We Were Movie Gangsters

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Star of the Month: Inventing the Abbotts

My mother was right: if the Abbotts didn’t exist, Jacey would have had to invent them. But it seems to me that inventing the Abbotts was something that almost everyone in Haley did, and still do.

Inventing the Abbotts (1997) is a movie steeped in 1950s nostalgia, something that seems common in films from the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a film about a small town boy from “the wrong side of the tracks”, Doug Holt (star of the month Joaquin Phoenix), and his older brother (Billy Crudup) who holds a grudge against the richest family in town, the Abbotts.

Crudup, Tyler, and Phoenix in Inventing the Abbotts.

The Abbotts are the closest thing to royalty in the small Indiana town of Haley, known for their glamorous parties thrown in honor of their three beautiful daughters. Doug is fascinated by the Abbott girls, but his brother, Jacey, is interested in them for a more malicious reason: he believes that their father, Lloyd Abbott, stole a business patent from their own father (who died when they were young), and proceeded to get rich off of it. He executes his revenge by seducing the Abbott daughters, one by one, and jeopardizing the blossoming relationship between Doug and Pamela Abbott (Liv Tyler).

The film centers around Doug and his naivety concerning his brother and the Abbott girls. Joaquin Phoenix does an excellent job of portraying the awkwardness of adolescence and the loss of innocence that Doug goes through. Stepping out of his brother’s shadow is a slow, subtle process that Phoenix masters, especially as Doug begins to fall in love with Pamela. He almost holds her up on a pedestal and can’t believe that one of the elusive, elegant Abbott girls could care for him in return. Knowing the behind-screen relationship unfolding between Phoenix and Tyler adds another dimension to Doug’s feelings: Phoenix once remarked to Jennifer Connelly (who plays Eleanor Abbott) that he could never get a girl like Tyler.

While the film focuses on Phoenix, it would be hard to review this film without taking note of Crudup’s performance as Jacey Holt, Doug’s older brother. Jacey has everything going for him: good looks, brains, and a bright future at the University of Pennsylvania. But he is a ticking time bomb; he’s held in his rage towards both his mother and Lloyd Abbott (the patriarch of the Abbott family) for years, and he’s ready to explode, not caring if he hurts himself and others in the process. Jacey is a character that’s hard to love but difficult to wholly hate, even as he messes up the lives of those around him, because in the end, his whole persona is built on a lie.

Tyler and Phoenix, on and off-screen sweethearts.

Inventing the Abbotts is a slow film, and both the plot and the drama gradually build up to a poignant crescendo as Jacey’s toying with the Abbott girls affects Doug in a way he never expected. It’s billed as a light-hearted romance (it’s not), but to me, the film is a story about growing up and learning to live. It’s a story about how to move on from everything you’ve ever known and how to grow into your own person when you’ve only ever been known as the “little brother.”

The film concludes sweetly, as Doug’s passion is the true to key to his own happiness and the happiness of others. The conclusion to his story is satisfying, if a little saccharine. Doug is an observer and he learns and grows from both his experiences and those of others. Told from his perspective, the film gives us some integral lessons about life and loving someone no matter what they do. In the end, it’s a sweet film; not one of Phoenix’s best, but one that shouldn’t be missed nonetheless.

There’s different kinds of love. Some people you love no matter what, and others you love if the situation is right. To me, the best kind of love is the “no matter what” kind.


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Allow me to start my Gatsby review with a confession: I am not a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Never have been, never thought I would be. For some reason, he just creeps me out. However- I really liked The Great Gatsby, including (perhaps even particularly) Leo as Jay.

First, I would like to give the casting director a hug. Leo was the perfect Jay, and I might have liked him better than I have in anything else I’ve seen him in (that might not be much coming from me, but hey, it’s great progress). His acting was excellent, and I felt more sympathy for his character than any other in the film, though in the book he is portrayed as far from perfect. Tobey Maguire wasn’t anything to write home about, but honestly, neither is the character of Nick, who is oftentimes more of an observer than a participant, so I didn’t much mind. Carey Mulligan was, as usual, perfect- she was a flawless “beautiful little fool” wearing, of course, an equally flawless costume. Which brings me to my next point- the costumes were flawless throughout. Other than Daisy’s, I was also extremely in love with Gatsby’s. The beige sweater and the pink suit were my personal favorites.

