Interstellar

Up next (in Zach’s long awaited return) is Christopher Nolan’s latest feature film, Interstellar. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain, the movie is rated PG-13 for intense perilous action and brief strong language.

In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s bold, daring space adventure, the Earth and its inhabitants face extinction, fueled by drought and famine. When a mysterious rip in the galaxy is discovered, mankind is given the opportunity to explore a new solar system and start life anew. The crew of the journey is led by Cooper (McConaughey), who faces the tough decision of saving the human race or leaving his children forever. Amidst the greatest battle between love and science, the crew embarks on the most difficult, important task in the history of mankind.

8.5 out of 10

I have been waiting for this movie for literally two years. Ever since the credits rolled for The Dark Knight Rises, I’ve been waiting for Nolan’s next feature film. With Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and The Dark Knight Trilogy, he has simply released great film after great film. And even though it sadly does not surpass the expectations Nolan has laid out for us, Interstellar is a very good film in its own light. 

interstellar 2

There are a lot of truly incredible things about this movie. The special effects are on point, the story is intricate and deep, and to top it off, the intensity is as high as it gets. McConaughey delivers a solid performance that drives the film, specifically through the relationship that he forms with his daughter Murph. Throughout the first thirty minutes, we see their similarities, we see the joy they experience when they are together, and we see why their love, the driving force of this film, is so meaningful. It is the reason Cooper is driven to continue his journey to save the Earth and it is the reason Murph is driven to solve the extinction problem. Without this strong relationship, this movie would have gotten really boring really quickly.

Speaking of boring, it would seem that this movie, at two hours and fifty minutes, would end up being mundane at some point. However, it is justified in its length partially because the themes are so compelling. Selfish desire vs the greater good is prevalent throughout the film, as pretty much every character experiences this inner conflict at some point in the movie. This is what makes them so human. You can empathize with every single one of these characters because of how unintentionally selfish they are. Save the universe or stay with your children? It’s a lot harder than you may think. 

interstellar

Nolan manages to keep you invested regardless of how damn confusing the subject can be. None of us really understand how black holes and wormholes and blackworms and everything work, but Nolan keeps the explanations short and sweet. Why try and confuse us with intricacy? He does a good job of keeping it simple… until the end that is.

chast

The ending was not great. Without spoiling anything, the realism of the movie absolutely fell apart. All the science, mixed with the dark tone, set us up for one really nice ending, but instead, Nolan ran off that path. For a long time, I actually sort of believed that the events of this movie could actually happen (except for the whole baloney about a fifth dimensional entity trying to save humanity), especially since the film respected the rules of science. And then, the black hole came and everything fell apart. The story became dilute, the tone shifted way too abruptly, everything became absolutely surreal, and I was left dazed and confused. Lazy writing seems to be the only explanation for this wreck.

stellar

There are a few other problems; some apparent sound mixing issues towards the beginning that Nolan intentionally put in place (sure…) and a relatively unimpressive soundtrack from Hans Zimmer. So is this the best film this year? No way. Is it Nolan’s best film? Not a chance. But is it a good film? No doubt about it. All in all, Interstellar is an exciting, intricate love-driven journey that travels through both space and the human heart and will leave you both rattled and entertained in spite of its imperfections.
~Vig

6.5 out of 10

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein

If there was ever a director whose name belongs under that epigraph, it’s Christopher Nolan (Maybe Michael Bay too but this isn’t Transformers). Nolan’s films have grown increasingly convoluted yet well-researched. Maybe strange but definitely deep. About as dry as a desert but still brimming with provoking dialogue. Interstellar is all of the above.

I usually fall in Nolan’s favor. He’s made two of my favorite movies ever, leveled the landscape of action movies and brought complex pieces to the forefront (For better or worse). But poor Chris has suffered a bit of a backlash in the wake of Dark Knight Rises. Many now say he chronically writes himself into corners, relies heavily on leaps and jumps in plot and that he paints his colorful characters in dull greys and blacks.

