed. Good luck to the other 4 nominees.

Winner: Frozen
Runner Up: The Wind Rises
Personal Favorite: Despicable Me 2 (only one I’ve seen)

Roger Ebert always said he loathed how “Animated” has become synonymous “Childish” in our culture and I really can’t help but agree. Why? Because of films like Frozen, that’s why. Just because something’s fun and light doesn’t necessarily mean it’s thoughtless and immature.

Winner: Frozen

Runner Up: The Wind Rises
Personal Favorite: Frozen

Best Original Score
The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

Music is such an important part of making a film, as it provides tone to each individual moment and scene. Gravity’s ominous, eerie and entirely original soundtrack does just that to improve upon the lonely feeling of space, while also aiding the intensity that some scenes have. I liked Her’s soundtrack more just because it was a bit more my type, while also fulfilling the job of a good soundtrack.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Her
Personal Favorite: Her

Simple and subtle, I remember thinking that Her’s score played very well to the events of the movie. The score conveys many of the emotions the film’s addressing at once. It’s also somewhat cold but so is the environment the film sets up.

Winner: Her

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: Her

Best Original Song
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela” Long Walk to Freedom

I loved ‘The Moon Song’. I thought it was really charming and fit the movie really well. It was a wonderful moment for the film. ‘Let It Go’ is no doubt a great song, and hands down the more popular one with Idina Menzel performing the song at the awards, which is why I think it will end up winning.

Winner: “Let it Go” from Frozen
Runner Up: “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Personal Favorite: “The Moon Song” from Her

It’s not easy to get on top of the iTunes top 10 when you’re just a song from a Disney movie but Frozen managed to do this and many more. A return to substance for Disney, “Let it Go” is somewhat representative of the heart Disney seemingly lost that we all missed.

Winner: “Let it Go” from Frozen

Runner Up: “The Moon Song” from Her
Personal Favorite: “Let it Go” from Frozen 

Best Sound Editing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Gravity

Gravity

In case you didn’t realize, Gravity is set to win pretty much all the technical awards. Sound editing is no different (BTW, to all the haterz, we know there’s no sound in space. Who cares?). Anyway, Gravity will this award easy. Captain Phillips has a shot, but it’s not likely.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Gravity

The Hobbit, like the films that preceded it, is a loud movie. My friend told me if I was to watch them for the first time that I should rent a movie theatre for Lord of the Rings. Sound editing is very hard work but I imagine when you see a character like Smaug come to booming life it must all be worth it.

Winner: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

Go back and read the last summary about Sound Editing. It’s the same story. However, of any of the technical awards, this may be the one that Gravity has the best chance of losing. Lone Survivor and Inside Llewyn Davis both have a chance. This isn’t saying much, and I do think Gravity will end up pulling it out, but there’s always a chance.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Lone Survivor
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Ditto on my prediction about Sound Editing.

Winner: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Production Design
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years a Slave

The Great Gatsby, with it’s lavish costumes and setting, has a pretty good chance of actually winning more awards than American Hustle. The setting is absolutely gorgeous, providing it with a very nostalgic, 20s feel. Really well done, I’ve gotta say.

Winner: The Great Gatsby
Runner Up: American Hustle
Personal Favorite: Her

Hustle had a feel to it that very few could match. It was an extremely consistent piece that gave its cast a beautiful backdrop to work off of. In fact, American Hustle is so absorbing it often feels like a scope to the seventies itself.

Winner: American Hustle

Runner Up: The Great Gatsby
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Jared Leto to Rayon

Jared Leto to Rayon

I think it’s hilarious that Jackass was even nominated, which is why I’m putting it down as my favorite. The makeup isn’t even half bad, either. However, there is no way in hell that Jackass or the universally panned Lone Ranger wins an Oscar. Dallas Buyers Club and it’s miniscule $250 budget takes the prize.

Winner: Dallas Buyers Club
Runner Up: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Personal Favorite: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

While Dallas Buyers Club may not fully rely on its makeup department to get the job done (Look at its budget, really, it’s unbelievable), this often plays to both sides’ favor. Using the few resources it has, Buyers Club creates a strong environment and assists its actors in their journey.

Winner: Dallas Buyers Club

Runner Up: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Personal Favorite: Dallas Buyers Club

Best Costume Design
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

American Hustle

This one is a matter of politics. I think Great Gatsby could easily win this one, but American Hustle needs a win somewhere. The Academy won’t shut it out after giving it 11 nominations. It could take either this award or Production Design. The costumes were pretty good too, adding to the smooth, nostalgic feel that the film should have had.