Obviously the music and scenery were impeccable. No one could possibly accuse Luhrmann of not going all out for the Gatsby party. I even liked the trippy modern-jazz concoction of a soundtrack, which was interesting and new in a way that, for all the criticism it might draw, matched rather well with the colorful, insane visual of the film. All the sets, from the insane Gatsby palace, to Nick’s house covered in flowers for Daisy’s tea, to the ornate hotel room where Gatsby and Tom get in a fight, were overwhelmingly well-done.

The part of the movie that really had my jaw dropping was the scenes of Gatsby showing Daisy and Nick around his house. “House” might not be the right word: “palace” is more accurate. The palace is so ornate, enormous, and impossibly grand that you find yourself wanting to visit; it is the most striking visual in the film. In fact, what I liked best about this film is the way it pulls you into the world of Jay, Daisy, Nick, Tom, and the rest, truly causing you to get swept up in the heartbreak, the drama, and even the parties of fast-paced 1920s New York. In my book, any movie that can have this effect is one I have definitely enjoyed.

All that said, though I can’t see the movie winning any Oscars and it perhaps could have used a bit more emotional depth, this is a good movie. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t mind the spectacle of the over-the-top aesthetic and music of the film, and I understand why others might disapprove, but I personally enjoyed it. It was faithful to the book, made a valiant (and, as far as I’m concerned, successful) attempt to reel the viewer in with overpowering visuals and adapted modern music, and could not possibly have had any better of a cast. As Nick says, “I was within and without.” When you watch The Great Gatsby, you are within and without, and personally, I liked what I saw.

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Star of the Month Monday: The Master

“Man is not an animal,” proclaims the charismatic, seemingly placid Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), leader of a movement dubbed ‘The Cause’, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest cinematic achievement.

But animal is what Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) seems to be. He is a bundle of loose ends, boiling rage and animal urges. After much wandering, Freddie is eventually drawn into Dodd’s Cause, attracted to the safety it seems to offer. Dodd (to his followers, the ‘Master’) and Quell become fast friends in spite of their vast differences, Quell filling the role of protege and right hand man after Dodd takes him under his wing. Both men are mysteries that The Master delves to the core of in a long, engrossing character study.

Freddie, an incomplete, animal-like being, is filled with rage, lust, and loneliness that drive him to brew chemical cocktails and get it on with a lady sculpted from sand. Freddie’s drive for sex and violence is fierce, with an underlying inability to connect emotionally with a real woman–it cuts back continually to scenes of his sand lady, as well as the extremely young and naive Love of His Life–and control his fury. Under Dodd’s wing, Freddie is, from time to time, temporarily subdued, but never mastered. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that he was not made to be mastered–the question is if he can learn to be his own master.

“If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master,” says Dodd to Freddie, “be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world.”

Upon its release back in the fall of 2012, The Master earned some criticism for being lengthy, slow, and devoid of a solid, linear plot. I disagree, though. The Master is engrossing and contains some of the absolute best acting this side of the century. Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of a lifetime. If nothing else, watch it for the acting.

Parts of it play out like a comedy, in the same way that Daniel Plainview’s “I drink your milkshake” rant never fails to make me laugh out loud, in spite of the overall tension of the scene and Daniel Day-Lewis’s powerful acting. The Master is filled with some similar weird, twisted humor that elicited nervous laughter from the little crowd of five in my theater when I saw it back in October.

Though very different, The Master possesses many of the elements that make There Will Be Blood so good, such as outstanding performances on all parts, gorgeous cinematography filled with rich colors, the incomparable direction of Paul Thomas Anderson, raw emotion and energy, and a chilling score by Jonny Greenwood. Shot on 65mm film, the look of the film alone is spectacular. The blue of that sea is too pretty for words.

The film is also notable for Joaquin Phoenix’s return to film. Phoenix is back, and better than ever. I’m not only overjoyed to see him again, but to see him again giving such an incredible performance. Convincing and animal-like, thin and hunching, handsome and brutish as Quell, Phoenix makes the character explode off the screen. Don’t ever leave me like that again, Joaquin.