And (sigh) I’d be lying if I said Interstellar didn’t embody all (Yes, all) of these criticisms. All of them. It’s a very languid movie that presents us with a pretty unexciting earth (Was this the same guy  that gave us the dreams from Inception?). The characters are one-note and the plot crawls from hour to hour until it grunts, drowsily shakes the tired out of its head and roars to some life in the final twenty minutes.

inter
But hold on there. I said unexciting earth. Let’s not forget people, this is Christopher Nolan. And when Nolan likes something he cradles, nurtures and develops it to fruition. Maybe in a complicated way that some people disagree with but he does it anyhow. And, in this movie, his love is space. This movie is a love-letter to astronomy, time and quantum mechanics. He really did his homework here and I appreciate that to no end.
Nolan’s space feels scary yet intriguing like a monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey (Almost this film’s spiritual ancestor). It’s beautiful and new territory but both the audience and the characters know it could kill them at any time. It’s a vast, vast vacuum. The cold technology that surrounds our characters compounds this feeling. The planets also feel this foreign.
So what about those pesky characters that get Nolan’s script’s way occasionally? Well, I can’t really lengthily dive into them because there isn’t too much to dive into. They’re bland. They spout that dry wit and emanate that stoicness we expect from Nolan. They’re cogs in the script’s intricate machine and not much else. Occasionally, we’ll touch on an interesting trait but these moments are fleeting and barely enough to excuse the three hour runtime.

In fact, if Nolan shaved off an hour or so, I may have been writing a very different review. And, though the research he seems very legitimate and interesting, it too serves to suffocate all the breaths of humanity (You know, the thing the movie’s supposed to be about saving) coming from the film. From there, it’s left to gasp for character development in its later quiet moments and it doesn’t get that much.

There are moments where this casts shine though. Nolan’s actors aren’t given a lot but they’re occasionally tossed a few bones and, boy, do they make the most of them. McConaughey’s star is rising and he plays a solid, ten minute one-man scene in this movie in such a way that it earned some mercy from me (I won’t dare spoil the specifics).

intastel
And the plot, though convoluted, had some neat twists and turns that half-resuscitate the plot. It’s just hard to follow those twists when you’re too fatigued to invest and the roads that led you to them were tiring. But if you could follow those curvey roads, good for you. You probably had helluva better ride than I did.
Nolan, I still love you. This film shines like a supernova every so often and occasionally escapes the blackness of the world it has framed for itself. Those moments are few and far between but had they been closer, I’m sure we’d be hailing this as another astronomical masterpiece, akin to Gravity or 2001.

As always, I still can’t wait for Nolan’s next feature however. But I won’t be rushing into any blackholes or time-space portals to get there.
~Zach

Like Interstellar? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!

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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.

Dallas Buyers Club

Next up on our agenda is Dallas Buyers Club, one of the top winners at many of the recent award shows. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, it stars Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner. It is rated R for explicit language, strong sexual content, nudity and drug use.

In 1985 Dallas, electrician and bull rider Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) lives a life full of smoking, drugs, sex and alcohol. The racist, homophobic Woodroof, after a work accident, discovers that he has HIV, and that he has 30 days to live. Ron, initially in denial, desperately searches for drugs that will keep him alive. With his transsexual business partner, Rayon (Leto), they smuggle drugs for the hundreds of others with HIV in Texas, forming the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, in which they supply drugs to those who need them. Woodroof, with the FDA watching his every move, attempts to enjoy life under the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

7.5 out of 10

I’ve seen Dallas Buyers Club labeled the underdog of this year’s award season—which was originally hard to believe considering it has won pretty much every Lead Actor and Supporting Actor role out there—but after watching it, I can understand why. It does not have too much that may entice an audience on first glance. Hell, it’s a movie about AIDS and cowboys, What is there to be excited about if you’re an everyday moviegoer? It lacks the visual appeal of Gravity and the star power of American Hustle. There isn’t one thing that appeals to you before you’ve seen it. And really, there is nothing that stands out to you after you have seen it as well, except maybe the acting, which is one of the huge reasons that I did not fall in love with it like seemingly many others did.

I will start off with the bright spots of this film. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are both fantastic. More so Leto, who delivers one of the most genuine, interesting, and complex performances I have seen in a long time. I recently watched an featurette in which he discussed how he had to wax his entire body for the role and how he really created a whole new person for the role. He sees Rayon as an actual person, which is what drives him to such success. Imagine a world in which people always picked roles exclusively for the characters and not for the money (I’m looking at you 2000s Robert DeNiro). Rayon is such an extremely difficult character to portray, and Leto did it with so much energy and ultimately delivered a performance for the ages.