Winner: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Great Gatsby
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Same story with the Production Design, I view them as kind of similar anyways.

Winner: American Hustle

Runner Up: The Great Gatsby
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Best Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Again, I don’t really expect Gravity to lose a technical award. This is another one where it’s possible Captain Phillips pulls off the upset, especially because it was shut out in a few categories, but I think Gravity will end up winning this one.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Its tough to take what could’ve been a very slow plot and expedite it while also having some breathers. Gravity may take place in few environments but it never gets bored, always shifting to the next development.

Winner: Gravity

Runner up: Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Best Visual Effects
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger

Gravity

Gravity

Of all the technical awards, I have absolutely no doubt that Gravity will win this one. It’s not even close. It is a visual spectacle, with the stunning creation of outer space, among other things. If Gravity doesn’t win, we can officially say that the Academy has gone mad.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Doesn’t even matter.
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Peter Jackson is a very talented man when it comes to set pieces and creating a fantasy environment and he hasn’t lost that ability whatsoever. Jackson may have introduced new characters and cameras but he uses new effects to his advantage, to make it feel like we haven’t really left Middle-Earth in the first place.

Winner: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Cinematography 
The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

No doubt about this one either. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, and there is little chance that something else takes this title. Gravity both exploited the emotions of Stone while also capturing the silent beauty of space. It will take the title. Meanwhile, it is a monstrosity that 12 Years a Slave was not even nominated. If you want to see what I thought of that camera work, check out my review of it.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Inside Llewyn Davis
Personal Favorite: Gravity/12 Years a Slave (I know it’s not nominated, but I. Don’t. Care.)

This is going to repeat a lot of the above but Gravity is a movie that tends to compact a very vast thing in a believable way that doesn’t feel like its evading its own setting. It’s a very streamlined and focused film which makes it all the more intense when atmosphere becomes so violent and chaotic. The environment provided by space somehow makes serenity feel like the cliff hanging over destruction.

Winner: Gravity

Runner Up: Nebraska
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Best Writing-Original Screenplay
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Her

Her

Here’s where things start to get interesting, as we start to get into the most important awards. I think this one could go either way, again depending on the rest of the awards. If Jennifer Lawrence wins for Best Supporting Actress, then Her will win Best Original Screenplay. If Lawrence does not win, then I think American Hustle will get this one. Personally, I thought Her was (far) more original, better written, and overall just the superior, more interesting film. Her deserves this, but with the way the Academy works, it’s possible Hustle wins.

Winner: Her
Runner Up: American Hustle
Personal Favorite: Her

When it comes Best Screenplay, it generally boils down to whether the actors are really using the words or whether they’re just a vessel to them. In short: how strong can the screenplay work on its own? Well, for me, Her was my first guess. It had a strong plot and premise with some clever dialogue but, eventually, Hustle took this for me. Mainly because Hustle could easily stand by itself while Her leans very much on its actors to do the deal. Hustle has some great comedy, drama and a clever premise under its belt which may just carry it to the Best Screenplay tier.

Winner: American Hustle

Runner Up: Her
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years A Slave, adapted from Solomon Northup’s memoir of the same name, will most likely get this prize. Not only is it the best film, but it also has the best characters, the best story, and the best dialogue. Philomena was written well, but the characters were a bit skewed. The Wolf of Wall Street also has an outside shot, but this award looks to be going to 12 Years a Slave, and deservedly so.

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Runner Up: Philomena
Personal Favorite: 12 Years a Slave

Suspense is a very powerful tool and its a very hard feeling to evoke from the audience (Even more so while working in the bounds of an adaption) but Phillips manages to get the audience involved as if its part of the crew. Its somewhat topical yet distant enough for the audience to focus one the story along for better or worse. Though all of the action involving could have cheapened to a Somalian could’ve been cheapened to Peter Pan ft. Some Navy Seals the writers used monologues and breathers to let the audience just take in the situation.

Winner: Captain Phillips

Runner Up: 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Captain Phillips

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper in American Hustle
Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto provided us with the most interesting and impressive acting performance of the year. Playing a transgender with AIDS, Leto was able to transform every aspect of himself, both mentally and emotionally, to construct a person, not just a character, in Rayon. There are other impressive performances, notably Michael Fassbender as the angry, evil Edwin Epps, and Barkhad Abdi, who went from cab driver to Somali pirate. Both of them would be deserving nominees in any other year. Unfortunately for them, Jared Leto is just unbelievable in Dallas Buyers Club.