Phoenix wasn’t the only one who gave a masterful performance, though: Philip Seymour Hoffman played Dodd with quiet intensity, and Amy Adams shone as his hard, icy wife.

Much as I love me some DDL, I have to say that Joaquin Phoenix deserved an Oscar for this film. I was torn throughout the entire awards season, because Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix are both my favorite actors of all time. I wasn’t sad that DDL won, but… Joaquin :( I’m less torn about my thoughts on Amy Adams’ loss, though. My blood is still boiling about Anne Hathaway’s win, but I’m going to stop there before this gets ugly. Don’t even get me started on the Academy completely snubbing Paul Thomas Anderson. I can only hope for Oscars for all three soon.

For me, The Master was one of those rare films that dramatically heightened my love and understanding of film, and gave me an even greater appreciation for the work of Paul Thomas Anderson (if you haven’t watched Boogie Nights, every day you go without watching Boogie Nights is a waste). Thoughts of The Master rolled through my brain for weeks afterwards, and continued to distract me as I tried to unravel the many mysteries it contains. It’s a great, powerful film with great acting. Not one I’m likely to forget about anytime soon, even if I wanted to.

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Miranda’s Favorite’s: 2. The Shining

Now I will admit I have not read the book, nor will I in the near future (I have so many other books on my list already) but I am a die hard fan of this film and I don’t think the book will ever change that. The interesting thing is that film and literature are not the same, nor should they be. Yes, we all love to complain how films do not exactly follow the novel, but film is another art medium of itself.

The Shining, in my opinion, is one of the best films ever made (and much to my relief, BFI has it in its Top 250 so I have some backup for me:) ). When I finished watching it for the first time, rather than being completely freaked out, I was amazed, thrilled and puzzled. Each element in the film seems like a puzzle piece; they seem to not fit together but they do. However it leaves the viewer completely dumbfounded (what IS with those two, um, men that Shelley sees in the bedroom!).

I was determined to believe that there was a meaning behind the film, and I still do even though some people say there isn’t. I find Kubrick interesting in that sense, and I think he had to have some underlying plot or theme to it. The two that make the most sense to me are the parallels to children fairy tales (ex. Room 237 like Hansel and Gretel and most obvious Jack Nicholson as the Big Bad Wolf chopping down the door. There is a great gifset here that shows how similar the two scenes are to one another).

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this movie and each time I watch it I find something new. My favorite scenes to analyze are the scenes in The Gold Room. Jack’s seemingly pleasant attitude when talking to Lloyd, the bartender, the reflection of the light in Jack’s eyes, even the paleness of Lloyd, as if he’s not really there; I love it!

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Satisfying Ending Not Guaranteed


I have to admit, I went into Safety Not Guaranteed with some pretty high expectations (even though, as my co-contributor Erin taught us all in her Gatsby post, high expectations can be dangerous). Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, I just maybe didn’t love it.

Let’s start with the cast, which was the reason for my high expectations. Now, I know way around a good TV comedy, so you can bet I was pretty excited to find a movie that featured not only Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec, but also Mark Duplass of The Mindy Project and (there’s more?!) Jake Johnson, star of my current obsession (but we’ll talk about that later), New Girl. Needless to say, I have nothing but good things to say about the acting in this movie, featuring some of my absolute favorite not-so-famous actors.

The plot is intriguing, especially at the beginning, with Aubrey as the intern teaming up with a reporter (Jake Johnson) to track down and write an article about a guy who put out a classified ad claiming he can time travel. Johnson’s character Jeff is funny in a well-meaning, occasionally-a-bit-of-a-jerk kind of way that he does really well; Darius (Plaza) is inquisitive and interesting. (We’ll let slide the somewhat pointless, extremely stereotyped Indian sidekick.) I have to admit I was kind of rooting for them to get together, but alas- enter Duplass’ enigmatic Kenneth. Madman, or smartest person the world has ever known? Darius spends the movie trying to puzzle it out for herself, occasionally reporting back to Jeff and the sidekick, Arnau. It seems like there’s a bit of a division, so that there are two parts to the plot- the main plot, which is Darius getting to know Kenneth and what he’s up to, while Jeff is busy rekindling his relationship with his old girlfriend. This lesser part of the plot seemed like kind of a distraction and didn’t really go anywhere, so this portion of the plot felt a bit pointless. But the ending was the only part of the plot I disliked; Darius finds out Kenneth has been lying to her about why he wants to travel back in time, and the girl whose life he wants to go back and “save” is alive and well, but instead of sorting it out, she agrees to hope in his homemade time machine with him- and it works. But this is where the movie ends. It was extremely unexpected for the time machine to actually work, especially given that we don’t even see what they actually do when they go back and the other half of the plot is left unresolved after Jeff has a fight with his girlfriend, and it simply struck me as a bit of a bizarre, unsatisfying way for the movie to end.