Then there’s McConaughey, who also did very well. Yes, his 50 pounds weight loss may not have been Christian Bale esque, but no one can argue that he lacked the cockiness and imperfection that the character of Ron Woodroof required. Woodroof is no hero; he’s just a man fighting for his life. He is not a good guy, to put it straight. And yet McConaughey still made us love him, the asshole he is.
Another thing I can commend this film for is its makeup design. I’ve said before that Hollywood makeup artists and costume designers are among the most overlooked people in the business, and its transformations such as Leto to Rayon that make me realize this. Fantastic job by the makeup department.

leto dbc

Jared Leto

Otherwise, I couldn’t tell you what I really loved about this film. I was impressed by McConaughey and awed by Leto, but the movie as a whole just didn’t resonate with me. There were parts where the story became excessive and extremely hard to follow, which really irritated me. Without a direct way of telling the story, it was up to the message and moral of the story to impress us, which is never a safe bet. Luckily, Leto and McConaughey provided the film with meaning. But here we are again, and these two actors are the main point of my discussion. Everything else was good but not great. None of the camera work stood out to me, nor did the direction. Both of these could have helped this film tremendously if they had been more than just ‘fine’.

There really isn’t anything necessarily bad about this film, it’s just that there’s nothing particularly interesting beyond the two leading actors. Without them, the film would have fallen apart. Fortunately, the revivals of both McConaughey and Leto allow this film to be unique, interesting, and the solid Oscar contender that it became.
~Vig

8.5 out of 10

NOTE: Best Picture scale! Get used to it!

Generally, at least half of the Best Picture nominees are extremely clever ideas. But what separates them from those hundreds of other clever movies besides the piles of money or lack thereof sitting behind them? Usually, they’re really simple ingenious ideas that manage to take up a whole movie in some sort of perfect storm.

Take The Descendants from a couple of years ago or even Nebraska from this year. Both have very short ideas but are so well constructed that they’re able to pull out a ton of themes from a what could have been a one-note idea.

Dallas Buyers Club is definitely one of those movies. It’s a simple, raw idea that is really carried by its own actors into notoriety. Does it deal with some pretty heavy themes? Yes. Actually 100x yes. Is it like Philadelphia except with a Cowboys player? No. But its just as emotionally effective.

mcconaughey dbc

Matthew McConaughey

Let’s get back to the actors, the real stars of this movie. Matthew McConaughey gets a pretty darn bad rap which I probably don’t have a right to commentate on given that I haven’t seen Failure to Launch or How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (But if I’ve seen one of those, haven’t I seen the other?). However, I feel like if one were to take the last couple of years into account, McCounaughey is pretty high tier actor. He has really proven he can act side by side with some real heavy hitters and maybe he’ll one day become a heavy hitter himself.

Because in Dallas Buyers Club, he gives the plot traction. He takes a character that could have been boisterous nuisance and puts some depth in there that gives the film some heart. If you really wanted to, you could see this whole plot as a guy who betrays his morals but its almost certainly about tolerance and accepting others (While still managing to squeeze some humor out of the topic as well).

Speaking of humor, there’s also Jared Leto, who plays a transgender character. That’s definitely an idea that could have been ripe for mistakes and cheap moments if played wrong (And it could have easily been played wrong) but its something the movie takes very seriously because it wants you to take it seriously. It’s Hollywood being mature and it’s Jared Leto, who gets props for accepting a role that probably looked terrifying on paper.

Then there’s the problem of pacing. I’ve probably said this before but pacing is a really underrated quality that is very hard to work out through the entire movie-making process. Unfortunately, here, it does suffer from a somewhat simple premise and it can get a little repetitive.

But that’s what actors are for! They take scenes that drag or drudge and speed them along. Luckily, they’re all up to the task here.

And so, another Best Picture movie comes and goes and its yet another one I’d highly recommend. Do I think it will win? No (12 Years a Slave or Gravity would be my guess since the Academy loves a little publicity). But absolutely check it out. With Leto and McConaughey around, you won’t regret it.
~Zach

Bonus Video: The previously mentioned featurette on Jared Leto

IMDB: 8.0
Metacritic: 84 
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%