Winner: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
Runner Up: Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

One of the pleasures of watching a movie and the signs of a strong actor is that rigor mortis long after a film is over where you realize “That was THAT guy?!”. Without spoiling, Jared Leto was tasked with playing a cross-dresser in Dallas Buyers Club in a performance that many would have turned down. Comedic as it may sound, put yourself in a similar situation and you’ll realize it is actually a challenging task to step into that clothing and makeup while making sure it doesn’t totally consume the character and that you have space to interpret. Comedic, believable, and most importantly, somewhat tragic, Leto gave us a memorable character which readily deserves best actres-er-actor.

Winner: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Runner Up: Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts in August: Osage County
June Squibb in Nebraska

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Here is probably the most unpredictable award of any, and could shape various other awards. If J-Law wins, and I predict she will, then Hustle might come away empty in other categories. If N’yongo wins, then the Academy cannot shut out Hustle and that could change the outcome of some of the other awards (this is complicated and excessively convoluted, I know). Meanwhile, I loved June Squibb. I thought she was hilarious and was the most believable of any of the nominees this year. I hope she pulls off the upset.

Winner: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Runner Up: Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: June Squibb in Nebraska

Yay for politics! Look at the history of this character and you can easily see that star power as its fingers on the scale. Most recently, Anne Hathaway was able to take home the statue for her performance in Les Miserables and I don’t think this situation is entirely different. Lawrence is a rising talent who is a safe choice for the Academy given her previous victory. In this film, she was also endowed with a strong wardrobe department and a great cast to work off of. On top of that, she has some real talent to her that’s heavily comparable to a couple of the past winners.

Winner: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Runner Up: Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor
Christian Bale in American Hustle
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Another award that could go either way is the Best Actor award. McConaughey has been winning all the awards (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild) and rightfully so. He is tremendous as Ron Woodrow. However, Ejiofor is fantastic in his own sort. He takes on a very challenging role and kills it. Ejiofor could win this, but I have to go with McConaughey now. Meanwhile, I love DiCaprio, and though I didn’t see Wolf of Wall Street (only Oscar nominee I’ve yet to watch), I kinda feel bad for him. So many internet memes.

Winner: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
Runner Up: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

Not going to lie, this one’s pure politics. Remember what I said earlier about controversy? Well nowhere is this more relevant than the constant snubbing of Leo, poor guy. The Academy has taken a beating for rejecting DiCaprio so much and I do think there is an underlying desire to give him an award at some point when just the right film comes along. Wolf of Wall Street may not be the exact film they were looking for but, come on, do you really think the Academy would pass up a chance to award Leo right before his break from acting that they caused? That’d be so sadistic that it’d become hilarious.

Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Runner Up: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
Personal Favorite: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress
Amy Adams in American Hustle
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Judi Dench in Philomena
Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

Not too much to say about this one by the looks of it. I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine, but I’ve heard great things about Blanchett. She’s been winning all the other awards and it doesn’t look there’s a chance someone else takes the trophy. Poor Amy Adams… Five nominations and still no win (since Blanchett appears to have wrapped it up). She is quietly becoming the next Leonardo DiCaprio.

Winner: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Runner Up: Amy Adams in American Hustle
Personal Favorite: Amy Adams in American Hustle (I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine)

Bullock took home this award around four years ago (Plus a Razzie the night before) and something tells me she is going to take it once more. Bullock was tasked with carrying almost an entire movie in a completely isolated setting with almost no set to work off of (Green screened backgrounds are very hard to work in) and she put herself there whether it was panic or awe she had to convey. Bullock didn’t necessarily have to work off the setting, in fact, she had to be the setting to a degree and she carried the film very well. I know Cate Blanchett is supposed to win, but sometimes crazy happens.

Winner: Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Runner Up: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Personal Favorite: Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Best Director
David O. Russell for American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

Alfonso Cuaron

Alfonso Cuaron

Cuaron should win this one, as Gravity was an absolute gem of a film. A real spectacle. However, I wouldn’t simply hand it over to him. Steve McQueen did so many things in 12 Years that Gravity simply wasn’t capable of. McQueen used brutality and violence to show slavery in a light it hasn’t been seen on film ever. Both these films are extraordinary in their own sorts, and I actually I think McQueen was able to make a more memorable film (for me personally). However, Cuaron deserves it just as much, and I think he will end up winning.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Runner Up: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