Event though the ending was not the best, the movie was good overall, full of likable characters played by great actors, and I would recommend it. But for future reference: when going into something with high expectations, satisfaction is not guaranteed.

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The Pretty Good Gatsby: Because I’ve Never Seen Such Beautiful Shirts Before

Let me start off by saying this: sometimes, our perilously high hopes and dangerous, reaching desires can do us more harm than good. And sometimes, our perilously low expectations can yield pleasant surprises.

I was so utterly convinced that I was going to hate 2013’s The Great Gatsby, and yet I actually found myself enjoying Baz Luhrmann’s spectacle of sparkles and color, a roaring circus of booze and excess. Once you allow yourself to get swept up in the fast-paced, jazzy/hip-hop whirl of parties and pretentiousness, it’s an enjoyable, visually overwhelming film, based on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that will always outmatch any adaptation.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel, the basic premise is that Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious, wealthy man shrouded in a carefully calculated, respectable persona, seeks to reclaim his lost love, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), a wealthy, married woman whose “voice is full of money”. More than that, though, it’s Fitzgerald’s reflection on American society, wealth and recklessness and excess; a glittering facade covering something shallow and ugly.

Luhrmann definitely made use of the symbols (such as the green light) woven throughout The Great Gatsby, though without much subtlety, and pretty much adhered the plot and overarching the themes of the novel. Arguably, the most rebellious felony he committed against the source material was the use of a hip-hop/pop soundtrack against the backdrop of the Jazz Age, which I actually thought worked pretty well. The music was good–modern with a jazzy twist, laced with bits of recognizable 20s dance grooves–and fit in with the ridiculousness of the whole thing. My mom made an interesting argument for the anachronistic soundtrack: jazz music isn’t new to us. In the 1920s, everything was shining and glimmering and fast-paced and new, and jazz music characterized that, but, in today’s context, jazz music is, to some, kind of a relic. It isn’t exciting or scandalous to us. The music of the film fit in with the feeling of raw excitement, and made those crazy Gatsby parties seem even crazier.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Gatsby was certainly praiseworthy, with his pretentious “old sport”s and outward appearance of coolness broken by those moments of shaking nerves and bursting temper. Tobey Maguire was not particularly remarkable as Nick Carraway. My favorite performance came from Joel Edgerton’s rendering of Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s brutish, snobbish husband. He was really good.

There’s something to be said for a movie that can make you cry, no matter how or why. I got a little bit misty-eyed over the tragic end, yeah, but I found myself crying–I mean really, actually shedding tears–at the shirts scene. The part in the book where Gatsby brings Daisy to his opulent mansion is pretty sad, because you can see that he’s done all of this for a dream, an illusion of her. He has accumulated a mass of things and cultivated an attitude of respectability, always staring at that green light across the bay, in sight but out of reach. Naively, he believes that he can reclaim the past, if only he buys enough things. He’s a collector of things–things that he thinks will impress Daisy–and the thing he wants to collect most is Daisy herself, a sparkly thing who likes sparkly things. Daisy says, “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before.”

Now in that euphoric, post-movie rush, I can say that I definitely enjoyed the film. Did I love it? Nah. Did it leave a great impact? I really don’t think so. But it was an enjoyable watch, and exceeded the expectations I had that were born of a dislike for Luhrmann’s flashy, overwhelming style. I have to say that I thought that style worked here. You could argue that the film lacked depth, but I still enjoyed it, and don’t regret going to see it. I would argue that Luhrmann’s film does the novel justice more than the stiff 1974 adaptation with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Luhrmann’s Gatsby is marked by excess and perhaps self-indulgence, but, like I said, I didn’t particularly dislike it. Had I seen it in 3D, though, I think I would be throwing up right now. Don’t do it.

Crackling with excitement and summer heat, The Great Gatsby is dizzying, sometimes disorienting and tacky, and actually pretty humorous. You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting a love story (that’s not what this is and I hope you know that), and even more disappointed if you expect it to stand up to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. As a movie to venture out to see on the weekend, I liked it.

The film swirls to its dramatic close and concludes with some of my favorite lines from literature:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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10 Crazy Good Film Scores

The right soundtrack can really make a movie/make you cry/make your heart explode. Here are ten soundtracks (in no particular order) that blow me away:

The Hours Philip Glass
My favorite tracks: “Dead Things”, “The Hours”, “Why Does Someone Have to Die”

The Thin Red Line Hans Zimmer
My favorite tracks: “Journey to the Line”, “Light”, “Silence”

There Will Be Blood Jonny Greenwood
My favorite tracks: “Open Spaces”, “HW/Hope of New Fields”, “Prospectors Quartet”

Atonement Dario Marianelli
My favorite tracks: “Briony”, “Elegy for Dunkirk”, “The Cottage on the Beach”

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Ennio Morricone
My favorite tracks: “L’Estasi Dell’oro (The Ecstasy Of Gold)”, “Il Triello”

The Godfather (trilogy) Nino Rota
My favorite tracks: “The Godfather – Waltz”, “Love Theme from the Godfather”, “Kay”, “The Godfather Part II End Titles”

Out Of Africa John Barry
My favorite tracks: “I Had a Farm in Africa (Main Title)”, “End Title”

The Master Jonny Greenwood
My favorite tracks: “Overtones”, “Application 45 Version 1”, “The Sweetness of Freddie”

The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) Howard Shore
My favorite tracks: “Concerning Hobbits”, “The Ring Goes South”, “Lothlorien”, “The Breaking of the Fellowship”, “Samwise the Brave”, “The Return of the King”, “The Grey Havens”

The Last Temptation of Christ Peter Gabriel
My favorite tracks: “The Feeling Begins”, “With This Love”, “Passion”, “It Is Accomplished”

Check out this mix I made on 8tracks with selections from all of these fine scores!

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Farewell, The Office: Top 10 Episodes

The Office deserves a proper sendoff, and I decided the best way to do that would be to look back on the show’s best moments. These episodes, however, are in no particular order, because, well, it’s just too hard to choose. When The Office gets it right, it gets it really, really right.

“Casino Night”

casino night

This one might just be my favorite episode … ever. I’m more than a little biased, because I love Jim and Pam, but this episode is just all-around great. Michael is in rare form, between ranting at Toby (“I hate so much … of who you choose to be”) and ending up with two dates to Casino Night. The adorable Ryan-Kelly awkwardness and Jim-Pam flirting don’t hurt either, not to mention the cold open where Jim convinces Dwight he can move a coat rack with his mind.

“Goodbye Michael”

goodbye michael

I have no words. This episode from Season 7 was the best episode The Office had produced in several seasons. Michael lying about when he was leaving to avoid saying goodbye, his and Jim’s final conversation in the office, Michael taking off his microphone, Pam finally catching up to him at the airport- it all got me. This episode was so well done.

“Christmas Party”

Christmas Party

Who doesn’t love a good Christmas episode? One of my favorite Michael Scott moments is in this episode: Michael storming out of the gift exchange, being outraged over other people’s gifts, capped at $20, not matching up to the iPod that he broke the rules to buy. (“Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say ‘Hey man, I love you this many dollars worth.'”) This episode is also full of Jim-Pam tension, since he buys her a Secret Santa gift (a teapot she really wanted, with “bonus presents” inside, including a note saying how he feels, which he eventually removes before she can read it) and then has to spend the party making sure she’s the one who gets it, as Michael turns it into a White Elephant exchange. Michael also ends up going to the store and buying 15 bottles of vodka to get everyone drunk: Christmas is never a dull time at Dunder Mifflin.