It must be very challenging to make space an exciting environment much less a stage for some thematically complex events but Alfonso Cuaron shoots the film in such synchronization with the mood of the scene that it becomes it allows for the viewer to gently keep an eye on everything that’s happening without any distractions. Some of the film’s shots are a bit obvious and heavy-handed (The ending) but the film remains pretty consistent. Nice job, Alfonso, for making something that’s infinite and wide seem so claustrophobic.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

Runner Up: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: David O. Russell for American Hustle

Best Picture
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave

Drumroll, please! No surprise here. 12 Years a Slave is a great film and it’s historic. That is Academy Award porn. There are so many things I can say about this film, but you won’t understand how good it is until you watch it. So far it is the only 10 I’ve given out, and with good reason too. Nothing against Gravity, it’s a deserving film as well, but I don’t see it pulling out the win. You may ask why my personal favorite is Her then. My initial reaction to seeing Her was lukewarm, to be honest. But once I let the film sit with me, I realize it’s something that I would no doubt watch it again. It is something that will stick with me for years, which is why it is my favorite of the nominees this year. Is it better than 12 Years a Slave though? Nah. That is undoubtedly the best film of the year.

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: Her

~Vig

Tough call this year for Best Picture (Has there ever NOT been one?) but my cinematic instinct leads me to 12 Years a Slave. First of all, the Academy tends to enjoy history as a base whether the focus is fiction or not (Argo, Titanic, Gandhi). Second, the Academy also loves it some controversy, which will continue to factor into my predictions. I’m pretty sure it gets off to a degree on being called a snub. Couple all of that with great production value, a strong cast and a touch of star-power (12 Years used its Get One Brad Pitt Scene card) and you have a strong candidate for Best Picture.

Winner: 12 Years a Slave

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: Gravity~Zach

What do you think about the Academy Awards this year? Agree with us? Disagree with us? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below.

The Wolf of Wall Street

To end our Oscar season, we’ll take a look at the one of the most polarizing films of year, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by the aforementioned Scorsese, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey. It is rated R strong sexual content, graphic nudity, heavy drug use, explicit language, and some violence throughout.

In Scorsese’s 3 hour epic, DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a Long Island stockbroker as he indulges in a life of corruption and indulgence that regularly features drugs, sex, and money. Belfort teams up with Donnie Azoff (Hill) and starts the brokerage firm Stratford-Oakmont. The company, using corrupt and illegal tactics, quickly grows in both size and relevance. However, with the FBI watching Belfort’s every move, he must find creative ways to cover his tracks and maintain his life of fortune and fun.

Thanks to Nic and Emma for being guest writers this week.

8 out of 10

The Mighty Roar. This is how Jordan Belfort describes the sound of his board room. It also happens to be how I would describe The Wolf of Wolf Street to someone who has not seen it. A Mighty Roar of a movie. It begins with Belfort tossing a Midget at a bulls-eye with dollar signs on it. We proceed to follow a pretty coked up Belfort through his life of extravagance and debauchery. All the while taking us back through how he made it to the top. When I first saw the trailer, I thought that it would be reminiscent of Inside Job, a wall street documentary about the financial crisis of 07-09. I was dead wrong. Unlike in his memoir, Belfort skips all of the wall street talk and moves straight to what people went to the theater to see: International crime, and Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonah Hill double teaming a secretary. And he delivers too. Money is stuffed into briefcases, rained on prostitutes, used to snort cocaine, thrown into wastebaskets, and taped to a mostly naked woman so that she can smuggle it across the border to Switzerland.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio

After reading the memoir, I understood one thing about Jordan Belfort. That he didn’t truly care about other people, especially women, because they were his playthings. Sometimes during a scene where a woman was yelling at him (the water splashing scene !!!) he would take that time, not to describe the argument but to describe their bodies and how horny he was. Scorsese decided that he would make the women in his life strong and calculating, as opposed to willing and objectified. At one point he agrees to give a female broker 100,000 dollars if she will shave her head in front of the whole board room. A marching band comes in and strippers deck the board halls. Belfort is looking proudly over his board room, and not looking at the girl who has already been given the money and looks like she is on the verge of tears. As she walks away from the shaver some people give her an understanding pat on the back, as if doing anything for Belfort’s money was routine. This is the opposite of Belfort’s T and A thoughts about his employees.