Another prime holiday episode of The Office! Besides the fun costumes, there’s some quality prankster Jim- in this episode, he puts Dwight’s resumé on the Internet and starts finding him a new job. Pam, of course, helps, But the best part of this episode is Michael, who has been told he has to fire someone by the end of the month, calling in various employees and trying to fire them, with no success. Creed Bratton manages to talk Michael out of firing him and convinces him to fire Devon instead- he’s the one Dwight rehired in the series finale.

“Michael’s Birthday”

michael's birthday

This is the kind of TV that never fails to cheer me up on a bad day. For me, the highlight of the episode is Michael “subtly” informing everyone that it’s his birthday- he calls Jan “to wish her happy birthday”, and when she tells him it’s not her birthday, he replies, “Really? ‘Cause I thought we had the same birthday.” The other side plot, centered around Jim and Pam shopping for Kevin’s favorite things to cheer him up in the midst of a health scare, is equally light and funny. There’s just something about this episode that will never fail to make you laugh.



A lot of times, if you go back and watch the pilot again after you start watching a show, you realize it’s actually not a very good episode. But the pilot of The Office will always be a classic. It’s very similar to the pilot of the UK version of the show, setting up all the characters and the different relationships. No matter how many times I watch this one, it stands the test of time.

“Diversity Day”

diversity day

This episode, the second one in the first season, is where the audience realizes exactly how crazy, for lack of a better word, Michael Scott is. It’s because of his accidentally racially offensive comments that they have to have the diversity seminar in the first place, and he ends up overhauling it and makes such offensive comments he gets slapped. Meanwhile, the audience also learns more about Pam and Roy’s issues, and starts to get attached to her and Jim. This episode isn’t just funny in itself, but is also where the audience really gets to know the characters.

“Fun Run”

fun run

I think I’ve seen this one more than any other episode of The Office. It starts with Michael hitting Meredith with his car. Then Pam’s computer crashes because she buys a celebrity sex tape. Kevin tries to prove her and Jim are dating, which they eventually admit they are. Michael than forces everyone in the office to help him plan a run to raise awareness for the fact that there already is a cure to rabies. I mean … is there a reason not to love this episode?

“The Fire”

the fire

If I had to pick one single episode to represent this show’s sense of humor, it just might be this one. First of all, BJ Novak’s writing is perfect. The Michael-Ryan dynamic in this episode is absolutely hilarious, not to mention Dwight. Everyone else standing around playing Desert Island games is pretty fun too, especially when Amy Adams shows up. Also, I’ll never listen to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” the same way again.



Once again I have no words. This episode is (Chris Traeger voice) literally everything the fans could have ever asked for. Michael came back, and has kids. Dwight and Angela got married. Ryan and Kelly ran off together. Andy got famous. Erin found her parents. Nellie got a baby. Jim got his dream job and his relationship with Pam is cuter than ever. Honestly, every single character got everything I could have ever wished for them. I just wish Michael would have insulted Toby one last time, for old times’ sake.

The Office had its ups and downs in recent years, but the first two seasons are some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. The writers really pulled it all together and gave it such a great sendoff, even though, in the immortal words of Jim Halpert, “Goodbyes are a bitch.” Thank you, and that’s what she said.

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May Star of the Month: Joaquin Phoenix

A new feature we’re starting here at Moviefellas is the Star of the Month, which entails movie reviews and other posts on the actor or actress we choose for a given month. For May 2013, I decided that our star should be the talented Joaquin Phoenix, after whom I named my goldfish (2012-2012 R.I.P.), and whose picture is currently gracing my mantle (my family hasn’t noticed yet, don’t tell them).

You may know Phoenix from films such as Gladiator (2000), Walk the Line (2005), and The Master (2012), all of which earned him Academy Award nominations for his outstanding performances. Born in Puerto Rico to Children of God missionaries, Phoenix began his acting career as a child after moving to Los Angeles at the age of four, alongside his brother River, who quickly rose to fame (see: Stand by Me). In 1993, tragedy struck when Joaquin’s older brother River died of a drug overdose.

In 1995, Joaquin returned to acting in Gus Van Sant’s dark comedy To Die For alongside Nicole Kidman. Widespread critical success came with his role as the villainous Roman emperor Commodus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) starring Russell Crowe. Gladiator earned Phoenix nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs and SAG Awards–and it wouldn’t be the last time.

Joaquin proved himself to be one of the greatest actors of his generation with his spot-on portrayal of legendary singer Johnny Cash in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line. Phoenix starred as the Man in Black alongside Reese Witherspoon, who met the challenge of portraying Cash’s wife and fellow musician, June Carter Cash.

Director James Mangold and Joaquin Phoenix on the set of Walk the Line

Director James Mangold and Joaquin Phoenix on the set of Walk the Line

Phoenix earned a Grammy Award for his bassy, dare I say angelic/beautiful/tear-inducingly wonderful rendition of some of Cash’s songs for the soundtrack of Walk the Line. Walk the Line brought Joaquin a slew of nominations and wins, including an Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe win for Best Actor.

Phoenix shocked and confused both fans and media in 2009 when he announced that he was leaving his successful acting career to become a rapper. His bizarre behavior was later revealed to be part of the making of the “documentary” I’m Still Here, which chronicles Phoenix’s foray into hip-hop music. In an interview with TIME, Phoenix said of the experience:

“Part of why I was frustrated with acting was because I took it so seriously. I want it to be so good that I get in my own way. It’s like love: when you fall in love, you’re not yourself anymore. You lose control of being natural and showing the beautiful parts of yourself, and all somebody recognizes is this total desperation. And that’s very unattractive. Once I became a total buffoon, it was so liberating.

“… I’d just been acting too long, and it had kind of been ruined for me. I wanted to put myself in a situation that would feel brand-new and hopefully inspire a new way of approaching acting. It did do that for me.”

After a hiatus from acting, Phoenix made a triumphant return to the screen in 2012 with acclaimed director (aka one of my absolute favorite directors) Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, starring alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Phoenix stunned audiences and critics with his riveting performance as the tortured, animalistic Freddie Quell, who is drawn into charismatic Lancaster Dodd’s ‘Cause’. Brutally passionate, physical, and powerful, Joaquin Phoenix seems to burst off the screen with the performance of a lifetime in The Master, which earned him a well-deserved profusion of nominations. Tragically, though, this amazing performance came the same year as Daniel Day-Lewis–the other greatest actor of this day and age–‘s widely praised portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, and, once again, Joaquin was left Oscar-less. (SOON, JOAQUIN. SOON.)

Thankfully, though, this isn’t the last we will see of Joaquin Phoenix’s incredible talent. Phoenix has two movies slated to release in 2013: James Gray’s The Immigrant, co-starring Marion Cotillard; and Spike Jonze’s Her, in which he will reunite with The Master costar Amy Adams. In 2014, Phoenix will reteam with director Paul Thomas Anderson in Inherent Vice.

Joaquin Phoenix has never been one to confine himself to any type of role, and has consistently proved himself to be a talented, versatile actor. Regardless of the critical or box office success of his films, he has always exhibited his strength as an actor onscreen. Offscreen, Phoenix is a cool guy who doesn’t subscribe to Hollywood bullshit. Phoenix gives a comparatively small amount of interviews, but when he does, they always show his insight, candidness, and overall charm. Personally, I can’t wait for the rest of his career.

Did I mention I love Joaquin Phoenix?

Where do I begin?! – Five Joaquin Phoenix movies you should watch

  • To Die For
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • Gladiator
  • Walk the Line
  • The Master

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12 Movies About Moms

Happy Mother’s Day from Moviefellas! Here are twelve movies to watch with your mom on this special day, some of them warm and fuzzy and some… not as much.

1. The Kids Are Alright-two moms!

2. Terms of Endearment-Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson, what else can I say?

3. Steel Magnolias-Why isn’t Sally Field my mom

4. Psycho-“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

5. Forrest Gump-Why isn’t Sally Field my mom, Pt. 2

6. Mommie Dearest-NO WIRE HANGERS EVER

7. Mrs. Miniver-Greer Garson as the best WWII mother

8. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore-An early Martin Scorsese gem about a hardworking single mother, played by Ellen Burstyn

9. Mamma Mia!-singing and dancing mother-daughter goodness. STREEP.

10. The GraduateAnd here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…

11. Cat On a Hot Tin Roof-feat. Big Momma and that awful Mae with her brood of brats

12. Gilmore Girls-Okay, not a movie, but on the real, you can’t go wrong with this sincere, pop-culture-referencing mother-daughter TV show.