Leonardo DiCaprio really could not have done a better job at capturing all of the nuances that come with a character like Jordan. There are some times in the film where you can actually identify with his character, as a man who has lost himself. DiCaprio was supported by a surprisingly good performance by Jonah Hill as his equally greedy right hand man, Donnie Azoff. Margot Robbie not only feigns an awesome accent but held her own among bigger names, portraying Belfort’s wife as calculating and smart not just a bimbo. These performances were backed up by Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, and even a small cameo from Spike Jonze. All in all the amazing performances many of these actors gave, among other things, gave The Wolf of Wall Street the depth it has past just a memoir.
~Emma

7 out of 10

Looking over the list of nominees for the Best Picture this year, there is no shortage of films with something to say. From Dallas Buyers Club’s thought-provoking treatment of the AIDS epidemic to the story of an old woman searching for the son taken from her by the Church presented in Philomena, the field is certainly rife with moral tales. Martin Scorsese in his latest film The Wolf of Wall Street, however, has little time for such sentiment. His protagonist Jordan Belfort, played adeptly by Leonardo DiCaprio, leads a life of debonair debauchery with remarkably few consequences. Belfort truly can have his Quaaludes and pop them too.

That is not to say, by any means, that the film is not enjoyable and indeed the first hour goes by in a flurry of excess and wonderment at the lifestyle Belfort and his fellow Wall Street newcomers live. It is certainly not for everyone but few movies in the past few years can claim to have constructed such an escapist ideal as this one has. Sure, there are a few moral speed bumps, prime among them that Belfort steals unsuspecting investors’ money and livelihood. But as Belfort says, he “spends it better anyway”, so it’s all okay really. But as the minutes stretch into hours, the Wolf’s legs seem to run out a bit, tired by the earlier frantic pace and one questions the necessity of some later scenes.

The obvious comparison to make would be to Scorsese’s earlier work Goodfellas as both track the legally questionable rise and fall of a handsome, enigmatic male plagued by demons. But where Goodfellas seemed continuously fresh throughout, Wolf gets somewhat stale. And where Scorsese did a masterful job of walking the moral tight rope with his last character which allowed him to portray how terrible some of the things his protagonist did were whilst maintaining sympathy for him, Belfort can be difficult to connect to.

Margot Robbie (left), DiCaprio, and Scorsese (right)

Margot Robbie (left), DiCaprio, and Scorsese (right)

But Belfort is not a hero, he is an anti-hero and DiCaprio embraces this fully. In doing so he certainly shines the brightest of all the cast and wholly deserves the award attention given to him. The rest of the cast is largely serviceable and little more. Margot Robbie however, playing Belfort’s second wife, does deserve a mention for her accurate portrayal of a feisty female without the coldness that is all too often characteristic of intelligent females in male-dominated films. And of course, Matthew McConaughey turns in a virtuous turn as Belfort’s mentor and provides the greatest moment of the entire film.

Some people will hate The Wolf of Wall Street. But most of these people were always going to hate it long before the first reel of film was shot. For the rest of us, it is an undeniably good film and provides fantastic entertainment for two hours. Sadly, the film is not two hours long and it is this final hour that makes what could have been a great film simply a good one.
~Nic

IMDB: 8.3
Metacritic: 75
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

The Great Gatsby

To start things off, we will be taking a look at The Great Gatsby, recently released on DVD and originally in theaters in May of 2013. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo and Juliet), it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire. It is rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and drinking, violent images, and brief language.

Set in 1922, the story follows Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a World War I war veteran from the Midwest, as he travels to New York, taking a job as a bonds salesman. Carraway also serves as the narrator of the story. Soon after he arrives, he visits his cousin, the beautiful Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who is married to his former classmate at Yale, Tom (Joel Edgerton). Nick has rented a small house on Long Island, next to the grand mansion owned by the illustrious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is known solely for his large, exciting parties that are thrown week after week.

Shortly after, Nick meets and befriends Gatsby. Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for five years, and desires to meet her once again, asking Nick to invite her to tea. The two slowly rekindle their love, and Gatsby attempts to steal her away from Tom.

7.0 out of 10

On the surface, this film is enjoyable, and interesting. But when you dig deeper, it is more glamour and style and less F. Scott Fitzgerald and actual content, something that truly disappointed me in the end (even if i have not read the book).

DiCaprio is the best thing about this film. He has the charm, the looks, and most importantly, the hope to play Jay Gatsby. Obsessed with Daisy, Gatsby refuses to lose hope, insisting she must leave Tom. And what helps is his chemistry with his cast mates, especially Carey Mulligan. Their relationship was intimate and loving, and without this bond, the film would have fallen apart. The rest of cast does a very solid job as well, with surprisingly strong performances from Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher, and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki (Jordan Baker) has a solid performance as well. We will get into Tobey Maguire’s performance a little bit later.

The film is shot using a 3-D camera, thus bringing out the bright colors and sights. The use of computer graphics is something that this film hasn’t been credited for in its first few months of release. Not many people realize how much of this film really is CGI. The city, Gatsby’s mansion; it’s pretty remarkable. This, along with the extravagant sets and costumes provide beautiful scenery. Luhrmann also utilizes colors very well, making the first half very bright and lively, in comparison to the darker second half, which is sadder and more dismal in tone.

The only problem is, the film concentrates too much on making it look good instead of actually It is not the appropriate music for this film. I like the idea of translating the era of jazzy music to modern day hip hop, but it stills concerns me to hear ‘Empire State of Mind’ while Gatsby and Nick are driving through the city. Now, being completely honest, it works. They somehow make it work. But this film is not a modern-day retelling. It is not Romeo + Juliet. So the choice to have modern music in a non-modern film is a bit odd. It doesn’t allow the viewer to actually get a feel of the time period when Jay-Z and Beyonce are blaring in the background. Again, this is just an opinion.

Tobey Maguire does a fine job as Nick Carraway. He is smart and sharp, playing the character with the right amount of innocence. But him as a narrator? Not so great. His designated narration scenes were boring and unconvincing. I don’t blame this on him, though. The storytelling was questionable in general. Having Nick write a book as a recovering alcoholic was unnecessary. Nick commonly recited passages from the novel and then those passages were written out while he was speaking. To me, this was just annoying. It was messy and unappealing and did nothing to advance the story. It constantly interrupted the flow of the film and gave us unwanted scenes with Maguire talking to some therapist. Not to say he does a bad job, it’s just unneeded and stupid. It’s unfortunate that is was a weak point, especially since it’s such a huge part of a movie. The storytelling really lets this film down.

Overall, this film was solid. It was nothing memorable, but it’s worth a watch if you have nothing else to do. The movie is far from perfect, but after multiple sub-par attempts at creating a movie that meets the expectations Fitzgerald set, this one is definitely at the top of the ladder.

~Vig

6.5 out of 10

Like the title character, Gastby seemingly has a lot going for it. However, both are ultimately brought down by the glitzy, superfluous excess of the world that surrounds them.

But, at the risk of sounding undecided, the things that are good about this movie are very good. It’s simply that, as mentioned previously, those things do not delve into the deepness that’s to be expected. Besides that, the few great emotional moments, the ones that strive to go beyond the visuals that are seemingly expected to carry the weight of the entire movie, are too few and far between. But, we’ll get to that later.

I am going to try not to touch the story so much with this adaption simply because everyone has their takes on the Gilded Age and Fitzgerald’s commentary on it. I’m focusing on the style over substance in this case because I really think that’s what the director is exclusively about: visuals that dazzle and distract. And when Empire State of Mind blasted over the glitzy world of the roaring twenties’ Long Island, I couldn’t help but be taken out of the period it presented to me (Or tried to, at least).

That’s where, to me, the main problem lies and I’m certainly going to keep harping on it. I’d much rather be taken away by cinematography, music and scenery that really captures an era (See films like Glory, Catch Me If You Can or, heck, Forrest Gump) rather than a film that constantly takes breaks from the time to try and draw connections between said age and today.

Would F. Scott Fitzgerald himself be pleased with it? I guess I am not quite the one to say. However, if the lesson of the source material is that materialism cannot fill the emotional gaps in one’s life, is it not blasphemous to the book that the film seems more focused on the parties and fashion then the thought and lost-ness of a generation?

F. Scott Fitzgerald

As far as acting, I really did enjoy every performance put out. But DiCaprio will forever be listed as a tragedy as long as he goes without an Oscar simply because he tragically suffers from what I like to call the Morgan Freeman-effect. When an actor is in the game long enough and has such established characteristics, the MF-effect is that nagging part of your brain that points directly at Leo, no matter how much he’s giving to the role, and says: “THAT’S &@$&ing LEONARDO DICAPRIO!” . He’s suffered from it a lot (See his puddy-covered face in J. Edgar) but I know he’s smart enough to escape it. The rest of the supporting does a nice job of sucking you far enough in to the story at times when the visuals detract you.

So, overall? I wasn’t particularly kind to the movie when I first etched it but now it’s been promoted to a hard “Meh.” but I guess I’d recommend seeing it since its polarizing nature continues to divide everyone who’s viewed it.

~Zach

Bonus Video! A breakdown of the use of CGI in this film.
IMDB: 7.3
Metacritic: 55
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%